NEW BRITAIN – When Jamelle Elliott came to Connecticut last weekend for the start of the American Athletic Conference tournament, it was hardly foreign territory to the former national champion.
Elliott, head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats Women’s Basketball team, was part of the University of Connecticut’s undefeated 1995 National Championship team and served for several years as an assistant coach under Geno Auriemma – her reputation in Connecticut precedes her.
“I’ve got a lot of love for Connecticut,” the head coach told The Herald a few hours before her team’s game against Tulsa last week. “I came here when I was 18 – I spend almost half my life here up until the time I left – so a lot of fond memories and I enjoy getting back.”
While Elliott was in the state for the AAC tournament, she’ll return to Connecticut next month for New Britain’s Hoops for Homeless fundraiser, a 3 vs. 3 basketball tournament that raises money and awareness for homeless children and families in the state. Elliott will be the guest speaker at the fundraiser’s celebration and lunch on April 29, the day after the event.
“I grew up in the inner city, so it wasn’t always a situation where we were fortunate in having the opportunity to just go into somebody’s gym and pick up a basketball,” Elliott said of her desire to contribute to a cause like Hoops for Homeless. “It’s good for me to give back.”
As Elliott alluded to, her career at UCONN began as a teenager when she was recruited by Auriemma in 1992. By the time she graduated in 1996, Elliott had helped secure UCONN women basketball’s first national championship in 1995, defeating a Tennessee team coached by Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Pat Summitt. That championship, and specifically that game, is considered by many as a pivotal moment in the program and sport’s history.
“I can’t say that at that moment we knew the impact it would have nationally on the sport of women’s basketball. At that point we were just the new kids on the block out there trying to make a name for ourselves,” Elliott said. “We understood beating Tennessee at that time was a pretty big deal. Coach Summitt at that time was the Geno of today.”
Following her playing days Elliott join Auriemma’s staff as an assistant coach, where she remained for 12 years. During this run, Elliott was a part of another five national championships. All these life moments and career choices led her to her current gig as Cincinnati’s head coach, a role she’s had for nine years.
“Everything I learned up until the point where I became a head coach – a player for four years at UCONN and as assistant coach under Coach Auriemma for 12 years at UCONN – that was all the knowledge I learned about coaching,” Elliott said.
The 6th Annual Hoops for Homeless fundraiser is scheduled for Saturday, April 28. Teams can register for Hoops for Homeless online by going to www.ccsu.edu/hoopsforhomeless . It costs $50 to register, and teams can also register at 9 a.m. on the day of the event.
The celebration and lunch will be at the Unity Lodge148 A.F & A.M, 10 Mason Drive from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 29. Tickets for this are $20 and can be purchased by contacting Adrian Elliott at 860-881-7801.
“I hopefully can come there and support the cause in any way that I can. Hopefully when I tell my story it can be inspiring to a little girl or little boy who has aspirations and big dreams but may not have the resources,” Elliott said. “It’s just all about giving back and paying forward and really just trying to impact anybody that you can because I’ve been impacted by so many people.”
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.