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women’s basketball Auriemma wants to see Dangerfield ‘be a little more of a risk taker’

May 23, 2019

BRANFORD — There are certain players who play to their personality. In the case of UConn’s star point guard, that means what, exactly?

“Her personality is very, very cautious. She needs to be more kind of free-flowing, take more chances, be a little more of a risk taker,” Geno Auriemma said Wednesday from the UConn Coaches Roadshow at Stony Creek Brewery.

Crystal Dangerfield is both mild-mannered and soft-spoken, the type who leads more by actions than words. While Auriemma finds that admirable, he wouldn’t mind seeing Dangerfield push the envelope a bit more on the court.

“You’ve got to be willing to take some risks, create stuff,” Auriemma said. “I think she can do more defensively. All the things that I’ve seen our great guards do is they’re really good at guarding their man when they have the ball, and they’re even better at guarding when their man doesn’t have the ball.”

Dangerfield was one of the country’s most efficient guards last year, shooting 43 percent while dishing out 225 assists. Her assist-to-turnover ratio (3.08) was the best in school history.

And yet, even more is expected of the 5-foot-5 playmaker as a senior. With All-Americans Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson having graduated, the responsibility of leading a perennial national championship contender now falls directly on her shoulders.

Only time will tell whether she can.

“Some people are just born leaders, and some are not,” Auriemma said. “Sometimes, you try to impose things on some people. ‘Crystal, you have to be a great leader.’ Maybe she can’t be. I don’t know.

“There’s a lot of different ways to lead. Some people just lead by example. They say, ‘I’m just going to do what I need to do to make sure our team wins.’ And then other people are very emotional, very vocal, very demonstrative, blah, blah, blah.”

Auriemma saw the best of Dangerfield in the second half of last year’s Sweet 16, when she scored all 15 of her points to fuel a wild comeback over UCLA. What came next, though, were maddening performances against Louisville and Notre Dame, where she scored a total of 14 points on 6-of-19 shooting and committed five turnovers.

“I think what happened in the second half of that UCLA game has to be part of her regular game, her regular routine,” Auriemma said. “She’ll be the first to tell you that she’s not happy with the way she played in some of the bigger games that we had last year. She’s not happy with the way she led or some of the things she looked back and could’ve done, should’ve done.”

The heartbreak of that Notre Dame loss lingered into the locker room at Amalie Arena, where Dangerfield sobbed in front of reporters while insisting that she cost her team a 3-pointer with a misplay on defense.

“I made a very dumb play. That’s probably what’s going to haunt me about it the most,” she said.

The past is the past. With 79 starts under her belt, Dangerfield is now the unquestioned veteran presence in a reshaped backcourt. Christyn Williams, while supremely talented, will still only be a sophomore, and Aubrey Griffin and Ania Makurat both must tackle the steep freshmen learning curve. Of course, the complexion of the backcourt will change if Tennessee transfer Evina Westbrook’s waiver is approved by the NCAA.

“I feel good. I feel great about her,” Auriemma said, regarding Dangerfield. “I think she’s going to have a great year.”

dbonjour@ctpost.com; @DougBonjour

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