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Young Buckeyes give ex-Husky flashbacks

Tamika (Williams) Jeter looks out on the court as the Ohio State women’s basketball team practices and sees herself in a UConn uniform from two decades earlier.

Jeter, the former star forward and two-time national champion with the Huskies, is in the first year of her second tenure as an assistant coach with the Buckeyes. Ohio State will play its first ranked opponent of the season when it entertains No. 4 UConn Sunday at the Schottenstein Center (3 p.m., ESPN).

“Our team is young, talented, and with a lot to learn,” Jeter said Friday. “I have been there.

“There are times we’re good at doing some things. Then we’ll try something else and it’s not so good. But we have a group that’s receptive to change and to learning and we can only go up from here. Though I think this is a lot of payback for my freshman year at school.”

Jeter is in her 14th season as an assistant coach with six years previously at Ohio State, two at Kansas, two at Kentucky, and the last three at Penn State. She also spent seven seasons in the WNBA after graduating from UConn in 2002.

Sunday will be the first time, though, that Geno Auriemma and Chris Dailey will be on the opposite sideline from her.

“We didn’t play my first time here, but they’ve played several times since,” Jeter said. “They played Kentucky the couple of years before I went there and it was pretty much the same when I was at Penn State.

“It will be interesting. I see everyone when I’m out recruiting. I text Coach Auriemma and I talk to CD. They are so important to me. I mean, nothing important in my life happens — whether it’s my dad passing away or me having a baby — without me telling CD.”

Jeter, a native of Dayton, Ohio, is a married mother of two boys (4 years and 6 months old).

Can it be 21 years ago that she and TASSK — Asjha Jones, Sue Bird, Swin Cash, and Keirsten Walters — debuted as Huskies? Jeter chose UConn as the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 1998 out of Chaminade-Julienne High in Dayton.

“I remember us going to Connecticut together wanting to make a splash, and back then the way to do it was to take down Tennessee,” Jeter said.

The Huskies pulled out all the stops to get her. After Ohio State sent a private plane to fly her from Dayton to Columbus, Auriemma mailed her a paper plane. When Dayton held a party for her, Auriemma sent her confetti (shredded loose-leaf paper).

Jeter believes her mother has kept the paper plane and confetti.

“I remember walking into UD Arena in Dayton with my parents and there’s the band playing and the cheerleading cheering and everything,” Jeter said. “I remember going to Notre Dame with Ericka Haney (a member of the Irish’s 2001 title team and now Ohio State’s director of player development) and how they rolled out the red carpet for us. I went to Georgia with the beautiful weather and the beautiful campus.

“Then I come to Connecticut and there’s like a blizzard and this coach swearing and then yelling at his players. I told my mom what I was thinking and she was like, ‘Are you sure this is where you want to go?’ But I just felt a connection to everyone and I just knew it was right.”

In her four years, UConn compiled a 136-9 record with four Big East regular season and tournament titles, three Final Four berth, and the 2000 and 2002 national championships. Jeter was the 1999 Big East Freshman of the Year, the Most Outstanding Player of the 2000 Big East Tournament, and a two-time NCAA all-regional selection.

She calls the 39-0 team of 2002 the best she played on at UConn. She still has frequent group text sessions with Bird, Cash, and Jones.

“I remember the nine losses,” Jeter said. “I really don’t remember the winning. I do remember all the experiences.”

Ohio State (3-1) bounced back from last Sunday’s loss to Ohio on Thursday with a 75-65 win over Kent State as sophomore guard Janai Crooms made a run at a triple-double (11 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists). The Buckeyes, coached by Kevin McGuff, have seven freshmen and three sophomores on their 12-player roster.

UConn (4-0) returned to practice Friday after taking two days off following its impressive 83-44 rout of Virginia Tuesday in Hartford. The Huskies will stay in Ohio after the game and take a bus to Dayton for Tuesday’s game against the Flyers.

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