By Bob Joyce

Well here we go again, the 2016-17 Season is here for the UConn Women’s Basketball Team and there are so many question marks heading into this campaign… The likes we haven’t seen in over a decade.The biggest of course is how does this team replace the top three picks in the WNBA Draft ? Simple, you don’t… it’s impossible… The amount of scoring, assists and so much more they brought can’t be measured… in addition to 12 championship rings between those three alone…

The CORE 4 of Gabby Williams, Kia Nurse, Katie Lou Samuelson and Naphessa Collier will be tested to the hilt in trying to settle into new roles and leadership responsibilities. Unlike last season, this group can’t take a night off if they expect to get to a 10th straight Final Four.  Here are a few observations we tip off the year..

Gabby Williams is ready for the next step…So much energy shown in the two exhibition games… 24 and 22 points where she filled the stat page in both games. She’s likely the most athletic player that UConn WBB has EVER had… How will she play against the nation’s best teams ? I think it’ll go well..We shall see.

Kia Nurse’s confidence should be high coming off the Olympics in Rio for Canada.  And she was able to get some much needed rest after the games to get ready for this brutal November and December. She, like Williams will be counted on to provide some much leadership. Let’s hope the trip to Rio matured her for the job ahead..

Katie Lou Samuelson has had an up and down Summer. After the broken bone in her foot against Oregon State, she’s had good stretches and then minor set backs… Her benching for all of a handful of minutes in their last exhibition game can be taken many ways. But come Monday, she’ll be ready and grown from this experience.

Napheesa Collier played with a torn labrum in her hip most of last season… had surgery afterwards and is now ready to go. Like the other three, she too has expanded her game… her length and quickness will be a plus on the perimeter.

The other two that figure to see valuable minutes are Senior Guard Soniya Chong and Center Natalie Butler. Chong has taken herself on quite the ride these first three seasons…Inconsistancy and the nagging IT band issue last year alone..Now in her final year, she has to lose the “Quiet Girl” image and emerge as a consistent contributor… Butler, the 6-5 post player can be her own worst enemy. It’s rare she got to face a 6-5 post player v Pace and showed off a few nice moves in the paint..Now she must carry that confidence into the season where she’ll need to be a factor on both ends..

Depth will be an issue if the freshmen don’t produce right away…Crystal Dangerfield figures to be the future point guard of this team… We saw flashes in the exhibitions of what she’s capable of. Just get better everyday… maybe easier said than done for a freshman… Kyla Irwin was well coached in high school by her mom… She knows where to be in the right situations on offense… that will help… And Molly Bent I’ve been told can be a mix of Sue Bird and Kelly Faris… She works tirelessly to improve and is in fantastic shape… her upside is very high…

The biggest issue that needs to be addressed is the defense…No imposing shot blocker in the middle anymore… But the Huskies still have plenty of length and athletism on the perimeter.. Getting even more steals than last year will help…

Here’s the bottom line, could UConn start 0-2 ?? Sure…. will they ?? until we see the product on the court against a D1 opponent, I have no idea… Just know that this season will be a process where the goal will be to improve everyday and hope when March arrives, they’ll be ready for anything..

Don’t forget, our first game will be on 96-5 TIC-FM Monday Night with pregame at 5:30… Then the Home Opener next Thursday Night against Baylor in Storrs should be a lot of fun… Hope you can join us!


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