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uconn nwomen’s basketball Williams could be ready to make the leap

May 23, 2019

BRANFORD — Christyn Williams flashed her potential in her seventh collegiate game, pouring in 28 points in a victory over Notre Dame on the road. Then, somewhere around midseason, she struck the dreaded freshman wall.

“I got overwhelmed,” Williams admitted in February.

Williams emerged from that rut, though, at an opportune time. The 5-foot-11 guard was one of UConn’s most effective playmakers in the postseason, averaging 16.3 points over a nine-game stretch. That included a 19-point effort in a Final Four loss to the Fighting Irish.

“Most freshmen, they need to go through highs and lows. She certainly went through all that. But, you look at the very last game we played, she was one of the best players on the floor,” Geno Auriemma recalled Wednesday from the UConn Coaches Roadshow at Stony Creek Brewery.

The Huskies will need Williams to be that same player this fall, as they search for ways to replace two of the top five scorers in program history — Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson.

“She’s going to get even more opportunities to do that this coming year,” Auriemma said. “She’s going to touch the ball more, she’s going to be involved more, as is Megan (Walker). The two of them are going to have to take up a lot of the scoring that Pheesea and Lou had, and rightfully so.”

Collier and Samuelson weren’t primary scorers as freshmen, but both evolved into All-Americans as sophomores. Auriemma said “there’s no reason” why Williams — and even Walker, as she enters her junior year — can’t make that same seismic leap.

Williams scored 443 points last year — eighth-most for a freshman at UConn — and averaged 2.3 assists. Meanwhile, Walker, a fellow former No. 1 overall recruit, averaged 12.1 points and 6.7 rebounds.

Earlier this month, the duo competed alongside Olivia Nelson-Ododa and South Florida guard Sydni Harvey in the USA Basketball 3x3 National Championship in Las Vegas. They went 3-2 at the tournament, falling in the quarterfinals to a team comprised of players from four different schools.

Auriemma believes his players learned valuable lessons by playing a faster-paced game, where every possession is so vital.

“Every possession means something,” he said. “I think Megan did a great job of trying to be a leader for the younger guys. I think Olivia saw playing against some kids who were bigger and stronger how much work she has to do in the offseason. It’s one thing to see it in practice every day at Werth (Center), but to then step out and then look around and not have anybody bail you out, I think that’s when the real lessons are learned.”

Welcome aboard: Samuelson has signed a deal to play professionally in France with Flammes Carolo, the club announced Thursday on Twitter. The former UConn star will make her WNBA debut Saturday when the Chicago Sky visits Collier and the Minnesota Lynx.

dbonjour@ctpost.com; @DougBonjour

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