basketball Edit

Freshman Aubrey Griffin starting to show her potential

Ian Bethune
Ian Bethune (Ian Bethune)

When a freshman joins the UConn women’s basketball team, there are generally two questions: 1) How good can she be as a freshman? and 2) Will she have a championship-caliber career?

Head coach Geno Auriemma is the most qualified person to answer that question. He can observe a freshman — how she's playing, reacting to new situations, handling coaching — and then compare that with the hundreds of other freshmen he’s coached over the last 30 years as he built the greatest dynasty the game has ever seen.

But he has no idea what to think about Aubrey Griffin. The Huskies’ sole American freshman is an enigma that even Geno is struggling to figure out.

“If you ask me how good a basketball player is Aubrey, I would tell you I don’t know and she doesn’t know,” he said.

Griffin was ranked No. 33 in the class of 2019 and Auriemma has spoken highly of the freshman ever since she signed last November. He knows he has a really good basketball player. The problem is Griffin doesn’t seem to know that herself just yet.

“She surprises herself sometimes, which is kind of scary,” Auriemma said. “When she actually starts to figure out, ‘Oh, I’m pretty good.’ Now she does something, she’s like, ‘Oh, I just did that?’ Like, yeah, do it again. ‘What?’

"So for her, it’s just learning how to be a really good player.”

What makes Griffin’s potential so high? A lot of it has to do with her physical gifts. At 6-foot-1, she has the height and length of a forward. At the same time, her athleticism is up there with some of the best Auriemma has ever seen.

“I don’t think there’s anybody that’s been a better athlete,” he said. “Let’s put it that way. I’m not going to say she’s the best athlete we’ve ever had. But I don’t think there’s a lot — if any — that are way more athletic than her.”

Considering some of the athletes that have come through the program — Gabby Williams being the most recent example — that is high praise. At the same time, athleticism and potential don’t mean much on the court. The challenge for Auriemma will be taking Griffin from being a great athlete into being a great basketball player.

That isn’t going to happen overnight. Auriemma knows that well enough. So he’s given her a small lists of things to focus on take advantage of her athleticism without giving her too much to think about.

“Just to play hard, cut to the basket, offensive rebound and play defense,” Griffin said when asked what Auriemma’s asked of her so far.

If Griffin can handle the basics, that’ll mean more minutes on the floor where she can potentially surprise herself (and her team). And the more times she surprises herself, the more Griffin will know what she did in order to do it again. So if Auriemma himself isn’t really sure what he might have in Griffin, that is scary — but for the rest of the country, not the Huskies.