UConn women reload with a trio of freshmen

UConn freshman Morgan Tuck, left, shares a laugh with fifth-year senior Heather Buck during media day for the UConn women's basketball team on Oct. 16 in Storrs. Tuck is one of three impact freshmen this season.

Storrs - UConn freshmen Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson huddled together recently in a dorm room closet, waiting for their chance.

When teammate Morgan Tuck entered the room, they pounced, spraying her with fire from their Nerf guns before collapsing in laughter.

"The three of us, we've become really, really close, on the court and off the court," Stewart said. "It's usually me and Moriah against Morgan, though. We pick on her, hit her with pillows, stuff like that."

On the court, the three together are expected to pummel opponents for the next four years. Stewart, Tuck and Jefferson make up the most heralded class to enter UConn since the 1998 group that included Olympic gold medalists Sue Bird, Asjha Jones and Swin Cash.

The three will see their first action for the Huskies tonight as the team takes on Indiana (Pa.) in an exhibition game at 7 p.m. at Gampel Pavilion. UConn opens the regular season Nov. 11 at home against the College of Charleston.

"They don't play like freshmen at all," said UConn center Stefanie Dolson, a junior. "They are already playing like upperclassmen. Everyone is fighting for their spot on the team and when the freshmen are playing the way they are, everyone's got to play up to that level."

Most of the preseason accolades have been directed toward Stewart, who is 6-foot-4 but can play any position on the court. She was the consensus national player of the year coming out of high school, and was named the Big East's preseason freshman of the year. She can dunk, dribble the floor and step outside and hit the 3-point shot.

"I think that everything people say about me is great, but I don't think about what people expect," she said. "I'm just coming in here to work hard and get better."

Tuck is also expected to see a lot of playing time. At 6-2, she gives the Huskies another inside presence with Dolson. But she also has a jump shot and came in third place in the Huskies' annual 3-point shooting contest among all the men's and women's players competing.

"The difference with these two kids, Breanna and Morgan, is that they are really confident," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "They're really confident and they know it and they play like it, and it's real. There's no fake about these two guys"

Jefferson's not bad either. She was considered the nation's top point guard coming out of high school in Glenn Heights, Texas. But she's likely to see less playing time as a freshman than Tuck or Stewart because she is playing behind junior all-conference guard Bria Hartley and sophomore Brianna Banks.

The three freshmen already have spent a lot of time together on the court, helping the U.S. national team to a gold medal at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship. Tuck was the team's leading scorer and Stewart the most valuable player.

• It was announced Thursday that Hartley is out indefinitely to allow her injured left ankle to heal. A press release from the university said the measure is precautionary "so this does not become a season-long, nagging injury."


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