Auriemma, Ralph Happy To Have Chong On Board

Saniya Chong, a 5-foot-9 guard from Ossining, N.Y., is an official member of the UConn women’s basketball program. She signed her National Letter of Intent Wednesday on the first day of the NCAA early signing period and faxed it to UConn.

Chong is the only recruit the Huskies will sign from the Class of 2013. Clearly, both UConn coach Geno Auriemma and assistant coach Shea Ralph are pleased to welcome Chong to the program.

“I don’t know how to describe her, really,’’ Auriemma said. “She puts points on the board. She’s just one of these kids that scores points. I watch her sometimes and at the end of a half I’ll just say to somebody, `How many did she have?’ And they’ll tell me, and I’ll go, `That’s impossible.’ She’s fast. She can handle the ball. She’s a tough kid. And she scores. And she likes to pass the ball. She’s unusual for kids who score that many points. She reminds me a little bit of Shea. She’s not as big and strong as Shea, but Shea wasn’t that big and strong either when she came in. She reminds me of Shea except that she shoots the ball from the perimeter better than Shea did. Shea wasn’t a 3-point shooter when she came out of high school. But she reminds me a little bit of Shea in that she just scores points in a lot of ways. She gets to the free throw line a lot. She’s a little bit better passer than Shea. Although that’s hard to say because I never did see Shea pass the ball in high school. I just like her. She’s a nice kid and the kind of kid that will be successful here at Connecticut.’’

Said Ralph: “She’s like a wild horse, but in a good way. She just needs to be … She’s going to be great in our system. She loves to play fullcourt. She’s a great passer. She can shoot it from 30 feet out. So those things you can’t really teach a kid. She has a confidence in her game that way. And I think it’s just going to be kind of showing her how to play at a different speed. She plays a hundred miles an hour all the time, which I like. She works really hard. But we’re just going to have to show her you can’t do that all the time. It’s counterproductive.

“She’s different than me. She’s more athletic. She’s a better shooter than I was. She’s not as big. I was just mean. She’s not mean. She can kind of just get into little spaces and find people. I shot it more than she does. I wasn’t really a passer. She shoots it so well. I remember we took Coach to a game and she made eight 3s in a row and seven of them were right in front of him. Like he was sitting here and just … She made eight in a row.

“It’s hard to compare her. I think she’s a little bit different. She might be a little bit like Moriah (Jefferson). A little bit. But Moriah’s probably a little better with the ball right now. Saniya just throws the ball up the court, which is great in how we want to play. But she just catches it … She sees everything. But she’s similar like in her size and her ability to kind of get in there and make things happen, and she can score. So they’re similar.’’

Chong enters her senior season with 2,060 points, 412 rebounds, 473 assists and 362 steals. She averaged 33.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 9.7 assists, 5.0 steals and 1.4 blocks last season in leading Ossining to a 23-1 record and its second straight Section 1 Class AA championship.

UConn freshman Breanna Stewart ended Chong’s season a year ago, leading Cicero-North to a 79-51 win over Ossining in the Class AA state semifinals. Stewart finished with 42 points and 23 rebounds. Chong had 21 points.

“First off, I’m really excited for Saniya to get here next year just because I think we had a lot of fun when she came on her official (in October),’’ Stewart said. “I didn’t know her that well during high school and we had a good time together. She’s just a really quick guard. She’s long. She’s taller and she’s always looking for her teammates first. But then at the same time you have to be careful because she can shoot the ball as well so you have to just kind of contain her as best you can.’’

The addition of one player from the Class of 2013 leaves UConn with only nine scholarship players next season. The number is not causing Auriemma to experience any sleepless nights.

“We knew going in that it wasn’t going to be one of those recruiting classes like we had last year,’’ Auriemma said. “But what’s better … one player that you know is going to play 30 minutes maybe or five players and only two of them are going to play. So I think for us with the advent of practice players and the fact that we’ve got such a good history here with them I don’t really worry about how many people are on our roster. The danger with a program like ours … Everybody thinks you should have 15 players. There’s coaches that think you should have 15 players to offset injuries. Tell me how you’re going to get 15 players to stay happy at the University of Connecticut, especially when the first five are all first-team All-Americans and a couple of them are national Players of the Year. Do you really think the bottom five are going to be at that level? Probably not. So you’re better off not having them. We’re going to have a pretty good recruiting class next year … I think.’’