By Carl Adamec
STORRS, Conn. — Before they joined forces here with the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team, Caroline Doty, Kelly Faris, and Heather Buck were together at the 2007 USA Basketball Youth Development Festival in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Saturday, the trio will be honored prior to the third-ranked Huskies’ Big East game with Seton Hall at Gampel Pavilion (3:30 p.m., SNY). Their journey at UConn is nearing its completion. But in 2007, who knew how it would play out?
Doty had just finished her junior year at Germantown Academy in Pennsylvania while Buck had just wrapped up her junior year at Stonington High here in Connecticut. Faris, meanwhile, had just completed her sophomore year at Heritage Christian School in Indianapolis.
“For me, being younger, it was a big thing,” Faris said. “It was difficult because I had never played in altitude before and I was going against all these older and talented players. Plus you’re talking USA Basketball so there’s a lot of pressure to make yourself stand out.
“That’s where I met Caroline and Heather. I remember talking a little more to Caroline. With Heather, it was kind of brief.”
Thirty-six high school standouts were invited to Colorado Springs for five days of competition in June and the three future Huskies ended up on different teams. The fourth team in the event was from Brazil.
Doty had made her oral commitment to UConn the previous November. Buck would choose the Huskies late that summer. Faris decided on UConn the following March.
“I don’t know if it was the first time that I met Caroline but it was definitely the first time I met Kelly,” Buck said. “I remember Caroline being the goof ball, always in the middle of things and always instigating things and making everyone laugh. Kelly was quiet, just observing everything. She’d laugh and have fun but wasn’t the crazy one.”
“Buck’s teammates with USA Red included the top two picks in the 2012 WNBA Draft — Nneka Ogwumike out of Stanford and Shekinna Stricklen from Tennessee — and Brooklyn Pope, who had 18 points and nine rebounds for Baylor in a 76-70 win over the Huskies at the XL Center Monday.
Faris’ teammates with USA Blue included former Tennessee players Glory Johnson and Alicia Manning and former Connecticut Sun draft pick Chay Shegog from North Carolina.
Doty played for USA White.
“We were good,” Doty said.
Why were they good? USA White’s guards included Doty, her future UConn teammate Tiffany Hayes, former Ohio State player Samantha Prahalis and the reigning Big East Player of the Year Skylar Diggins out of Notre Dame. The front line was led by Texas A&M’s Kelsey Bone and former Maryland player Lynetta Kizer.
Hayes and Doty were the top scorers on a club that averaged 98.6 points in its five games and had an average margin of victory of 17.0 points. USA White placed seven players in double figures in a 103-88 win over USA Blue for the gold medal.
Buck and USA Red won the bronze medal with an 82-69 win over Brazil.
“It was some good basketball,” Doty said. “But that was a long time ago.”
Prior to arriving in Colorado Springs, the players filled out questionnaires that included their favorite player, favorite team, etc.
So how has Doty has changed? She was asked some of the same questions Thursday that she answered almost six years ago.
She still says her favorite sports other than basketball are soccer and track. It was on the soccer field three months after the YDF that she suffered the first of the three tears to the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee.
She said that Sue Bird was her favorite player but answered Kobe Bryant in 2007.
“Kobe Bryant?” Doty said.
She said Thursday that the player she wanted to go one-one with was Diana Taurasi, but she said Bird in 2007.
She said in 2007 that her first basketball memory was playing on the playgrounds in Florida, where she lived before her family moved to Pennsylvania. Now she says it was watching her brother shoot at the wrong basket.
She said that her favorite food is now lobster. In 2007, it was mashed potatoes.
“C’mon, I filled that out with my dad at the kitchen table,” Doty said. “I’ve matured a lot since then and my answers are a lot different now.”
Buck’s answers are remarkably consistent from 2007 till now, including that most people don’t know her parents read her The Odyssey and Beowulf when she was young and she loved them.
How about Faris’ answers?
She said Thursday that her favorite team was the Indianapolis Colts. In 2007 it was the Indiana Pacers.
When asked who her favorite non-basketball Olympian was, she was stumped. Even after a hint, Faris could not recall writing down Picabo Street.
“Who? A skier? Really?” Faris said. “My dad probably told me that one.”
She was then asked who she put down in 2007 as the best player she had faced.
“Please don’t tell me that I said Skylar,” Faris said quietly about her fellow Hoosier from South Bend.
She didn’t. She put down Xavier’s Ta’Shia Phillips.
In 2007 she wrote that she wanted to play one-on-one against Michael Jordan. Now, it’s Steve Nash.
She said Thursday that most people don’t know she played football. In 2007, it was that she really liked to power sleep.
She still says her first basketball memory is sitting on her father’s knee and practicing dribbling.
“I was 2, 3, 4, I don’t know,” Faris said. “I was really little. He would take my arm and make a motion, dribble, dribble, dribble. Then he would take my arm and make like a shooting motion.
“Every dad does that kind of stuff with their little kids.”
The UConn seniors aren’t so little now.
Doty already has her bachelor’s degree and is working on a masters in educational psychology. Faris will receive her bachelor’s degree in May and hopes to embark on a career in the WNBA. Buck will wrap up her work in UConn’s five-year nursing program in May.
Plus there’s some work to do on the basketball court. Doty and Buck would like to get their third national championship ring while Faris would like her second.
It’s been a great run.
“The whole point of something like the Youth Development Festival is to bring the best players together,” Buck said. “But it also allows you to build relationships and make friends. I know when we go through a handshake line and I see someone from there I’ll give them an extra big hug.”
The hugs and tears Saturday will take place at center court, Gampel Pavilion. The three honorees have known each other for six years and they hope their friendship will last for 60 more.