Freshman Introduction: Hyper-Athletic Freshman Ayanna Patterson

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Dunking: It’s something that has historically been reserved for men’s basketball. After all, in just any given week of NBA play, you’ll see more dunks than in the WNBA’s 25+ year history. Despite this, there are exceptions; women whose athleticism allow them to defy gravity and throw a dunk down. Stanford’s Fran Belibi did this last year in the NCAA tournament and even former UConn forward Aubrey Griffin caught a lob for a slam in practice two years ago. UConn freshman Ayanna Patterson, ESPN’s No. 4 ranked player in the country, hasn’t caught a dunk in a game yet, but demonstrated her athleticism by doing so multiple times in practice last year. Patterson, a wing from Fort Wayne, IN, may not dunk in a game, but has the opportunity to demonstrate her incredible athleticism in numerous other ways in her tenure as a Husky. 

She had a storied career in high school, which is expected of a player coming to a program with the pedigree of Connecticut. The Homestead HS product finished as the school’s second leading scorer of all time, notching 1,912 points while also leading the school all-time in rebounds and blocks too. 

This year, Patterson led Homestead to a 23-2 record, largely thanks to her 25.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks on over 60% shooting from the field. This was plenty good for her to rake in a bevy of awards, including being named to the Naismith and McDonald’s All American teams as well as Indiana Miss Basketball.

Patterson was also a member of the Team USA 3×3 U18 World Cup squad last summer. She helped the group win gold, just like many UConn stars before her. 

“A player like Ayanna only comes around once in a lifetime,” opposing coach Lenny Krebs said of the wing in an interview with the IndyStar. “Her size and athleticism are evident to all, (but) what really makes her special is her desire to master her craft… She is an amazing person, teammate, friend and role model. It’s been an absolute privilege to watch her the last four years.”

GAME OVERVIEW

So we know a bit about Patterson’s ability to perform in high school, but let’s take a closer look at where she really excels and where she falls short.

LINK FOR DIGITAL FOR HIGHLIGHTS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyNl19_RS4k 

Offensively, Patterson is a phenomenal scorer. She has an incredible ability to get to the basket with ease, largely thanks to her strength. In high school, she was bigger and more developed than any of her peers, allowing her to power through the defense. At the next level, it’s tough to gauge the level that she’ll be able to do so. There’s a good chance that opposing teams won’t be able to defend her with a guard or small forward, but instead a shifty power forward or center. 

A positive aspect of the Indiana native’s scoring transferring to the college level is that she’s much more than just a low-post bruiser. She has a solid mid-range shot and if the defense leaves her open from beyond the arc, she’ll make them pay too. This will be particularly helpful when opponents put bigger defenders on her and will defer to guarding the paint.

The biggest opportunity for Patterson will be in the passing department. For her position, she isn’t lacking necessarily, but there’s certainly room to get better. Especially with star guard Paige Bueckers’ injury, others will need to step up and distribute the rock. Although Patterson isn’t an obvious candidate, this is a great opportunity for her to get more experience doing so to help become a more well-rounded player.

Defensively, she’s as good as you can find. Patterson excels at swatting shots and her long frame helps improve her range. She has no trouble staying in front of the offense, which will help her earn minutes ahead of schedule. Her rebounding is also phenomenal. She’s really able to elevate, which allows her to grab boards over taller players and is strong enough to rip the ball away if there’s a scrum. 

IMPACT THIS YEAR

Before Bueckers tore her ACL and was declared out for the year, Patterson’s role looked to be minimal with so many starters returning. Now with the former NPOY out of the fold, there are about 30 more minutes per game left to give out. Patterson will likely be a key beneficiary of these open guard minutes with her aforementioned abilities. Having her start is unlikely, but if she can play well in practice, there’s little doubt she’ll be able to find time on the floor. 

Patterson is about as talented and physically gifted as they come, but her hard work and will to win is going to make the biggest difference for the Huskies this year. Although UConn isn’t the team they could have been with Bueckers healthy, Patterson can be an integral part in a deep tournament run and have a special career in Storrs…

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