Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis finds it offensive when she is labeled as a player who just shoots 3-pointers. That is not how she wants to be recognized in the realm of women’s college basketball.
During the off-season Mosqueda-Lewis decided to do something about it. She spent an ample amount of time working to become an all-around player, one who can rebound, pass and, more importantly, play defense. The defensive part of her game has arguably been her biggest shortcoming since she arrived at UConn last season. It is the one part of her game that Huskies’ coach Geno Auriemma has continued to throw verbal darts at.
The opponent might have been Indiana University (Pa.) Friday night at Gampel Pavilion in UConn’s exhibition opener. But Mosqueda-Lewis provided proof that she is well on her way to molding herself into more of a complete player. And Auriemma certainly noticed the difference in her performance, notably at the defensive end.
“Defensively, yeah,’’ Auriemma said. “I thought early in the game she passed up a couple shots that I was hoping she would take. The two players that have changed the most since they’ve been at Connecticut … Stefanie (Dolson’s) been here three years and Kaleena this is her second… I would say those two guys are on a different plane than they were when they first got here. And that changes our team unbelievably. To have one person that can anchor your offense and your defense at the center position and have another kid who has a reputation of just being able to shoot 3s who now wants to be able to do four or five other things to help her and help us, that’s huge. She played harder (Friday) defensively than she has in her life, and that’s a great sign.’’
Mosqueda-Lewis finished with 24 points on 6-of-12 shooting from 3-point range, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals in 31 minutes. She also committed just one turnover and was much more aggressive overall.
“I feel like I’m a mentally stronger player,’’ Mosqueda-Lewis said. “I feel like I’m going to be a more all-around player for my team, not just a scorer. I feel like (Friday) I had nine rebounds. I want to get more rebounds for my team consistently. I want to play more consistent defense and get tips and deflections and steals and stuff like that. So definitely I feel like I’m a more of well-rounded player this year.
“There are a lot of aspects of my game that I feel like it’s my fault I haven’t really shown it that much. I’ve been mostly a 3-point shooter. But I worked on it this summer. I’ve been working on it in practice. I’ve been trying to go to the basket more. I’ve been posting people up. I’ve been going inside and out. Coach just tells me, `The more you move around, the more you change up your shots, the more unguardable you are.’’’
A recruiting source said that Auriemma will head to New York Sunday to watch Class of 2014 target Sierra Calhoun, a 6-foot-1 wing, practice at Christ the King High. Calhoun and her parents recently visited with Auriemma at UConn.
Calhoun’s brother, Omar, is a freshman on the UConn men’s basketball team.
The source also indicated that Auriemma is extremely high on A’ja Wilson, a 6-3 forward from Hopkins, S.C. and another 2014 target. It is believed that Wilson is talented enough to play two-guard at the collegiate level.