Playing professionally in Hungary this winter, which is six hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone, Kelly Faris suffered through her share of late nights watching the Huskies during the NCAA tournament. In the end, it was worth it.
Faris, who won two national championships during her career with the Huskies, could not have been more proud of this team as it completed its journey by winning an NCAA-record ninth national championship.
“It was fun to watch them,’’ Faris said. “When I left, I didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t know if I had left a mark on them or not. Then you watch and see them all step up. If there was any doubt they felt, `Forget it. We’re going to play our game.’ That’s what UConn basketball is all about.’’
Faris was moved by the highly emotional hug senior Bria Hartley shared with Coach Geno Auriemma as she walked off the court for the final time with 1:00 remaining in a 79-58 win over Notre Dame at Bridgestone Arena. The embrace brought back fond memories of the one she shared with Auriemma when she came off the court with 2:04 left in UConn’s 93-60 win over Louisville in the 2013 NCAA tournament final at New Orleans Arena.
“I had goosebumps,’’ Faris said. “I just thought, `Wow. A year ago I was in that spot and that was me.’ I knew exactly how it felt and I knew exactly how Bria felt. I could see her crying. I didn’t think Coach would get as choked up as he did, but I know why. I was so proud of Bria and Stefanie (Dolson) that they could go out on that note. They seemed so young when I played with them. It was like I got to watch them grow up. It was great.’’
The 2013-14 Huskies are considered to be among the best teams in history. They finished 40-0. Breanna Stewart was the National Player of the Year. Stewart, Hartley and Dolson were named to the 10-player WBCA All-America team. Stewart (first-team), Hartley (second-team), Dolson (second-team), Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (honorable mention) and Moriah Jefferson (honorable mention) each earned All-American honors from The Associated Press.
Faris was a freshman on UConn’s 39-0 team in 2009-10, one that was led by Maya Moore, Tina Charles, Kalana Greene and Tiffany Hayes. So where does she think this year’s team ranks?
“That’s a question for someone else to answer,’’ Faris said.