UConn junior center Stefanie Dolson started by getting herself in the best shape of her life during the off-season. The hard work certainly has paid dividends as she is enjoying the best season of her career.
Dolson is averaging career-highs of 12.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 26.6 minutes through the first 15 games. She has had at least five assists in five games this season and has reached double figures in scoring in 12 games. And she has currently matched her career-high by reaching double figures in scoring in six straight games (14.3).
The difference is confidence and her bubbly, outgoing personality. Dolson no longer wonders if she is good enough or feels sorry for herself when things do not go her way on the court.
“It’s something that you just kind of grow up,’’ Dolson said. “I think you get to a point in your life when you’re comfortable with what you’re doing, you’re happy with everything around you, you’re happy with family, your friends, and you just kind of don’t care what people think about you anymore. And I think that’s when you can start really being yourself. And I think I got to that point probably late my freshman year, two years ago or whatever, and then especially this year.’’
“I think the hard work that she’s put in,’’ UConn coach Geno Auriemma said when referring to where Dolson’s confidence comes from. “She’s always been an incredibly positive person. She’s always been upbeat. She’s always had a winning personality. You can’t underestimate how much that has to do with being a good player. The average person out there watching us on TV or watching us in person can see somebody’s athletic ability or see something that they haven’t and go, `Wow, that kid’s going to be a great player.’
“But they never see the kid’s true personality. And that’s what makes you a good player. If you have some skill, if you have some talent but then what your personality type is, and that’s hard to figure out sometimes when you’re recruiting kids because you don’t get to know them that much. You don’t get to spend enough time with them. Then when they get here the most upbeat, positive, out-going personalities are the ones that become the best players. And that’s who she is.’’
Dolson, who needs 24 points to become the 36th player in team history to reach 1,000 points, has her sights set on being recognized as the top post player in the country. Right now, that distinction belongs to 6-foot-8 Baylor senior Brittney Griner, the consensus 2011-12 national Player of the Year who is averaging 21.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in 27.5 minutes this season.
“I think any post that works as hard as I think I do and as hard as our team does, it’s definitely something that you aim for and want to be,’’ Dolson said. “I think if I keep up what I’m doing and just keep working hard and stay focused on the end goal we can win a national championship and I can be the best post in the country.’’
At this point, UConn sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis believes that Dolson has accomplished her goal.
“I think Stef’s the best post player in the country,’’ Mosqueda-Lewis said. “I think she’s smart. She’s gotten herself in great shape where she’s able to last a long time. I think she’s gotten a lot better defensively. She hasn’t really gotten in that much foul trouble in the games. So I honestly think that Stef is the best post player in the country right now.’’
Better than Griner?
“Stef’s just not 7-foot, so yeah,’’ Mosqueda-Lewis said.