By Arnie Leshin
Her senior high school basketball year cancelled because of COVID-19, 6-foot-2 guard-wing Saylor Roffenbarger out of Middletown High in Maryland, an honor student, decided to graduate in June and move on to college women’s basketball, which becomes an early gift for Geno Auriemma’s University of Connecticut’s undefeated, 4th ranked program, which now gives them seven freshmen on the now 12-player roster of a Geno the genius record 11 NCAA championships.
One of the four highly regarded class of 2021 Husky recruits, Roffenbarger now becomes eligible ahead of waiting for next season, and she’s totally excited about it after arriving at the Storrs campus this weekend. After a 10-day virus quarantine, she will be able to practice and become yet another talented player on the roster. No seniors, just the freshmen, two sophomores and three juniors, and Auriemma has not hesitated to use each and every one.
Says Roffenbarger: “I’m so excited to be around people now and have a schedule — a set schedule — and be able to compete and kind of go back to some normalcy. I had a good junior year, but being off the court as a senior was miserable, and so I’m happy, my family is happy, and so are my friends and former teammates and coaches.”
She is what Auriemma labels a versatile player. She can fill a perimeter hole, can play a bit at the four spot. she has great range, can stretch you, can pass the ball, and is a strong defender with quick hands, and unselfish.
As Auriemma says: “She is truly an all-around player who he hasn’t had in awhile, and is looking forward to have her practicing, as well as coaching her. He adds that she has a high basketball IQ, provides leadership, and that it’s great to have her aboard.”
Roffenbarger will be allowed four years of eligibility. Her junior season, the team captain was named Ms. Maryland Player of the Year while averaging 21.2 points, 12.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists, and 4.1 steals. She was moved up to the varsity her freshmen year and was a starter her last two campaigns and both times selected as Conference Player of the Year. She also played for the gold medal USA under-16 team and averaged 7.2 points, 4.3 boards, and 3.7 assists.
She had originally committed to Connecticut following her junior year. In the 2021 class, she was ranked No. 30, and the 13th leading national guard-wing. She will wear her high school number 4. She figures to add length to the lineup and show her skills as an elite, elite player. And no doubt, she can hardly wait to be added to the roster of a program she’s followed (as others have) for quite some time.
“The opportunity was there,” she says, “and after discussing it with my family, I’m fortunate to have the grades and their backing. I have watched some of the UConn game on TV, and it’s a young talented team where I hope to fit right in. And I look forward to playing for Geno and his coaching staff.”
She had hip surgery back in October and has been medically classified. She plans to take a dozen college credits online, which is now a common thing due to the pandemic.
The other highly ranked 2021 Class recruits already committed to the Huskies are National Player of the Year, 5-11 guard Azzi Fudd out of Washington D.C., 6-1 guard/forward and Massachusetts Player of the Year Carolina Ducharme, and 6-2 Amari DeBerry out of Tennessee, who has played post, guard and forward, but all three say they will not come out early even though their respective states are not allowing high school hoops this unprecedented season.