The UConn women’s basketball team gets ready to take on Fort Hays State in an exhibition match on Sunday, Nov. 7 at 1 p.m. This will be the team’s only preseason match before they host Arkansas at the XL Center on Nov. 14 to open up the 2021—22 campaign.
There are high expectations for the Geno Auriemma led side, who have a large array of talent to choose from. Sophomore Paige Bueckers is coming off one of the greatest campaigns by a freshman in recent memory. The star — studded point guard averaged 20 points and 5.8 assists last season, and was one of the main reasons UConn was able to make it to the final four of last year’s NCAA Tournament, where they were subsequently eliminated by Arizona.
Bueckers’ elite passing and scoring skills will only improve in year two of her stint at UConn. The Minnesota native averaged 36.2 minutes per game last season, the most of any player on the team. As a result, she will have most certainly gained a large amount of experience that will allow her to exceed last year’s heights.
One player that shares similar characteristics to Bueckers and should be on everyone’s radar is freshman guard Azzi Fudd. As the No. 1 player in the 2021 recruiting class, Fudd is a player who makes the game of basketball look simple. Fudd’s ability to make her way to the basket and time her passes to perfection are some of the exciting things she brings to the table. Moreover, she always seems to find herself at the right place on the court at all times. This not only allows her to get open looks, but opens up spaces for her teammates as well.
While it seems as if the lower class is all that is talked about these days in the basketball capital of the world, the importance of the veteran players on the squad cannot be forgotten.
Senior Christyn Williams enters her fourth and final year at UConn and absolutely lit it up last year. In the 29 games she started, Williams averaged 16.3 points and 4.3 rebounds, the second most of anyone on the squad (behind Bueckers). Moreover, she averaged a total of 34.4 minutes per game, again the second most on the team. This shows how effective she is on the court, along with the trust Auriemma has in his established guard.
Another senior who’s bound to be just as influential this year is Olivia Nelson-Ododa. The forward’s large frame makes the game of basketball simple for the Georgia native, who averaged 12.0 points and 7.8 rebounds last season. Just short of being a walking double-double, Ododa is dominant in the paint, as she slides past defenders with ease to get layup after layup. On the defensive side of the ball, Ododa’s long arms make it difficult for the opposition to thrive in and around the paint, as any shot that comes her way is immediately swatted away.
Finally, sophomore Evina Westbrook has solidified herself as one of the main staples of this UConn side. Westbrook averaged 9.4 points along with 5.3 rebounds in the 30 games she started last season. The redshirt sophomore is great at bringing the ball up in transition and is deadly from beyond the arc. What cannot be forgotten is her effort on the defensive end, as she seems to energize the entire unit with her intensity and willingness to get her hands dirty.
The Husky faithful will get a preview of what they should expect to see this season on Sunday. Ultimately, Fort Hays State is the first step towards reclaiming their title as national champions, something the program is desperate to once again achieve.