By Rick Carpiniello
OSSINING – On Saturday morning, when UConn women’ basketball coach Geno Auriemma asked Ossining High senior Saniya Chong if she had any questions toward the end of her final official recruiting visit, Chong had just one.
She asked Auriemma when she’d be expected to report for training.
“I feel really excited, relieved as well,” said Chong, who also visited Louisville and Ohio State before committing to UConn Saturday. “I’m just really happy right now. I feel like I really made a good choice. I think it’s the best thing for me.
“All the colleges, basically every college has the same concept. But UConn, I just really fell in love with it – the players, the campus, how close it is to home, the staff, the coach.”
The night before, Chong had told her high school coach, Dan Ricci, “Coach, I’m ready (to commit).
Ricci had been taking Chong and her mom to all her visits. They met with Auriemma at UConn Thursday, went to his house for a team barbecue that night, spent time with the players, and went to class Chong attended a class with UConn senior Bria Hartley. Ricci drove back Friday – he coaches football, and had a Friday night game – then made the trek back to Storrs, where Chong made her decision and then attended a team practice Saturday.
“What she really wanted was what she has in high school – a family-type of setting with the players,” said Ricci (whom Chong calls Uncle Ricci). “She got that from the other schools she visited but she didn’t think she was going to see that at UConn, being that they’re all stars, All-Americans and high-profile players.
“(On Friday) she said, ‘It went really well. Not what I expected. Everybody’s so nice and they get along with each other. It’s great.’”
Ricci believes that Chong will get significant minutes as a freshman next year – she’s one of four guards on the current roster, and UConn uses three-guard set where they all handle the ball – and that her passing and defense will be on display with high caliber teammates.
“Anything’s possible, I guess,” Chong said. “But as long as I work hard – as hard as I worked to get to the position I am in now – we’ll see what happens.”
Chong is one of the greatest offensive players in local high school history. With 2,060 points she will surely break Peekskill’s Sheila Wagner’s Westchester/Putnam/Rockland record of 2,476 points, and FDR-Hyde Park’s Karen O’Connor’s Section 1 record of 2,662, both set in the 1980s this season. Ossining, a two-time Section 1 Class AA champ, is 61-9 in her 70 career games.