SOURCE: GreenwichTimes.com | Rich Elliott, Dec. 9, 2010
STORRS — The idea of attending Point Guard College [program for college basketball players] last August was simply mentioned to Bria Hartley by members of the UConn women’s basketball coaching staff. They told Hartley about the program and that former UConn guard Mel Thomas and current senior Lorin Dixon had benefited from attending.
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From there, the coaches left it up to Hartley to make her own decision. Although she was responsible for paying the tuition fee for the five-day event at Emanuel College in Boston, the decision was easy. Hartley, a dynamic 5-foot-7 freshman, would never turn down an opportunity to improve. She attended the program and has promptly become an impact player for the top-ranked Huskies.
“It probably gave her a jump on understanding some of what we were going to want her to do at the college level,” UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey said. “I think Bria wants to be good. I think she always worked hard. She probably came to us as prepared as anybody that we’ve had.”
Hartley knew that she was going to be asked to play a major role for UConn, which will host Marquette tonight at Gampel Pavilion in search of its 87th straight win (7:30, CPTV). The loss of incumbent point guard Caroline Doty left a significant void in the backcourt for an inexperienced team. But it was a void that Hartley came in wanting to fill.
Hartley is a true competitor, one who desired to immediately earn a starting role for UConn. Attending Point Guard College helped her become more vocal and improve her thought process on the floor.
“I’m starting to feel a lot more comfortable,” Hartley said. “I still make those freshman mistakes that Coach (Geno Auriemma) always calls out. So I’ve just got to be focused and make sure I don’t make those same mistakes any more.”
Hartley, the Preseason Big East Freshman of the Year, is averaging 13.5 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 30.9 minutes through the first eight games (six starts). She leads the team in 3-point shooting percentage (.415).
Her numbers at this juncture are comparable to three of the elite point guards that have played at UConn — Jennifer Rizzotti, Sue Bird and Renee Montgomery. All three were All-Americans who led the Huskies to a national championship.
Rizzotti averaged 12.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 33.9 minutes through eight games in 1992-93. Bird was averaging 5.1 points, 2.0 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 20.0 minutes before a knee injury ended her season in 1998-99. Montgomery averaged 6.1 points, 1.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 25.8 minutes in 2005-06.
“The biggest similarity I think between Bria and some of the other guards that we’ve had that have been really good is her confidence level,” Auriemma said. “She’s not as vocal. But in terms of skill sets — handling the ball, passing the ball — she has a lot of very similar qualities.”
Ideally, Auriemma would have liked to have used Hartley off the bench this season to allow her to get acclimated at a slower rate.
Hartley has not shied away from the pressure of being the starting point guard for the two-time defending national champions. There have been times when the burden she is being asked to carry has been increasingly heavy. In a short time, though, she has lived up to her billing as the most hyped player in an impressive recruiting class.
“If Bria Hartley had the ball in her hands for 35 minutes every night, I would feel pretty good about that because I know something good’s going to happen,” Auriemma said. “That kid’s going to be a star in the next four years. Oh, hopefully in the next three months.”
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