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Storrs - Her former Stonington High School and current UConn teammate, Jacquie Fernandes, has a prediction for freshman Heather Buck when she gets her first look around a crowded Gampel Pavilion tonight.
UConn, picked unanimously so far as the nation's preseason No. 1, will hold First Night beginning with an autograph session at 6 p.m.
”(Tonight), she's going to be like, 'You know what, I made the right decision,'” Fernandes said.
Buck, for her part, says she already knows that about ending a long recruiting process by choosing UConn.
The 6-foot-3 center/forward, The Day's three-time All-Area Girls' Basketball Player of the Year, Buck said at Thursday's UConn media day that she's still intimidated at times playing for a team she grew up thinking was “above human,” but she really can't imagine herself anyplace else.
Buck took great care with her decision, waiting well into the summer before her senior year to give a verbal commitment to the Huskies.
”I went home a couple weeks ago and someone asked me, 'How's school?'” Buck said. “I said, 'I love it.' I really do love it. I mean that completely. I really do, I love it up here.
”... It really is a great opportunity. I have to just play. I know sometimes (during preseason workouts), I think, 'What am I supposed to do right now? Tina (Charles, preseason All-America center is) posting me up?'”
UConn coach Geno Auriemma said he likes Buck's length, which allows her to block shots, and likes her competitive nature.
”She gets overwhelmed physically,” Auriemma said. “But she competes, she listens. ... I'm going to have to play her, which is good. I'm OK with that.”
Senior All-America guard Renee Montgomery complimented Buck on her penchant to try to rebound every shot.
”I don't think we've ever had anyone like that,” Montgomery said. “She goes after every rebound. She's going to be one of those players that does all the little things. There might not be anything on the stat sheet, but she can impact a game.”
Buck, who will wear No. 21 in UConn's national flag blue and white, made her debut in the uniform Thursday - surrounded by television, radio, newspaper and magazine interviewers - and had an explanation for her attention to rebounding.
”That's one of coach Solar's things,” she said of Stonington coach Paulla Solar. “You box out and you rebound. It's just one of those things. You can always play defense and rebound and the offense will come.”
V.FULKERSON@THEDAY.COM Article UID=f666d50e-4aac-4130-87d3-97698c68f493