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What's next for UConn women's basketball recruiting after missing out on some top prospects?

Hartford Courant 2018-12-06 16:15:00

Social media users, longtime fans and media members have speculated about the effect missing out on the top recruit in the country might have on the future of UConn women’s basketball.

Coach Geno Auriemma is far from worried.

Sometimes you get the No. 1 recruit — like the Huskies have three of the past four years — and sometimes you don’t.

On Wednesday morning, in a gymnasium across the country from Storrs, a high-school senior named Haley Jones dealt UConn basketball a painful blow.

In reaching for a red Stanford hat instead of a white UConn one, Jones (the nation’s No. 1 recruit, according to ESPN) left Geno Auriemma’s Huskies...

This year UConn has signed one recruit in Aubrey Griffin, who’s ranked as the 33rd best recruit in the country by ESPN. A 6-foot-1 wing from Ossining, N.Y., Griffin became an official member of the Huskies on Tuesday after singing her national letter of intent.

On Wednesday, top-ranked recruit Haley Jones signed with Stanford. This came a week after No. 3 recruit Aliyah Boston opted to play for South Carolina instead of UConn.

Despite missing out on two top recruits and signing just one, Auriemma said he isn’t concerned about next year.

“You just go through some cycles, where the kid you want is a long shot,” Auriemma said. “They say ‘Well why don’t you take some other kids?’ I don’t want them. But you have to do something, so we’ve got a really good player. Aubrey Griffin’s really good. She fits us perfectly. And then other kids, for whatever reason, you just don’t get them… Sometimes you don’t, and this was one of those years that we didn’t. That doesn’t mean next year we won’t.”

What’s next for the Huskies after this year’s recruiting lull?

Stocking the bench

UConn’s bench isn’t overly experienced and has lacked significant production, so the Huskies are going to need to find players who can step in quickly. With signing day passing them by with only one player committing, UConn will likely look for alternatives.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma had nothing but praise for recently-signed recruit Aubrey Griffin on Wednesday, shortly after his Huskies pulled off a 99-63 win over DePaul at the XL Center.

Griffin, who’s the No. 33-ranked recruit by ESPN, is the Huskies only recruit so far for next year’s class. While...

One route worth exploring is enticing a graduate transfer to come to Storrs. Obviously this isn’t as good as signing a freshmen because the Huskies will get one year of eligibility from a transfer, but it will help them short term.

The second alternative is trying to talk a player from overseas into coming to Connecticut to play college basketball instead of heading straight to the WNBA or another professional route. This one’s tricky because Auriemma would have to convince a player to choose the Huskies over a paycheck. UConn attempted this last year with Australia native Ezi Magbegor. Magbegor instead chose to play for the Melbourne Boomers in the WNBL.

Mike Anthony: UConn women's recruiting setbacks part of normal basketball world program rarely sees »

Expectations for Dangerfield

A lot is expected of Crystal Dangerfield already, but those expectations will only increase next year. As the point guard she’s constantly facilitating the game, but next year she could be expected to score more with the Huskies losing top-scorers Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier to graduation. Samuelson is averaging 20 points this season, and Collier is averaging 18.3 points and 9.8 rebounds.

Dangerfield is already averaging more points this season than her sophomore year — up to 13.2 points from 9.5 points — but still nowhere near the seniors’ numbers. She scored 19 points against Vanderbilt in a performance that looked like more of what she’ll have to do for UConn next season.

Walker, Williams need to step up

Next season Megan Walker and Christyn Williams won’t have as much room for error as they do this season. Dangerfield, Collier and Samuelson have been able to take over in games where the new starters have faltered, but that won’t be the case next year.

Walker has been significantly more consistent this season than she was her freshman year, but she still needs to get better. She’s averaging 5.5 rebounds — about 4.5 less than Auriemma would like. He wants her to be like Collier, who has four double-doubles this season, and she’ll have to be if UConn wants to be successful.

As for Williams, she’s trending in the right direction. As expected, she’s had highs and lows early on this season. She’s averaging the fewest points of all the starters at 10.8, but Auriemma believes that when she gets more comfortable and starts playing intuitively she’s going to give UConn a big advantage. Auriemma knows that Williams can score, but she’ll need to do a lot more of it next season.