Becca Pope, a 5-foot-9 guard from Watertown, proved that she could play at UConn-Avery Point. She averaged 18.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.9 steals last season as a sophomore and was named a NJCAA Division III second-team All-American.
This year Pope walked into the UConn women’s basketball office and told members of the coaching staff that she would like an opportunity to earn a roster spot with the second-ranked Huskies. With only 11 scholarship players, head coach Geno Auriemma was not about to demy Pope an opportunity to continue her career.
Pope was allowed to practice with the team during the preseason in an attempt to prove that she belonged. She did just that, making an impression on assistant coach Shea Ralph.
“Shea came up to me and goes, `I think she can help us a little bit. She’s a pretty good athlete, a real good shooter, and she’s got some college experience, and she’ll understand her role,’’’ Auriemma said. “She had all the attributes you’d want to have.’’
Pope accomplished her goal. She had earned her spot. But, soon after, it was discovered that she has a problem with the meniscus in her knee as well as some back issues.
These ailments likely will prohibit Pope from playing with the Huskies this season.
“After about a week of practice, we realized she had medical issues from the past couple of years and there was nothing we could do about it,’’ Auriemma said. “We didn’t see any of that. All of a sudden she has to get cleared by our doctors and everything is fine and there’s an issue with her knee. Then it’s her back. We’re probably going to have to put it off and if it’s something she wants to do next year, we’ll have that opportunity for her.’’
Pope might not be able to compete. But Auriemma said that she will have the chance to remain involved with the team in some fashion if she chooses.
“She still comes to practice. She stands on the sidelines. She still wants to be a part of it,’’ Auriemma said. “It’s unfortunate that this has happened. I’ve left it up to her. If she wants to be around, that’s great. I’m supportive of that. If it is something that she doesn’t want to do because she can’t play, I’m OK with that too. I’ve left it completely up to her.’’