Storrs - Heather Buck is redshirting, an announcement that was confirmed Tuesday following the UConn women's practice at Gampel Pavilion.
Consider it a compliment to Buck, the 6-foot-3 freshman center from Stonington. It came courtesy of coach Geno Auriemma, who called Buck a player he'd love to hang on to for an extra year.
Auriemma used Buck's practice performance Tuesday as an example.
Buck, although sidelined with mononucleosis for nearly a month and slow to recover from it, was giving her best effort, gleaming with sweat, her cheeks flame red. Playing defense against UConn's starting lineup, Buck even emphatically blocked a shot against Huskies' All-American Maya Moore.
The Huskies were preparing for today's game against Hartford at the XL Center (noon, CPTV).
”If she didn't have all those qualities,” Auriemma said of Buck's willingness to contribute in practice, “you'd say, 'C'mon, get this over with and move you on.'”
Instead, Auriemma likened Buck's potential to that of Jessica Moore, the only other UConn player Auriemma ever redshirted that wasn't injured. Moore sat out as a freshman in 2000-2001 and later helped UConn to three national championships (2002-04) before moving on to the WNBA in 2005.
”This kid's gonna be 100 times better three years from now,” Auriemma said, speaking of Buck while comparing her to Jessica Moore. “Why waste a year in that situation?”
Buck, The Day's former three-time Player of the Year and Stonington's all-time leading scorer, has not played a game for UConn, which will make her eligible to apply for a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA following the season.
She is still permitted to practice and travel with the team.
It was confirmed Buck had mono on Nov. 14. She returned to practice on Dec. 2, but Auriemma noticed that her breathing was labored and that Buck's conditioning was going to be a tough thing for her to get back in time for her to contribute.
It was then he approached the topic of redshirting with Buck, who ran it by her mother, Mayada Wadsworth.
Buck said she knows it's what's best.
”It's only good for me,” Buck said. “It means I have a year to practice in the system and still have four years to play.”
Buck said it's a disappointment not to be able to play, but refuses to feel sorry for herself and said her teammates have the right to “practice against people that are as ready as they are.”
”Yeah, you want to come in and play, but it's not like you're losing the year entirely. Hopefully it will result in a higher quality of playing. That's the point,” Buck said. “If I feel sorry for myself, then I'm not benefitting from this year at all.”
Auriemma was asked if he would still use Buck in an emergency situation, thus losing the redshirt option, and he said that's a difficult question to answer but that he's inclined to say no.
The point, he said, is not only that the team benefit from Buck staying an extra year, but that she gets the maximum benefit from it, as well.
”You have a kid who hasn't played at all and now it's the middle of February and you say, 'OK, look, I want you to play,'” Auriemma said. “It would be unfair. It's more likely we'd just have to figure it out.”
”The fact he wants me to stay another year makes you feel good,” Buck said. “... I want to gain strength, to have it show on the court. I want to learn everything I can about everything.”