UConn's Kelly Faris far from focused on individual awards
Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 22:03
Baggy, heather gray sweatpants and shamrock green sweatshirt, Kelly Faris dresses the way she acts: modestly.
Just days after a game that her coach, Basketball Hall of Famer Geno Auriemma, called “one for the ages,” and said her performance was perhaps the best he’s ever seen from a UConn player, Faris stands in front of reporters, arms folded, quietly answering questions.
“That’s not my focus,” Faris said.
In fact, becoming an All-American seems to be the farthest thing from her mind.
“I’m not interested in all the accolades – outside of winning a national championship. The individual stuff doesn’t faze me. It’s not what I came here to do.”
Winning – nothing else – is the ultimate interest for Faris. She has shown that repeatedly throughout her career, but never more than this season.
The pain of having both of the past two seasons end – in her mind, prematurely – in the Final Four has stuck with her and only heightened an already overwhelming desire to win.
That kind of attitude has made her a fan favorite and well-respected teammate within UConn circles over the past few years.
That was evident on Feb. 23, when the Huskies faced off against Seton Hall in Gampel Pavilion on Senior Day.
Before the game began, Faris, along with fellow seniors Caroline Doty and Heather Buck, was recognized for her years of service at UConn. Though Buck and Doty each commanded loud ovations of their own, the building was never as loud as when Faris made her way to center court.
Not one for crying, Faris managed to hold it together while she hoisted her framed jersey up in the air, but some of her teammates weren’t quite so composed. Sophomore guard Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was clearly taken aback by the moment and shed a few tears on the bench.
“I think everyone here knows how much I look up to Kelly, how much I appreciate what she has done for me,” Mosqueda-Lewis said.
During the game, that respect was just as evident.
Faris entered the night just 18 points shy of 1,000 for her career, and Mosqueda-Lewis and the rest of her teammates made it very clear that they had resolved to make it happen.
After Faris scored 10 points in the first half, the Huskies set screen after screen to get her as open as possible for shots, giving her every opportunity to reach the mark. With just over six minutes to play, she finally got there, and the UConn bench and crowd burst into a long standing ovation.
After the fact, Faris was quick to deflect much of the media attention, uncomfortable with celebrating an individual accolade. Even after reaching such a big milestone – especially for a player not normally known as a scorer – Faris was more interested in crediting those around her for their hard work.
“Honestly, I knew I was close just because of all the talk, but I didn’t know the exact points,” Faris said after the game. “And then once my teammates started trying to get me open quite a bit, I realized what they were doing. It was nice, it was really nice to know that I had a whole team and coaching staff behind me trying to get me that personal accomplishment.”
Despite her accomplishments, Faris is not egocentric. Basketball knowledge – defensive rotations, how to grab a steal, when to set a screen – yes, but an overblown sense of self is not one of her many attributes. Add humble to the list, right next to modest.
That’s why Faris again did her best to dodge the individual focus during her postgame press conference Feb. 26 after a game against Pittsburgh.
At that point, she sat just four rebounds away from the 750 rebound-plateau. That, combined with her 1,000 points, 500 assists and 250 steals, would make her just the second ever entry into the 1,000-750-500-250 club in UConn history – the first being Maya Moore, a four-time All-American.
“I know you want me to say a whole lot about it and be so excited about it,” Faris told reporters when she was approaching the milestone, chucking about how irrelevant she thought it to be. “But I don’t know, it’s hard for me to really get excited about statistics and stuff. For me, that’s just how I know it to be – that it’s not necessarily what’s on paper – and so I’ve never really focused on that and got into it.”