11:30 a.m. ET April 19 on ESPN2 & NBA TV

AFTER CONQUERING COLLEGE HOOPS, UCONN'S SENIORS GET READY FOR LIFE IN THE WNBA
Dogged Determination
By Rob Peterson
WNBA.com

For the last four years, Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones and Tamika Williams would leave the University of Connecticut campus in Storrs after the spring semester, with a couple of summer months to do with what they wished. They could go their separate ways, knowing when September rolled around, they would head back to Storrs, see coach Geno Auriemma and begin the quest anew for a national championship.

UConn's Sue Bird, Tamika Williams, Swin Cash and Asjha Jones enjoy a win during their undefeated senior season. (AP Photo)

"After a while, I would look forward to getting back to campus," said Bird, who spent one of her summers playing for USA Basketball.

The four had every reason to be eager to return. For them, it was a time to hone their games and to grow as friends, where, as reported by Sports Illustrated, the four lived in an off-campus apartment. The long hours spent together on and off-the court worked.

"I'll take a lot of things, but I think the most important thing that I'll take with me from UConn is the work ethic," Bird said. "We put in a lot of hard work here."

Since coming to UConn as one of the most heralded recruiting classes ever, the four seniors won 136 of the 145 games they played, appeared in three Final Fours and took home two national titles, the last of which was a season, few, if any, have ever experienced.

This year, Bird, Cash, Jones and Williams had a perfect senior season. UConn swept across the women's college basketball landscape like a simoom, scouring every team of its pride en route to a pristine 39-0 season, one in which they never trailed in the second half and won by an average margin of 35.4 points.

Now, the four have a final landscape to discover -- the WNBA. While the league's coaches would gladly take the four seniors in volume, the WNBA does not operate like a Sam's Club when it comes to talent. While all four are projected to be selected in the first round, they'll be on separate teams for the first time in four years. This, however, does not daunt Bird.

"I've played against friends in the summer," Bird said, "and we know we're friends off the court, but when we step on the court, we have a game to play.

"I know what they like to do on the court. I think I could share that information with my new teammates."

We can take Bird at her word. If their four-year record wasn't proof enough of their competitiveness, the four UConn seniors test each other's mettle with the contests they hold amongst each other off the court. According to Sports Illustrated, the four seniors held a competition to see who would be the first to break down and cry on Senior Night. Tissues were conserved when none of them did.

The tears flowed after the Huskies defeated Oklahoma 82-70 for the 2002 NCAA Women's Championship. It seemed to be the most appropriate time to cry, for they had no more college campuses to conquer.

Now, all of them have something new to look forward to -- professional careers.

"I'm excited about it," said Bird of the upcoming WNBA Draft. "It will be a whole different challenge for all of us. I'm looking forward to it."



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