UConn video coordinator Ben Kantor finds himself thrust into a coaching role as the Huskies begin their run at a 12th national title.
Kantor, who will still have to put together all of Connecticut’s video packages for the team’s film sessions, will take Shea Ralph’s place as an assistant coach for the Huskies for their game against 16th-seeded High Point on Sunday. He will serve in same role in the second round, barring a major upset.
The Huskies were left short on bodies after a positive COVID-19 test forced head coach Geno Auriemma to spend 10 days isolating at home and Ralph left the bubble when a family member tested positive.
Kantor joined the Huskies in 2015 after serving as an assistant coach at Houston Baptist and Colgate.
”He’s terrific,” Auriemma said. ”He’s real smart. He does a great job with the players. He’s got great rapport with the players. He sees the game. He’s been around the program for four of five years now. So, he understands.”
Guard Christyn Williams said its been fun watching Kantor go up and down the floor with the team as they practice for Sunday’s game.
”He talks a lot of (stuff); he’s very competitive,” she said. ”But it’s great to have him on our staff. He does a great job at whatever is thrown at him.”
This year there are 26 schools that have both men’s and women’s teams in the NCAA Tournament. But it’s likely only one can boast a pair of married couples with players on both.
BYU senior guard Paisley Harding married BYU men’s guard Connor Harding last year. And forward Kayla Belles-Lee is married to forward Kolby Lee.
”Connor and Paisley are a little bit more known because they were dating for a long time,” BYU women’s coach Jeff Judkins said. ”Both of them, I think, they’re really excited about both being in the NCAA Tournament, and having an opportunity to really represent BYU.”
Jenkins said the Hardings are supportive of each other on and off the court.
”When Paisley maybe hasn’t played as well as she wants to, Connor’s out there shooting with her, doing the things he needs to try to help her. And visa versa,” he said.
BYU’s women (18-5) were somewhat surprised by their at-large invite to the tournament. A No. 11 seed, the Cougars will face sixth-seeded Rutgers on Monday in the Mercado Region.
Paisley Harding was on Instagram live when the Cougars were selected. ”We didn’t think we were, but we’re going!” she exclaimed.
The sixth-seeded Cougars men (20-6) play UCLA (18-9) on Saturday.
Just four months after the surprising news that she would be taking over the program, Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy is going through her first NCAA Tournament as a head coach.
”I’m experiencing all kinds of emotions, trying to take it in and cherish the moment as it is my first time being a head coach,” she said. ”But also, I’m focused. We understand what we are here to do and what we are trying to achieve.”
It’s been an emotional season for Elzy, who was two-time national champion as a player at the University of Tennessee.
She was named Kentucky’s interim head coach on Nov. 11 after the unexpected retirement of Matthew Mitchell, who underwent brain surgery in the offseason after suffering a serious concussion.
She got the job permanently a month later after a 6-0 start.
The Wildcats Kentucky (17-8) will face 13th-seeded Idaho State (22-3) in the first round on Sunday.
AP Sports writer Anne Peterson contributed to this report.
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