StorrsCentral - Autumn Chassion enjoying her early days with the Huskies
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Autumn Chassion enjoying her early days with the Huskies

As a priority walk-on and the final addition to UConn women’s basketball’s 2020-21 roster, Autumn Chassion is here to play basketball. But the Valedictorian with a perfect 4.0 GPA out of Lafayette Christian Academy is also focused on the academic aspect of college. So before she had even had the chance to be a student in Storrs for one day, Chassion was already thinking about life after UConn.

“I want to keep up my 4.0, take all my prerequisites for med school,” she said. “I’ve already been in contact with a few med schools and one in particular, they were like ‘Hey, this is the class we need you to take and we’ll have you here.’ So that’s all I need to do: Take my classes, get good grades, and prepare to study for the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test). That’s my plan.”

Though she’s aiming for a high bar in the classroom, Chassion’s goals on the basketball court may be even loftier.

“Collectively as a team, I want to win four national championships,” she said. “That’s what I’d like, that’s what I want to work towards.”

The odds of Chassion earning meaningful minutes on a roster that includes two No. 1 recruits, two more top-five high school prospects, and six other players who received scholarship offers from UConn are pretty slim, especially as a freshman. Yet she already seems to understand her role on the team, despite only being a few practices in when at the time of the media call.

“Whatever they need, that’s what I’d like to do,” Chassion said. “Whatever Coach (Geno Auriemma) demands from me, that’s what I want to do and just help everywhere I can.”

Chassion isn’t selling herself short, though. She certainly didn’t come to UConn just to ride the bench and collect a national championship ring simply by showing up.

“I like to work hard and continue to work hard and make my way into the rotation, hopefully,” she said. “Be an asset to the team.”

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As a die-hard UConn fan growing up – Chassion cited the 2009 national championship team as the one that turned her into a Husky fan – she was familiar with the program before arriving on-campus.

This fandom didn't do much to prepare her for life as a member of the team itself, however. Although she was a late addition to the roster – all the other freshmen took official visits and knew each other prior to move-in day – Chassion said she’s been welcomed in like any other player. She’s gotten especially close with her pod that includes redshirt junior Evina Westbrook and fellow freshman Nika Muhl.

“We all get along super well,” she said. “Everybody is super nice. I feel super included in everything, especially in my pod. That’s who we spend the most time with but they’re like my sisters, all of them. Especially Evina, she’s like a mom to all of us in the pod. It’s just me and Nika but she’s the oldest on the team, she’s like a mom, she takes care of us, anything we need, she’s there. All the time.”

Chassion had also seen first-hand how the coaching staff operates. During the 2016-17 and again in the 2017-18 season, Chassion and her father came up to Storrs to watch the Huskies practice, which is how UConn first connected with her. But now, having the opportunity to work with Auriemma and the assistants is better than she could’ve imagined.

“Off the court, I just know that they care about us a lot. Anything we need, we can always text them, they text back, call, anything we need,” Chassion said. “On the court, I know they want the best for us. They want us to be the best basketball players we can be and women that we can be. Coach is super particular about small things, things I wouldn’t even notice. Like ‘Hey, do this,’ just to help me become a better player and that helps a lot.”

Auriemma is no stranger to walk-ons being a part of his teams. He’s seen his share of players earn their way onto a scholarship and even in some cases, into the rotation. On the flip side, he’s also seen some disappear after only a couple weeks of practice and conditioning. So with Chassion, Auriemma is ready for anything. Though he likes what he sees early on.

“Hopefully, Autumn’s the kind of kid that feels like, ‘Hey, this is what I want. This is what I aspired to when I left Louisiana and I’m going to stick it out and do whatever the coaching staff wants me to do and earn my way onto the team,’” he said. “In the short period of time, she’s done that. We’ll see where that takes her.”