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    Sunday, April 14, 2024

    UConn women’s recruit Morgan Cheli grew up watching Stanford great Haley Jones

    Morgan Cheli dribbles the basketball earlier this season while playing for Archbishop Mitty High School near San Jose, Calif. Cheli will play at UConn next season. (Photo courtesy of Morgan Cheli)
    Morgan Cheli, who will play for UConn next season, poses for a photo at Archbishop Mitty High School near San Jose, Calif. (Photo courtesy of Morgan Cheli)

    It doesn’t happen every day that two Division I female athletes come out of the same high school but Morgan Cheli is looking to follow in the footsteps of previous Stanford guard Haley Jones when she suits up for the UConn women’s basketball team next season.

    Cheli and Jones are both products of of Archbishop Mitty High School located on a 24-acre campus in San Jose, California.

    Jones graduated from Stanford in 2023, having won a national championship at the high school and college levels, and moved on to the WNBA, where she was drafted in the first round by the Atlanta Dream.

    Cheli, a 6-foot-2 guard who is 18th in the ESPN rankings for the high school Class of 2024, dreams of making it to the professional level one day just like Jones.

    “I think I’ve always had a dream to play in college and that was one of my goals, but I think, really, I would say in seventh, eighth grade it like was like ‘Hey, this could actually happen.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, this is definitely something that I see myself doing and playing at the next level.’ So, I feel very blessed to be able to live out my dream,” Cheli said.

    Cheli was first exposed to Jones as a player and person when she watched her sister compete against her.

    Cheli’s sister, Emma, attended Saint Francis, which was one of Mitty’s rivals.

    “I've kind of followed her career since then and she's a huge inspiration not only to me, but just Mitty in general and the Mitty women's basketball team. And yeah, it's really cool to be able to go to an amazing program as well,” Cheli said.

    Cheli was recruited by more than 40 schools but UConn stuck out to her because of the environment and culture that the program carries.

    She is one of two members of the Class of 2024 who has signed with the Huskies, joining No. 4 recruit Allie Ziebell of Neenah, Wisconsin. Mitty is currently undefeated at 23-0 and first in the nation in the latest ESPN rankings.

    “UConn was my dream school, but you know it's really cool that it lived up to my expectations. I feel like that doesn't happen as often as you may think but when I went out there I loved it, the culture, the team, the coaches, and I was able to watch a practice. Then when I went back out I saw a game and just the atmosphere in general, I loved it all,” Cheli said.

    She enjoyed the traditions of UConn fans, who clap from the start of the game until the home team scores.

    “The energy there is just contagious and I love that,” Cheli said. “There's so much support. I don't think you find that really anywhere like how UConn does it. So, it's a special place for sure.”

    Cheli is excited to join the team next year behind great coaches and supportive teammates.

    “Honestly, just to be a part of that team and to be coached by such amazing coaches and, you know, coach (Geno) Auriemma. I think overall I just can't wait to play in that atmosphere and just have fun with such amazing people,” Cheli said.

    Cheli got the chance to represent USA Basketball and compete on the U17 national team in 2022. She averaged a team-high three steals to help lead the U.S. to a gold medal in the FIBA U17 World Cup in Debrecen, Hungary.

    “My experience was amazing. Winning gold was surreal. That moment when the gold confetti came out. It was just like ‘wow, what a moment’ and I think I'll remember it forever,” Cheli said. “It was a great experience. I feel extremely lucky to have been a part of it. Also, the people that you probably would never have met and you're now on a team (together). So, it's just really cool how USA Basketball brings people together.”

    Cheli will prepare to tip off for the West Team at the McDonald’s All-American Game on April 2 in Houston, where she will play on the same team as Ziebell. Cheli and Ziebell were also both named to the USA Basketball 2024 Nike Hoop Summit.

    Her goal for the remainder of her high school senior season is to continue to succeed as a team.

    “Honestly just to compete. Our focus is on the next game ... going to get that ‘dub’ and then our sights are set for March and winning a state championship,” Cheli said. “I think myself and also my team, we just want to go undefeated and we want to win it all this year.”

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