Auriemma wants Danger­field to be more of a risk taker

The News-Times - - SPORTS - By Doug Bon­jour dbon­[email protected]­; @DougBon­jour

BRAN­FORD — There are cer­tain play­ers who play to their per­son­al­ity. In the case of UConn’s star point guard, that means what, ex­actly?

“Her per­son­al­ity is very, very cau­tious. She needs to be more kind of free-flow­ing, take more chances, be a lit­tle more of a risk taker,” Geno Auriemma said Wed­nes­day from the UConn Coaches Road­show at Stony Creek Brewery.

Crys­tal Danger­field is both mild-man­nered and soft-spo­ken, the type who leads more by ac­tions than words. While Auriemma finds that ad­mirable, he wouldn’t mind see­ing Danger­field push the en­ve­lope a bit more on the court.

“You’ve got to be will­ing to take some risks, cre­ate stuff,” Auriemma said. “I think she can do more de­fen­sively. All the things that I’ve seen our great guards do is they’re re­ally good at guard­ing their man when they have the ball, and they’re even bet­ter at guard­ing when their man doesn’t have the ball.”

Danger­field was one of the coun­try’s best point guards last year, av­er­ag­ing nearly six as­sists per game, but so much more is ex­pected of her this year. With All-Amer­i­cans Napheesa Col­lier and Katie Lou Sa­muel­son hav­ing grad­u­ated, the re­spon­si­bil­ity of lead­ing the Huskies falls directly on Danger­field’s shoul­ders as a se­nior.

Time will tell whether she’s ca­pa­ble of doing so.

“Some peo­ple are just born lead­ers, and some are not,” Auriemma said. “Some­times, you try to im­pose things on some peo­ple. ‘Crys­tal, you have to be a great leader.’ Maybe she can’t be. I don’t know.

“There’s a lot of dif­fer­ent ways to lead. Some peo­ple just lead by ex­am­ple. They say, ‘I’m just go­ing to do what I need to do to make sure our team wins.’ And then other peo­ple are very emo­tional, very vo­cal, very demon­stra­tive, blah, blah, blah.”

Danger­field let her play do the talk­ing in last year’s Sweet 16, scor­ing all 15 of her points in the se­cond half of a wild come­back vic­tory over UCLA. What came next, though, were two tough games against Louisville and Notre Dame, where she scored a to­tal of 14 points on 6-of-19 shoot­ing and com­mit­ted five turnovers.

“I think what hap­pened in the se­cond half of that UCLA game has to be part of her reg­u­lar game, her reg­u­lar rou­tine,” Auriemma said. “She’ll be the first to tell you that she’s not happy with the way she played in some of the big­ger games that we had last year. She’s not happy with the way she led or some of the things she looked back and could’ve done, should’ve done.”

The good news, though, is this.

“I feel good. I feel great about her,” Auriemma said.

With 79 starts un­der her belt, Danger­field will be the un­ques­tioned vet­eran pres­ence in the back­court. Christyn Wil­liams is supremely tal­ented but is still only a sopho­more, and Aubrey Grif­fin and Ania Maku­rat will both be learn­ing on the fly as fresh­men. Of course, the com­plex­ion of the back­court will change if Ten­nessee trans­fer Ev­ina West­brook’s waiver is ap­proved by the NCAA.

“I think she’s go­ing to have a great year,” Auriemma said.

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