UConn women’s basketball fans don’t need to worry about what the post-Paige Bueckers era in Storrs will look like quite yet. In the meantime, coach Geno Auriemma has found the player who’s poised to take the reins once Bueckers departs for the next level.
Kamorea “KK” Arnold, a 5-foot-10 point guard from Germantown, Wisconsin, and the No. 8 recruit of the class of 2023 per espnW, unofficially became the newest Husky when she verbally committed to UConn in late November.
“She’s one of the best point guards in the country, that is no secret,” said Shane Laflin of Premier Basketball, the scouting service behind espnW’s recruiting rankings.
For Arnold, committing to UConn was more than the fulfillment of a childhood dream. She grew up idolizing UConn and Minnesota Lynx great Maya Moore and many of Auriemma’s legendary guards. In choosing UConn, Arnold picked the program she believes will help her become the best version of herself.
”I’m a very competitive person,” Arnold told The Courant. “I want to be the best and then compete against the best. So I thought that’s a great place for me.”
Arnold is UConn’s first commitment from the class of 2023. She announced her decision shortly after class of 2022 recruits Ayanna Patterson and Isuneh “Ice” Brady signed their letters of intent to play in Storrs.
Arnold’s commitment offers a glimpse at what the Huskies’ backcourt could look like in 2023 and beyond. If star guards Azzi Fudd and Bueckers both stay at UConn for four years, Arnold would share the floor with Fudd for two seasons and Bueckers for one.
Through the first nine games of her junior season at Germantown High, Arnold is averaging 23.3 points per game on 52.6% shooting, as well as 8.7 rebounds, 8.7 assists and 3.9 steals per game. Though she has typically been more of an attack-the-basket player, she’s steadily raised her 3-point field goal percentage from 23.6% her first year on varsity to 30.3% as a sophomore and 34.9% so far this season.
Among her accolades as a sophomore, she was named the MaxPreps, Associated Press and Gatorade Wisconsin player of the year, and was a MaxPreps second-team All-America selection.
“She’s a dynamic point guard. She has it all,” Laflin said. “She is quick and fast, handles the ball, has shake, has the jumper out to the 3 and off the dribble, is fearless to the rack and plays well without the ball in her hands. She handles pressure and contact very well. Defensively, she is physical and competitive and is a strong on-ball defender.”
As her numbers suggest, Arnold impacts the game beyond her offense as a committed defender and her team’s leading rebounder despite being a point guard.
“She’s willing to do everything involved with being successful in basketball, which makes the team that much better,” said Matt Stuve, Arnold’s coach at Germantown.
Arnold’s ability to make those around her better, both on and off the court, separates her from the rest, according to Stuve.
“She’s somebody who’s a great teammate,” Stuve said. “Obviously on the court, she finds you if you’re open. We constantly tell kids ‘run the floor, find open space, the ball is going to get to you’ because she’s got incredible court vision and she can play with a lot of different kinds of players. She’s just going to make good basketball plays, good basketball decisions.
“Then off the court, she’s just a great kid. She plays with a lot of joy. She just loves being involved with the game and everything surrounding the game, and I think that’s the kind of person they’re looking for.”
Well before her commitment to UConn, Arnold had a decorated 2021 full of formative experiences. She guided her team to a state championship this past spring, where she said she learned that her leadership is “bigger than what I thought it could be.” Then in August, playing with USA Basketball at the 2021 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, helped sharpen her basketball IQ.
Her visit to Storrs in the fall — one of the final schools she checked out — sealed the deal. She felt comfortable on campus and with the coaching staff and got a taste of how passionate UConn fans are when some passersby asked her to take a picture with them. Arnold previously knew Fudd from the Blue Star Basketball program, and is familiar with Bueckers from the Midwest high school/AAU circuit, but getting to spend time with her other future teammates made her feel even more confident with her decision.
“It was natural, just talking to them,” Arnold said. “It didn’t feel forced or anything.”
The fit appears to be a good one both ways. Stuve describes Arnold as someone who’s constantly working to improve her game, embraces feedback and wants to be challenged and is humble, not one to go around talking about all the schools who recruited her. She’s also the biggest cheerleader for her teammates, someone who celebrates others’ success more than her own.
In other words, exactly what Auriemma tends to look for in players.
“He talks about how you’ve got to be a gym rat, which she is. You’ve got to be a kid where if it’s an hour and a half of passing and ball-handling drills, you’re excited about it, and that’s exactly the kind of kid she is,” Stuve said. “She’s good in the classroom, so obviously they won’t have to worry too much about that. And then her parents are wonderful people and that’s important because you want supportive parents. And then just having the ability to play. There’s a lot of layers there that they’re looking for, and she checked all those boxes.”
Arnold isn’t looking to shy away from the day-in and day-out demanding expectations that defines UConn women’s basketball. She expects the influence of her parents and three older siblings, who also played sports, will help ease that transition.
“Growing up in my household, that’s all we knew,” Arnold said. “[My siblings] taught me that at a young age, and then watching how they worked out, how hard they worked in their sport when they played, just built me up. Then having my mom and dad in my circle, teaching me work ethic before I enter college so I won’t go in and be like ‘oh, man, this is crazy.’ I don’t want to be one of those freshmen who’s shocked. I want to be prepared going into my freshman year.”
For the time being, Arnold gets to focus on fine-tuning her game and trying to get her team back to state. Regardless of what lays ahead for her, Stuve describes Arnold as a player who will bring joy and generosity each step of the way. Case in point: She included her teammates in her commitment announcement. They took the stage with her, held up a UConn flag behind her and enjoyed her special moment together.
“We’ve had a lot of high-level kids,” Stuve said. “Sometimes what you find with high-level performers is they turn very inward because they’re so focused on being a great player and playing at a high level. And you just don’t see that with her.
“If she was the 14th or 15th kid on our team, her teammates would love playing with her just as much as they do because she’s a UConn commit. It’s not so much her basketball ability that endears her to her teammates, but just how she goes about living her life every day and the joy she lives with.”
Alexa Philippou can be reached at [email protected]