Faris up to speed; Hartley set for Wake Forest

By Carl Adamec

One of Kelly Faris’ attributes that has endeared her to her coaches and teammates from AAU, to Heritage Christian School in Indianapolis, to USA Basketball, to the University of Connecticut is her willingness to do anything to help her team.

Over the last four seasons in Storrs, Faris has done everything she’s been asked to do. But is the senior forward trying to do too much as her college career enters the home stretch?

“One of things that I worry about for a senior is they try to do so many things,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “They want to accomplish everything every possession and they want to kind of leave it all on the floor. It’s their senior year and they want to guard all five players. They want to score every time. They want to make every assist. They want to make every play. And nobody is more prideful of that than Kelly, for sure. And my job all year long is just going to be to slow her down and just kind of get her to play at a nice pace.”

As Auriemma spoke at the postgame press conference after the second-ranked Huskies’ 81-50 rout of Texas A&M in College Station Sunday, Faris sat to his right listening politely and quietly. She’s always been that way. But even if they weren’t exactly on the same page, she would never say.

“I’m not going to sit there and disagree with him,” Faris said. “He’s Coach. He knows what he’s talking about. I get what he’s saying. Did I feel I was too, too fast? I just wasn’t getting a lot done. I understand what he’s saying because I go into every game thinking, ‘I have to do this, I have to do that. This is one less game I’ll have when it’s over.’ I’ve been in situations where he calls me out for playing too fast and I know how to calm it down.

“He’s going to stay on me. I’m a senior so I’m used to him staying on me. It’s a part of it. He’s going to keep me accountable for the things that I have to be accountable for.”

Faris’ senior year is off to a solid start. It’s about to get busier with three games in three days at the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The Huskies open tourney play Thursday when they take on Wake Forest (6 p.m., SNY) out of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

UConn (2-0) will get a boost with the return of Bria Hartley. The All-America junior guard has missed the first two games of her career as she recovers from a left ankle injury suffered in August at the FIBA 3×3 world championships in Athens, Greece. She practiced Tuesday and Wednesday and was declared probable by UConn athletic trainer Rosemary Ragle.

Faris averaged 9.5 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 5.0 assists in UConn’s wins over College of Charleston and Texas A&M. The Plainfield, Ind., native became the 26th Husky to reach 600 rebounds and the 13th to get to 200 steals in the victory over the Aggies. With one more assist, she’ll be the 16th with 400.

She’s also been a part of 110 wins.

“Our freshmen are going to get all the attention because that’s just the way life is,” Auriemma said. “It’s all everybody wants to talk about. But in reality, Caroline Doty and Stefanie Dolson, and Kelly … When it comes time to win games I trust them.”

Faris didn’t score in the first half at Texas A&M, though the Huskies did take a 40-28 lead to the locker room. But when the second half came she made her presence felt and UConn quickly put the Aggies away.

“The first five minutes of the second half Kelly kept her scholarship,” Auriemma said with a smile.

For the Hall of Fame coach, the change was that Faris played at a pace where she was at her best.

“I think he’s right,” Faris said. “He said the mindset of a senior is going in and trying to do everything you can and sometimes you over think things. I’ll keep that in mind.”

Faris also had her mind on the journey to the Virgin Islands for the location.

And, yes, there are games to play.

“It’s good that we get three quick games and they’ll be good games,” Faris said. “We have to go fast and be quick on our feet. Plus it’s on the beach. You can’t beat that.”

It’s also the only time all regular season the Huskies will play on consecutive days. The format is similar to what they’ll deal with in the Big East Tournament in March playing three straight days.

“There are some guys on our team that haven’t done it,” Faris said. “The structure will help and there will be some decent teams there as well.”

Including Purdue, which was one of Faris’ finalists during the recruiting process.

“That will be fun. They’ll be one of the best teams there,” Faris said.

Wake Forest (2-1), led by first-year coach Jen Hoover, is coming off a 64-58 loss at Kansas last Saturday. Its wins are over Coppin State and UNC-Wilmington.

After facing the Demon Deacons, UConn will face Marist Friday and No. 14 Purdue Saturday.