There was never any feeling-out process for All-Americans Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley. UConn coach Geno Auriemma needed both of them of contribute for the Huskies, and he needed them to contribute right away. And that’s exactly what they did.
Dolson started 36 of 38 games as a freshman, averaging 10.2 points (61.6 percent FG shooting) and 6.1 rebounds in 24.2 minutes. Hartley started 34 of 38 games, averaging 12.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 31.8 minutes. The Huskies advanced to the Final Four that season.
Their contributions never ceased. And Saturday Dolson (1,510; 18th all-time in team history) and Hartley (1,554; 15th) secured of piece of history when they became the third pair of UConn classmates to score 1,500 points.
Swin Cash (1,583) and Asjha Jones (1,502), who graduated in 2002, and Ann Strother (1,699) and Barbara Turner (1,629), who graduated in 2006, are the others.
“I think it’s been awesome,’’ Hartley said. “I think from the beginning we kind of always were working towards the same goals. We each were improving at the same rate and I think it’s good. And now we’re finally seniors and I think we kind of look back and we’re kind of proud of what we’ve done and what we’ve been able to accomplish. And we just want to continue to have that success and end this year on a really good note.’’
Dolson is currently enjoying the best season of her career, averaging career-highs of 14.1 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.1 blocks and 31.9 minutes. She is shooting 58.7 percent from the field and has recorded seven double-doubles.
Hartley has bounced back nicely from last season’s left ankle and confidence issues. She is averaging 13.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, a team/career-high 4.7 assists and 1.9 steals in 30.3 minutes.
“I’ve always said that if you want to be an elite program, if you want to be at the level that we aspire to be at for as long as I can remember you need two All-Americans in every class,’’ Auriemma said. “And it doesn’t always work out that way. But it’s worked out that way this time. We’ve got two players on our team that are seniors that for four years have been pretty consistent and they’ve been really good. Since their first day at Connecticut they’ve been really good so I’m not surprised that they both have 1,500 points. They’ve been in a lot of big games. They’ve won a lot of big games for us. They’re both hard workers. They’re both really competitive.
“I’m proud of both of them, for different reasons. For Bria, for what she’s come back from last year to where she is now. And for Stefanie how she’s been able to transform herself from where she was as a freshman to where she is today. It will be interesting when we go down and play Baylor (Jan.13) that Stefanie’s second game of her college career was against Brittney Griner. And I think she played 12 minutes, didn’t score and fouled out or something like that. And to see her today you wouldn’t even recognize her. So I’m proud of both of them and that’s our goal … Two All-Americans in every class if we can and these two have panned out exactly like we thought they would.’’
Dolson and Hartley have also reaped the benefit of their determination to be successful. They came to UConn as members of the five-player recruiting class. They are now all that remain as Samarie Walker (Kentucky), Lauren Engeln (Boston College) and Michala Johnson (Wisconsin) have all since transferred.
“People come and people go,’’ Hartley said. “They’re still my friends. I still keep in touch with them. But me and Stef, we wanted to stay here. We wanted to play at UConn. And that’s the reason we came here and we weren’t going to give up on it along the way.’’