Basketball Road Trip Ends With Visit to UCONN

Geno Auriemma (far left) and his #3 UCONN Huskies pose for a picture with the UMPI men's and women's basketball teams
Geno Auriemma (far left) and his #3 UCONN Huskies pose for a picture with the UMPI men's and women's basketball teams

(STORRS, CT) -- After a weeklong road trip that saw the the UMPI men's and women's basketball teams travel through 5 states, stay in 3 hotels, and eat at countless Subway and Dunkin' Donuts, once Friday came you couldn't blame the players if they just wanted to get on the bus and come home.

But there it was on the Friday itinerary:  "PRACTICE 10:00-12:00".

They did not know where it was going to be at but from what they had been told, women's coach Marc Heidorf had found a high school gym on the way back from Norwich, CT for the teams to use for practice before finishing the trip up.

"We get along well as a program, but I feel pretty certain that had I actually tried to hold a practice I would have been left behind in whatever city we stopped in," said Heidorf smiling.

Luckily for him, the "practice" the UMPI teams had was watching the UCONN Huskies' women's basketball team practice in Gampel Pavilion.

Owls' players were treated to seeing head coach Geno Auriemma prepare his squad for a Big East showdown at Villanova on Saturday.

It was a practice the Owls will not soon forget.

Owls' forward Rashell Saucier:  "I really loved how disciplined they all were.  Their focus was impressive.  You could totally see that they depended on each other to accomplish teamwork.  And the fact that i got to be right beside Kelly Feris during the team picture was AWESOME!  Kid at the candy store."

Owls' guard Emily Pelletier:  "I could not sit still the entire time we were there.  That is something I never thought I would be able to do.  And to be able to shake Coach Geno's hand... so very cool!"

While the sidetrip was a surprise for most, some of the players had caught wind that the practice listed for Friday might not be their own.  What even fewer, if any, knew though was that Owls' first year men's basketball coach Jim Casciano attended high school with UCONN coach Geno Auriemma at Bishop Kenrick High School in Norristown, PA.

Owls' guard Gerardo Vasquez:  "It was funny to hear Coach Geno busting on the kind of player Coach "Cas" was in high school.  He told us not to listen to coach when he tolds us to pass because the only thing he ever did was shoot."

Razzing and reminiscing aside, Coach Casciano believes that his men's team could get alot out of watching a Division I women's team do work.

"The carry over that we have is using the same central themes they practice:  communicate, take pride in what you do, and do not take days off.  I think it made a huge impression on our guys," said Casciano.

After the visit, all three teams went out and took care of their respective business that weekend.  The #3 Huskies knocked off Villanova 72-49 on Saturday.  On Sunday, the UMPI men's and women's teams each knocked off the University of Maine-Augusta.  The women came from behind to notch a 63-54 win over the Moose while the men ran away from UMA with a 78-44 victory.