women’s basketball Auriemma hints at more roster additions
MYSTIC — Less than two months into the offseason, Geno Auriemma has already checked off some of the most pressing items on his to-do list, adding both depth and size to a reshaped roster.
UConn currently has 10 players on its roster for next season, a number that could very well rise as the school awaits a ruling from the NCAA on maybe its most prominent addition — Tennessee transfer Evina Westbrook.
And the tinkering may not be done. “We knew who we were getting. We knew we were getting a couple good players. Maybe, we’re not finished yet,” Auriemma said Tuesday from the UConn Coaches Roadshow at Latitude 41.
In addition to Westbrook, the former No. 2 overall recruit who led the Lady Vols in both scoring and assists last year, the Huskies also added freshmen guards Aubrey Griffin and Anna Makurat and an experienced post player in Murray State graduate transfer Evelyn Adebayo.
“Twelve has always been the best number,” Auriemma said. “If we could get to 12 every year, we’re happy. Sometimes, you have eight really, really good players, so even if you have 15, eight are going to play. A lot of years, if you can get to eight, then you’re in pretty good shape.”
The Huskies carried 10 players into last March, but the problem was Auriemma really only trusted six. Olivia Nelson-Ododa, a 6-foot-4 freshman who was too raw to be relied on consistently, was the only Husky to come off the bench in the Final Four loss to Notre Dame.
Still, even with All-Americans Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson having graduated, Auriemma likes where the Huskies are headed. Much of his confidence, of course, is rooted in the return of his three starters — Crystal Dangerfield, Christyn Williams and Megan Walker — who form as good a trio as there is in the country.
“Sometimes people forget, if any other team in the country had three starters back, we would be talking about them as a national championship contender,” he said. “But for us, you have three starters and then you don’t have anybody coming off the bench. Well, we didn’t have anybody coming off the bench for the last three years.”
Perhaps, that’ll change this year, as the Huskies’ newest additions all have qualities Auriemma likes. Makurat is like many other European players, Auriemma said, in that she’s played against proven competition and is versatile.
“Anna is one of those kids that, whatever position we want her to play, that’s where she’ll play,” Auriemma said. “She can pass, she can shoot, she’s smart. All those kids are tough.”
Meanwhile, Adebayo — a 6-foot-1 forward who averaged a double-double a year ago — fills a need in the post, and Westbrook gives the backcourt another proven scorer.
“Evelyn is kind of new to the game,” he said. “She’s kind of bounced around a little bit. She has a lot of little neat offensive skills. She’s a big kid that can shoot and handle the ball. We need some size, we need some rebounding. She’s going to provide some of that.
“Depending on when we get Evina, we’re getting a terrific guard who can play any one of those perimeter spots and make a lot happen.”