The competition will certainly be much greater than Indiana University (Pa.) and Holy Family as the season progresses. But regardless of who the Huskies blasted in exhibition games over the past week, there is no denying the progress that sophomore guard Brianna Banks has made.
Banks does not even resemble the same player whom UConn coach Geno Auriemma did not have enough trust in to play for her for even a second in the team’s season-ending loss to Notre Dame in the national semifinals last April in Denver. She has talked about how high her confidence is at this juncture, about how she knows what to do when she’s on the floor and that she’s no longer worrying about making mistakes.
Banks was downright impressive in Wednesday’s 119-50 rout of Holy Family at the XL Center, finishing with 20 points (8-of-9 FG; 4-of-4 3-pointers), five rebounds and five assists in 23 minutes.
“I would say (assistant coach) Shea (Ralph) is probably Brianna Banks’ biggest supporter, biggest fan,’’ Auriemma said. “She works with her every day. Me, I just complain all the time about how I want her to be more confident and more assertive with the ball. If you noticed in the first half (Wednesday), we would rebound the ball and Kelly (Faris) would just run right by her to go get the ball and bring it up the floor. I want Brianna Banks to like really tell Kelly `Get the hell up the floor. I’ll bring the ball up.’ And right now she’s content to just kind of wait for the ball to come to her and then do something with it.
“But from where she was last year to where she is now, it’s not even close. When you watch her how athletic she is and how explosive she can be on offense. If you’re making 3s, it’s really difficult for people to keep you in front of them. She’s got a chance to play as much as she wants. And I don’t think I’m going to be what limits her time. I think it’s going to be her.’’
Banks averaged 13.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 3.5 steals in 22.0 minutes in two exhibition games. She too gives credit to Ralph for helping her to play with a sense of confidence.
“It’s come a lot from her,’’ said Banks, who averaged 3.6 points, 1.1 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 12.3 minutes in 32 games last season. “She’s always had my back. She’s always encouraging me to do things. When I’m doing (things) wrong, she doesn’t yell at me and bash me. She tells me what I’m doing wrong and tries to correct it. So it comes a lot from her.
“I know what my role is on the team. I know what it is now and I know where to go and what to do and what places everybody needs to be at. I’m very pleased (with the progress). I still have a lot of work to do, but I feel like if I work hard enough I’ll get there.’’