Watching the women’s college basketball national championship game with family and friends at her East Hartford home back on April 5, Desirée Elmore was in a win-win situation.
She could root for the heavily-favored hometown team, or for the underdog – the team for which she’ll be playing next season.
So who was Elmore pulling for? UConn or Syracuse?
“I was going for both,” Elmore, a senior at Capital Prep, admitted. “Since I’m from Connecticut, I’ve always been a fan of UConn. But being that I’m gonna be in an Orange uniform next year, I was kind of hoping for the upset.”
Turns out, there was no upset. UConn rolled to a fourth straight national title with an 82-51 victory. There was probably nothing any one player could have done to prevent the Huskies from winning that night, though Syracuse assistant coach Tammi Reiss let Elmore know that her presence could have helped.
“She texted me before the game, saying how she was wishing I was there to help them out,” Elmore recalled. “I wished them good luck and was hoping for the upset.”
While Elmore, who has been named the Register’s State Player of the Year, she won’t be suiting up for the hometown Huskies next season, she can relate to their dominance. Elmore has helped lead Capital Prep to a UConn-like four straight state titles. In fact, in Elmore’s four years at Capital Prep, the Trailblazers never lost to a team from Connecticut. They finished No. 1 in the Register’s final Top 10 poll the last four seasons.
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Capital Prep became just the third girls’ team to win four straight state titles (three in Class L, one in Class S) and the first since Southington from 1986-89.
“Each one had its own memories, they’re all special,” said Elmore. “I don’t take making it to the championship for granted. You work hard every year.”
Elmore had a huge hand in leading the Trailblazers to the record books. This season, the 5-foot-10 forward averaged 26.7 points, 15.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 3.7 steals and 3.5 blocked shots per game. For her career, she holds school records for points (2,233), rebounds (1,318), steals (389) and blocks (267).
Elmore broke the scoring record in Capital Prep’s 51-48 win over New London in the Class L title game at Mohegan Sun Arena (video, above). She needed four points going into the game to break the record and did so on her second jump shot. Teammate Angelique Rodriguez scored her 1,000th career point in that game, as well.
Now that her record-breaking high school career is over, however, Elmore is prepared for a whole new world in college. She said that Orange head coach Quentin Hillsman envisions her as a power forward/small forward who could help the team right away.
“He wants me to come in and be an impact player, get instant minutes,” Elmore reported, “and make sure when I do come in, I’m ready. There’s no time to catch up to anybody else. You’ve got to come in ready.”
Elmore said UConn showed some interest in her early in her high school career, but Hillman was one of the few head coaches to make direct contact with her early on in the process. That’s one of the main reasons she committed to the Orange in October, 2014.
“Normally, other college coaches would have assistants get to know me,” Elmore reported. “But Coach Q created that relationship early. I knew that he was interested in me and saw something in me that he wanted to help me further my career.”
But that wasn’t the only reason she chose Syracuse.
“I’m really close to my family,” Elmore said, “and Syracuse is four hours away, not too far for me to come home or for them to see me. And, they’re No. 1 in the country for my major, communications.”
Indeed, when Elmore’s basketball career is over, her dream is to work for ESPN.
“I want to travel, go to all the games like (ESPN women’s basketball analysts) Kara Lawson and Rebecca Lobo do, travel around the country, analyzing and things like that,” she said.
But first, she’ll embark on her college basketball career. And who knows? Maybe Desiree Elmore will help lead the up-and-coming Syracuse program to victory over UConn in a national championship game at some point over the next four years.