38 things to know about UConn women's basketball's 2021-22 season
Random fun facts and tidbits about the team with 38 days until the season.
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38 things to know about UConn women’s basketball
UConn women’s basketball opens the 2021-22 regular season against Arkansas at the XL Center in 38 days. To get ready, here are 38 fun facts and things to know about the Huskies:
UConn hasn’t won a national championship in five seasons — tying its longest drought since winning banner No. 1 in 1995. To put that in perspective, the shortest title drought for a non-UConn team since 2000 is held by Baylor, who went seven years between each of its three championships.
UConn hasn’t been picked No. 1 in the AP Preseason Poll since 2017-18. That trend will likely continue with Stanford expected to be the preseason favorite.
UConn has 31 games on its schedule this season. In Auriemma’s first year as head coach in 1985-86, the Huskies played just 27 games total.
When UConn opens the regular season at the XL Center, 622 days will have passed since the Huskies last played in Hartford. They played every home game at Gampel Pavilion last season due to the pandemic.
This will be the first time UConn opens the regular season at the XL Center since 2015 and just the third time since 2008.
UConn won’t play its first regular season game at Gampel Pavilion until Dec. 3 against Notre Dame. The last time the Huskies didn’t play in Storrs during the month of November was 2015-16 when they opened the year with two games at the XL Center.
This is the eighth consecutive year the Huskies are scheduled to play a regular season game at Mohegan Sun. UConn will take on Louisville there on Dec. 19.
This season, UConn will look to make its 14th consecutive Final Four. Only two other programs — Tennessee (18) and Stanford (14) — have even reached 14 Final Fours total.
This will be Geno Auriemma’s 37th year as head coach and the program’s 48th season overall.
Geno Auriemma has 1,119 career wins — six behind Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer for the most all-time. Considering the Cardinal return a good chunk of the squad that won a national championship last season, Auriemma probably won’t catch VanDerveer for at least a couple of years.
After leading the Huskies in the first two games of the NCAA Tournament last season, associate head coach Chris Dailey has taken over as acting head coach at least once in each of the last three years.
With Jamelle Elliott and Morgan Valley on staff, this is the first time UConn’s ever had two assistants with head coaching experience.
This will be the third time UConn has two assistants who played under Auriemma. The previous seasons were 1993-94 (Kris Lamb, Meg Pattyson) and 2020-21 (Shea Ralph and Jamelle Elliott).
Valley and her sister, Ashley, somehow finished with the exact same points per game average in their respective careers at UConn: 2.6. Ironically, Gabby and Tamika Williams (not related) also finished with the same scoring average: 10.6.
UConn returns all but two players from last year’s roster — one of whom was a walk-on. The last time the Huskies lost so few players in one offseason was 2015, when Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes graduated.
With 14 players on the roster, this is UConn’s largest roster since the 2008-09 season, which also included 14 players.
UConn has players from nine different states and three different countries.
The Huskies don’t have more than two players from any one state — Amari DeBerry and Aubrey Griffin are from New York while Mir McLean and Saylor Poffenbarger are from Maryland.
Caroline Ducharme traveled the shortest distance to campus, making a roughly 70-mile journey down from Milton, Massachusetts.
Dorka Juhász came the farthest, trekking 4,267 miles from Pecs, Hungary to Storrs.
Christyn Williams was the first player on the roster to commit to UConn, doing so on Nov. 10, 2017.
UConn has three No. 1 recruits on the roster — Christyn Williams, Paige Bueckers and Azzi Fudd.
Of UConn’s 11 players from the US, nine were named McDonald’s All-Americans.
UConn has four players — Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Dorka Juhász, Piath Gabriel and Amari DeBerry — who are listed at 6-foot-5. The Huskies have never had that much height on a single team.
Olivia Nelson-Ododa’s dad, Sebastian, played for the Kenyan national basketball team.
Aubrey Griffin comes from an athletic family: Her dad, Adrian, starred at Seton Hall and played nine seasons in the NBA. Her mom, Vanessa, was an All-American track star at Seton Hall. Her older brother, Alan, played at Illinois and Syracuse while her younger brother, AJ, is entering his freshman year at Duke. Even with all that, Aubrey might be the best of the bunch: “Pound for pound, she’s the best athlete in the family,” her dad told ESPNW.
Speaking of basketball families, Piath Gabriel’s brother, Wenyan, starred at Kentucky and now plays for the New Orleans Pelicans while her other brother, Gob, is on Monmouth and her sister, Karima, went to at DePaul, Boston College and Cal State Fullerton. Karima played six minutes against UConn with DePaul in 2011-12, recording one point and one rebound.
While Gabriel and Griffin have brothers currently playing college basketball, Nika Mühl’s younger sister, Hana, committed to play at Illinois next season. Since a homecoming game in Croatia is out of the question, maybe Auriemma will schedule the Illini for Mühl’s senior year.
Although it will serve as Evina Westbrook’s homecoming game, UConn’s trip to Oregon was scheduled before the guard transferred to the team.
Over the summer, Westbrook played in the Portland ProAm league, becoming the first woman to do so in over 50 years.
Griffin’s 25 points against Seton Hall in 2019 is the highest single-game total by a current UConn player not named Paige Bueckers or Williams.
Amari DeBerry is a fun fact machine, according to Westbrook: “She knows a lot of kind of weird things that you would never think she’d know. Just kind of knows a little bit about everything.”
Unlike some other players, DeBerry isn’t a life-long UConn fan. In fact, she used follow one of one of the Huskies’ top rivals: “Actually, Baylor was my favorite team growing up because of Brittney Griner and then I saw them play UConn and they kind of caught my eye. So it kind of switched over from Baylor to UConn,” she told BVM Sport.
Mir McLean loves learning new languages. She’s majoring in Arabic — which she can read, write and speak — is fluent in sign language, learned a little Spanish, French and Latin in elementary and middle school and had Anna Makurat and Nika Mühl teach her some Polish and Croatian, respectively.
Saylor Poffenbarger wanted to major in mortuary studies and even got an internship at a local funeral home in 2020, according to the Frederick News Post. “Obviously, it’s not the job for everyone,” she told the paper. “I’ve found that I can help other people, so I find that interesting.”
Azzi Fudd is one of the first college athletes to become a Chipotle brand ambassador, alongside Oregon softball player Jaiden Fields. Ironically, Fudd once told ESPN that she was “so Chipotle-ed out.”
Nika Mühl is a big fan of mayo. “I could put mayonnaise on everything,” she told Fueling Huskies.
Dorka Juhász committed on April 12, 2021, making her the latest addition to the roster.
Best of social media
UConn had its photo day last week:
Nice pass by UConn commit Isuneh Brady:
Stewie’s top plays from the season:
Azzi Fudd officially announcing her partnership with Chipotle: