As First Practice Nears, Auriemma Excited To Get Going

UConn coach Geno Auriemma is not one to get overly excited about an upcoming season before the first practice has been held. But this season is different.

Buoyed by junior All-American Bria Hartley, junior center Stefanie Dolson and sophomore wing Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, the Huskies return four starters from a team that finished 33-5 and reached the Final Four last season. Prior to taking part in First Night festivities tonight at Gampel Pavilion, Auriemma gushed about this group.

“Going in I feel pretty good,’’ Auriemma said. “I think we have the makings of a really, really, really good team. Really good. Whether or not it happens in November or December or January, I don’t know. But I know a lot more about this team. It won’t take long. Some years you’ve got to lie about your team. You’ve to stand in front of (the media) and say, `We’re pretty good. We’re this. We’re that.’ Meanwhile, you go home and you go, `Man, we stink at this and this and that and I hope it doesn’t catch up to us.’ Hopefully this year I can just stand in front of (the media) and tell the truth.’’

The Huskies will hold their first practice Saturday at Gampel Pavilion from 9 a.m. to noon.

“I think every season has a certain excitement that goes with the first day,’’ Auriemma said. “That’s kind of a big deal. But some teams, maybe because you just kind of sense they’re really anxious to get started and there’s a real good feeling coming out of preseason, not every preseason is the same. Some are really good, some are OK, some are great and some are not good at all. Last year’s preseason when I got back from Italy, (UConn Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach) Amanda Kimball and some of the coaches told me it was not a great preseason. And this year from Day 1, we had a great preseason. So I think that’s made all the coaches and the players feel really, really anxious to get started.’’

Here are a couple of other tidbits from Auriemma …

On star freshman forward Breanna Stewart: “I just think she’s got an opportunity to be as good as any player we’ve ever brought here. That in itself says lot.’’

On the health of sophomore forward Kiah Stokes, who underwent surgery on her right foot in May: “Is Kiah 100 percent? Yeah, she is. She hasn’t been complaining about anything. She’s done every workout. It hasn’t been a problem whatsoever.’’

On what he is looking forward to the most this season: “I just want to watch. I just want to watch and see. Every year you want to see how the team mixes and how they blend together. I just want to see how good we can be. That’s kind of the same every year. I just want to see how good we can be. I want to be an interested observer. I want to see how good we can be. We’re not going to sit here and say, `We’re young. We’re rebuilding. We’ve got a lot of inexperience.’ It’s the same thing every year. This is Connecticut basketball. This isn’t somewhere else where we’re going to get a pass as players and coaches.’’