— Four years after leaving Connecticut for Philadelphia, Ashley Prim has returned to her home state for what could be the end of her college basketball career.
Prim, a senior guard for St. Joseph's, is from Ansonia and graduated from Kolbe Cathedral-Bridgeport. St. Joe's will face Vanderbilt in a first-round game Saturday, and a victory would likely pit Prim against UConn in what could be her final game.
"It means a lot to play in front of my family and friends in one of my last college games back at home," Prim said Friday. "It's just a wonderful opportunity."
Prim averaged 7.7 points and 4.3 assists this season. She will match the program's all-time record for games played Saturday when she appears in her 127th career game.
She also has 416 assists, seventh-most in school history.
"My career basically went by in a flash," Prim said. "Just starting my freshman year and getting thrown in there was important. … I'm blessed to have the opportunity to play that many games and to be in the postseason my four years here. I'm just happy. It's going to be fun and I'm going to go out there and play with my teammates."
Prim, who has played games at Quinnipiac and Sacred Heart during her college career, said she has secured between 20 and 30 tickets for friends and family. She grew up as a UConn fan and is excited to be at Gampel for her first NCAA Tournament.
And really, just being in the tournament is significant.
"It means a lot," Prim said. "It is kind of the cap to my four years playing at St. Joseph's. To end off in the NCAA Tournament is something you dream of. It's a great cap to my senior year."
Vandy's Balcomb Remembers
Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb hasn't been in Gampel Pavilion since 1999, when her Xavier team nearly upset UConn in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Xavier, seeded eighth, led for most of the game before Tamika Williams sank two free throws with 7.1 seconds left to lift UConn to an 86-84 win.
It was a heartbreaking loss, but the performance was transformative for Xavier and Balcomb. Two years later, Xavier upset Tennessee in the Sweet 16 with most of the same players. And in 2002, Balcomb was hired by Vanderbilt.
"Obviously, there are signature wins in your career and signature losses," Balcomb said Friday. "That was one of my signature losses. I reflect back on it a lot and I didn't have to walk back into the arena, but when I did, that was the first thing I thought of was that game and being in here."
Vanderbilt, the No. 8 seed, plays No. 9 St. Joseph's at 11:05 Saturday. The Commodores have been in the NCAA Tournament every year during Balcomb's tenure.
Balcomb was an assistant at Providence in 1990-93, an era in which UConn was a rising program and the Friars were battling the Huskies on the recruiting trail. So she has a deep history in the region, but her point of reference at Gampel is one game.
"The biggest thing I remember is how we were treated by the UConn fans," she said. "It is very similar now that I am in the SEC against Tennessee and they are very good women's basketball fans, period. … We walked off [the court] and UConn fans stood up and cheered for us. As I walked out, that is the last memory I have and that will always be in my mind."
More On Sadie Edwards
One of the many changes that UConn's recent oral commitment, Meriden guard Sadie Edwards, made in her life before last summer was a switch in summer traveling teams. When she decided to attend Blair Academy in New Jersey for her recently completed junior season, she chose not to return to Exodus, her former AAU team.
Instead, she hooked up with the Epiphanny Prince Elite Club, with whom she played last summer at the USJN/Nike National Championships.
"Sadie is a point guard who can score and get others involved," Epiphanny Prince, the former Rutgers guard, said from Russia. "She has really improved her midrange game and has become a great leader on the court. Her work ethic is amazing. She has not reached her full potential yet and I think Coach [Geno] Auriemma will be able to help her get there and she will excel at the next level."
Bouquet From Geno
During the time off, Auriemma put one of his new personal projects into motion by hosting a party at his Mohegan Sun Casino restaurant to introduce four wines that will bear his own label.
A winemaker, 47 Anno Domini, will actually produce and export the wine from Italy. And a marketing company, Wine By Design, will help him spread the word and distribute the product.
The four wines he will sell: Prosecco DOC; 2012 Pinot Grigio; 2010 Puglia Rosso; and 2008 Cabernet/Merlot.
"The decision to create a line of Italian wines was the fulfillment of a dream," Auriemma said. "And teaming up with 47 Anno Domini was a natural choice — they possess the passion and respect that I share for the art of winemaking." ... Auriemma pointed out that he recruited St. Joseph's coach Cindy Griffin in the late 1980s. She visited UConn, but chose St. Joe's and has been coach at her alma mater for 12 years. Auriemma's first coaching job was as an assistant at St. Joe's in 1978-79. One of the players was Renie Shields, who is now associate athletic director at St. Joe's. And the big win that season was an upset of nationally ranked Penn State, then coached by current Hartford athletic director Pat Meiser. She was later an administrator at UConn and was among those who hired Auriemma. "Think I ain't old? I'm old," Auriemma said. "So If I make any mistakes [Saturday], it's because I'm old."