Kia Nurse, Huskies go for 100 straight.

Kia Nurse and the UConn Huskies go for No. 100 Mon­day

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - PAT EA­TON-ROBB

STORRS, CONN. — UConn guard Kia Nurse sees a lot of her­self when she watches her team­mates play and she knows that’s not an ac­ci­dent. The Huskies have a chance to win an un­prece­dented 100th con­sec­u­tive game on Mon­day against No. 6 South Carolina. Nurse and her team­mates say that con­sis­tency comes not just in the way the team plays, but in the type of player Geno Auriemma and his staff bring into the pro­gram. “You know that ev­ery time you go out on the floor as a Con­necti­cut player you have to sprint the floor,” said Hamil­ton’s Nurse. “You have to run hard. You have to dive on loose balls, be­cause that’s what ev­ery­one else does. That’s what they did to build this place.” Auriemma says he’s found there is a very spe­cific type of player that can thrive in his pro­gram, which has won 11 NCAA ti­tles, in­clud­ing the last four. He and his staff ob­vi­ously re­cruit tal­ented play­ers. But be­yond that, he wants some­one who is supremely con­fi­dent in her own abil­ity and some­one who im­pacts what­ever team she’s on in mul­ti­ple ways, mak­ing those around her bet­ter on and off the court. He also wants some­one whose top pri­or­ity is the team and win­ning. He said he can tell if a re­cruit will be a good fit by the way she an­swers his ques­tions and by what type of ques­tions she asks him. “The ma­jor­ity of the kids we get, they talk about win­ning cham­pi­onships,” he said. “When­ever a kid says to me, ‘What po­si­tion am I go­ing to play?’ or, ‘What’s my role go­ing to be on the team?’ I go, ‘Well, you’re prob­a­bly not go­ing to have one, be­cause you’re prob­a­bly not com­ing to Con­necti­cut.’” Auriemma said play­ers such as Nurse, Katie Lou Sa­muel­son, Napheesa Col­lier and Gabby Williams all came in with the same at­ti­tude. They all were think­ing “Of course I’m go­ing to play,” he said. “I’ll de­cide what my role is. I’ll show coach Auriemma I can do this, this, this and this and of course I’m go­ing to play.” Auriemma said he also wants re­cruits who will look up at the all cham­pi­onship ban­ners and the names on the wall at Gam­pel Pav­il­ion and go home de­ter­mined not to be the one that “screws this up.” “I think this is one of the best parts of this pro­gram is the pos­i­tive pres­sure you feel to carry on the tra­di­tion,” said Maya Moore, who starred on the UConn team that set the pre­vi­ous record of 90-straight wins. “Be­cause you know that the ben­e­fits that you have as a cur­rent player is be­cause of the play­ers and the coaches that came be­fore you.” Auriemma ac­knowl­edges that not all play­ers han­dle that type of pres­sure well. Some don’t thrive at UConn and will move on. But those who stay, de­scribe the UConn cul­ture as a big fam­ily. Se­nior cen­tre Natalie But­ler trans­ferred into it from Ge­orge­town, where she was the fresh­man of the year in the Big East. At UConn, she comes off the bench. She doesn’t play a lot of min­utes and she’s not the star of the team. But she said she’s happy, be­cause she’s found a group of like-minded play­ers and she fits in. “Hav­ing a team where ev­ery­one wants to get at the same place and ev­ery­one has this in­ten­sity and is 100 per cent about bas­ket­ball all the time, it’s great,” she said. “It makes a huge dif­fer­ence and the chem­istry is in­cred­i­ble. I don’t know how many other teams are this close all the time.”

JES­SICA HILL, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Con­necti­cut’s Kia Nurse goes up for two against SMU on Satur­day in Storrs, Conn.

JOHN MINCHILLO, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Kia Nurse of Hamil­ton says the Huskies’ con­sis­tency comes from hard work and the kind of play­ers brought into the pro­gram.

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