“The three MVP contenders are all my type of position, players I look up to because they help my game,” Edwards said, as the team was about to begin its first training Tuesday. “Whether it’s being a scorer like Stewie or being able to finish with confidence like Alyssa Thomas, or by being dominant like A’ja Wilson, you can pick what you want in each player and make it your own.
Edwards, who averaged 10 points, eight rebounds and 2.6 assists for Team Canada, helping win a bronze medal at the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup tournament in Mexico, also played with and against professionals, bringing new skills and goals to UConn for its senior year. The team began full practices Tuesday.
“I’m looking to be a better tackler than I was last season,” she said. “I don’t know what that will look like, I just want to be there for my coaches and my teammates. I would say that I am much stronger mentally. Physically, I stay in shape, I do everything the coach wants me to do. But mentally I’m really locked in, ready to do whatever he wants me to do or the team to do.
Edwards, 6-foot-3, averaged 11.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in 99 games at UConn. She has always been a productive player for the Huskies, sometimes productive at the All-America level, sometimes less visible. That’s what coach Geno Auriemma hopes to change for Edwards’ final go-around.
“If anyone saw her in November, December and January, she was our All-American,” Auriemma said. “Aaliyah just had a rough February and I think it affected how some people viewed her. We have been talking with her since the spring about the regularity she needs. She has to be the same every day, every game, every possession, and I think she’s an All-America player. There are very few players like her. If you ask people at the higher education level, they will tell you that. Now it’s our job to make sure we get that consistency from him.
Edwards says she will “wear her heart on her sleeve more” as a senior, being more emotional and vocal in practice, as well as in games. While helping Ice Brady, who is a sophomore but didn’t play last season due to injury, Edwards learned that first-year players need to be “fearless,” learn and bounce back from their mistakes.
Keep your eye on the ball
— UConn Women’s Basketball (@UConnWBB) September 29, 2023
“Over the last three years, we haven’t gotten to where we want to be,” Edwards said. “We are capable, I know we can do it, it’s just a matter of doing it.”
On the injury front: UConn lost redshirt freshman Jana El Alfy 6-5 to a torn Achilles over the summer, so they will be missing a young player who should play significant minutes on the court . For now, Edwards and Brady will hold their own there. On the first day of practice, Aubrey Griffin, who twisted her foot, Ayanna Patterson, who was recovering from knee surgery, and Amari DeBerry, who was recovering from back surgery, were held out.
Freshmen and Depth: However, UConn will enter this season with 13 scholarship players, not including El Alfy, a deeper bench than they have had in recent years. Auriemma expects incoming freshmen KK Arnold, Ashlynn Shade and Qadence Samuels to play significant minutes.
“It’s positive for people who think I only play four players at a time,” Auriemma said. “It will be refreshing for them to see that.” I used to play eight, nine, ten times a day, and I’d like to get back to that.
“… Of the tree, KK was probably most consistent in its approach,” Auriemma said. “Ash is very consistent, but much more cautious, so she will have to work through it. She’s in that mode of not wanting to make a mistake where I don’t think KK worries about that stuff, just tries to make plays and makes a lot of good ones, few bad ones. Q? When Q goes for it, the child thinks she’s going to succeed every shot she takes. We need to have Q do other things besides shoot the ball. So they all have their strengths and things they need to work on, but all three are going to play a lot.
Azzi Fudd frees the mind: Bueckers talked about playing with a free spirit. It’s always been easier said than done Azzi Fuddalso a #1 ranked recruit, currently in his junior year.
“It’s something I’m still working on,” Fudd said. “Play without thinking, if that makes sense. I’m an overthinker. So I try to play freely, without worrying about what will happen, just playing.
Fudd, who has also been unlucky due to injuries, has averaged 13.1 points in 38 career games. She is shooting 38.8 percent from three.
“The (mental aspects) were one of the hardest adjustments of my first year,” she said. “Watching the game film, looking at myself, that’s not the player I am, the way I played. Since the end of this year, this has been my goal: to never play like that again, focusing on strengthening my mind.
Double champions in 2004, 2014 and…: With a women’s team loaded with talent as it is when most players are healthy, and the UConn men coming off a national championship season, one might wonder if the Huskies can make it to the third time. what no other school has ever done, winning both NCAA tournaments in the same season.
“It could happen,” Auriemma said. “I’m not going to say I’ll be disappointed if we don’t go undefeated and win the national championship. I don’t know if I have the confidence to say that. But as I heard a long time ago, you can’t win the national championship every year, but you should aspire to what people say, every year, when the season starts and people start talking about who has the chance to win the championship, your name should appear right away. And I think the guys next door, our guys and our team are in that conversation this year, and that’s all you can ask for.
And something else: Auriemma’s takeaways from Travel to Europe:
“When we play with freshness, speed and freedom, we are really good,” he said. “When we start pressuring, getting (on defense) the three-quarter field, that kind of aggressiveness, we’re really, really good. I like what I saw when we were at our best. And when we were at our worst…that’s why God invented red wine.