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Past articles:
  • Gball's 2003-04 All-Americans

  • Leslie repeats as Player of the Year

  • 2002-03 NCAA Awards

  • Sophia Young

  • WBCA All Stars

  • NWBL Draft

  • The Burge Twins

  • 2002 WNBA Successes

  • Title IX's 35th Anniversary

  • The 2002 High School State Champs

  • The 2002 Gball Awards

  • Being Recruited

  • Protecting Your Knees

  • Candace Parker dunks!

  • Michigan Playoff Results

  • WNBA Teen Advisory Board

  • St. Ann's girls' team

  • Leslie Gball's Player of the Year

  • Hitting the last-second shot

  • Scholarships,
    Part I

  • Scholarships,
    Part II

  • Improving Agility

  • UConn frosh New Kids on the Block
    An interview with the University of Connecticut's two freshman players: Liz Sherwood and Kiana Robinson

    By Frank Prater

    Ever wonder what it would be like to be a freshman playing for one of the nation's premiere women's college basketball programs? Wonder no more! On a rare break between studies and practice, Parade All-Americans Liz Sherwood and Kiana Robinson, now playing for the defending NCAA Division I champion University of Connecticut Huskies, talked with us about the transition from high school to college and what it's like to be a rookie in a powerhouse program.

    GBall: Why did you choose to play basketball at UConn?
    Kiana: When I was a high school freshman and sophomore, I wasn't serious about school. To get my grades and SAT's up, I transferred to Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina. Throughout the process, UConn stayed at my side while other schools weren't sure if I was going to make the grade. The #1 school in the nation stayed by my side! Plus, UConn isn't too far from home.

    Liz : UConn had more of the things I wanted. The team and the school had a homier feel. Winning did factor in too. It was important for me to be part of a winning tradition.

    What has the transition been like going from high school to college?
    Kiana: High school and college are totally different. My prep school prepared me a lot but there is nothing like being at a Division I school. In high school you can go hard when you want, while in college you can't take breaks. You've got everybody yelling, trying to motivate you to do what needs to be done. You have to work hard everyday and give 110%.

    Liz: I don't think there's anything that can prepare you for this. It was hard at first. I thought I was playing hard until I got here and realized that there's a whole other level of effort! In high school, you didn't have to try as hard. You could pretty much do what you wanted. But here, you try hard, don't get what you want, and then you have to try harder than hard to get what you want.

    How do you prepare yourself when coach calls your name to go in and play?
    Kiana: I make sure I do what I'm supposed to do when I'm called. If he needs someone to play defense or get rebounds, then that's what I'm here for. I'm here to do what my coach wants, to listen to my teammates, work hard and get better every day.

    Liz: You just have to think about what you want to do, what you want to accomplish and how you're going to go about it. You prepare yourself mentally before the game by thinking, what worked last game, what worked in practice, what's my best move?

    Is it tough being the new girls on the team? How have you tried to prove yourself to the older players?
    Kiana: Its always tough being new everywhere you go. You have to prove that you deserve to be here. You have to prove you're a hard worker and that no one can stop you from doing what you want to. With that mindset, you'll be fine at any level, whether it's Division I, Division II, NAIA or high school.

    Liz: You always have to prove yourself. You don't want to accept that you're just a freshman, you can't do this, or you have to wait. That's not the mentality you want to have.

    Has it been tough to go from being the best player on the court in high school to not playing a lot of minutes in college?
    Kiana: Because I'm a freshman and fighting for playing time, I need to work harder than everyone else does. Nobody's going to give you anything. I just learned that if I work hard, I can play with these guys. Hopefully down the road I can be an asset and help the team as much as possible.

    Liz: It was hard going from being a big fish in a small pond to being a very tiny fish in a very large ocean. The intensity, everything is so much harder! You can't get away with what you used to in high school.

    Is there a lot of pressure playing for a team that's supposed to be unbeatable?
    Kiana: We really don't carry pressure. We practice hard for every game. It's no different whether it's Duke or Georgia State. We prepare for every game like it's a major game. We have pressure, but we don't carry it like other teams do.

    Liz: You have to embrace the pressure. If you are not under pressure, you tend to get lazy and go through the motions. Pressure motivates you to get to the next level.

    What's it like playing in front of the large crowds at Gampel Pavilion and the Hartford Civic Center?
    Kiana: It great! The crowds bring energy when you need it and you get energy from your teammates.

    Liz: You really don't notice the crowds after a while. Once you get into the game, you forget about everything else and do what you're supposed to do in there.

    What are practices like? Is Coach Geno as tough as the media portrays him?
    Kiana: Coach is assertive, energized, and expects certain things from you. He's just like any other coach. With basketball, Coach gives us life situations. It's your choice to use that life situation or not and suffer the consequences. Example: Coach will say, "Later in life, what are you going to do when your boss tells you something needs to be done right away? Are you going to do it or not? Are you going to sprint down this court or not?" With Coach, you're not only learning basketball skills, but also life skills to be used later on down the line. He makes it about both life and basketball.

    Liz: He's like no other coach I've played for. He sees things nobody else sees. You'll think a play was fine, and he'll see something that wasn't right with it. This only makes you better. Coach really makes you think when you play. He challenges you to figure things out on your own. He's always trying to get you to where you need to be. Now I feel I'm playing harder all the time.

    How do you balance playing ball and your studies?
    Kiana: It was hard at first. You really have to attend class every day, because if you miss a day, that may be a week's worth of work. And being at a Division I program, your academic advisor knows when you go to class. Whatever you do in school reflects on the basketball court.

    Liz: At first it was hard. You just have to learn how to manage your time, because if you don't, you'll be up late trying to get things done.

    What's been the most fun?
    Kiana: Being around and getting to know my teammates, learning about different cultures and music.

    Liz: The practices. Although they are hard and you might not like what you're doing, after they're done, you're like--look what I accomplished today!

    What has been the most challenging?
    Kiana: Being consistent and going hard all the time. I know I can do better than I'm doing. Sometimes when Coach challenges me, I go into my high school mode or a crawl into a shell and get down on myself.

    Liz: Keeping up the energy and consistency for long periods of time. It's a roller coaster. One day you're up another you're down. I try to try to stay consistent by working on my post moves and my shot.

    If you had any advice to give high school seniors who'll be making that jump from high school to Division I basketball, what would it be?
    Kiana: I would tell them to work hard at everything they do. Whether you are tired or not, give 110 percent.

    Liz: You have to like what you're doing and have a passion for it. Because if you do, you'll want to do it more. At Division I, you can't play basketball unless you really love it.

    Photo by Frank Prater

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