In UConn’s 103-40 exhibition win over Jefferson University, perhaps the biggest takeaway was that Crystal Dangerfield and Megan Walker are the clear-cut leaders of Geno Auriemma’s 2019 Huskies.
Dangerfield, a 5-foot-5-inch quick point guard with a deadly outside shot, was a leader on the court with her vision and selflessness.
“It was interesting when I watched her [Dangerfield] play today, it was like she wasn’t interested in shooting the ball. She wasn’t interested in scoring,” Auriemma said. “She made more of an effort to get everyone else involved, and I think that’s a great thing.”
Dangerfield shot just five times, making three of them, or six points. However, she recorded eight assists in her 26 minutes of playing time. On the defensive end, she forced five of UConn’s 22 steals.
“I think Crystal is going to have the kind of year where when we need her to get a lot, she’s going to get a lot. When we don’t, I think she’s going to be content with making sure everyone is involved,” Auriemma said.
The Huskies certainly didn’t need Dangerfield to get a lot in the 63-point blowout, and Walker was the main reason for that. Walker shot 10-15 for 28 points while converting half of her six three-pointers. She also had four rebounds, three assists and six steals in her 25 minutes of play.
“I feel like I can score the ball in all three levels, just all over the court. I was making the right decisions, making the right passes and knowing when to shoot and when to pass,” Walker said.
Auriemma has mentioned multiple times that the points he used to count on Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson to score won’t be there this year, and that they will have to find that scoring elsewhere.
“She [Walker] has taken a big interest in that. There’s a lot that Megan’s going to be able to do going forward, even more so than today,” Auriemma said.
“She’s playing physical, she’s in the right spots, she’s taking the right shots and that’s something as a team that we’re going to have to do,” Dangerfield said.
The dynamic duo was joined in the starting lineup by sophomores Christyn Williams and Olivia Nelson-Ododa, who each had 16 points and combined for 18 rebounds, and freshman Anna Makurat.
Dangerfield and Walker, a senior and junior respectively, have the combination of talent and veteran experience that every UConn women’s basketball team has historically had to help them succeed.
Evina Westbrook, a junior transfer from Tennessee, was denied a waiver to play this season by the NCAA. UConn has been optimistic that she would be granted the waiver, since Tennessee fired their head coach last season and in most of those cases, the transfer is approved. UConn is planning on appealing the NCAA’s decision.
“They’re either all eligible, or none of them are, that’s the way I feel. So you either say yes to them all or no to them all. You don’t get to decide who’s a yes or a no, because that leads to other questions that we can’t answer,” Auriemma said. “Then it starts to lead to conspiracy theories, like why does this kid get a yes and that kid get a no?”
Westbrook has been practicing with the Huskies all preseason, and is already someone that the rest of the team loves to have around.
“She knows that we’re behind her 100%. We’re waiting to see what they’re going to do with the appeal, but we’re in her ear saying to keep practicing like she’s going to get it [the waiver], because you never know what is going to happen” Dangerfield said.
Westbrook led Tennessee with 14.9 points and 5.3 assists per game last season.
“It just sucks because she can contribute a lot to our team. She just has to stay ready just like Crystal said, and hopefully the appeal gets done and we can have her,” Walker said.
Dangerfield and Walker have obviously been supportive of their teammate who, if the appeal process goes well, could step up as a third upperclassman-leader for the Huskies.
UConn will play one more exhibition game before regular season action begins Sunday. They will take on Trevecca Nazarene at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut. That exhibition will be played Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Sean Janos is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @seanjanos.