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The Women’s Beat with Bob Joyce

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The Championship Report Card – Needless to say, when a team wins the National Championship, there is a bit of a bump up in the grades. After all, not only did the UConn Women pass the Final Exam, they did with flying colors. And like school, that means a major bump up in grades. So here are my thoughts on the 2012-13 Season..

THE FRESHMEN – Moriah Jefferson made major strides in the NCAA Tournament. She played with such confidence on both sides of the ball and became a major player off the bench. Especially the weekend in Bridgeport. She can be that annoying player on defense and has such a great first step attacking the basket. It would seem with Bria Hartley’s play in the NCAA’s, she’ll be coming off the bench early in the season for more seasoning. But she’s certainly headed in the right direction to eventually take over the point guard spot. (B-)

Morgan Tuck was the most consistent of the freshman from beginning to end. And she’s certainly not shy about shooting the ball. I really like her aggressiveness to the basket. Eventually, it will land in more trips to the free throw line. And she showed she can be a quality player on the boards. Remember, 13 total off the glass in the Final Four. As she ages, she’ll become a better defender, but she has a great upside. Another summer of USA Basketball will do her well. (B-)

Breanna Stewart came in with the best resume’ and in March and April, we saw just how special Stewey can be. She was the first freshman to be a Final Four MOP since 1987. She can just flat out play and it’s a joy to watch. It would be safe to say UConn has never had a player with her skill set at 6-4. Obviously the goal would to hit the weights and bulk up a little bit to make her more durable. Chris Dailey gets a lot of credit on building back her confidence after the Baylor game. And Stewey has the makings of the games “next great player.” (A-)

THE SOPH’s – Let’s start with Brianna Banks. It’s too bad she tore her ACL in Feburary. She made such a difference coming off the bench this season and making an impact on both ends of the floor. And she started making 3’s which opened up her game. With the graduation of Doty and Faris, Banks will be asked to play a bigger role in the backcourt. Just keep in mind, she’s coming off surgery and it will most likely take some time to get back to full speed and full confidence in the knee. The upside ? She’s got Rosemary Ragle to help her rehab :) (B)

Kia Stokes has the perfect basketball body for a post player. We again saw glimpses of it during the season. BUT now is the time to make the turn and decide if Kia wants to be a factor. It all comes down to work ethic and the want to be great. Her best game was at St John’s in place of an ill Stefanie Dolson, but with a short roster next season, the more she can contribute, the better. (C-)

The most improved player on the team ? You could make a case for Kaleena Mosqueda Lewis. Now granted she didn’t exactly start the school year well returning a bit on the hefty side much to the dislike of her head coach. But she hung around Kelly Faris and well, learned just what hard work means. She is well on her way to being UConn’s all time 3 point shooter. But really became a solid all around player. Not only taking the ball inside posting up or using the teardrop runner, but as a rock solid rebounder. She was worthy of First team All Big East and various All American Teams. She’ll likely play USA Basketball this summer, but the most important thing for KML is use what Kelly Faris taught her about being a hard worker and carry that to the next level..If she really learns how to be involved all the time as a scorer as it appeared she started to in March, the possibilities are endless. She’ll be a leader next season. (A)

THE JUNIORS- Bria Hartley was an All American last season who struggled so much this season to regain her confidence. By the time the Huskies got to New Orleans, she played like an All American and played a huge role in winning the National Title. In the NCAA Tournament, her defense was as good as we’ve ever seen at UConn. And yes, it was a difference maker. But with the way Stewey and KML played, it got over looked by many. Her season didn’t start well with the ankle injury and it was an uphill climb all season long. But the last three weeks of the season were her best basketball of the 2012-13 campaign. (B)

Stefanie Dolson will be the best center in Women’s College Basketball next season. After what she did to change her fitness routine and transform her body last offseason, well we saw the payoff. By far her best season in the three she’s been in Storrs. She’s always had great foot work and ability to score, but her stamina improved by leaps and bounds. Dolson expanded her perimeter game which only helped UConn stretch the floor and make the Huskies harder to guard. And despite the pain she dealt with in the postseason, Stef found ways to help her team out defensively and assist wise. The only thing left is to reduce her turnovers…Otherwise a season worthy of All American Status (A)

THE SENIORS – Heather Buck played her role to perfection. As a solid practice player and as a senior providing leadership. It was Buck who high fived everyone up and down the bench after a three was made. I’m sure she offered moral support to the freshmen during their tough times this season. She was the perfect teammate. And it was only fitting that Buck scored the last points of the season in New Orleans. She has no regrets about playing at UConn. The friendships she’s made will last a lifetime. But I also believe what ever Geno, CD and the Coaching Staff taught her in five years, she’ll be able to take into the hospital with her as a nursing major. Who knows, not that I hope any kid gets sick, but if they do, perhaps someday Nurse Buck will be there to provide comfort and happiness. (A)

We can only wonder what Caroline Doty’s career would have been like on two good knees. As her senior year went along, it was clear her role would change greatly. But whatever role she was asked to play, she gave it her best. Her highlight of the season came at Oregon with her first career double-double. She continued to start games as Geno always deemed her as the calming influence, but there were games she was just overmatched. The most important thing she did was never get down on herself. Caroline was always encouraging to her teammates no matter what her role ended up being. And no player hugged that National Championship more the night they won it that she did. She’ll stay involved in the game in some way, she has a year of grad school so who knows, perhaps she may be on the bench as a grad assistant next season (C player, A in guts :)   )

Then there is Kelly Faris. There aren’t many players who have filled a score sheet the way Kelly did in four years in Storrs. Perhaps that’s why she won 4 state titles in High School and then did no worse than a trip to the Final Four in college. Sure there were times she was out of control and made poor decisions, what player doesn’t ? But there were those times this season when Kelly’s will took this team to victory. The second half against Duke perhaps the best case. And you couldn’t have asked for a better ending in the National Championship game with 16p, 9r and 6 assists and a pair of steals. Of course her defense against Notre Dame in Final Four played a huge role in beating her Indiana nemesis in Ms Diggins and company. No, Kelly isn’t an All American, but she’ll be the hardest player to replace. When Geno mentions he in the same breath with Jamelle Elliott, that’s speaks volumes in Connecticut. (A) (A+ in heart)

This was not an easy season by any means. The Huskies were injured all season long and lucky they only had one major issue with Banks’ ACL. Rosemary Ragle was indeed the unsung hero of this team. Here’s hoping it’s just the normal bumps and bruises of a season next time around. But through it all, they took care of their business and National Title #8 a reality.

Next season will begin with the Huskies as the preseason #1. And the non conference schedule will feature many of the same suspects as last year. Only Baylor, Maryland, Duke and Penn State all on the road. And the roster will only go nine deep unless the Huskies pick up a walk on or two.

It’s been another wonderful and rewarding ride thru another season as the Huskies went to a record sixth straight Final Four and 3rd title in 6 years. And I think we can say at least the Final Four trips aren’t going stop anytime soon as long as Geno is at the helm….Have a great summer everyone :)

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