UConn is watching

Posted by Stuart London on May 08 2006 at 05:00PM PDT
Article published Mar 17, 2006 Recruits are watching UConn NCAA games could impress future stars By ARTHUR SHERMAN Norwich Bulletin Geno Auriemma decided to surprise one of his prized recruits on one of her biggest nights. Sprinkled into the crowd of George Washington's Smith Center was the UConn women's basketball coach, there to see Kaili McLaren of Good Counsel High in Tuesday night's Washington, D.C., girls title game. McLaren, one of two UConn recruits selected to play in the McDonald's High School All-American game along, with highly-touted Tina Charles, had been in contact with the Huskies' assistants, but the presence of Auriemma caught her off guard. "I talked to Tonya (Cardoza) and Jamelle (Elliott) actually before, and I was thinking maybe one of them were going to come," said McLaren, who totaled 20 points and 17 rebounds in a 62-34 win over H.D. Woodson. "And I ended up seeing Coach there in warm-ups and it was real special and I thanked him for coming." March is typically a big month for future college players, especially those who are fortunate enough to compete in state tournaments and title games. The year's third month is also significant because it gives these players a chance to watch their school of choice -- or the many suitors vying for their services -- compete in the NCAA tournament. McLaren said she'll be paying close attention to UConn, which begins its pursuit of a record-tying sixth national championship Sunday against 15th-seeded Coppin State. While the Huskies' recent success in March and early April weren't huge factors for McLaren -- "I always wanted to go to Connecticut ... I think Diana Taurasi walks on water," she said -- many players still uncertain of their college destination keep a close eye on the happenings of March Madness. Elena DelleDonne of Delaware looks specifically at what coaches do on the season's biggest stage. "Adjustments throughout the game, their ways of winning and their techniques," said DelleDonne, a 6-foot-4 sophomore who has been called the LeBron James on women's hoops. Coming off a record 50-point effort in leading Ursuline to a second-consecutive state title, DelleDonne said she's cut her prospective schools down to about 10 and lists UConn as, "high." A member of the two-time defending AAU national championship Fencor team, which is based in Philadelphia, DelleDonne is not the only member of her program drawing the Huskies' attention. Sophomore guard Caroline Doty, who attends Germantown Academy near Philly, is also high on UConn's radar and attended Senior Night in Storrs against Marquette last month. The notion of DelleDonne and Doty playing together in college is not unlikely, and there are a handful of schools competing in the recruiting process that both are interested in. "We talk about that all the time, how it would be great to stick together," DelleDonne said. If the duo remains intact and UConn is not the destination of choice, Big East rival Villanova is a potential beneficiary. A local school for both, Villanova is also a finalist for another one of their Fencor teammates, high school junior Lindsay Kimmel of Harpursville in upstate New York. "I think that they are going to look separately, making individual, separate decisions," Fencor coach Veronica Algeo said of DelleDonne and Doty. "Those individual, separate decisions could put them on the same path." Another member of the 2008 graduating class that has been linked to UConn is Heather Buck, also a 6-4 sophomore, who helped guide Stonington to a state title last Saturday. Like the others, Buck will be watching how the NCAA tournament unfolds, but she's keeping the results in perspective. "I look at the tournament and I pay attention to who's making it to the final and who's doing well, and who's losing," Buck said. "But it doesn't really play into my thoughts about a school because teams change every year." A lot of that change is based on whatever makes a kid like Buck, DelleDonne or Doty decide which school is right for them.


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