Out of the many greats to play for UConn women's basketball, here's a list of the top 10

Published on Sunday, 29 March 2020 19:54
Written by Carl Adamec

Journal Inquirer

There have been 22 UConn women’s basketball players named to the WBCA All-America team, thus earning them spots in the Huskies of Honor on the wall at Gampel Pavilion. Sixteen of the 22 were selected multiple times, with one a four-time pick and four others selected three times.

Eight Huskies have been named national Player of the Year, including two three-time selections and a two-time pick.

Seven of the 11 players in the world who have won NCAA and WNBA championships along with Olympic and FIBA World Cup gold medals are UConn graduates.

And when putting together a list of top 10 players from a program that has won a record 11 national championships and appeared in a record 20 NCAA Final Fours, some have to be left behind.

Here are the 10 who, in one person’s opinion, make the cut:

No. 10

Napheesa Collier (2015-19) - One of five members of the Huskies’ 2,000-point/1,000-rebound club and ranked in the top four all-time in both, the St. Charles, Missouri resident earned her spot in the top 10 with a special senior season. The 6-foot-1 forward averaged 20.8 points and 10.8 rebounds to become the first UConn player in 25 years to average a double-double. She broke the single-season record for rebounds with 411, 39 more than the previous mark. Her 25 double-doubles were six more than anyone else had.

A member of the 2016 national championship team, she was a two-time WBCA All-American and two-time American Athletic Conference Player of the Year. She was also a two-time NCAA Regional Most Outstanding Player and the MOP of the 2019 AAC Tournament.

She and Katie Lou Samuelson hold the NCAA record for most points by classmates at 4,743.

No. 9

Kerry Bascom (1987-91) - She played in relative anonymity for three years. It took the Huskies’ first Final Four run in her senior year of 1991 for the rest of the country to catch up on what we in Connecticut knew: That the 6-1 forward from Epping, New Hampshire was among the nation’s best.

Bascom was the second player, after Villanova legend Shelly Pennefather, to be named Big East Player of the Year three times as she led UConn to its first three league regular season titles, its first two league tournament crowns, and its first three NCAA Tournament appearances. In 1991, she became UConn’s first WBCA All-American as the Huskies advanced to the national semifinals in New Orleans.

She graduated as UConn’s leading scorer with 2,177 points, with her most memorable performance a 39-point effort against Toledo that started the Huskies’ 1991 run.

No. 8

Nykesha Sales (1994-98) - Her college career ended with an Achilles’ tendon tear on her Senior Day at Gampel Pavilion and with controversy when some took offense to the “gift” basket she scored at Villanova to break Bascom’s scoring record three days later. But when she started at UConn she was going to be the difference in getting the Huskies to the top and she did just that.

Coming out of Bloomfield High as the USA Today Player of the Year, the 6-foot guard would help UConn to a 35-0 record and the program’s first national championship as a freshman. She was the 1995 Big East Rookie of the Year, the 1998 Big East Player of the Year, and the first winner of the league’s Defensive Player of the Year honor. Twice she was named a WBCA All-American,

Twenty-two years after graduating, she still holds the single-game record for points (46 vs. Stanford) and single-season (143) and career record (447) for steals.

No. 7

Jennifer Rizzotti (1992-96) - She graced the cover of Sports Illustrated with a determined look on her face that showed what she and the 1995 national champion Huskies were all about.

But the New Fairfield native was much, much more than what’s maybe the most memorable single play in UConn history - her length-of-the-court drive that gave the Huskies the lead for good against Tennessee in the 1995 final in Minneapolis. The 5-5 point guard was the Big East Co-Rookie of the Year in 1993 and the Player of the Year as a senior in 1996. A two-time WBCA All-American, she was the 1996 Associated Press Player of the Year and the winner of the Wade Trophy from the WBCA. She is a Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductee.

Even with all-out, never-say-die effort of play, she remains the last UConn performer to start every game - 135 straight - the Huskies played in her four years.

No. 6

Sue Bird (1998-2002) - Her freshman year ended after just eight games when she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee at practice. She would return and be the nation’s best point guard for three years - winning the first three Nancy Lieberman Awards in the process - in guiding the Huskies to the 2000 and 2002 national championships. And who can forget her pull-up jumper at the buzzer that gave UConn the 2001 Big East Tournament title?

The Syosset, New York, native would cement her place among UConn’s best with a senior season that made her the consensus national Player of the Year as she averaged 14.4 points and a school record 5.9 assists. Even though she missed most of her freshman year, she was second at UConn in assists when she graduated.

She is also the school record holder in 3-point shooting percentage (45.9) and free-throw percentage (89.2). In her last postseason, she went 29-for-29 at the foul line, including eight in a row in the final against Oklahoma.

No. 5

Tina Charles (2006-10) - For most of her first three seasons she played in the shadows of All-American teammates. But when the 6-3 center from Jamaica, New York emerged late in her junior year there was no stopping her on the way to the top.

She was named a WBCA All-American in 2009 and kept the momentum going by being named the MOP of the Final Four as the Huskies finished 39-0. She then came back a year later and swept most national Player of the Year honors and the Big East Player of the Year award as UConn became the first with back-to-back perfect national championship seasons.

During a game at Notre Dame she became UConn’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder and still holds the No. 4 spot on the scoring list (2,346) and No. 1 spot on the rebound list (1,367) today.

No. 4

Rebecca Lobo (1991-95) - Her impact on the program is still felt 25 years after her graduation and her retired No. 50 - the first to be retired at UConn - will hang at Gampel Pavilion or wherever the Huskies call home for many more years. She was the first UConn player inducted into the Naismith and Women’s Basketball Hall of Fames.

The 6-4 center out of Southwick, Massachusetts, was a two-time Big East Player of the Year and WBCA All-American as well as first national Player of the Year as she swept honors as a senior. She was also the MOP of the Final Four as she helped rally the Huskies from a nine-point second-half deficit to beat Tennessee and complete a perfect 35-0 season.

As the player that put the program on the national map, she became known for her off-the-court grace as well as her performance on the court (2,133 points, 1,268 rebounds, 396 blocked shots). A year after leaving Storrs, she’d become the Huskies’ first Olympian and gold medal winner.

No. 3

Maya Moore (2007-11) - The Huskies were already on an amazing decade-plus long run when she arrived from Lawrenceville, Georgia. But the numbers during her four years and since are video-game like. She’d leave as the most-decorated Huskies player ever.

In her career, UConn would go 150-4, and she was one of only two players to play in all 90 games of the Huskies’ then NCAA record winning streak. Moore would become UConn’s first four-time All-American, first three-time national Player of the Year (sweeping the awards in 2009 and 2011 and winning the 2010 Wade Trophy), and second three-time Big East Player of the Year. She was named an NCAA Regional MOP four times and the MOP of the 2010 Final Four as UConn came from behind to beat Stanford at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

She graduated in the top five in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocked shots at UConn. She is still first in points (3,036), second in rebounds (1,276), ninth in assists (544), fourth in steals (310), and eight in blocked shots (254). At age 23, she became the youngest player to win NCAA and WNBA championships along with Olympic and FIBA World Cup gold medals.

No. 2

Breanna Stewart (2012-16) - She came to UConn with the goal of wanting to win an unprecedented four consecutive national championships. When she walked off the Bankers Life Fieldhouse court in Indianapolis for the final time in a Huskies’ uniform, the North Syracuse, New York native had done it.

The 6-4 forward was a three-time WBCA All-American and national Player of the Year. She was the first to win the AP honor unanimously in 2016. She was also a three-time AAC Player of the Year. Her 2,676 points rank second at UConn, her 1,179 rebounds fifth, and her 414 blocked shots first. She also was the first in NCAA history with 400 assists and 400 blocks in a career.

In her career, the Huskies were 151-5 overall and 35-1 in the postseason (a loss to Notre Dame in the 2013 Big East final). They won 122 of her last 123 games. She played in 12 postseason events where all-tournament teams were named and was chosen to 11 teams. Nine times - four Final Fours (the first ever), three regionals, and two league - she was the Most Outstanding Player.

No. 1

Diana Taurasi (2000-04) - She was a part of what many people - including this writer - believe is the greatest team in UConn history in 2002. But it was what the Chino, California native did without stars around her that made her shine the brightest.

When the members of the Class of 2002 graduated and became four of the top six picks in the WNBA Draft following her sophomore year, Taurasi was left to pull together a roster with no seniors and underclassmen playing key roles. But the 6-foot guard kept the ball rolling. In one memorable game in Hartford against Tennessee, she hit a 60-footer at the halftime, a 3-pointer in the final 10 seconds to force overtime, and a leaner in the lane in the extra session that proved decisive in a one-point win. Playing with back and ankle issues, the winning streak reached an NCAA-record 70 before it was snapped. But the Huskies bounced back to continue their national championship reign in 2003 and they would become the second to three-peat in 2004.

The 2003 and 2004 national champions are the only two of the Huskies’ record 11 to have just one WBCA All-American - Taurasi. Six have had three. She was a two-time Final Four MOP, a three-time regional MOP, and the 2001 Big East Tournament MOP as a freshman.

A three-time WBCA All-American, she was a two-time winner of the Naismith Award as Player of the Year and finished with 2,156 points and 648 assists. Sixteen years later, she is considered the G.O.A.T. in her sport.

Other worthies

Some of the players we deserve to get yelled at about, but one of us will not be answering the phone when you do:

Moriah Jefferson (2012-16) - A four-time national champion alongside Stewart and a two-time WBCA All-American and Nancy Lieberman Award winner. She is the Huskies’ all-time leader in assists with 659 and is second in steals with 353.

Katie Lou Samuelson (2015-19) - A three-time WBCA All-American, two-time AAC Player of the Year and 2016 national champ. She’s fifth on scoring list (2,342), and had one of the best individual performances ever (10-for-10 on 3s, 40 points, in 2017 AAC final).

Kara Wolters (1993-97) - The AP Player of the Year, Big East Player of the Year and a WBCA All-American in 1997, she was also a two-time Big East Tournament MOP and a key member of the 1995 title team. Was inducted into the WBHOF.

Swin Cash (1998-2002) - A two-time national champion from McKeesport, Pennsylvania, she was a WBCA All-American and the Final Four MOP in 2002. Is scheduled to be inducted into the WBHOF on June 12, 2021, the Hall announced on Wednesday.

Svetlana Abrosimova (1997-2001) - She was the Huskies’ first three-time WBCA All-American and the first UConn sophomore to reach the 1,000-point plateau. Played for Russia in 2000 Olympics and won a bronze medal.



Posted in New Britain Herald, UConn on Sunday, 29 March 2020 19:54. Updated: Sunday, 29 March 2020 19:57.