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UConn WBB Weekly: Ayanna Patterson is ready to dunk

The freshman has gone viral over the last couple of years for her dunking ability. She’s ready to bring the hammer down in Storrs.

2022 Jordan Brand Classic Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

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Ayanna Patterson is ready to dunk

The first and only dunk Ayanna Patterson attempted in a game couldn’t have gone any worse. Not only did she miss, she got a technical for hanging on the rim. She doesn’t regret a thing, though.

“It was worth it,” Patterson said with a laugh. “The crowd was into it. My coach was really surprised. It was worth it all in the end but really wish it would’ve gone down.”

While athleticism has always been the calling card of Patterson’s game, dunking is a fairly new addition to her arsenal. She had been working to improve her leaping ability but hadn’t actually tried to throw it down until one day in the summer of 2020. Patterson’s trainer was running late, so she found herself with some time to kill and decided to give it a shot.

“I just set up my phone, I was like, ‘Okay, let me see if I can dunk.’ And so I just went out there, set it up at different angles, and just tried to dunk it,” she said. “I dunked with one hand easily and then I was like, ‘Maybe I could do it with two.’ And I did it with two and I was like ‘Oh wait!’ I surprised myself a little bit.”

Ever since that day, Patterson has gone viral on social media whenever videos of her dunks surface. She’s jammed in empty gyms during one-on-one workouts, during warmups, and most recently, over her trainer.

Those videos didn’t just catch the attention of fans, either. Once she arrived in Storrs for the summer session and started workouts, Patterson’s new teammates have pushed her to make dunking a legitimate aspect of her game.

“Ayanna’s gonna dunk this year,” Paige Bueckers said. “Anytime she misses layup I’m just like, ‘Bruh, you’re already above the rim. Why don’t you just dunk it?’”

Patterson appreciates the reminders. While she makes it look easy on video, she’s still not fully confident in her ability to dunk in game-like situations and doesn’t think to try it out in the moment.

“A lot of times I’ll get up and I forget I can actually do it and I just lay it up,” Patterson explained. “I need that extra push because I need somebody to get on me when I know I can do it.”

If Patterson does dunk, she’d make history as the first UConn player ever to do so. Breanna Stewart came the closest when she grabbed the rim on a put-back attempt while Olivia Nelson-Ododa participated in the McDonald’s All-American Powerade Jam Fest and threw one down with ease but never did it in a game. In 2006, Candace Parker became the first women’s basketball player to dunk and she jammed on UConn at the XL Center the next season.

The Huskies have yet to have one of their own do so. If Patterson is the one, Geno Auriemma won’t stand in her way.

“No, not really,” she said when asked if the coaches had talked with her about dunking. “I mean, [as long as I] put the ball in the rim. That’s kinda it.”

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