By Ken Best

Tracking Huskymania on and off the field.

Huskies Pay Tribute to Sandy Hook Elementary School Victims

Shabazz Napieer ’14 (CLAS), left, and Ryan Boatright ’15 (CLAS) paid tribute to the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School on Monday at the XL Center in Hartford. Stephen Slade ’89 (SFA) for UConn

There will be a pre-game ceremony in honor of the Sandy Hook Elementary School students and teachers who died last Friday before the women’s basketball game tonight at the XL Center in Hartford between the No. 2 Huskies (8-0) and Oakland University (5-5).

During Tuesday’s media session, head coach Geno Auriemma discussed the Sandy Hook Memorial Scholarship Fund the University of Connecticut announced earlier in the week.  The scholarship fund will cover costs for current Sandy Hook students as well as siblings or dependents of those killed.  Auriemma and his wife, Kathy, made the lead gift of $80,000.

“There really aren’t many things you can do that are more than symbolic gestures,” Auriemma said. “That is one of the reasons we wanted to start the scholarship fund. It’s a tangible thing that people can fall back on, actually use long-term. In the short-term we can show some respect for those people who were killed. We wanted to do something more long-lasting, something that will keep those 26 people in everyone’s minds forever. Symbolic gestures are important, but they come and go. Hopefully, we’ll raise enough money and down the road maybe something different will happen than what normally happens; that the person who did the shooting won’t be as famous as those he left behind and were killed.”

Auriemma said the shooting deaths of 26 people, 20 of them children ages 6 and 7, affected the young women on his team more than anything he could recall during his years as a coach and they asked if they could help the Newtown community.

“I told them at some point when it’s appropriate, we will get them involved,” he said. “It’s one of those things that kids, and that’s what they are, who are not that far removed to remember what it was like to be in first grade, remember taking the school bus. This one affected them much more than anything I can remember being around my teams.”

The team will wear the same “SH” patches on their jerseys – white letters on a green background, the Sandy Hook school color — that the men’s team wore on Monday during its 84-50 win over Maryland Eastern Shore. Both teams will wear the patches for the remainder of the 2012-2013 basketball season.

Several players on the men’s team developed expressed their own tributes to the Sandy Hook victims.  Shabazz Napier ’13 14 (CLAS) wore a tee shirt with “Sandy Hook 26” on it during pre-pre-game warm-ups and Ryan Boatright ’15 (CLAS) had “SH” painted on his face. One of the Maryland players, Louis Bell, had written “S.H.E.S. Newtown, CT” and “12-14-12” on the back of his sneakers.

Head coach Kevin Ollie ’95 (CLAS) said during his post-game press conference that the men’s team would plan visit a visit to Newtown, perhaps for a practice session, sometime after Christmas.