San Diego State’s women’s basketball team boasts a true freshman named Paris Johnson that some people say will end up playing in the WNBA.
If you want to see the San Diego High alumnus at her best at this young age, then you should see No. 2-ranked UConn (8-0) play the Aztecs (8-1) at 8 p.m. Friday at Cox Arena.
That opinion comes from no less an authority than UConn coach Geno Auriemma, who brought his perennial national power to San Diego as a homecoming game for one of his seniors, San Diego High alumnus Charde Houston.
“I say that I guarantee you Paris will play better than she has at any time this year,” Auriemma said. Why? Because she has to, and generally when great competitors have to, they respond. (San Diego State) is going to play with a passion and energy they haven’t seen in themselves before and (SDSU coach) Beth (Burns) is going to tell her team, ‘This is how you have to play every game.’ “
Auriemma’s homecoming game for Houston is a early Christmas gift to women’s basketball in San Diego that not many No. 2-ranked teams would grant. Auriemma told a story about building UConn into a national power.
“When I started in 1985-86, I couldn’t get the No. 2 team in the nation to come play us in our building,” he said. “They were above it all. But we tried to play good teams on neutral courts in tournament so our kids could experience what we aspired to be like. Then, in 1994, we got Auburn, the No. 2 team in the nation, to come to our place, and we beat their butts.
“That got our fans thinking this could be special. First you’ve got to put yourself in that arena and the more times you do it, you just need to win one time. Then your kids and fans say, ‘Wow! This is what they’re trying to do, and we should get behind them. They need one more push.’
“Our objective is to win. I can’t go back and tell our athletic director we spent a lot of money on a great trip, but we lost. But our second objective is to give everybody in this town a chance to see women’s basketball at its highest level.”
— TOM SHANAHAN