By Carl Adamec
Geno Auriemma believes patience will be a virtue when it comes to Bria Hartley.
The University of Connecticut women’s basketball team’s junior All-American guard will miss Friday night’s exhibition game with Indiana University of Pennsylvania and maybe much more due to a left ankle injury suffered in August.
UConn announced Thursday that Hartley is out indefinitely, and Auriemma would not put a timetable on her return.
“I think it was frustrating early on because I know she put a lot of time and effort into getting ready for the season,” Auriemma said. “That’s what happens when you’re stubborn. She probably should have stayed off of it a lot sooner, but she never gives on to anybody that something’s bothering her because she wants to play.
“So now instead of it being where we’re working her way back in it’s those extra couple of weeks that she spent in the preseason trying to prove how tough she is now she’s going to have to sit out those two weeks. As far as I’m concerned I don’t care if she sits out until January. I just want it to get to the point where it’s 100 percent healthy and then we’re not worried about it the rest of the season.”
Hartley originally injured the ankle at the FIBA 3×3 world championships in Athens, Greece, in August. But as the Huskies began their preseason workouts, the ankle did not improve as they had hoped.
She was held out of the start of official practice on Oct. 13. She had been using a walking boot and an MRI taken last month revealed no structural damage.
The North Babylon, N.Y. native received a cortisone shot in the ankle Oct. 23 and she hoped to return to practice this week.
Now she’s been shut down.
“For a couple days she just did a couple stretching and agility drills on her own on the side court,” Auriemma said. “She said she didn’t like the say it responded. So that was it. Two days and that was it.
“Whenever that is … If it’s next week, it’s next week. If it’s next month, it’s next month. I really don’t know. I just know that when she does play it’s going to be because she’s 100 percent. We’re not going to throw her out there and then have to deal with this the whole year because in my mind if it’s not getting better it’s getting worse.”
Hartley averaged 14.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.8 assists a season ago. She became the fourth UConn sophomore named to the WBCA All-America team, joining Svetlana Abrosimova (1999), Diana Taurasi (2002), and Maya Moore (2009) and the third UConn sophomore to reach the 1,000-point plateau.
Hartley did not miss a game in her first two years at UConn. The Huskies open the regular season Nov. 11 against the College of Charleston at Gampel Pavilion.
New voice in town
Debbie (Baer) Fiske was the starting point guard on UConn’s first three Big East championship teams (1989-91) and its first NCAA Final Four team (1991).
Since graduation she has worked at the University of Saint Joseph in a number of capacities. The Red Lion, Pa., native was an assistant women’s basketball coach from 1993-98 before being promoted to the head job, which she held from 1998-2002. She was also the Blue Jays’ women’s tennis coach from 1993-2000. She is currently an associate athletic director, senior women’s administrator, and director of recreation and intramurals.
But now she’s part of the UConn family again. She’ll serve as the color commentator for WTIC-AM1080’s coverage of the Huskies alongside play-by-play man Bob Joyce. She replaces Kara Wolters, who will be the in studio analyst for SNY’s UConn coverage.
“I had a lot of point guards play at Connecticut,” Auriemma said. “But I’ll tell you something about Debbie. She may have been the strongest, physically, point guard we’ve ever had. I don’t think in four years at Connecticut and all the times I saw her play in high school and AAU I don’t think I ever saw anyone take the ball from her. She never gave it up. And we went to the Final Four. She was able to lead her team to the Final Four. That in itself makes her qualified to be part of the media.”
Fiske played 125 games at UConn. She graduated as the Huskies’ all-time leader in steals and fourth in assists. Her total of 413 assists still ranks her 15th 20 years after graduation while her 275 steals place her fourth. She was a teammate and classmate of Meghan Culmo, who will be the game analyst for SNY’s UConn coverage
She took in Thursday’s practice and Auriemma’s meeting with the media. As you would expect, the coach welcomed her with a little sarcasm.
“What troubles me is Debbie was the only point guard I’ve ever had that didn’t speak,” Auriemma said. “So I don’t know how she’s going to do on the radio. She didn’t speak. She’s certainly a lot more vocal now than she was as a player. Somehow or another WTIC found someone that will talk as much as Kara. But they did go to extremes. They went from like 6-foot-8 to 5-foot-5. There’s a big difference in what you’re going to hear. It’s certainly a different perspective from a point guard than a center. I’m excited.”
And he’s ready to go.
“It’s a new season,” Auriemma said. “We have a new group of TV people in SNY, new radio people, a new group of freshmen, and a new team. It’s an exciting time to be part of UConn basketball.”
UConn was ranked No. 2 in the preseason USA Today/ESPN Top 25 women’s basketball coaches’ poll. Defending national champion Baylor was the unanimous No. 1 pick, as it was in the Associated Press poll released last Saturday.