Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis enters her first season at UConn with tremendous hype. She has already drawn comparisons to former Huskies’ great Maya Moore, entering the program as the national High School Player of the Year.
Kiah Stokes has also earned her share of praise for the success she enjoyed during her All-American career at the high school level. Brianna Banks, however, seems to be getting overlooked in this highly-touted freshman class. And this is something that has not fazed Banks, who is an athletic 5-foot-9 guard with exceptional quickness.
“I wouldn’t say under the radar,’’ Banks said. “I never really was a media person I would say. So I tried to avoid the media all the time. I was just never really a public person. I’m just always shy and I never knew really what to say when I had to talk to people. So I would try to avoid that at times. I believe I have (gotten better at it).’’
Banks begins her first season at UConn with an impressive resume that earned her All-American honors last season. She averaged 16.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 5.0 steals in leading Fayette County High to the Georgia Class AAAA championship. The Tigers finished the season by winning their final 19 games, 18 by double figures.
Banks was also named a McDonald’s All-American and Georgia Miss Basketball.
“The thing that strikes you the most about her is her ability to get to the basket almost any time she wants,’’ UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “The quickness that she has … And she’s got that rare ability to stop and change directions quickly. And being left-handed I think it gives her a little bit of an edge. People take a little bit longer to kind of catch on to that. But she’s a much better shooter than I thought she was, a much better 3-point shooter than I thought she was. So the better she gets at doing that the more she’s going to go by people even more often. But it’s going to be maybe on the defensive end where maybe she has a big impact. We’re going to try to use her down there in a way that we can take advantage of her quickness and her instincts.’’
Banks made enough of an impact during the UConn’s practice period in August that Auriemma inserted her into the starting lineup with Caroline Doty sidelined during the team’s trip to Italy. That alone was a significant confidence boost for Banks.
“She’s great with her athleticism,’’ Doty said. “She definitely grew up from the summer working hard with individuals with (UConn assistant coach) Shea (Ralph). You see an improvement after every workout. She still has so much potential. I don’t even know if she knows how much potential she has sometimes, but she’s going to be a good factor. And as she continues to improve and learn, she’s going to be a great player for us.’’
Banks is not quite sure what her precise role will be this season. One thing that is certain is that she will have the ball in her hands quite a bit and will be expected to make plays at both ends.
Banks said her strengths lie in her ability to get to the basket and at the defensive end. For an individual that has chosen to spend the majority of her time out of the spotlight, she fully believes she is ready to make an impact this season for the Huskies.
“You have to (believe) playing for a high collegiate team like this,’’ Banks said. “I feel if I have expectations I have something to look forward to and something to keep me going. If I know that my teammates need me then I’m going to work harder each day to make sure I help them out.’’