UConn women's basketball coach Auriemma to join Golden State Warriors coach Kerr for 'Chat With Champions'

Published on Tuesday, 18 December 2018 21:12
Written by Carl Adamec

Journal Inquirer

STORRS - Among the things that the UConn women’s basketball team has been good at the past three decades is never looking past an opponent.

But don’t blame coach Geno Auriemma for being excited about the top-ranked Huskies’ journey west that follows Wednesday night’s game at Oklahoma. UConn wraps up its trip on Saturday against No. 14 California in Berkeley.

On Friday night, Auriemma will join Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr on the Cal campus for “A Chat With Champions” that will be moderated by Golden Bears’ coach Lindsay Gottlieb. The fundraiser for the women’s basketball program is advertised to explore the ever-changing world of basketball, provide insights on Kerr’s and Auriemma’s success, and discuss big-picture issues affecting both sport and the world beyond the court.

“It’s going to be really cool. I’m really looking forward to it,” Auriemma said Monday. “It’s going to be a lot of fun and I hope they get a great turnout. I hope they actually ask me some questions.”

Kerr had a 16-year career in the NBA and was part of five championship teams - three with the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls and two with the San Antonio Spurs. After retiring, he worked in television and in the front office of the Phoenix Suns. He is in his fifth season with the Warriors with three championships, including the last two, and four NBA Finals appearances.

Tickets for the event are $250 per person, but Auriemma has plenty of questions for Kerr, too.

“I want to ask him, ‘When did you know what you were putting together, or did you know what you were putting together, was going to turn out the way it’s turned out,’ ” Auriemma said. “And, ‘Are you more surprised that when you started with Steph Curry that he’s become what he has become? Don’t tell me you had this in mind.’

“And, ‘How has coaching someone like that and Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, how has that made you think about the game differently than when you were general manager of the Suns?’”

Walker returns

Sophomore Megan Walker admitted Monday that she picked a bad time to get strep throat. Not only did she miss two games after playing so well in UConn’s win at Notre Dame on Dec. 2, it was the week before the start of fall semester final exams.

“It seems like I always get sick around this time,” Walker said. “I had to push through and prepare for finals.”

Walker returned to practice Dec. 10 and got through exams. She is expected to be back in the starting lineup when the Huskies face Oklahoma Wednesday.

“It was hard,” Walker said. “You feel like you’ve been out forever. Just pushing through and trying to get your conditioning back … That’s the thing is conditioning. You’ve been sitting around for seven days.”

Walker had 12 points and eight rebounds in 35 minutes in South Bend. But she started feeling under the weather the next day after the Huskies traveled to St. Louis. She was tested for strep and mononucleosis and missed the game against the Billikens on Dec. 4. Still suffering from flu-like symptoms, she took another strep test when the team returned home and it was positive, forcing her to miss the game against Seton Hall in Hartford Dec. 8.

She watched the games on television.

“Of course, I wanted to be there with my teammates,” Walker said. “But I didn’t want to get anyone else sick. I just wanted to get better and now I’m back with my teammates.”

In seven games, Walker is averaging 11.6 points on 54.0 percent shooting from the floor and 5.9 rebounds in 29.7 minutes.

“I feel like I’m attacking the basket more and being more aggressive and rebounding more,” Walker said. “With the team we have I have to do the job on the glass offensively and defensively.”

Williams’ welcome

While some are calling Saturday’s game at Cal a “homecoming” for senior Katie Lou Samuelson, remember this: Samuelson’s Huntington Beach home is a seven-hour drive from Berkeley.

Meanwhile UConn’s Christyn Williams will have family and friends making a five-hour drive from Little Rock, Arkansas, to Norman for Wednesday’s game at Oklahoma.

“It’s always exciting for my family to see me but it will be exciting for people from my school to see me for the first time,” Williams said. “I’m looking forward to seeing them.”

Williams will also get to see her best friend and former AAU teammate, Oklahoma freshman Madi Williams.

“She rebounds the ball well and is athletic,” Christyn Williams said. “And she’s goofy like me. Her personality, she’s like me. That’s how our friendship started.”

Like Christyn, Madi Williams is off to a strong start in her college career as she is averaging a double-double (13.9 points, 10.0 rebounds) for the Sooners. She is also second on the team in blocked shots (7).

That doesn’t mean the Huskies’ freshman won’t challenge her. “Once we get on the court we’ll be enemies,” Christyn Williams said. “Once we’re back off of it we’re best friends. I’m going to do what I normally do.”

Husky bites

UConn (9-0) remained the unanimous No. 1 in the Associated Press poll for the third straight week after having last week off. Notre Dame (9-1), Louisville (11-0), Mississippi State (10-0) and Maryland (10-0) rounded out the top five. Texas A&M re-entered the poll at No. 23 while Missouri dropped out … The Huskies’ run of three straight AAC Player of the Week winners ended Monday since they didn’t play a week ago. Cincinnati sophomore forward IImar’i Thomas was the POW while Wichita State forward Shyia Smith was the Freshman of the Week.

Posted in New Britain Herald, UConn on Tuesday, 18 December 2018 21:12. Updated: Tuesday, 18 December 2018 21:15.