Geno Auriemma has been the leader of the Kelly Faris Bandwagon since she arrived on campus in 2009. He deeply admires and respects the way she plays the game, her passion for the game and her off-the-charts basketball IQ.
Faris has not led the No. 2 Huskies in scoring in any of her first three seasons. She won’t do it this year either. But her contribution to the team is immeasurable. This is why Auriemma grows irritated when she does not get recognized for her contribution.
Faris was not voted to the 11-member preseason All-Big East team last month. She was not found among the two players that earned honorable mention either.
But Thursday Faris was finally mentioned among the nation’s elite when she was named to the 50-player Naismith early season watch list. Auriemma, of course, has some fun with this announcement.
“She’s not even one of the Top 20 players in the Big East,’’ Auriemma said. “How the hell did they do that? That’s unbelievable. In terms of who… you almost have to ask yourself at this point in the season, who’s not on the list? So that’s one way to cover yourself. Just put every kid who’s ever made a bucket in a big game on your Watch List.
“Kelly knows the only Watch List I’m watching is how many times she makes plays. She’s so anxious this year to have a great finish to her senior year and win a national championship that I’ve been working overtime to slow her down a little bit.
“As far as Kelly’s concerned because she’s so hard to read you’re not quite sure what you’re getting. But I notice watching her that there’s a little more of a `Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.’ And that’s not necessarily always great with somebody who’s always `Let’s go, let’s go’ to add that even more. I don’t know. You talk about missing people… she’s going to be hard to replace. You don’t find people like that every day. If I said, `Look, we’re just going to recruit Kelly Faris types,’ we’d have a recruiting class of one every year because there just aren’t that many.’’
Faris finished with nine points (4-of-4 FG), one rebound and four assists in 24 minutes against the College of Charleston in the season opener. Heading into Sunday’s game at No. 16 Texas A&M, she has accumulated 719 points, 599 rebounds, 393 assists and 199 steals in 3,122 minutes over 116 games. Her career assist-to-turnover ratio is 1.9.
“Kelly is … I would say she’s our best player,’’ UConn sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis said. “She doesn’t score the most points, but Kelly does all the intangible things. I personally think that if anybody were to ever want to play on a Connecticut basketball team you need to play like Kelly Faris. If you can’t score, if you play like Kelly Faris you’re going to start and you’re going to play and you’re going to do all the things that Coach wants you to do and you’re going to be a great player here at Connecticut.
“I’m always going to remember Kelly Faris just for how hard she works. She may not have all the awards and stuff like that, but it’s nice to see people actually recognizing the work that she’s doing. I just try to emulate her. And I think that’s the best person I could ever try to emulate here at Connecticut.’’