Here's how UConn's deeper, more experienced frontcourt is stacking up this summer

STORRS — There’s a lot Geno Auriemma likes about Dorka Juhasz, one of four newcomers on UConn’s deep and potentially NCAA championship-caliber roster.

Juhasz, a graduate transfer from Ohio State, is versatile, can shoot, and has what the Hall of Fame coach calls an “old-school” work ethic. He insists she’s also taller than advertised.

“They said this kid was 6-3, 6-4. She’s all of 6-5,” Auriemma said Thursday outside Gampel Pavilion, where he staged his first in-person availability since before the pandemic. “She’s long and aggressive as hell. So yeah, she’s fitting in nicely in a lot of ways.”

As much as Juhasz has impressed her new coaching staff, it’s still too early to determine where she will fit in the rotation. The Huskies have lots of options in the frontcourt, making it plausible — perhaps even likely — the former All-Big Ten forward will come off the bench this season.

Every key player is back, including the 6-foot-5 Olivia Nelson-Ododa, 6-3 Aaliyah Edwards, who made the Canadian Olympic team, and 6-1 Aubrey Griffin. The competitiveness between them in practice has caught Auriemma’s attention.

“It’s just been really, really good,” Auriemma said. “It’s actually given Liv a real jolt of confidence. She plays with so much more confidence right now. Hopefully we can build on that the rest of the summer and in the fall.”

For all of Nelson-Ododa’s raw talent and desire, confidence has been an issue for her at times. Just when she appeared to find her comfort zone last season, she wilted in the Final Four against Arizona, managing just one point in a 69-59 loss. Now a senior, one of three returning alongside guards Evina Westbrook and Christyn Williams, Nelson-Ododa is running out of time to put it all together.

If she doesn’t, the Huskies have options. Edwards was Big East Sixth Woman of the Year as a freshman, and has been impressive on the international stage this summer with Canada. At 18, Edwards was the youngest player to make the Olympic squad and is one of three still in college.

And there’s also Juhasz, a native of Hungary who averaged 14.6 points and 11.7 rebounds last season while starting every game for Ohio State.

“She can shoot the hell out of it. She’s really highly skilled, ” Auriemma said. “We just need to calm her down a little bit. She’s so excited about playing and being here. But I love her personality. She brings an old-school work ethic.”

And Griffin?

“Aubrey’s, Aubrey,” Auriemma simply said. “When she’s good, she’s great.”

Griffin, a former McDonald’s All-American has been an enigma during her two years in Storrs, balancing elite athleticism with a penchant for disappearing for long stretches. Auriemma’s pushing her to be more aggressive on offense.

“I’m trying a new tactic with her: ‘If you don’t shoot it, you’re coming out,’” he explained. “As opposed to last year: ‘If you shoot that you’ll never play again.’ She didn’t believe in (her shot). It was like, ‘Should I, should I not? OK, I’ll throw it up there.’ So now we’re working on it every day. When you catch it and you don’t shoot this shot, you’re coming out. Not if you miss it. If you don’t shoot it, you’re coming out.”

The Huskies also brought in 6-5 freshman Amari DeBerry, ESPN’s 15th-ranked prospect in this year’s class. DeBerry’s still learning to adjust to the faster, more physical college game.

“Amari is moving, but for every one step forward there’s a little half step backward because she’ll get nicked here, nicked there. But she doesn’t stop,” Auriemma said. “(She’s) another 6-5 kid that is skilled around the basket and can shoot the ball. We’ve got to get her up to speed at playing our pace.”

Auriemma believes that’ll come in time. It’s only July. Preseason is still some eight weeks away. The first game isn’t until November. He knows by then he’ll have a much better gauge of his team.

He’s already learned so much in just a month.

“The improvement from June 1 to today has been significant,” he said. “You can see it in pretty much every player. Every player. It’s only going to get better provided they stick with it throughout the rest of the summer. Now when you throw in September, October, November, it’s just going to keep getting better, better, and better.”

Injury updates

Sophomore Piath Gabriel, who recently had surgery to treat a genetic, stomach-related issue, has resumed working out individually, according to Auriemma. Freshman Saylor Poffenbarger, an early enrollee last January, aggravated her hip, which she had surgically repaired in high school. That’s led to some back issues, slowing her down.

Sophomore Mir McLean has been dealing with tendinitis, though Auriemma didn’t say where.; @DougBonjour