UConn in the Pros: Springer looking to break slump

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Kiah Stokes, C, Las Vegas Aces 

Stokes and the Las Vegas Aces captured the franchise’s first WNBA title with a 78-71 win over the Connecticut Sun on Sunday. After serving as an important bench piece for most of the regular season, Stokes took over the team’s starting center role from All-Star Dearcia Hamby in the semifinal round and remained the starter for the team’s four Finals games. Throughout the playoffs, Stokes averaged just under 26 minutes per game, and though her 3.7 points per game may be discouraging to many, she was the team’s second-leading rebounder at 7.2 per contest. Utilizing her long wingspan and elite athletic abilities, Stokes proved to be a difference-maker under the hoop for Vegas. During her time in Storrs, Stokes helped the Huskies to a 146-10 record over the course of her career and was ACC Defensive Player of the Year her senior year. In addition to her recent WNBA championship, Stokes is also a three-time NCAA champion with UConn. She joins a list of former Huskies that have won the WNBA title since 2017 that includes Sue Bird, Stefanie Dolson, Renee Montgomery, Maya Moore, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Azura Stevens, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck. 

George Springer, OF, Toronto Blue Jays 

After finishing the month of August as one of the hottest hitters in baseball, Springer’s production has come back down to earth as we enter the third week of September. In his last 15 games as of Tuesday afternoon, the outfielder has a batting average of .230, recording 14 hits in 61 at-bats, and he’s scored 12 runs while hitting two home runs. However, Springer seems to be trending in the right direction again as he’s driven in eight runs in his last seven games. He’ll need to continue to hit well if he hopes to help his team embark on a deep playoff run. Starting Thursday, the Blue Jays will conclude their regular season with a series against each of their four American League East rivals for a stretch that could have major implications on the upcoming playoff bracket. As of Tuesday, Toronto ranks second of the five A.L. East teams with a record of 83-64, 5.5 games behind the Yankees but only one game better than the Rays. They’re almost certainly a lock to make the postseason, as they hold the top spot in MLB’s new three-team Wild Card format, though where they rank amongst those three teams will rely heavily on how they close out their regular season. A five-time postseason participant, the young Blue Jays will look towards Springer as they prepare for October. 

Breanna Stewart, Kia Nurse, Gabby Williams 

According to The UConn Blog, the 2022 FIBA World Cup will feature three former Huskies: Breanna Stewart (USA), Kia Nurse (Canada) and Gabby Williams (France). For Stewart, the tournament will be her fifth major tournament with the senior US national team and her third World Cup. In addition to her storied college and professional career, Stewart has also earned two Olympic gold medals and two World Cups gold medals, taking home MVP honors at the 2018 World Cup. For Nurse, the tournament will be her first time returning to competitive basketball since tearing her ACL in the 2021 WNBA Playoffs. She’s been a key piece for Canada’s national team since 2016 and is competing in her second World Cup. Aaliyah Edwards, who went to the Tokyo Olympics with Canada, received an invite to compete for a spot but withdrew due to academic obligations since she would’ve missed over two weeks of the fall semester. Williams is in her second major tournament with France after helping Les Blues to a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Though she was born in Sparks, Nevada, she still has family in France and is a dual citizen. This will be the first time that USA Basketball enters a major tournament without Sue Bird, who played in every Olympics and World Cup from 2002 through the Tokyo Games. In addition, Diana Taurasi will miss a global championship for the first time since making her Olympic debut with Bird in 2004. Taurasi suffered a season-ending quad injury during the WNBA season earlier this summer. The games begin as early as tonight, including team USA taking on Belgium at 9:30 p.m. 

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