Plenty of numbers will be thrown around in the next week and a half as UConn head coach Geno Auriemma and invaluable associate head coach Chris Dailey get ready to complete the pursuit of their 1,000th victory since arriving in Storrs in 1985.
That history-making moment could come on Dec. 19 when the Huskies play Oklahoma at Mohegan Sun Arena.Under their watch, the Huskies have won a record 11 national titles and not only have the three longest winning streaks in NCAA Division I women's basketball history but the longest home and road streaks as well. Perhaps some brave soul will count that days that have elapsed since UConn last lost back-to-back games, which happened in the final two games of the 1992-93 season.
ICYMI: Highlights from our win against DePaul last night! pic.twitter.com/krZAQJNcPQ— UConn Women's Hoops (@UConnWBB) December 9, 2017
However, here are some more numbers worthy of crunching. Not counting this year's seniors, 48 players have averaged at least 10 minutes for all four seasons they played for Auriemma and Dailey and only two didn't have either a better field-goal percentage or a higher assist/turnover ratio as seniors than they did as freshmen. Those two players (Wendy Davis and Caroline Doty) put up impressive numbers in both categories in their debut seasons, so it was not the case of them not improving. Fifteen of the 21 players who had more turnovers than assists as freshmen posted more assists than turnovers in their final seasons.
The statistical proof spans generations. Rebecca Lobo had three times as many turnovers as assists as a freshman but by her senior year she had 38 more assists than turnovers. Current assistant coach Shea Ralph went from being minus 6 to plus 65 in that department while Breanna Stewart went from committing 19 more turnovers than assists in her first season to finishing plus 87 as a senior.
"He holds (players) 1-13 to the exact same standards," UConn senior guard Kia Nurse said. "I went through the same thing when Stewie (Stewart) was a senior and I was a sophomore. When you are held to high expectations and coming into a place like this that you know about the legacy about what came before you, you just understand that every single day you have to give it your all for yourself, for your teammates and for the people who built this program.
"He has a very good way of challenging people in the sense that, 'this is the way she likes to be challenged and this is how she will respond to that.' It is different for every single player who comes through, but at the same time he makes you better and there is a method to his madness. I absolutely have benefitted from every single part of that since I have been there. He challenges me and when I finally get it right, I look at him and he is on to the next challenge."
Current leading scorer Katie Lou Samuelson made it clear that her belief that she would be pushed to play at a level she never thought was attainable was one of the reasons she left her home in California to play at UConn.
Husky fans, check out the highlights from our win vs Notre Dame yesterday!! pic.twitter.com/4AqlBAcENI— UConn Women's Hoops (@UConnWBB) December 4, 2017
"I knew coming here I would become a different player. I have been pushed to points that I didn't think I could get past," Samuelson said. "There are some days when I didn't think I would be able to be consistent at all. You can see clearly in the development in people and that is why people want to keep coming here because they (the coaches) know what they are doing. They know how to get the best out of each and every player."
Samuelson is just one of the players who came to Storrs as the reputation as the nation's best recruit. Whether it was Tamika Williams, Diana Taurasi, Ann Strother, Tina Charles, Maya Moore, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis or Stewart, they were all able to leave UConn knowing that they were a better and more versatile player than when they arrived.
"I think it is how you can stay at the level we have been able to stay at for a long period of time," Dailey said. "We don't roll the ball out (for practice). I know people think we do, but once we get good players, it is what you do with them. We work hard and our players work hard on improving. It is a process and they improve year by year whether it is ballhandling, going to the basket, developing a better 3-point shot, learning how to play and knowledge of the game. We take great pride in the fact that our players get better."
There doesn't appear to be an end in sight of the nation's top recruits opting to come to Storrs. Freshman Megan Walker was the top-rated player in her class and incoming freshman Christyn Williams is No. 1 in the current crop of high school seniors.
There are times when Auriemma walks into practice and looks around at the reminders of the incredible amount of success his program has enjoyed, he wonders how a program with one winning season before his arrival has not only climbed to the top of the women's basketball world but stayed there year after year.
"It is kind of like our players when they walk in and they say is their pressure to (play) at Connecticut or you walk in, you look up at the banners of the names of the players who played there and you can't hide from it," Auriemma said. "You either live up to their standards or you aren't any good so they can't hide from it. When I walk in there some days and I catch sight of it, I am struck by one program isn't entitled to that many great players. It is just so rare. We have the leading scorer in the history of the WNBA (Diana Taurasi) and we have (career leader in) assists (Sue Bird) and they started in the same backcourt at Connecticut. That just doesn't happen anywhere. In fact, I can't imagine it happening, so we've had more good players play for us than anybody deserves."
This article is written by Jim Fuller from New Haven Register, Conn. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.