Plenty Of Accolades Likely For UConn Men, Women At AAC Media Day

UConn Huskies figure to be center of attention, respect at AAC Media Day

The next round of preseason expectations is about to be placed on the UConn men's and women's basketball teams.

The Huskies are heading to Philadelphia, where the American Athletic Conference's Media Day is set for Monday, the men in the morning, the women in the afternoon, and both UConn programs figure to be centers of attention and respect for the upcoming season.

Last week, UConn's Jalen Adams made the 20-man preseason watch list for the Bob Cousy Award, given to the nation's top point guard, and Terry Larrier made the watch list for the Julius Erving Award, which is for small forwards. The Huskies were ranked 16th in the USA Today coaches poll, and are likely to be in the top 20 when the AP writers poll comes out.

If the AAC coaches follow suit, the Huskies could be picked No. 1 in the league's preseason poll, too, with Cincinnati, which is also appearing in the national rankings, right with them, or just behind them. UConn won the conference tournament March.

In addition, the AAC will name its preseason player of the year, rookie of the year and first- and second-team All-Conference. Of the Huskies' highly regarded freshmen, guard Alterique Gilbert would be a viable candidate for the preseason rookie award. Larrier, Adams, seniors Amida Brimah and Rodney Purvis are candidates for All-Conference recognition.

Huskies coach Kevin Ollie will bring Brimah, Purvis and Adams to Philadelphia to represent UConn.

Cincinnati's Troy Caupain and Gary Clark, SMU's Sterling Brown, Memphis' Dedric Lawson and Central Florida's B.J. Taylor are among the AAC's top players expected in Philadelphia.

Hall of Famer Larry Brown is gone from SMU, replaced by his associate head coach Tim Jankovich, but the AAC still has an impressive roster of experienced coaches. The new coaches include Mike Dunleavy, longtime NBA player and coach, who takes over at Tulane; former Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins is now at Central Florida; and veteran coach Tubby Smith, who won a national championship at Kentucky, is now at Memphis.

The UConn women, who have never lost a game in AAC play and are coming off their fourth consecutive national championship, will certainly be the No. 1 team in the conference, and be well represented among the AAC's individual honors.

While some teams on the women's side are bringing as few as one player to media day, Geno Auriemma is expected to be accompanied by four of his players: Kia Nurse, Katie Lou Samuelson, Gabby Williams and Napheesa Collier. Auriemma said last week that his team will rely heavily on those four, but there is not one single player the team will look to as a leader on court at the outset of the season.

But despite losing its core (Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, Morgan Tuck) from a national champion, the Huskies will enter the season as the overwhelming favorite in the AAC. UConn is 63-0 in three years in the conference, winning all three conference tournaments.

And while the program is in transition, the Huskies will still be among the best in the country. UConn returns two starters: Nurse, an All-Conference third-team selection last season, and Samuelson, a member of the conference's All-Freshman team. Collier, also an All-Freshman player, is expected to play a bigger role, and Williams could slide into the starting lineup after serving as a valuable player off the bench last season.

USF has perennially been the next-best team in the conference. The Bulls must replace All-Conference guard Courtney Williams, who is now a member of the WNBA's Connecticut Sun.

Coach Jose Fernandez will have AAC Freshman of the Year Kitija Laksa with him in Philadelphia Monday. Laksa, a 6-foot forward from Latvia, averaged 12.6 points and was 74 of 176 (42 percent) on three-point attempts.

Temple, coming off a 23-win season, will be represented by coach Tonya Cardoza and three players: Tanaya Atkinson, Alliya Butts, Feyonda Fitzgerald. Butts (15.1) was a first-team All-Conference selection as a sophomore and figures to be among the best scoring guards in the AAC. Fitzgerald (13.6) was All-Conference second team and will team with Butts to form a strong backcourt.

Tulane guard Kolby Morgan (17.2) was also All-Conference second team while teammates Leslie Vorpahl (10.7) was an All-Conference third team selection. Both are scheduled to be at media day, along with SMU forward Alicia Froling (12.3 points, 10.6 rebounds). Froling, a 6-3 forward from Australia, was also All-Conference third team.

Media Day is also an opportunity for programs to introduce new coaches. UCF hired former Albany coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, who led the Great Danes to five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances out of America East.

The conference's other new coach is at SMU. Former NBA player Travis Mays was hired from Texas, where he served as an assistant.

The AAC will live-stream coverage of Media Day on its own digital network, which can be found at www.theamerican.org, beginning with commissioner Mike Aresco's opening remarks at 8 a.m. ESPNU will also provide coverage, beginning at 3 p.m. on College Basketball Live.

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