STORRS, Conn. (AP) Megan Walker is not your average UConn fan.
The 6-foot-1 consensus national high school player of the year from Chesterfield, Virginia, says she’ll be rooting hard for the Huskies in the NCAA Tournament, while thinking about what it will be like to be playing with them next March.
”I’m part of the team now,” Walker said after picking up her Gatorade Player of the Year award on Wednesday night. ”I’m wearing my hoodies, shirts. I’m posting stuff -tweets. I’m excited.”
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UConn, which plays Albany on Saturday, enters the NCAA Tournament at 32-0, on an unprecedented 107-game winning streak, as the overall No. 1 seed and favored to win a fifth straight national championship.
The school expects a more talented team next year.
Senior point guard Saniya Chong is the only departing player who sees significant minutes.
The Huskies will add two big-name transfers, Azura Stevens, a 6-foot-6 forward from Duke and 6-2 Batouly Camara from Kentucky, both of whom are sitting out this year.
And Walker, who recently hit the game-winning shot to lead her high school team to a third straight Virginia 4A state title, is the biggest name in a in a four-member recruiting class ranked as one of the best in the nation.
The class also includes 5-10 guard Andra Espinoza-Walker from New York, 6-foot wing Lexi Gordon from Texas and 5-10 guard Mikayla Coombs from Georgia.
”They’re great kids, great teammates, and come from great families,” coach Geno Auriemma said. ”They’re exactly the kind of kids that we tend to get here and we’re really happy to have them be a part of the UConn basketball family.”
Walker, who averaged 26 points and eight rebounds as a senior, said she and her classmates all understand they probably would put up bigger numbers in another program.
But they were convinced to come to UConn by Auriemma, who likes to ask recruits what they would do would do if they were the best singer in the world. Would they want to headline in Branson, Missouri? Or would they rather try to make it big on Broadway?
”Coach mentioned something similar to me about the best player in the class of 2017 having to perform on the biggest stage possible,” Walker said. ”That clicked with me. That this is the only way to do it, the right way to go about my career.”
Walker said she knew she was coming to UConn after making an official visit and meeting the players. Everyone played well and hard and could play multiple positions, she said.
”UConn recruits a different type of player. Everyone’s mindset is focused toward the same thing,” she said. ”It definitely felt like I was looking in the mirror and it made me feel even more like I belong there.”
Walker is the eighth UConn player to win the Gatorade award, joining players such as Maya Moore, Breanna Stewart and current player Katie Lou Samuelson.
If UConn wins its 12th national title this spring, she will join a team on a 113-game winning streak, and a fan base with great expectations.
”Of course there’s a little bit of pressure, but you can only live up to it,” Walker said. ”You put yourself in this position to be part of something special. And, I want to contribute to the winning streak.”