Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Sophomores

#13 G Brianna Banks

The coaching staff has raved about the player Brianna Banks has been so far this preseason and that's a great sign. Even Bri, herself, says she's a completely different player from last season after deciding in the offseason that she was going to stop worrying about messing up and just play. Sometimes players are instinctual players rather than IQ players and it would seem that Brianna is just that. Her instincts are what led her to UConn and not using them is what almost led her to leave unexpectedly. So it's great to hear that she didn't give up on herself and instead put in the time and effort necessary to be successful at the nation's top women's basketball program. While I've heard reports that her shooting has improved, I believe it when I see it because last year she couldn't buy one - outside of a lay-up. Offensively, look for her to slowly build on the glimpses of success she showed us last season (i.e. - scoring off fast breaks and beating defenders off the dribble) while hopefully making teams pay this year for leaving her wide open on the perimeter. Defensively is where she will shine the most. She will be the head of our full-court press, play the passing lanes, rack up steals, and try to overtake Faris as the team's best one-on-one stopper.

#23 W Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis

"Girl can shoot!" That's what Kaleena has heard all her life and frankly, she's sick of it. Why would a player ever be sick of hearing that compliment, you ask? Because she's driven to be the best and the best do more than just shoot. Kaleena has set out to prove to all the critics out there that she is more than just a lights-out shooter. She wants to be an all-around player who can shoot the lights out! And if her coach knows a thing or two about what he's seen so far this young season (and I'm going to go out a a very short limb and say he does!) then UConn and women's basketball fans everywhere are in for a real treat. Last season's leading scoring (as a freshman, no less), Kaleena is an All-American in waiting and I expect nothing less than that type of play this season (even if the accolades don't follow). I also expect her to lead the team in scoring once again. As a spot-up shooter, she is money from outside at nearly 1 out of every 2, which is phenomenal. If she can start being that accurate when she takes people of the dribble or pulls up for a jumpshot, she will be unstoppable. Rebounding numbers will increase this season as well since she should be more comfortable playing the 4 at times. Getting to the FT line at a much high clip is a must this season especially on plays where she is posting up smaller defenders and/or finishing through contact for And-1's. Her coach also challenged her to get better defensively and so far he likes what he sees.

#41 Kiah Stokes

If Kiah Stokes ever reaches her potential and the physical gifts she was born with, we may be looking at the next Lisa Leslie. That's how much raw talent and skill resides in her bones. She is a shot-blocking machine and with more effort, heart, and desire could become a rebounding machine (ala Tina Charles, Cheryl Ford, or even Courtney Paris). She has the face-up game, the post moves, can finish with either hand, and can take people off the dribble. However, offense will always just be an added bonus from Kiah so long as she's content with it being that way. When your coach was just the head coach of the gold medal winning USA Senior National Women's Basketball Team, and he says you are a player who could average 15/10 a night and you only average just under 5/5 then you are 1) not playing up to your potential (duh!) but 2) going to spend a lot of time in his doghouse. And that my UConn friends is where Kiah is going to spend a lot of time this season if she doesn't (play to her potential). He may go easy on her at first as she has only been cleared to play since August after having offseason foot surgery, but once Big East play rolls around there will be no more Mr. Nice Guy. The parts are all there for Kiah. The wheels are on (the bad one has been fixed), there's fuel in the engine, and the keys are in the ignition. Now it's up to her to start the car and let Geno teach her how to become one of the world's greatest drivers!!

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