It’s not every day that a program gets a Gatorade State Player of the Year. It’s also not everyday that a program could get such a player and have them be considered the sidekick of the incoming class. UConn freshman Caroline Ducharme fits this description; she is an amazing talent in her own right, but she will seemingly be playing second-fiddle to Gatorade National POTY Azzi Fudd.
Even though Ducharme doesn’t necessarily have the spotlight on her this season, she has garnered the respect of star teammate Paige Bueckers, who dubbed the shooting guard the “silent assassin” in an interview with the Hartford Courant last month. Ducharme works as hard as anyone, doing her work quietly, and is always looking to improve her game to be the best player she can be.
As a second grader, Ducharme would always play against her sister, Ashley, who is now a senior guard at Brown. When Ducharme was in second grade, Ashley, three years older, had a significant size and strength advantage. To combat this, Ducharme worked on her fundamentals and dribbling mastering moves, even learning how to dribble the ball through her legs.
After suffering a torn ACL the summer after eighth grade, she took advantage of the opportunity and made it a priority to improve her jump-shot from square-one. By doing so, she took one of the biggest weaknesses of her game and made it a strength.
After Ducharme fully rehabbed from her ACL injury, she was ready to start her sophomore year, but disaster struck again, this time tearing her labrum in her shoulder and sidelining her for the season.
Instead of moping and complaining, Ducharme took this injury as another opportunity to hone a different part of her game: the mental side. Her coach assigned her to scout the opposing team for games. She watched an incredible amount of film, creating in-depth and detailed reports on each player on the opposing team.
She was so thorough, her coach joked that he was concerned that she wasn’t getting enough sleep with the number of games she had watched. Although it was tough for Ducharme to not be out there playing, scouting improved her knowledge of the game and helped her get ready for her junior and senior years of high school.
Due to her injuries early in high school, Ducharme’s recruiting stock didn’t reach its full potential until she really started playing high school games. She attended Noble & Greenough High School on the outskirts of Boston, a program not renowned for producing high D1 talent like herself, which also slowed her recruiting development.
Despite this, once Ducharme was able to showcase her skills on the court, there was no mistaking her top-tier talent. In her junior year, she averaged 25 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2.5 blocks, slotting her 41st nationally in ESPN’s top 100. After a UConn commitment and a 31.0 PPG and 15.3 RPG senior year, Ducharme’s ranking skyrocketed to 5th. This stellar finale to her high school career earned the 6-2 guard Gatorade Massachusetts POTY honors.
IMPACT THIS YEAR
This year is going to be quite the battle for minutes in Storrs, with everyone from last year’s Final Four squad returning. Ducharme joins a battle in the backcourt, featuring Paige Bueckers, Anna Makurat, Nika Muhl, Christyn Williams, Evina Westbrook, and Fudd. There are only so many minutes to go around, which should make practices as intense as games.
Despite this, head coach Geno Auriemma had some encouraging words when discussing the freshman. “They don’t know how she does it but she beats their ass,” Auriemma noted to the UConn Blog last month. “They just walk away shaking her head.”
This surprise for the other players comes as a direct result of Ducharme’s under the radar recruitment, but she certainly has made a name for herself this summer.
Auriemma also mentioned “if you were to ask [Andrea] Hudy in the weight room and the conditioning and even the coaches on the floor, ‘Who’s the most improved player since June 1?’ They would say Caroline Ducharme.” He continued, noting, “She’s gonna surprise a lot of people. She’s not afraid. She works on her game constantly. She’s competitive as hell.”
This type of praise is relatively rare for Aurieama’s players, particularly as freshmen. Perhaps with her hard work, good first impression and sharpshooting abilities, Ducharme can make her way onto the floor and have an impact from early on.