By Carl Adamec
STORRS, Conn. — Kelly Faris has seen seven of her 10 University of Connecticut women’s basketball teammates miss at least one game this season due to injury or illness ranging from Stefanie Dolson’s stomach ailment to Brianna Banks’ season-ending right knee anterior cruciate ligament tear.
But Faris keeps going and it’s been the case for the senior guard not only through her UConn career but in her scholastic time at Heritage Christian School in Indianapolis.
Why has she been so lucky?
“I’ve asked myself that many times,” Faris said. “Really, you think about it, you think about all the people that have had to miss time for whatever reason. Brianna, now, has to miss the end of this season. I’ve asked why. People ask that all the time. Why me? Why do we get to be on the court and she doesn’t? That kind of thing. I don’t have an answer for that one. I’m pretty lucky, pretty thankful that I’ve stayed healthy enough to play. I’m thankful that I’ve been pretty blessed to make it through.
“But why are we talking about injuries?,” she adds with her voice rising a bit. “I don’t want to do this. It’s a bad thing. Don’t jinx me.”
Faris is poised to become just the fourth UConn player in program history to start 100 consecutive games Tuesday night when the third-ranked Huskies take the bus ride to Providence to face the Friars in Big East action at Alumni Hall (7 p.m., SNY). She’ll join Renee Montgomery (140), Jennifer Rizzotti (135), and Jamelle Elliott (106) on that short list.
The last time Faris came off the bench was the 2010 national championship game against Stanford in San Antonio her freshman year. But beginning with the opener the following season against Holy Cross, she has been a mainstay in the starting lineup.
“I’m sure Kelly has her aches and pains but it’s nothing that’s going to keep her off the court,” UConn All-American Bria Hartley said. “She works through it. We’re all hurting. But Kelly finds a way to push through anything that bothers her and finds a way to go as hard as she can.”
UConn coach Geno Auriemma revealed Sunday after his team’s 91-44 win over DePaul that Faris is dealing with a back issue. Nothing, though, slows her down. The contest at PC will be Faris’ 139th straight game, the seventh-longest streak in UConn history behind Maya Moore (154), Tiffany Hayes (154), Tina Charles (152), Montgomery (150), Jessica Moore (145), and Ann Strother (143).
“You can see it. You can see it on her face at practice,” Auriemma said. “You can see it in the course of a practice or game. Right now she has a bothersome back a little bit and that’s tough to play through. But she does.”
Through it all, she’s enjoying a career year.
She is averaging 10.6 points on 52.7 percent shooting from the floor and 42.5 percent from 3-point land to go along with 5.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.5, and 2.7 steals. She ranks in the top 10 in the Big East in assist-to-turnover ratio (first), 3-point percentage (second), steals (fifth), assists (eighth), and field-goal percentage (10th).
In her 138 career games she has 952 points, 719 rebounds, 485 assists, and 261 steals and is on pace to join Maya Moore as the only Huskies with 1,000 points, 750 rebounds, 500 assists, and 250 steals.
“I think I said this my freshman year or maybe last year,” Hartley said. “But when you think of Kelly you think of someone that’s dependable. That’s a great work to describe her. No matter what. If you need someone to get an offensive rebound, that’s Kelly. If you need someone to make a big play or hustle play, that’s Kelly. Even off the court if you need someone to talk to, it’s Kelly.
“We all respect what Kelly does. She’s a hard worker and one of our leaders. She’s always focused and always has a great mindset.”
Auriemma’s one word to describe Faris is trustworthy.
“If you look at our team there’s a little bit that gets done by everybody,” the Hall of Fame coach said. “I don’t think anyone on our team is great at everything. We don’t have any Maya Moores on our team, or a Tina Charles, those kind of unbelievable athletes that can do so many things. But when you look at Kelly I think you see somebody that has their hands in a whole bunch of things. It’s almost like whatever the play is that you need at a particular time, that’s what seems to happen. A lot of times that gets unnoticed. She’s someone you can trust. If you have her out there she’s going to do the right thing at the right time.
“She’s trustworthy. I use that a lot about the players that I really, really like that I think will do the right thing when it’s time. It’s something that she has. It’s something that she brought here with her. We try to take advantage of it.”
UConn (22-1 overall, 9-1 Big East) is a prohibitive favorite to push its winning streak to 11 Tuesday night against Providence. The Friars (7-16, 2-8) have not beaten UConn since 1993 and are coming off a 28-point loss to South Florida Sunday at Alumni Hall. They are led by senior guard and New Britain native Symone Roberts, who, like Faris, is closing in on the 1,000-point plateau for her career.
But it will be a night for Faris, who is 10th all-time at UConn in minutes played with 3,766, to reach a milestone and she’ll do it in her usual quiet, unassuming way.
She hopes her good fortunate at UConn lasts another 16 games.