The thought of playing in the final game of her career was too much for UConn fifth-year senior Caroline Doty to fully grasp. So she opted not to think about it prior to taking the floor in the NCAA tournament final against Louisville Tuesday at New Orleans Arena.
Doty, 23, has been playing basketball for the past 17 years of her life. Unlike numerous former Huskies that have had the opportunity to play professionally both in the WNBA and in Europe, three tears of the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee will deny her the same opportunity.
“I’m trying not to think about it,’’ Doty said before the game. “I think it will overwhelm me so I really won’t know what to do because I’m a competitor. I enjoy playing basketball. I love the game. And to not be able to play at the highest level like we are now is going to be different. But I’m going to find a way to keep playing, whether it’s like a Rec League or an Old People’s League or whatnot. But I’m always going to have the ball in my hands no matter what, that’s for sure.’’
Doty could not prevent her emotions from surfacing following a 93-60 victory over Louisville. In her final game, she earned the third national championship of her career.
Doty stood in the UConn locker room clinging to the national championship trophy. The trophy had one of the nets that the Huskies had cut down draped over it. Along with fellow fifth-year senior Heather Buck, she leaves as one of only 14 players all-time that have three national championships on their resume. Former UConn players Ashley Battle, Maria Conlon, Stacey Marron, Jessica Moore, Diana Taurasi, Ashley Valley and Morgan Valley and former Tennessee players Misty Greene, Chamique Holdsclaw, Kellie Jolly, Brynae Laxton and Laurie Milligan are also in this select group.
“I had tears at the end,’’ Doty said. “It’s been a great five years. I’ve been part of something special with a special group of people and I’ll never forget them. Just to go out knowing that your last game at UConn is the national championship, there’s no better feeling in the world.’’
Injuries forced Doty to miss 62 games throughout her career with the Huskies, including the final 22 games of the 2008-09 season and the entire 2010-11 season. But this extreme run of misfortune has not diminished what she has been able to accomplish.
Along with Buck, Doty is also one of four players in NCAA history to reach the Final Four five times in her career.
“I think right now I don’t think there’s anybody that appreciates being here more than she does,’’ UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “I still think back to the one year that she played the entire year when she was healthy and we went 39 0 and we didn’t have a point guard. It was her and Tiffany Hayes in the backcourt and we won a lot of games, and I wish I could have had that Caroline for the whole four years.’’
Doty set career-highs in scoring (6.8), assists (3.5) and minutes (25.3) and played all 39 games (38 starts) in guiding UConn to the national championship as a sophomore in 2009-10.
She started 124 of 131 career games, generating 717 points, 309 rebounds and 320 assists in 2783 minutes. Now she will start the rest of her life. She will start it as a champion.
“I’m keeping my options open,’’ Doty said. “I’ve still got another year of grad school that I’d like to complete. Coaching is definitely in my mind. I’m very interested in that, especially being able to pick Coach’s mind for the past five years and really grow and see what makes a team successful. And then just kind of see what else is out there. Maybe try to get involved with Nike. Maybe in a sports agency firm. It’s still wide open, but I just know that I want to be involved with sports and want to be around people who love sports as well.’’