ORLANDO, Fla. - Basketball has allowed Ezi Magbegor to see the world. The sport will certainly take the 18-year-old Australian around the world this month.
Magbegor, a 6-foot-4 forward and star of Australia’s youth national teams, will look at American college options in the next few weeks. A recruiting source said that she will take an official recruiting visit to the University of Connecticut with the date expected to coincide with the top-ranked Huskies’ Senior Night game with South Florida at Gampel Pavilion on Feb. 26.
UConn has signed two McDonald’s All-Americans from the Class of 2018: Christyn Williams (5-11 guard, Little Rock, Arkansas) and Olivia Nelson-Ododa (6-4 forward/center, Winder, Georgia).
Magbegor, a native of Melbourne, Australia, is taking part in an Australian senior national team camp being held in Italy at the Australian Institute of Sport European Training Center.
The source indicated that after her trip to UConn, she will make an official visit to UCLA, though the timing of that is not known. She recently finished her first season with the Canberra Capitals of Australia’s Women’s National Basketball League and was named its Rookie of the Year after averaging 6.6 points and 3.7 rebounds in 13 minutes per game.
“My main focus was on the WNBL and not to stress over (college recruitment) or what I would do in the second half of the year,” Magbegor told The Evening Game of Australia. “It was something I was able to put to the back of my mind.”
Magbegor was the top scorer (16.1 points on 53 percent shooting from the floor) and second-leading rebounder (8.1) while averaging team-highs of 2.0 steals and 1.6 blocked shots as Australia finished sixth in the FIBA U-19 World Cup last summer. She had nine points and 10 rebounds in 18 minutes before fouling out in a quarterfinal loss to eventual gold medalist Russia.
In 2016, she was the Most Valuable Player as she led Australia to the gold medal at the FIBA U-17 world championships by averaging 12.5 points on 55 percent shooting from the floor, 8.0 rebounds, and 2.9 blocked shots. Magbegor had 10 points, 10 rebounds, and four blocks in the semifinal win over Team USA, and 13 points, nine rebounds, and three blocked shots in the gold-medal victory over Italy.
She turns 19 on Aug. 13. Her brother, Ovie, is a freshman forward at Division II University of West Georgia.
Adventures with Gabby
Gabby Williams had just one basket - a short first-quarter bank shot - in UConn’s 55-37 American Athletic Conference win over Central Florida Wednesday night. But with six rebounds, eight assists, three steals, and a blocked shot in her 32 minutes of action, the senior All-American made a difference.
“I’m looking at the positives and negatives from this,” Williams said. “My shot wasn’t falling so I had to find other ways to impact the game and I think I did. There was still a lot more that I could have done to help but that’s part of basketball.”
The Sparks, Nevada, native moved past Kerry Bascom for ninth on UConn’s all-time rebounding list with 918 and past Debbie Baer for seventh on the all-time steals list with 277.
She also picked up her first career technical foul with 7:02 left in the third quarter following a scramble with three UCF players for a loose ball and a comment picked up on by referee Ed Sidlasky.
Williams did get the loudest roar from the pro-UConn crowd as she stole an inbounds pass by Jamesha Paul with 1.2 seconds left in the third quarter, took one dribble, and found nothing but net from 65 feet away. But the bucket was waved off by referee Denise Brooks and the call was confirmed by replay.
“Gabby does have a range,” UConn All-American Napheesa Collier said with a smile. “You’d better not be sleeping on her.”
It would have been Williams’ second career 3-point basket in 12 attempts. Her only trey came at Florida State on Nov. 14, 2016.
After stating her intention on Twitter to continue her career at Mississippi State on Tuesday night, former UConn guard Andra Espinoza-Hunter’s transfer to the SEC school was announced by the program Wednesday.
“I decided to come to Mississippi State because of the close-knit family environment with the coaches, players, fans and everyone else I encountered while I was there,” Espinoza-Hunter said in a statement. “Seeing how the fans support the coaches and the team solidified that this was the place that I want to be. Being a Bulldog isn’t just a four-year commitment like most institutions, it’s a lifetime commitment.”
The Ossining, New York, native averaged 2.0 points over 7.0 minutes in seven games for the Huskies, with her final appearance being Dec. 22 against Duquesne. Espinoza-Hunter had a list of six schools and Mississippi State was her first visit. She attended the Bulldogs’ win over South Carolina Monday night.
“I’m happy for her and I hope it’s a good match for her,” Williams said.
While it has been a foregone conclusion for awhile, UConn clinched a first-round bye as a top-four seed in the AAC tournament. The Huskies will begin their bid for a fifth consecutive tournament title with a quarterfinal game on March 4 at Mohegan Sun Arena. ... Attendance was announced at a UCF-record 6,155. After the final buzzer, UCF coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson grabbed the microphone at the scorer’s table and thanked the Knights’ fans for coming out and invited the UConn fans to return to CFE Arena for a UCF game in the future. ... Kia Nurse, the nation’s leading 3-point shooter, missed all three of her attempts from behind the arc Wednesday night. It was the first time since the opener against Stanford when she missed her one try the senior did not make a trey. UCF was 0-for-11 from 3-point land. ... The Huskies open a season-high three-game homestand Saturday when they face AAC newcomer Wichita State at the XL Center in Hartford. The Shockers (10-15, 5-6) lost at home to Cincinnati on Wednesday night.