Each time someone talks about Huskies’ red-shirt freshman Heather Buck the more and more they paint a picture of what type of person she is. She is as genuinely nice and willing to help in any way as they come. She certainly personifies what it means to be a friend and a teammate.
The latest proof comes from her decision to be Kelly Faris’ roommate. Associate head coach Chris Dailey did not ask Buck to do so. Neither did returning team captains Maya Moore and Kalana Greene. Buck made this decision on her own.
Faris is UConn’s only true freshman. But Buck has made it a two-member class by stepping up in a manner that is huge when it comes to making a freshman feel at home away from home as soon as possible.
“She needed somebody to be with and since we’re going to be together for these next four years I might as well,’’ Buck said. “I try (to be a big sister). That’s my goal. At the same time some times you want to figure some things out for yourself. I try and give advice and step back other times. It’s fun though. It’s fun to see a new person here and going through everything for the first time. It’s been a lot of fun to get to know her better. Just kind of hangout and watch dumb stuff on YouTube.’’
For Faris, having Buck by her side has been a blessing. She arrived on campus June 17. She will leave for home July 7 and then for the start of training camp with the USA Basketball U-19 team in Colorado Springs, Colo. July 9. Buck has made the transition to life at UConn much, much smoother to a family-oriented individual who’s heading off to college for the first time.
“She is a very, very nice person,’’ Faris said. “Not just that, but even just talking with other people she’s described as a person that would give you the shirt off her back if you need it. She’s been extremely helpful to me, showing me around, taking me places, letting me know how things work. She’s sacrificed to come back and be my roommate and kind of go through the freshman thing again even though she didn’t have to. So that was extremely nice of her and I’m thankful that she’s done that because it’s been a huge help so far.’’
In serving as Faris’ roommate it has also allowed Buck to see just how far she has come over the last year. All she needs to see is the pain in Faris’ face and hear her talk about the soreness in her body after the team’s conditioning workouts and weight lifting sessions. Buck remembers both so vividly.
“It’s been a huge difference because now Kelly’s here,’’ Buck said. “She’s my roommate and she’s been going through everything for the first time. And all the things that’s she’s saying I’m like, `Oh my goodness, I remember all this.’ I remember feeling that way and coming back and not wanting to move for a week. So seeing her go through all these things has really made me realize how much I’ve grown because now I get finished and I’m like, `Alright, I should go shoot right now. Let’s get something done.’ Last summer I was like, `Let’s see if I can make it up to my room without falling over.’ So I’m happy.’’
Buck said she finally felt like she physically fully belonged at UConn a couple of weeks ago in a pick-up game when she made a true hook shot and is now simply able to truly realize when she makes a mistake. She also recently took the time to sit in an empty Gampel Pavilion, imagining what it will be like taking part in a jump ball, blocking a shot and hearing the roar of the crowd in a game for the first time.
There is no question on her part now or that of the coaching staff that sitting out last season was the best thing for her.
“I feel like I have learned a lot and have gotten physically much better in the last year,’’ Buck said. “So I think I’m in a better position to be starting over. So I’m glad to get the opportunity to be starting over with all of the knowledge that I now have. Now when I workout I have a purpose and I’m thinking about, `Well, I’m going to be able to use this in individuals and I’m going to be able to do that in practice.’ And in pick-up I have some sense of where I should be going and what I should be doing when we’re just playing. I have a better sense of just how to move and what to do in this pace.’’
Faris, who is currently taking on-line classes in geography and anthropology, said that she does not anticipate being the only freshman on an experienced team will be a detriment next season. The Huskies that are currently on campus – Buck, Greene, Meghan Gardler, Jacquie Fernandes, Kaili McLaren, Caroline Doty and Lorin Dixon – have all made her feel comfortable in her new environment.
“It’s obviously a little bit different being the only freshman,’’ Faris said. “Obviously, Heather is a red-shirt freshman. But she’s been through it. She knows the ins and outs and how things work here. I think it may be a little difficult at times, but at the same time the girls have been really good so far with helping me with everything. Just everybody on staff is extremely helpful. So I don’t really see it being a huge problem or anything like that. There may be times where they’re used to something and I’m not so I’m trying to get through it. But they’ve been extremely helpful so I don’t really see it being a huge problem.
A recruiting source said Monday that Bria Hartley, a 5-10 point guard from North Babylon, N.Y who is UConn’s No. 1 target in the Class of 2010, made an unofficial visit to campus late last week.