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UConn WBB Weekly: Geno not concerned about outgoing transfers

The Huskies have lost four players to the transfer portal in the last year but there’s little reason for concern.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

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Geno not concerned about outgoing transfers

Last Thursday, Piath Gabriel entered the transfer portal, becoming the fourth UConn women’s basketball player to do so since the end of the 2020-21 season along with Autumn Chassion, Saylor Poffenbarger and Mir McLean. So is there any reason to be concerned about the Huskies? Not according to Geno Auriemma.

“I don’t care if they leave. Players leave all the time. Coaches leave all the time. That’s life,” he said at the Final Four.

The caliber of players who depart is an important factor and UConn didn’t lose any major contributors. Chassion was a walk-on and Poffenbarger didn’t show much as an early enrollee, spent most of the offseason injured and got buried in a deep backcourt. McLean showed flashes of potential but struggled to put it all together while Gabriel came to Storrs as a project big and still had a long way to go in her development.

In fact, the Huskies have seen plenty of players leave the program throughout the years. UConn is one of the toughest places to play anywhere because it requires a high level of ability and mental toughness to deal with both the program’s expectations and Auriemma’s tough-love coaching style.

Despite that, the Huskies have never seen a star transfer out.

“I’ve never had a really good player leave my program in 37 years that left and made it big at a top 10 or top 20 school. That just isn’t going to happen. If you can’t play for me, if you can’t play for us at UConn, you can’t play anywhere at this level,” Auriemma said. “I let these guys be who they are. I just have certain demands on the court, and they have to meet them or they don’t play. They know. I’m fair. If nothing, I’m fair.”

The only example of a player rising to prominence after leaving the Huskies is Elena Delle Donne, though that comes with more than a few caveats. The No. 1 player in the class of 2008, Delle Donne left campus after 48 hours and transferred to Delaware, where she didn’t even play basketball as a freshman. Instead, she joined the volleyball team and only returned to basketball as a sophomore.

Meanwhile, some of UConn’s more recent departures — Andra Espinoza-Hunter (Mississippi State), Lexi Gordon (Texas Tech) and Mikayla Coombs (Georgia) — were never more than role players for their respective teams.

Auriemma might not be easy to play for but the results are hard to argue with — 11 national championship banners, 45 WBCA All-Americans and eight national players of the year are just a few of the accolades. He also cited a recent conversation with Christyn Williams — one of the team’s top players over the last few seasons — in defense of his coaching style.

“I asked Christyn one time, ‘Christyn, is it hard to play here?’ She said, ‘Damn right.’ I said, ‘Why?’ She said ‘because you’re demanding.’ I said ‘do you want me to change?’ She said no,” Auriemma relayed.

Since the transfer portal came to be in 2018 — along with the NCAA’s recent rule change that allows student-athlete to change schools once without sitting for a year — player movement has increased with over 1,000 players in the portal right now. But even though UConn has seen a relatively high number of players transfer out since last season, it doesn’t appear to be more than typical roster turnover.

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