Women's Basketball: Assembling a four-time champion

Geno Auriemma, left, and Morian Jefferson, right, go over strategy during the first half of the national championship game between UConn and Syracuse at Bankers Field House in Indianapolis, Ind. on Tuesday April 5, 2016. Jefferson was the #2 prospect in 2012, behind only Breanna Stewart. (Bailey Wright/The Daily Campus)

It would be reasonable of you to assume UConn annually brings in the top recruiting class every year; that they just snatch up the top five recruits and leave the scraps to everyone else.

The Huskies have had their fair share of elite recruiting classes, including the senior group that has now won a spectacular four straight national championships. But believe it or not, the Huskies’ dynamic roster wasn’t just built on elite talent just walking through the door. They’re certainly no more dominant on the recruiting trail than Duke or Kentucky, who aren’t annually winning national championships four years in a row. Head coach Geno Auriemma has taken many less-than five star caliber players and developed them into an elite dynasty who just capped off an undefeated season.

The Huskies’ senior class, redshirt junior Morgan Tuck included, was certainly the elite of the elite. With the class of 2012, UConn grabbed three of the top six prospects and the top two overall. ESPN ranked their class first in the nation. Using ESPN’s HoopGurlz class rankings, they had Breanna Stewart as the No. 1 overall prospect with a 98 rating on a 100 scale. No. 2 was Moriah Jefferson, the only other player rated 98 in the class. Tuck was slotted sixth, with a 97 overall rating. This class has been the most recent torchbearer of UConn’s dynasty, winning four national championships while being utterly dominant.

The 2013 class was a large step back comparatively speaking. Current junior Saniya Chong was the only scholarship player for the Huskies, and she came in as a four-star prospect at 75th in the HoopGurlz rankings with a 93 rating. With only one recruit, the Huskies did not crack ESPN’s class ratings. However Chong has developed into a strong role player and contributor off the bench during her time here in Storrs.

The Huskies grabbed four recruits in the 2014 class, but with none in the Top 10. Championship game starter Gabby Williams was their highest recruit at No. 13 overall but with a 98 rating. Guard Sadie Edwards came in at 17th overall and 98 rating but left the program to transfer to USC. Courtney Ekmark was 31st with a 97 rating. Last but certainly not least, starter Kia Nurse came in at the 33rd spot and a 97 rankings. All three have proven to be assets now halfway through their Husky careers, with Nurse being the most dominant from her bottom spot in the class. UConn was ranked the fourth best class in 2014 by ESPN.

Not that the 2014 class wasn’t stellar, but 2015 more represented what anyone might expect in a recruiting class for the UConn women. Katie Lou Samuelson, who was unable to play in the championship due to an injury sustained in their Final Four game against Oregon State, was the No. 1 overall recruit in the country. She had a rating of 98 and has been a big contributor for the Huskies this year while starting 22 of 37 games. Napheesa Collier came in at sixth overall with a 98 rating and has been an asset off the bench this season. De’Janae Boykin also came in at 23rd but transferred after the first semester without playing in a game for UConn. ESPN ranked the Huskies’ class third in the nation.

It would have been reasonable to expect more dominance on the recruiting trail from an absolute dynasty like UConn. The players on the team were all still elite recruits, but maybe not what you would expect for a team that hasn’t lost in 75 games. Auriemma has done an outstanding job coaching and team building to create the incredible dominance over women’s college basketball the Huskies have had. Things are looking bright next year as well; the third overall player in HoopGurlz Class of 2016, Crystal Dangerfield, is committed to UConn. 


Matt Barresi is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.barresi@uconn.edu.