On Monday, Caroline Doty was given the go-ahead by UConn's medical staff to resume playing basketball. She missed the entire 2010-11 season with a knee injury, and she suffered a setback this summer. She's now completely healthy, which means that her perimeter presence will make the Huskies even more dangerous when the season starts.
Joining Doty in the backcourt: Bria Hartley, Tiffany Hayes and freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, all three-point threats, and all with the ability to open things up underneath for center Stefanie Dolson.
Coach Geno Auriemma recently spoke about Hartley and Dolson, both sophomores who started for much of their freshmen seasons, and two players who will be integral to any success the Huskies have this season.
"The two players who have made the most progress, and not unexpectedly, are Stefanie and Bria," Auriemma said, according to the Hartford Courant. "Following your freshman year is the time when your body changes the most, the time when coaches normally see the biggest improvement. And that's the case with both of them. You watch their workouts and compare where Stefanie and Bria were in October of last year, to where they are this year, and its night and day.
"Physically, Bria has gotten much stronger and her entire approach has changed. But for Stefanie, she has changed physically, her approach has changed and her expectations have dramatically changed. I'd be surprised if Stefanie doesn't have a great year. By many standards, she had a great year as a freshman. There is no doubt in my mind that she will build on that."
Last season, we wrote about Dolson having to learn on the fly, a process that wasn't entirely smooth (nor was it expected to be). But being thrown into the mix against the likes of Stanford and Baylor early in the season paid dividends in conference and tournament play.
When Maya Moore would face double-teams, it was often to Dolson's benefit. She was very good from close range, had a knack for rebounding, and pretty much controlled the lane at the other end of the floor. Now a year older and wiser, there's a case to be made that this Huskies team could be better than last year's version.
Which brings us to Hartley. The offense begins with her, a job she grew into a season ago. But a stint on the Under-19 U.S. National Team (along with Dolson) that won the world championships this summer has made her an even better point guard, not just as a distributor but at creating her own shot.
Auriemma likes to joke that he has low expectations for this team, but anything short of a Big East title and a return to the Final Four will be a disappointment. Which, now that we think about it, is just like any other year.