Women’s Basketball: Young starters adjusting to big roles

Christyn Williams shoots free throws during UConn’s 99-45 win over SCSU. (Eric Wang/ The Daily Campus)

The UConn women’s basketball team defeated Southern Connecticut State University 99-45 on Thursday night and even though freshman Christyn Williams and sophomore Megan Walker weren’t the stars on the court, they still demonstrated that they want to succeed in the Huskies program.

“We’re in a situation where they are two of our best players, so they’re going to play but I want them to feel like, ‘I’m holding up my end as much as ‘Pheesa and Lou are and Crystal,’” Auriemma said. “We can’t have Crystal, Lou and ‘Pheesa up here and then have those two guys down here. I don’t mean that in terms of production. I’m talking about the effort they play with and the intensity level they play with.”

This is Walker’s first season in the starting lineup for the Huskies. As a freshman, she averaged 5.3 points-per-game off of just under 15 minutes per game. With the graduation of Azurá Stevens, Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams at the end of last season, Walker was moved to the starting five.

“They [Walker and Christyn Williams] got handed two starting spots, so it’s not like they came in here after a really contentious training camp,” Auriemma said.

Despite Walker and Williams landing spots on the starting five, Auriemma said that that does not mean he will coach them any less fiercely.

“So now, you got two kids in the lineup that I’m really hard on because they have to earn it every day,” Auriemma said.

Defense is a priority Auriemma is trying to instill in his younger players who have not gotten many minutes in college games.

“We just got to make sure that those two are up to speed defensively and the points will take care of themselves,” Auriemma said.

Walker was ranked the No. 1 recruit from the class of 2017 by ESPN and won gold at the 2016 FIBA Americas U18 Championship. Williams was the No. 1 recruit from the class of 2018 and was named the 2018 National Gatorade Player of the Year.

Walker and Williams join a group of accomplished players who were subject to heavy coaching from Auriemma in their early years on the team. Former Huskies such as Breanna Stewart and Rebecca Lobo have said that they were coached hard by Auriemma but ultimately benefitted from the pressure and learned to be much better players and teammates. Both Lobo and Stewart won national championships in their time at UConn.

Although Walker did not score big in Thursdays game Auriemma has said that it will be imperative for her to play well for the Huskies to succeed.

“She’s got a lot of skills obviously,” Auriemma said. “She’s a very talented kid. She has to really add a lot to our team for us to be the kind of team we want to be.”

Williams scored 18 points in Thursdays game and played close to 30 minutes.

Auriemma has said that he has high expectations for Walker and Williams because they were the top players in their class and they have the ability to play hard.

“It’s not much pressure,” Williams said. “I mean that’s why I came here, to grow as a player and as a person. That’s expected for him to have high standards for me. I just go to practice every day and try to work my hardest and every game try to work my hardest.”


Mariana Dominguez is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at mariana.dominguez@uconn.edu.