Indianapolis, IN -- As freshmen, Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson approached the first day of practice timid, unsure of what coach Auriemma had planned. To their surprise, a four-year Championship team was already in the making.
With yesterday's win, Stewart, Tuck and Jefferson earned four championship titles in four years as Huskies. They shared this historic season.
"These three girls are the keys to success," said Head Coach Geno Auriemma. "They have character, they conduct themselves, they love the game and they love their team."
Auriemma has now produced 11 NCAA Division I titles, the most titles in history.
In 1985, Auriemma joined UConn's disappointing record of one win. In his 30 years, he has more than 40 Conference Titles, 17 Final-Four appearances, and over 900 career wins.
Yet, Auriemma is insatiable.
His coaching style allows for no lapse in dedication or focus. He worked to develop former players like Sue Bird and Maya Moore. His dominance is a good example for the sport of basketball overall, especially for three remarkable players.
Stewart was his all-around all-star; the post-sized player dominated the perimeter too. For one week, Auriemma practically shunned her for no reason. Stewart understood this unorthodox coaching decision to be for her benefit as an athlete and competitor. It worked.
In Sunday's game, Stewart was not satisfied with her first-half performance as she only tallied a bucket going into the half. With intensity in the championship game, the Naismith Trophy winner was getting the job done on both ends of the court. She led with 24 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. She stands as the only player to win the Most Outstanding Player Award four times.
Auriemma developed Stewart into a player who fully exudes confidence.
Tuck is a strong player. Yet, she came in as a player that was not as athletically gifted as the rest, which did not satisfy Auriemma. Therefore, Auriemma encouraged a sense of versatility in the game.
Tuck now finished her collegiate career as an undisputed leader and a well-rounded, 6'2'' competitor. In Sunday's game, she led with 21 points, 16 of which occurred in first half alone. Last night, she launched 19 points with five assists and pulled down seven rebounds. Her ability to score is fueled by an ever-growing love for and knowledge of the game.
Auriemma developed Tuck into a true contender.
Lastly, Jefferson came in not knowing about the phenomenal UConn program. The homeschooler watched only the NBA and could have chosen a school in Texas closer to her family. Jefferson was already one of the fastest guards; however, her first year of practice, Auriemma did not like her speed. Auriemma told her to slow down the momentum in order to fit the speed of her team. Jefferson never got rattled, and learned how to play with the game and not four steps in front of it.
She now plays as the team's brains, controlling the flow confidently and creating the best ways for her team to win. Yesterday, she contributed with 13 points and five assists. Finishing her college career, she stands as UConn's all-time assist leader.
Auriemma developed Jefferson into a composed point-guard.
Over the four years, the three have tallied 151 wins, the most in NCAA history. The seniors can walk off the court feeling accomplished.
"We all wanted to come out, have great games, and finish this off the way we started," said Stewart. "To play with these guys is unbelievable. They deserve a lot more credit than they get. I'm going to miss them."
"(I'm most proud) of just the way I was able to do this with my teammates," said Jefferson. "I just have to give all glory to God, my family and my teammates, because without them this would not be possible."
"This means a lot. I don't think anyone is going to do it," said Tuck. "Hopefully, they don't break our record. For us to be able to do that, it speaks to our program."
All 75 games won by UConn have been by double digits. How can one team improve even more? Whose buttons will Auriemma push on next season's team to get even better?
We are not certain, but the Italian-history-guru coach was satisfied with the team's motivation toward this year's Julius Caesar quote, "Veni, Vidi, Vici: I came, I saw, I conquered."
"This year should be like a Roman campaign... it was like the campaign for this year," said Auriemma during the championship interview. "So now, there are no more places to conquer. We are done."