On Saturday, I went back to the Hartford Civic Center to see the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team beat Pittsburgh, and to see former UConn star Shea Ralph, now an assistant coach at Pittsburgh, honored as a “Husky of Honor.” Ralph was unable to attend the ceremony in December.
Ralph, who has left her mark on the Connecticut program as much as anyone, was humbled.
"It was so special for me, they didn't have to do that," said Ralph, who won most of the major honors available in the 1999-2000 season, including Final Four MVP. "I'm so humbled and honored — my five years here were very special and I just really appreciate the fact they took time out before the game to honor me."
Both Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma and Pittsburgh coach Agnus Berenato expressed appreciation for what Ralph has brought to their programs.
“She’s really a role model for student-athletes,” Berenato said, talking about the “family” that is the Pittsburgh team – players showed they were as happy with Ralph’s honor as if they had earned it themselves.
Ralph said she had never planned to coach, but is now enjoying the experience. “I think about playing every day,” Ralph said. She’s suffered five ACL tears and seriously playing basketball again would be an impossibility, but Shea Ralph seems to have found her place in coaching and the Pittsburgh team.
In other news, a few hours ago UConn clinched the Big East regular season championship with an 81-67 victory over the University of South Florida, and freshman Tina Charles proved why she was the consensus national player of the year in high school
Charles finished with 34 points, 17 rebounds, and 3 blocks in 36 minutes. The last time a UConn player scored that many points was Diana Taurasi in 2003. The 34 points also puts Charles on the all-time single game scoring high list – tied for eighth with Kerry Bascom.
The double-double was Charles’ ninth for the season, breaking Rebecca Lobo’s record for most double-doubles as a freshman. Charles also passed the season record for most rebounds for a freshman (held previously by Svetlana Abrosimova). She has already tied the all-time single-game block record, with nine. Charles has had to begin her college career starting for a good team, and she’s had some big challenges and a lot of responsibility, but she’s stepped up and worked hard, and on nights like this you can see the payoff.
UConn junior Charde Houston also had a milestone night. She had 18 point, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, and a block (after a solid week of averaging 21 points per game), and became the 28th Husky to score 1000 career points.
Congratulations to Tina and Charde!