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- UConn women's basketball frontcourt preview
UConn women's basketball frontcourt preview
Edwards will anchor the Huskies frontcourt, but other pieces start the season unproven.
Photo: Ian Bethune
As head coach Geno Auriemma has said many times in the past, UConn will once again go as far as the frontcourt can take the Huskies this season.
“My biggest concern going through this season is going to be: Are we able to be good enough up front, like some of our best teams ever, to get to where we need to go?” Auriemma said at Big East Media Day. “Certainly Aaliyah [Edwards] is and has been. But Ice [Brady] has never played college basketball, so we need her to play like a junior in order for us to look like one of those teams. We need Ayanna [Patterson] to come back and and be like that if we want to go that far.”
Edwards has proven she has what it takes to play at the highest level in the lane for UConn, earning a third-team All-American nod last season. The rest of the Huskies’ frontcourt, however, is largely unproven.
After a somewhat underwhelming sophomore season, Edwards took her game to the next level as a junior, serving as the focal point of UConn’s success for much of last year. She led the Huskies in points (16.6 per game) and was second in rebounds (9.0, behind Dorka Juhász) last season.
As much as UConn leaded on Edwards last year, it may do so even more this season. With Juhász leaving for the WNBA, Edwards remains as the sole proven piece in the Huskies’ frontcourt and UConn will need her to continue playing at an All-American level.
Edwards presence and versatility on the defensive end will be a big part of UConn’s success once again this season. Her demonstrated ability to guard traditional back to the basket post players (i.e. her defense on Aliyah Boston in the South Carolina matchup last year) but also lock up wings (like Villanova’s Maddy Siegrist) gives the Huskies flexibility to use her on their opponents’ best frontcourt players — wherever they line up.
Back surgery isn’t easy to come back from, but Griffin returned to UConn’s rotation and make significant contributions last season. While residual back issues limited Griffin in the postseason, she looked better than ever in the Huskies’ trip to Europe.
At her best, Griffin’s athleticism provides rebounding and rim protection well beyond her size, which gives the Huskies a second experienced option in the frontcourt. Additionally, her speed and agility allow her to be disruptive on defense. Griffin also demonstrated a more developed skillset on the offensive end last season, moving beyond just the put-backs we saw in her first two seasons and adding a jumper as well as the occasional three-pointer. If that continues to develop in her senior season, that will help answer some of UConn’s questions in the frontcourt.
After suffering a knee injury in October, Brady was sidelined for her entire freshman season after arriving on campus as a highly-celebrated top-5 recruit in the 2022 class. Despite having never suited up for the Huskies in a game, they will look for her play a big role in a rather young frontcourt rotation this season.
Brady is a versatile addition to the frontcourt, with the ability to “make shots from the perimeter, score in the lane, [and be a] really good passer,” per Auriemma. He also commented that she’s a great complement to both Edwards and Griffin, suggesting that she’ll fit into the main frontcourt rotation for the Huskies well.
Ayanna Patterson showed flashes of excellence in her freshman season before having her playing time limited by a nagging knee injury down the stretch. Her aggressiveness on the offensive glass particularly shined through, even if she struggled with foul trouble and other common freshman mistakes.
Unfortunately that knee injury required an offseason procedure and limited Patterson to the sidelines throughout the summer and into the preseason. That may slow the sophomore jump we’re accustomed to seeing UConn players make in their second summer with the program. That said, the Huskies will still need her to contribute at a higher level this season. If she can limit foul trouble and provide a boost on the glass, Patterson should be a great option off the bench for the Huskies.
Amari DeBerry has struggled to find her footing for the Huskies, playing the fewest minutes of anyone on the roster last season. Still, at 6-foot-6 she has the potential to provide the Huskies with size down low in a way no one else on the roster can. While her playing time was limited, DeBerry did show flashes last season. Most notably, she earned 20 minutes on the court against Seton Hall and scored 13 points — including two triples. If she can provide similar contributions in the minutes she gets, DeBerry could earn a bigger spot in the rotation this season.
Jana El Afly
After joining the team early from Egypt last semester and impressing in both summer sessions and the U-19 World Cup for her home country, Jana El Alfy suffered a torn Achilles in late July. The redshirt freshman will miss the entire 2023-24 season.