UConn women's basketball's Williams backs player in Alabama controversy

Published on Thursday, 10 January 2019 21:36
Written by Carl Adamec

Journal Inquirer

STORRS - Christyn Williams knows what Maori Davenport can do on the basketball court.

The UConn freshman guard is hopeful that Davenport - her teammate on the 2018 United States U-18 national team - will get another opportunity during her senior year at Henderson High in Troy, Alabama.

Davenport was ruled ineligible by the Alabama High School Athletic Association for cashing a $857.20 check from USA Basketball after helping Team USA to the gold medal at the FIBA Americas U-18 Championships in Mexico City. Among those supporting the Rutgers recruit are Rockets star Chris Paul, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, the WNBA, and the Women’s Sports Foundation.

“I’ve not talked to her but I’ve read a lot about it,” Williams said Wednesday night after helping the third-ranked Huskies to an 82-38 rout of Cincinnati at Gampel Pavilion. “I think it’s ridiculous and very unfair to her to have to miss her senior season. I hope they can get it squared away.”

The AHSAAA has not budged under the public pressure saying Davenport violated its “amateur rule” by cashing the check. Davenport’s mother has repaid USA Basketball and USA Basketball has taken responsibility for the error. The payments are permitted by the NCAA and by some state athletic organizations.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma, who served as the USA national team coach from 2009 through 2016, learned of the situation only recently.

“I don’t know the whole story, but I’ve heard about it,” he said. “From what I’ve read, it seems like it’s unfair to the kid. But I don’t know enough about it to have an opinion on it.”

Davenport, a 6-foot-4 forward, did not make the original U-18 roster after trials in May but was among three players added in June after three withdrew. As a junior at Henderson High, she averaged 18.2 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 5.1 blocked shots to help her team to an Alabama 5A state title.

In the U-18 event, she averaged 7.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 2.7 blocked shots to earn a spot on the all-tournament team. The gold-medal performance assured Team USA a spot in the 2019 FIBA U-19 World Cup.

UConn freshman Olivia Nelson-Ododa was also a member of the U-18 squad.

Staying loyal

Jamelle Elliott has had a front-row seat for every UConn-Cincinnati game. But this was the first time the former UConn star and assistant coach wasn’t sitting on one of the teams’ benches. Elliott, let go after nine years as the Bearcats’ coach last March, watched the game with Auriemma’s wife, Kathy, from a seat across from the UConn bench.

“I was here as I always am to watch UConn and cheer them on,” Elliott said. “And I always root for Cincinnati and the players that I recruited. I look forward to seeing them progress the rest of the way.”

The Washington, D.C. native is a member of the Huskies’ 1,000-1,000 club as a player and was a standout on the 1995 national championship team.

In July, UConn hired her as an associate athletic director for the newly-formed National C Club.

“I love my new job,” Elliott said. “I’m working with great people. The administration side is something that I’m learning to do and every day I’m learning something different and new.”

Posted in Newington Town Crier, UConn on Thursday, 10 January 2019 21:36. Updated: Thursday, 10 January 2019 21:39.