It seems as though the instant high school players sign a National Letter of Intent to play for UConn they achieve a status that is larger than life. They are treated like veritable rock stars by fans. They are supposed to win every game by a wide margin and win four national championships in their career.
Is this unfair? Probably. But it takes a special type of individual to play for the Huskies. And Tuesday night at halftime of UConn’s 94-37 demolition of Marquette, you saw the most special individuals that are on the 11-player roster. Those players who also excel in the classroom, proudly representing the term “student-athlete.’’
Seniors Heather Buck, Caroline Doty and Kelly Faris, junior Stefanie Dolson and sophomore Kiah Stokes were honored for earning at least a 3.0 GPA during the 2012 spring or fall semester.
Faris was doubly honored for earning a 4.0 last spring. She is a perfectionist in all that she does on and off the court. And her overall hard work was on full display last night as she also finished the game with 11 points, seven rebounds, four assists, five steals and no turnovers in 27 minutes.
“It’s no mystery why Kelly has a 4.0,’’ UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “One is she’s very bright. She’s very bright. And, two, she’s very prideful. She takes tremendous pride in everything she does. And, three, she wants to. She wanted to get a 4.0 so she got one. And we talked about that after the game in the locker room with the other players. How once you put a number on something, it holds you more accountable. And Kelly likes being held accountable.
“So I’m sure Kelly said `I want to get a 4.0 this semester,’ and now she’s going to be held accountable. If she gets a 3.9, she failed. So more kids could probably do better than they’re doing now academically if they just put a number on it and say, `This is the number I want to get,’ and then work their (butt) off to get it. We break the team up into three groups and those three groups compete against each other for the highest grade point average. So for some of them unless you make it competitive they’re kind of `Eh.’ But (Kelly) doesn’t need any of that. She was the first draft choice. I know that. Her and Heather.’’
Faris, a sport promotion and individual development major, does not expect anything less from herself than to earn straight A’s. So she does everything humanly possible to make sure that she achieves her goal.
“It’s nice to see everything pay off,’’ Faris said. “It’s kind of stressful. I put a lot of pressure on myself. That’s just how I’ve always been and whether it’s on the floor or academically if I don’t get a 4.0 I’m not happy about it. If I don’t get four A’s it’s like `I should’ve done this differently.’ That’s kind of just how I am with everything. So it’s nice to finally see some of it pay off.’’
Earning a 4.0 is hardly easy. But earning a 4.0 in the spring semester is even more challenging considering what Faris had to deal with from a basketball standpoint in terms of travel.
The Huskies had road trips to DePaul, Syracuse, Duke, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh and Marquette during the regular season. They missed one day of class prior to the Big East tournament final in Hartford. They then spent five days in Bridgeport for the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, five days Kingston, R.I. for the regional and another five days in Denver for the Final Four.
Faris never missed a step.
“Basketball’s a really, really hard sport for kids academically because it encompasses two semesters,’’ Auriemma said. “So it can affect you toward the tail end of the first and then towards the beginning of the second. And then the back end of the second semester is a (challenge) because if you’re in the NCAA tournament you’re traveling a lot. I mean a lot. And I think what Kelly does better than most people is I think she puts everything in her little compartment, and then she works that compartment all the time. So today from 2-4, we’ve got practice and nothing else matters except practice. Tonight from 7-9, I’ve got to study, and she’s not thinking about basketball from 7-9. And tomorrow morning at 11, I’m in class and she’s not thinking about anything other than that class. She’s able to do that. A lot of kids are not able to do that. And it’s a credit to her mom and dad (Connie and Bob), and it’s a credit to her.’’
Faris’ immense success in the classroom has reached biblical proportions if you ask sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis.
“Kelly’s a genius,’’ Mosqueda-Lewis said. “Kelly is super smart and super talented. Kelly is All. Like I said, `Jesus.”’
Faris earned a 3.8 this fall. Of course, she was not pleased. She earned a B in a geography class.
“I was mad because it was in (general education),’’ Faris said. “It was a geography class and I’m horrible. I have no sense of direction. And I tried so hard. I had meetings with the professor and I was trying to figure out how I should study. And it was just the test and it just got me. So I was not happy about it.’’
Faris has about a 3.7 overall GPA. She will unquestionably be selected in the WNBA draft in April. Once her playing career is complete, she said she will make a decision as to which field of work she will pursue.
“I like to work with kids,’’ Faris said. “It’s not something I’m just going to say, `OK, this is the avenue I want to take.’ There’s options for me. If I want to do something with sports, if I want to do Special Olympics or be in the hospital setting like being a child life specialist. But it’s things I’m going to have to try when I get to that point to figure out which one I actually like.’’