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women’s basketball WNBA players think Makurat will thrive at UConn

May 15, 2019

UNCASVILLE — Ania Makurat is only 19 and will begin her college playing career this fall at UConn. Already, though, she has demonstrated the ability to hold her own against seasoned WNBA veterans.

Makurat, a 6-foot-1 guard, grabbed the attention of a few players while competing in her native Poland, including ex-Husky Tiffany Hayes.

“She’s young, coming from a whole ’nother country to a prolific program like UConn. But coach (Geno Auriemma), he’s really good with preparing each individual, and getting individual talent out of them,” explained Hayes, who won two national championships at UConn and is preparing for her eighth season in the WNBA. “They’ve developed a lot of players over the years. I don’t think she’ll be any different.”

Hayes, who returned to Connecticut this week for a pair of preseason games at Mohegan Sun Arena with the Atlanta Dream, was teammates with Connecticut Sun guard Jasmine Thomas in Liga Basket Kobiet, Poland’s top women’s basketball league, during the offseason. The duo led CCC Polkowice to cup and league championships, beating Makurat’s Arka Gydnia, 92-60, along the way. Makurat scored 13 points in defeat.

Arka Gydnia could have offered Makurat money to stay, thus making her ineligible for college. But Makurat preferred to sign with UConn, where she’ll be able to play immediately in a backcourt featuring Crystal Dangerfield, Christyn Williams and fellow freshman Aubrey Griffin.

Tennessee transfer Evina Westbrook may also factor into the mix, but the Huskies first would need to get a waiver from the NCAA. Otherwise, Westbrook, who averaged a team-high 14.9 points and 5.3 assists as a sophomore, won’t be eligible until 2020-21.

“They develop players so nicely, so hopefully it’s an easy transition for her. I think it will be,” Hayes said, adding that Makurat is a “really good” shooter. “Sometimes it’s hard for players that are from another country to get used to playing in America, but I think with some time, she’ll get with it. She’ll be a big help for them. She was a really good player.”

Thomas echoed Hayes’ assessment of Makurat as a shooter, adding that Makurat’s strength and size caught her attention.

“She can make plays off the pick-and-roll, and I think her going to UConn, building on her IQ and building on her skill set and being able to defend a little better, is really going to be good for her,” she said.

Makurat averaged 8.2 points and 3.4 rebounds while playing alongside the likes of Sun guard Emma Cannon and New York Liberty forward Rebecca Allen. While it’s often difficult to predict how players will perform when changing leagues, Hayes likes Makurat’s odds, especially under Auriemma.

“That league is an OK league. I wouldn’t say it’s great, but it’s a good league for competition. It wasn’t like a walk in the park,” Hayes said. “I think with the talent that she had around her to learn from, it was really good for her. I think she’ll learn the most from getting there (to UConn). He knows how to get the best out of his players, which is going to be great for her.”

dbonjour@ctpost.com; @DougBonjour