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First-Time Huskies play with confidence

Qadence Saumels (4) throws up a "3" sign after draining her first collegiate three-pointer with Paige Bueckers (5) cheering her on. Photo: Ian Bethune.

The UConn women’s basketball season has begun and the freshmen class has been impressive in the little time they have played. Impressions are tough to be made for Geno Auriemma when his rookies play in the team’s home opener. No freshmen have earned a start yet but Auriemma has his largest roster with 14, 13 of which are eligible to play this season.

On Wednesday, fans finally saw redshirt-freshman, Ice Brady, play in her first official college game. Brady missed the 2022-2023 season with a dislocated patella in her right knee, which she suffered before the start of the season. Coming into UConn, Brady was the 5th overall recruit in the class of 2022, where she joined Ayanna Patterson and Inês Bettencourt as the newest Huskies. With only a few months of training under her belt, Brady has the chance to impact the glass if she can earn more time. Auriemma held Brady to only 10 minutes against Dayton.

KK Arnold (2) begins to drive to endline during Wednesday's game against Dayton. Photo: Ian Bethune

With teammates like Paige Bueckers and Nika Mühl as the starting point guards, and Bettencourt coming off the bench, how does freshman KK Arnold fit in with the experience of her teammates? KK Arnold takes over the game whenever she subs in for them. She led the team in assists and steals in the win over Dayton. Mühl was nipping at Arnold’s heels all night to see who would have the most assists. Arnold came out on top with 7 assists and 4 steals, with Mühl trailing her with 5 assists and 3 steals. Arnold played the most minutes (19) to lead all freshmen.

Is that Shea Ralph or Kelly Faris wearing the #12 jersey this year? It’s Ashlynn Shade, the quickest and soon-to-be a pest (in a good way for the Huskies) this season. Shade was the #15 recruit in this year’s freshmen class. From what we saw in Europe, Shade is not much of a scorer but is a fierce defender. She has quick feet and hands, ready to go for a steal when she can make the perfect read. In 16 minutes on Wednesday, Shade scored 4 points, grabbed 3 rebounds, and added 2 assists.

It is hard for Qadence Samuels to go unnoticed. Her signature Minnie Mouse buns and blue eyebrow makes her individually stand out. In terms of her playing ability, Samuels will be a shoo-in for that wing position when Aubrey Griffin graduates with her master’s degree. She may be long and lean at 6’2, but Samuels is not afraid to shoot from long range. Samuels went 3-for-5 behind the arc scoring 9 of her 11 points that way. She added 2 rebounds and a blocked shot to her stats sheet.

Aaliyah Edwards (left) and Ashlynn Shade high-five after Shade scored her first collegiate points. Photo: Ian Bethune

The only freshman fans won’t see on the court, again, this season is redshirt freshman Jana El Alfy. El Alfy arrived in Storrs just around the new year to begin training with the team. She never wore her number 24 jersey last season and retained all her eligibility. Unfortunately, El Alfy had ruptured her Achilles while representing Egypt this summer at the U19 World Cup. She was flown back to Connecticut to have surgery a few days later. She traveled with the team to Europe and scooted around with her ankle boot in tow.

While she is a sophomore, Ayanna Patterson has not made her debut yet this season. She, like El Alfy, Amari DeBerry (junior), and Aaliyah Edwards (senior) had off-season surgery. Patterson had a procedure done on her knee but information about the procedure or injury is little-to-none. DeBerry had surgery to fix a herniated disk which is why she did not play in Europe and has seen limited minutes so far. Aubrey Griffin had a similar surgical procedure done in January of 2022 and missed that season. Edwards had her deviated septum repaired after this past season and her face mask has been retired.

The #2 Huskies are currently traveling to Raleigh, North Carolina to face the NC State Wolfpack on Sunday. The game is set to tip-off at 3 pm EST on ABC.

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