UConn’s Paige Bueckers, Azzi Fudd hope for healthy season together to make championship run

STORRS, Conn. (AP) — UConn coach Geno Auriemma was traveling with his team in Hungary this summer when he walked into a mystical little shop and asked for a charm that might keep his star players Paige Bueckers and Azzi Fudd healthy this season.

The woman behind the counter sold Auriemma a bracelet made of what the coach calls “spiritual beads,” promising they would bring good luck.

“I think that was a con job, sales job, but I’m trying anything,” Auriemma said. “Because, so much has happened that you just hold your breath at the end of every practice, at the end of every workout, when you go home, that you didn’t get a phone call.”.

Bueckers, the national player of the year as a freshman and a pre-season All-American this year, missed all of last season and most of the previous one with two separate knee injuries. Fudd, who like Bueckers is a former high school player of the year, also had injuries that put her on the bench for significant time during her freshman and sophomore seasons at UConn.

“We’re sort of just getting our flow back together in practice and sort of not looking too much into the future, and just sort of staying in the present” Bueckers said. “But you can’t really help the excitement of what being healthy in this time means and sort of the happy moments in practice of just being together, not just with her, but with everybody.”.

Explore more:  Oregon St. beats Miss. St. 5-2, plays Arkansas in CWS finals

The two have played just 15 games together in college, a big part of the reason the Huskies streak of 14 consecutive Final Four appearances ended last March.

“We’ve been robbed,” Auriemma said at the Big East’s media day. “Because when you go to a show or something, you want to see people that love being on stage, it just emanates from them and these two have that. When I watch it in practice, it’s uncanny how they just feed off each other.”.

The Huskies also have a third potential All-American in senior post Aaliyah Edwards, who was named the Big East’s most improved player last season and was the most outstanding player in the conference tournament.

And the Huskies return senior point guard Nika Muhl, who set the program record for both assists in a season (284) and in a game (15) last year.

The No. 2-ranked Huskies don’t have everybody they’d hoped for this season. Egyptian forward Jana El Alfy went down with a ruptured Achilles tendon this summer at the FIBA U19 Women’s Basketball World Cup in Spain, where she had averaged 21.4 points and 11.0 rebounds. She was expected to be a key part of the Huskies front court this season.

But UConn returns Ice Brady, last year’s top recruit, who missed her freshman season with a dislocated knee. Forwards Aubrey Griffin, Anaya Patterson and Amari DeBerry are back, along with guards Caroline Ducharme and Ines Bettencourt.

Explore more:  football cleats vs soccer cleats

The team includes another highly ranked freshman class, led by high-energy point guard KK Arnold. Auriemma expects her to play a big role, especially on defense, this season. The coach says freshmen Qadence Samuels and Ashlynn Shade are likely to see playing time.

“This team, this program has been through so much these last few years, with injuries and not taking playing for granted, but we’re not just happy to be out here,” Fudd said. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, I’m just happy to play. We still have a goal in mind.”.

That goal, of course, is a 12th national championship. Auriemma knows it’s not something that can happen every year, but believes barring any more major injuries, his team should be among those considered a contender.

“Your name has to come up right away and I think the guys next door (the reigning national champion men’s team) and our guys are in that conversation this year and that’s all you ask for, and then we’ll cross our fingers and see where it goes,” he said, before adding. “And I got the beads.”.

Get alerts and updates on AP Top 25 basketball throughout the season. Sign up here.

AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.Com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.Com/hub/womens-college-basketball.

Proudly powered by WordPress | Theme: Rits Blog by Crimson Themes.