By Carl Adamec
It’s more a round number than a milestone as a member of the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team to play in 100 career games.
But don’t tell Caroline Doty that it’s nothing special.
“It’s pretty awesome,” the Huskies’ fifth-year senior guard said.
When Doty comes off the bench for No. 2 UConn Monday night against 11th-ranked Maryland in the Jimmy V Classic at the XL Center in Hartford, it will be her 100th college game. In her first 99, the Huskies are 94-5.
The difference this time, though, is she won’t be starting for only the second time in her career. With junior All-American Bria Hartley (left ankle) and sophomore Kaleena Mosqued-Lewis (concussion) healthy, something had to give.
“But it’s not something I want to do. No, it’s not,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “And Caroline knows that. We talked this thing through. She knows I don’t want to do it but it’s something I have to do right now at this time.
“It’s tough. There’s no easy way to come to a decision like that because Caroline hasn’t done anything to warrant not starting. But I think our players understand that we have six starters. We played a bunch of games without Bria and we didn’t miss a beat. And we played a game without Kaleena and we didn’t miss a beat. So we’ve got six legitimate starters right now on our team.”
So Hartley and Mosqueda-Lewis will take the floor with senior Kelly Faris, junior Stefanie Dolson, and freshman Breanna Stewart for the opening tip against the Terrapins (4-1).
But Doty will get her minutes for UConn (6-0), just at different times.
“I think in Caroline’s case if you get her on the court at the first TV timeout in some way you’re getting a lot better,” Auriemma said. “You’re getting better because you’ve got another experienced ballhandler, an experienced guard who’s been there and done that and knows what we want. A lot of our younger guys are good. But they’re really good when they’re out there with some of the older guys.”
The first game Doty didn’t start was on Senior Day 2010 against Georgetown when the Huskies had five seniors.
Doty is averaging 5.2 points, 1.3 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 17.3 minutes over six games. She is shooting 48.3 percent from the floor and 43.8 percent from 3-point land.
The Doylestown, Pa., native doesn’t see her role defined as being starter or reserve.
“My role is that I’m someone that will show up every single day to work really hard and be there for my teammates,” she said. “I’m not going to be the first scorer. I’m going to look for which of my teammates needs the ball at the right time. If Kaleena is open, I’m going to get it to her. If Stef or Stewie need the ball down low, I’ll get it to them. I’m going to be the first to run over and help someone off the floor after a hustle play. All in all, I just want to have as much fun as possible.”
Part of the reason she’s having fun is her three-time surgically repaired left knee is allowing her to. She first injured the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee playing soccer at Germantown Academy five years ago and suffered the second ACL tear in a game against Syracuse in January 2009. The third team came in the summer of 2010 that made her redshirt that following season.
How could you tell she’s feeling good? During the game at Texas A&M Nov. 18, there was a loose ball near the UConn bench. While three players reached for the ball, Doty did a hook slide between them to try and gain possession. It didn’t work but every coach and player on the Huskies’ sidelines was on their feet to help her up.
Perhaps she was inspired by the Aggies’ Kelsey Bone, who was Doty’s teammates at the 2007 USA Basketball Youth Development Festival in Colorado Springs where they won a gold medal.
“Those were the days,” Doty said with a laugh. “It was a loose ball and people were going for so I figured, ‘Before anything bad happens I better go get it.’
“This is the longest I’ve been healthy since I’ve been here,” she added. “I’m comfortable. I know where I’m supposed to be. I know what my role is. I have great relationships with my coaches and teammates. I’m having a lot more fun since I don’t have that mentality, ‘Am I hurting today? Do I have to worry my knee is feeling weak? Do I have to go to rehab?’ I feel freer and it’s a great feeling. I’m having fun and I hope that shows on the court and I hope my teammates see that I’m a different player than last year in a good way. I want it to end in a championship.”
Which is why Auriemma felt he could make the move he did.
“I don’t think Caroline’s interested in anything other than winning and I don’t think anybody else on our team is interested in anything other than winning,” Auriemma said. “They want to do whatever they have to do to help us win. And whether you’re a starter or a non-starter I don’t think it means that much. It probably means more to other people than it does to the kids themselves.”
Doty had been a starter since Day 1 in Storrs. But if her final day with the Huskies is in New Orleans and she’s cutting down the net on her third national championship, it will be a perfect ending.
“I like to think that this will be the best year but you won’t be able to determine that until it’s over,” Doty said. “We’re going at it hard every day, taking it one day at a time, and making each day worthwhile.”