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UConn’s Paige Bueckers brings ‘Minnesota nice’ to homecoming game

Paige Bueckers and UConn are facing the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Nov. 19. (M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

UConn’s Paige Bueckers grew up watching basketball in her home state of Minnesota. She has memories of Lynx and Golden Gophers games at Williams Arena — she attended those games starting when she was 10 or 12 years old.

Now, Bueckers will return to The Barn, but not as a spectator.

“It’s super surreal because I grew up going to games at The Barn and watching the Gophers and watching the Lynx play there,” Bueckers said to the Hartford Courant. “So to be playing there, where I grew up, my childhood, at my dream school wearing a UConn jersey in that arena, it’s like a surreal feeling for me.”

The Huskies are set to take on the Gophers in Minnesota at 5 p.m. ET Sunday in a homecoming game for Bueckers. Bueckers will be taking the same court her childhood idols took over a decade ago.

“I envisioned it when I was younger,” Bueckers said. “Just wanting to be the people who were playing on the court. As a young kid, that was where I wanted to be. You never knew what the future was going to hold, but it was something I aspired to do.”

UConn’s head coach Geno Auriemma goes out of his way to schedule homecoming games for his seniors, including two international matchups this season — one for Nika Mühl in Croatia during the Huskies’ preseason tour and one for Aaliyah Edwards in Toronto, which will be played in December.

Williams Arena is likely to be packed when the local star makes her return — more than 10,000 seats are expected to be filled when Bueckers takes the court at the 14,625-seat arena.

Among those 10,000 people will be Bueckers’ family, friends and other Minnesotans in the basketball community. And Bueckers credits these people with her upbringing.

“You often hear the phrase ‘Minnesota nice,’” Bueckers told CT Insider. “I think everything around here, just everybody knows everybody. Everybody’s nice to each other. Everybody’s like family once you meet them. So, I think that just is sort of why I love relationships, why I love people so much and why I love getting to know people so much and I think that has a lot to do with where I’m from.”

But for Bueckers, a homecoming game isn’t just about seeing family and friends. It’s about being who Rebekkah Brunson and Lindsey Whalen were to her for other young girls.

“I want to be an inspiration to kids,” Bueckers said. “I want people to see that injuries happen, adversity happens, but what do you do to come back from it? How hard do you attack that process? I want people to see passion when they see me play, fire and energy and that I love the game.”

Athing Mu Falls at Trials, Will Not Defend 800-Meter Olympic Title

Athing Mu competes in the women's 800 meter final on Day Four of the 2024 US Olympic Team Track & Field Trials
Mu won the 800-meter final at the Tokyo Olympics, crossing the line in 1:55.21 to break the American record. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Reigning Olympic Track & Field champion Athing Mu will not have the opportunity to defend her 800-meter title in Paris after falling during the event's US Track & Field Trials final on Monday. 

About 200 meters into the race, Mu uncharacteristically got tangled up in the middle of the track and lost her footing. Coming to her defense, her coach Bobby Kersee said that she had been spiked, suffered track burns, and hurt her ankle. The 22-year-old filed an appeal that saw USA Track and Field officials sorting through replays, but it was later denied. 

As a result, Mu did not qualify to run the 800-meter at the 2024 Summer Games, as the US has a standing rule that only the top three Trials finishers make the official Olympic-bound roster. 

At her first-ever Olympics in 2021, Mu took home the gold at the 800-meter final, crossing the line in 1:55.21 to break the American record.

"I’ve coached it, I’ve preached it, I’ve watched it," Kersee told The Associated Press after Mu's appeal was rejected. "And here’s another indication that regardless of how good we are, we can leave some better athletes home than other countries have. It’s part of our American way."

Mu finished more than 22 seconds behind eventual winner Nia Akins, but could still make the Olympic team as part of the US relay pool. Mu was a key part of the Team USA's 4x400-meter gold medal win three years ago in Tokyo.

Dearica Hamby Tapped to Replace Cameron Brink on 3×3 Olympic Team

Dearica Hamby playing for Team USA in 2023
Dearica Hamby is no stranger to Team USA's 3×3 lineup. (Lance King/Getty Images)

Dearica Hamby has been named to USA Basketball's official 3×3 Olympic roster, replacing an injured Cameron Brink.

The Los Angeles Sparks forward has extensive experience with the 3×3 team, including taking home both a gold medal and MVP honors at the 2023 FIBA AmeriCup

Brink originally made the roster in early June, but suffered a season-ending ACL injury during Los Angeles’s June 18th loss to Connecticut. 

"It is an honor to announce Dearica Hamby's addition to the USA 3×3 women's national team and we look forward to getting to work as a squad very soon," USA Basketball 3×3 national team director Jay Demings said in a statement. "USA Basketball continues to keep Cameron Brink in our thoughts as she focuses on her recovery."

Hamby will join 2023 FIBA 3×3 World Cup champions Hailey Van Lith (TCU), CIerra Burdick, and Rhyne Howard (Atlanta Dream) in Paris.

San Diego Wave Parts Ways With Head Coach Casey Stoney

ex-wave fc head coach casey stoney in 2023
Casey Stoney joined Wave FC in 2022 from the WSL's Manchester United. (Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images)

San Diego Wave FC announced on Monday that the organization has parted ways with head coach Casey Stoney. 

The announcement comes amid a seven-game winless streak for the Wave. Stoney joined San Diego from WSL side Manchester United a few months before their inaugural season, winning the 2022 NWSL Coach of the Year Award that same year. She went on to lead the expansion team to two trophies in three years. 

Just this past January, the club agreed to a multi-year contract extension that kept Stoney with the club through 2027, with a mutual option for 2028. 

Despite their prior success, San Diego currently sits ninth in the NWSL standings, one point out of playoff contention. Their last win came on May 8th, having most recently played to a scoreless draw against Houston over the weekend to cap off a three-game road trip. 

"We are immensely grateful to Casey for her commitment to our club and the positive impact she has had both on and off the pitch,” Wave president and former USWNT manager Jill Ellis said in an official team statement. "Over the past seasons, Casey has guided us to significant milestones, and her contributions have been instrumental in laying a strong foundation on which to build.

"The decision to part ways was very hard and not made in haste, but given the ambition of this club, and where we are in our season, we felt a change was necessary at this time."

The staffing change comes a little less than two weeks after the Wave brought on former Kansas City Current general manager Camille Ashton. Ashton resigned from her position with Kansas City in May of this year.

On Tuesday, Ellis commented that Stoney is "self aware" and called her a "complete professional."

"I don’t think you have to have a conversation when it comes to know where they are, she knew,” she said. “I think Casey knew results matter. Casey’s ambitious. And was she happy with where we were? Of course not.

"I think a coach also understands that sometimes this is the nature of the beast of coaching. It’s tough and hard at times."

Kansas City, Orlando Raise the NWSL Bar With Weekend Wins

NWSL Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda in action during a NWSL match against Seattle Reign
Banda registered a brace on Sunday, bringing her NWSL total to 10 goals in just 10 games. (Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Pride star Barbra Banda continued on her historic NWSL trajectory this weekend, scoring twice in Orlando’s 6-0 win over Utah on Friday. 

She’s the first NWSL player to register 10 goals in their first 10 league appearances. It was also her fourth brace this season, and marked her first goals in two games after her first multi-game scoring drought.

"For me when I have an opportunity and a chance, I have to take it wisely," Banda said in her postgame remarks. "When I get a chance, I have to put the ball in the back of the net. If any game I didn’t score, I just have to go to my drawing board and work hard so that in the next game so I can find a goal."

Meanwhile, Kansas City also kept up their winning ways, beating Portland 4-1 behind a brace from midfielder Lo'eau Labonta on Sunday.

Later that day, the Washington Spirit, who sit just a point behind KC in third place, topped fourth-place Gotham FC in a decisive 2-0 victory.

And after drawing with Seattle, eighth-place Louisville has 16 points on the season — representing a growing gap between the league’s top and bottom teams. Bringing up the bottom of the ladder, both Seattle and Utah have yet to surpass 10 points this year.

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