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Last week’s Weekly:
How former UConn players and coaches fared this past season
As difficult as it is to play at UConn, the program hasn’t seen many departures in recent years. Three of the players who transferred out all arrived in the 2020 class and were blocked by better players. The fourth showed up that same season and faced the same problem.
On the coaching side, four programs are helmed by either UConn players or assistants.
Shea Ralph — Vanderbilt
Ralph had a difficult second season at Vanderbilt. The Commodores went just 12-19 (following a 16-19 record the year before) and, like UConn, dealt with a host of injuries. Three starters went down before the first first game and there were a few games where they only had seven players available. To make matters worse, top freshman Amauri Williams was dismissed due to a violation of team rules in December.
Vanderbilt managed just three wins in SEC play. In the conference tournament, the Commodores found themselves trailing by 17 to Texas A&M with just under eight minutes left, but mounted a furious comeback to pull within three points with 2:25 remaining. They ultimately fell short but the fight showed by the team provided some optimism heading into the offseason.
Next year, Vanderbilt is projected to return just five players, but will bring in a five-player freshman class that includes Khamil Pierre (the No. 63 player in the class according to ESPN) and Aga Makurat, younger sister of former UConn guard Anna Makurat. Despite the rough start to her head coaching tenure, Ralph remains optimistic about the future in Nashville.
“You will be seeing a lot of Vanderbilt women’s basketball over the next several years,” she told the school paper.
Off the court, the Commodores added Katie Lou Samuelson to the staff as Director of Player Development, where she joined fellow Huskies Kyla Irwin (Director of Student-Athlete Success and Community Relations) and Kevin DeMille (assistant coach).
Marisa Moseley — Wisconsin
Wisconsin ended the season with a 11-20 record but for the second year in a row, the team showed steady improvement throughout the campaign. After a seven-game losing streak from late November to early December and a four-game skid in early February, the Badgers closed the regular season by going 4-1 with an upset of No. 12 Michigan.
As ugly as the record may appear, Wisconsin’s 11 wins were the program’s most since 2019-20 and its six Big Ten victories were the most since 2010-11. A trio of freshmen — Serah Williams, Maty Wilke and Sania Copeland — formed a young core that gives the Badgers hope for the future.
Wisconsin won’t have as heavy of a UConn influence next year, though. After the season, Caroline Doty was let go as assistant coach. Regarding the move, Moseley told BadgerExtra, “I want more experience, that’s it.”
Tamika Williams-Jeter — Dayton
Following one season as head coach at Division III Wittenberg, Williams-Jeter took over at Dayton for the 2022-23 campaign. While the Flyers were coming off a 26-6 campaign, they went 7-21 in Williams-Jeter’s first season. Dayton didn’t win its first game until Dec. 29 and didn’t nab its first Division I victory until Jan. 1 vs. George Mason.
Despite the struggles, the Flyers won their A10 Tournament opener against VCU before bowing out to Richmond in the second round.
UConn will face Dayton in a non-conference matchup this season, according to the Manchester JI’s Carl Adamec. While the Huskies will host, the date or venue have not yet been announced.
Carla Berube — Princeton
Berube nearly made history as the first former UConn player or assistant to beat the Huskies as a head coach when Princeton visited Gampel Pavilion on Dec. 8. Already without Dorka Juhász and Azzi Fudd, UConn lost Nika Mühl and Lou Lopez Sénéchal to injury during the contest and were left with just Caroline Ducharme and Inês Bettencourt in the backcourt. The Tigers cut a 15-point UConn lead down to two in the fourth quarter, but the hosts recovered for the win.
Princeton lost just five other games — all to teams that made the postseason — en route to a second-straight Ivy League Tournament title and NCAA Tournament appearance for Berube.
In the first round, the Tigers faced 7-seed NC State in Salt Lake City. They went back and forth for most of the first half until a stretch in the second half where they missed 23 of 24 shots. However, Princeton did just enough to stay within striking distance and found itself down just eight in the final minutes. From there, the Wolfpack didn’t score again and Grace Stone hit a game-winning 3-pointer with 4.7 left. Princeton faced 2-seed Utah in the second round and put up a fight, but ultimately fell 63-56.
Mir McLean — Virginia
In her first full season with the Hoos, McLean thrived. Through 15 games, she averaged 12.2 points and 9.6 rebounds while shooting 57.4 percent even after undergoing thumb surgery in October. Virginia won its first 12 games and looked to be ahead of schedule on its rebuild.
Then in the third quarter against NC State on Jan. 8, McLean landed awkwardly on a rebound attempt and crumpled to the floor in pain. She soon revealed that she dislocated her knee and tore multiple ligaments, including her ACL, and also suffered cartilage damage. She missed the remainder of the season and there have been no updates on her recovery since.
McLean departed UConn on good terms. In fact, she didn’t even plan on leaving when she did. It all started during a conversation with Geno Auriemma.
“We had a good relationship to where I felt comfortable going to talk to him and I didn’t get into, ‘Oh, I’m transferring.’ It was a conversation about what I could do to improve and how I could be better in the future, and it led down that road to where I was I thinking, ‘It’d probably be better off that I leave and go do something else.’ I’m really blessed that he was very supportive and the whole staff there signed my waiver off and helped that process,” she told The Daily Progress.
Auriemma even helped McLean receive a waiver to play immediately at UVA. She still looks back at her time in Storrs fondly.
“I learned the game a lot at UConn,” she said to The Daily Progress. “I couldn’t depend on my athleticism because there were so many people like me there. And Coach Geno, he’s a great coach with how smart he is and we always said, ‘This man is smart.’ So, I learned like when to back cut, when to flash to the elbow, how to break the press.”
Saylor Poffenbarger — Arkansas
Poffenbarger entered her first full year still a freshman despite beginning her third collegiate season. She started all 37 games for Arkansas and collected 255 rebounds — second-most in a single season in school history. She finished the season averaging 8.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 blocks per game, hitting 33.1 percent from the field. She also earned a spot on the All-SEC Freshman Team.
Piath Gabriel — UMass
Despite arriving in Amherst with plenty of fanfare and excitement, Gabriel’s junior season went much like her first two at UConn. She played in 12 games — partially due to injury — and only saw a total of 47 minutes on the entire season. Gabriel entered the transfer portal for the second consecutive offseason in March.
Autumn Chassion — Xavier of Louisiana (NAIA)
After one season on the JUCO level at LSU Eunice, Chassion transferred to Xavier of Louisiana, an HBCU in New Orleans that competes at the NAIA level. In 27 games, Chassion started 13 and averaged 2.9 points and 1.9 assists while shooting 30.1 percent from the field and 34.1 percent from three. She scored a season-high nine points on Nov. 28 against Louisiana Christian but struggled down the stretch and failed to score in eight of the team’s final 13 games.
On May 7, Chassion announced she will transfer with two years of eligibility remaining.