Geno offers update on Samuelson, blasts XL Center

March 18, 2019

ROCKY HILL — Geno Auriemma remains optimistic that he will have his All-American guard back for the start of the NCAA Tournament, whenever that may be.

Auriemma said Monday morning that Katie Lou Samuelson (back spasms) has returned to practice, though not fully.

“Not full, but a little more every day,” Auriemma said after speaking at the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce breakfast. “We’ve still got four or five more days.”

No. 2 UConn (31-2) will learn its tournament fate when the NCAA Selection Show airs Monday night. The 11-time national champions are expected to land the No. 1 seed in the Albany (N.Y.) Regional.

Samuelson has missed the last four games, including all three in the American Athletic Conference Tournament, after injuring her back in a collision March 2 against Houston. The senior is averaging 18.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and is shooting 45.8 percent from the floor.

“By the time Friday comes around,” Auriemma said, “she’s going to be in great shape. She’ll be ready to go.”

During a question-and-answer session earlier in the morning with guests, Auriemma covered several other topics, including the condition of the Huskies’ home-away-from-home — the XL Center in Hartford.

“Geno,” a fan began to ask, “how is important is improving the XL Center to your program?”

“Improving the XL Center?,” Auriemma said.

“Doing something to it, besides blowing it up,” the fan responded.

“Well, actually blowing it up would help us,” Auriemma cracked. “We’d play all of our games on campus. I know a lot of people wouldn’t like that because they’d have to drive all the way to Storrs. But, you know, when things stay the same, they’re actually getting worse. That place has stayed the same for a long, long time, so it’s gotten worse. Unless something is done, it’s not going to get anything other than worse.

“We’re the No. 1 team in the country year in and year out. We have the best program in the country year in and year out. So, we deserve to play in the best facilities year in and year out. Other than Gampel Pavilion, we do not. That’s a fact of life and that’s reality. If anybody wants to say, ‘Well how do we pay for it?’ That’s not my job. I don’t ask you how to coach my team. Don’t ask me how you’re going to pay for it. That’s your job. Figure out a way to get that done or, like you said, just blow it up.”

The harsh critique comes as the arena prepares to host first- and second-round games in the NCAA men’s tournament starting Thursday.

dbonjour@ctpost.com; @DougBonjour