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UConn WBB Weekly: Amari DeBerry, the most interesting Husky in the world

From fun facts to her sign language major, DeBerry is a truly unique personality.

Ian Bethune

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Amari DeBerry, the most interesting Husky in the world

Ask anyone around the UConn women’s basketball program about Amari DeBerry off the court, and you’ll get a similar response.

First a smile, then a chuckle, followed by something along the lines of:

“I’ve never met a person like her,” Dorka Juhász said. “She’s just so different than everybody.”

“She’s one of a kind,” Caroline Ducharme said. “There’s nobody like Amari.”

“Amari as a person is indescribable,” Nika Mühl said.

So what makes the sophomore from outside Buffalo so unique? For starters, she’s a fun-fact machine. Ask her about practically anything and she’ll start talking about it.

“She knows every single life fact,” Juhász said. “She’ll talk about beluga whales pregame and we’re like ‘How do you know these things?’”

More recently, DeBerry has been on a deep dive about fungus. Over the summer, she watched a Netflix documentary called “Fantastic Fungi”, which kicked off her fascination with one of the six kingdoms of organisms. That lasted throughout the entire fall semester. For her earth sciences class, she went out and found the types of fungi growing on the campus in Storrs for her final project — though there wasn’t anything all too interesting.

“Just your basic puffballs growing around campus,” DeBerry said.

So what can she pass along about fungi?

“They’re the biggest and the smallest species in the world,” she said. “If you go into a forest, everything’s connected by fungi underground, kind of like the Internet. The trees can talk to each other through fungi. They can help each other like giving each other more nutrients or less nutrients or stuff like that.”

There’s no single source of her fun facts. She enjoys learning by watching TikTok and YouTube videos or even just from listening to friends and family talk.

“I’m around a lot of different people. I have a really wide variety of family and family friends and so I just listen to what they say and some stuff just kind of sticks,” DeBerry explains.

She does find herself most drawn to nature — both for learning and for exploration. She enjoys finding places to walk in and around Storrs with her favorite place being Diana’s Pool in nearby Chaplin, where she can sit and watch the water rush through the rapids or read a book. Nature is also the root for most of her fun facts.

“I just like learning about nature,” DeBerry said.

The sophomore’s teammates often give her a hard time about being a walking encyclopedia, but they also wouldn’t have her any other way.

“We always like to say, ‘Oh, you’re a weirdo,’” Juhász said. “But she’s a good weird.”

“She’s the weirdest person I know, honestly,” Mühl added. “But I love it. We all love it.”

The fun facts are only one part of what makes DeBerry so unique, though. In many ways, she doesn’t act like the typical college student. Juhász will often return to their shared apartment to find her drawing or painting as a way to unwind. And while most athletes at UConn typically major in Communications, Sport Management, Sociology or something similar, DeBerry forged her own path.

She’s an American Sign Language major.

“It’s great,” DeBerry said. “They just made it its own major recently. I took the first two classes over the summer while I was here, and I’m in Sign Language III so now I’m in person which is exciting. I’m able to actually be with other students.”

She first took interest in sign language as a kid. In middle school, she had a deaf friend and quickly got tired of needing an interpreter to talk to her all the time.

“I wanted to talk to her myself,” DeBerry explained. “I didn’t want to have to talk to someone else, to talk to her (the friend), then her talk to them and talk to me.”

Luckily, DeBerry had someone she could turn to for help. One of the moms from her sister’s softball team served as the interpreter at DeBerry’s church and one day, she taught DeBerry a few signs and also gave her a book for further learning.

“It kind of stuck,” she said.

It wasn’t until high school and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic that DeBerry really started to explore the language, though. While looking for something to do, she stumbled upon a free, online course and decided to give it a shot. Once she got to UConn, DeBerry decided to seriously pursue it as a career.

“Eventually, like way into the future when I’m done playing basketball, I want to be an interpreter,” she said. “I’m trying to keep it integrated with sports, though...I definitely want to say like the sports side because I don’t see that all that often, especially with basketball.”

The Huskies are a multilingual team — English, Spanish, French, Croatian, Hungarian, Portuguese and Italian are all spoken by various members of the team — and learning each other’s native tongue has proven to be a good bonding activity. However, nothing captives everyone quite like sign language.

“Someone will ask a question about it and I’ll just be having a conversation with just them and then all of a sudden, I realize everyone’s listening,” DeBerry said.

Sign language also fits in well with DeBerry’s own values. Inclusivity is deeply important to her and as a future interpreter, she’ll help the world become a more inclusive place.

“I just want to make everything inclusive,” DeBerry said. “I just want to be as inclusive as possible.”

The sophomore’s unique personality isn’t just a fun story, though. As UConn has been crushed by injuries for two straight seasons, DeBerry has been crucial in keeping the team’s spirits high, even through the toughest stretches.

“She definitely brings the light into the room every day,” Mühl said. “It’s good to have her energy around.”

While DeBerry isn’t UConn’s best player or even a vocal leader, her role on the team is invaluable.

“She’s got her fingers on the pulse of the team, for sure,” Geno Auriemma said.

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