Back in the summer of 2013, Saniya Chong was UConn's only incoming scholarship freshman. She got lost in the mix last summer when the class included standouts Courtney Ekmark, Kia Nurse, Gabby Williams and Sadie Edwards.
Edwards has already transferred, and Nurse and Williams see plenty of playing time. And Chong, who averaged 4.7 points and 2.2 assists in 39 games as a freshman, continues to earn coach Geno Auriemma's trust while flying under the radar.
I was talking to this year’s freshmen and some of the other guys about what it’s going to take to play in the NCAA tournament, what kind of mindset you have to have to play in the NCAA tournament or in games like South Carolina,” Auriemma said, via SNY.com's Carl Adamec. “I said if you don’t believe me or you don’t think I’m telling the truth … Then I went, ‘I’m not kidding, am I Saniya?’ And she said, ‘No, you’re not.’ Because if you’re not ready for those big moments in the NCAA tournament, I’m not going to play you just because you’re a nice kid. My daughters, Jenna and Alysa, are really nice kids but I wouldn’t want them on my team. ...
“If I don’t think you can handle the stuff that we throw at you in practice, you’re not going to play,” Auriemma continued. “Everybody gets the same opportunity. I love when people say, ‘What does practice have to do with it? Just put them in the game and let them play.’ Well, good. That’s why they don’t do what I do. That’s why we win big games. That’s why every big game, we play big, because the guys I have on the floor are guys that are trustworthy. You can count on what they are going to do, how they are going to do it and handle the big moment. I put them in those big moments in practice.
Over the last three games, Chong is averaging 9.7 points while shooting 72.7 percent from the floor and a blistering 81.3 percent from behind the arc. But the highlight of her sophomore season came last week when Chong shut down one of the best players in the country, South Carolina guard Tiffany Mitchell. The No. 2 Huskies blew the top-ranked Gamecocks out of the building.
“That meant a lot to me,” Chong said. “Even though I didn’t bring the scoring, I thought that I brought other things like getting in my stance defensively and just assisting my teammates.”