UConn dominance on women's basketball recruiting trail stalls with 2019 class

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Geno Auriemma and UConn had a quiet recruiting year, but it's too soon for Huskies fans to panic.

For the first time in three years, UConn has failed to land the No. 1 prospect in the country. For the first time in six years, UConn's recruiting class has failed to rank among the top 20 in the nation.

Time for the 11-time champions to panic?

Not quite.

UConn entered the early signing period as a finalist for both No. 1 prospect Haley Jones and No. 3 prospect Aliyah Boston. Jones announced Wednesday that she had signed with Stanford; Boston announced last week that she had signed with South Carolina. It's a far cry from a year ago when UConn landed the two big prizes of signing week when No. 1 Christyn Williams and No. 5 Olivia Nelson-Ododa committed to the Huskies.

Courtesy Dan Ricci

Expect Aubrey Griffin to step right in and contribute at UConn.

But it wasn't a total bust on the 2019 recruiting trail for Geno Auriemma, either. The Huskies secured a signature from Aubrey Griffin, a big and athletic guard out of Ossining, New York, who is ranked No. 33 in the country. Her ceiling is high and she projects to be a contributor early in her college career. Griffin missed time after suffering a knee injury her sophomore season. She came back as a junior to average 28.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.2 steals, 2.9 assists and 1.6 blocks. The 6-foot-1 wing, the daughter of former NBA player Adrian Griffin, will give UConn an athletic guard who also provides versatility.

Griffin will arrive in Storrs at a time when UConn will be looking to fill the production lost when Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier graduate. But Griffin won't fill the same space on the floor that either Samuelson or Collier occupied.

Samuelson, who was the No. 1 prospect in the 2015 class, has panned out as a scorer supreme at UConn. Collier, who was the No. 6 prospect in 2015, fulfilled her potential as a consistent and agile scorer, defender and winner.

The best one-for-one substitutions from the 2019 class would have been Jones for Samuelson and Laeticia Amihere for Collier. Amihere, who signed with South Carolina, was once ranked as high as No. 2 in the class rankings.

So the question remains: Does the single signature put UConn's long-term health in jeopardy?

History says no.

The last time UConn signed just a single player was 2013, when Saniya Chong was a class of one. (Coincidentally, Chong is from the same high school as Griffin.) Chong, who was surrounded by stars Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson on one side and Gabby Williams and Kia Nurse on the other, won three national titles at UConn.

Griffin, too, will join a roster full of talent. In addition to Williams and Nelson-Ododa, Megan Walker (the No. 1 prospect in 2017) and point guard Crystal Dangerfield  will be running the show. Don't be surprised if the rest of the returning players on the roster improve as they mature. UConn coaches have a long history of making their players better.

What may be more damaging than UConn's single signature is the multiple signatures that the other top contenders obtained.

Defending champion Notre Dame added a pair of potential stars in Samantha Brunelle and Anaya Peoples. The 2016 champion Gamecocks' class of Boston, Amihere, Zia Cooke, Breanna Beal and Olivia Thompson is among the best ever assembled. Stanford, Maryland, Ohio State and Mississippi State got a whole lot better, too.

So it could come down to how well UConn performs in recruiting the 2020 class. The Huskies already have proven they can withstand one off recruiting year. But what happens if it becomes two?

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