UConn women's notes: An old friend joins the ESPN broadcast team in Montgomery
Geno Auriemma remembers Renee Montgomery's exchange with then-President Barack Obama when the UConn women's basketball team made the trip to the White House to be honored after winning the 2009 NCAA championship.
"Renee, from the minute you meet her, from the minute she stepped on campus for her recruiting trip, you just know this kid has got all the things that you need to go do whatever she wants to do," said Auriemma, the UConn coach. "'Whatever I want to do, I'm going to be able to do it,' including tell President Obama, 'Let's go, let's go play if you think you can beat me.'"
So Auriemma was hardly surprised by Montgomery's phone call in late February announcing to her former coach that she was about to become a co-owner of the WNBA's Atlanta Dream.
The 34-year-old Montgomery, a former UConn All-American and two-time WNBA champion with the Minnesota Lynx, was set to serve as the color commentator for Sunday's UConn-High Point NCAA tournament telecast on ESPN along with play-by-play announcer Beth Mowins.
Montgomery played 11 seasons in the WNBA, retiring on Feb. 9 this year. She made history on Feb. 26 as the first former player to become a WNBA owner.
"I got a text from her the other night and she said, 'Big news coming tomorrow,'" UConn's Auriemma said at the time. "And I'm like, 'What the hell?' I said, 'What's that all about?'
"She said, 'Well, when I announced my retirement I didn't tell you beforehand and you were mad at me, so I'm telling you ahead of time.' I said, 'Telling me what ahead of time?' So she told me the news and really, I was just so proud of her and I told her that.'"
Auriemma said that in the old days, former players aspired to be coaches. Now they have higher aspirations.
"I just think that's the future of where these players are going," Auriemma said. "That Dream franchise went from a disaster in so many ways (under former Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler) to they've upgraded 1.000% with this ownership group and by adding Renee."
Ayanna Patterson, a 6-foot-3 junior at Homestead High School in Indiana and ESPNW's third-ranked prospect in the Class of 2022, announced her commitment Saturday to attend UConn.
Patterson averaged 21.8 points, 11 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots per game this past season.
In a video message posted to Twitter, Patterson said when she initially told Auriemma the news, it started off as a regular conversation.
"'How was your day?' and everything," Patterson said. "And I was just like, 'Hey, I want to come to UConn' and he was like, 'Are you serious?' I'm like, 'Yes, 100%. I'm in.' Their program itself is, I mean, one of the greatest women's programs in the country. Being able to play there and play in front of their fan base is everything."
UConn adds the No. 2 recruiting class in 2021, highlighted by the nation's top prospect in Azzi Fudd and has so far gotten commitments from two of the top five players in the Class of 2022 with Patterson and Isuneh Brady, a 6-3 forward from Cathedral Catholic in San Diego.
High Point players Skyler Curran and Callie Scheier are both from Clemmons, North Carolina, and played together at West Forsyth High School.
Curran, a 6-0 junior guard, was named this year's Big South Player of the Year, leading High Point to the league's regular-season and tournament championships with a team-high average of 17.9 points per game. Scheier, a 5-2 sophomore guard, got to accomplish one thing Curran didn't, winning the 2019 North Carolina 4A state championship after Curran graduated from West Forsyth.
Both were competing for High Point on Sunday in the Panthers' first NCAA tournament appearance.
"To be able to just keep winning with her, I think is really exciting," Curran said. "We won a lot together in high school and it's something we both like to do and every time we both step on the floor, we know it's something that each other is going to do everything they can do."
UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey on the recent inequities between the men's and women's NCAA tournament amenities which were brought to light, including the near-complete lack of a weight room for the women:
"I try to balance it with our players. Is it fair? No. But that can't keep you from moving forward and presenting it to the public and giving it a platform that for somebody ... it might not be you, it might be somebody after you that's going to benefit more.
"That's part of being a woman and being in sports and taking a stand and making a statement so that it may not always help you but it might help someone who comes after you."
Follow Vickie Fulkerson on Twitter during the NCAA tournament at @Vickieattheday.