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By Randy York
When Connie Yori was in graduate school after a successful basketball playing career at Creighton, someone asked her about what she might consider a dream job out there in that cold, cruel world. Almost everyone’s choice as the 2010 National Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year in Nebraska’s second-to-last Big 12 Conference season, Yori gave a futuristic answer that has become a daily reality now. “I told them my dream job was to be a head women’s basketball coach in the Big Ten,” Yori told a Huskers Athletic Fund (HAF) Luncheon crowd Thursday at the Downtown Embassy Suites Hotel.
“I grew up in Iowa and watched a lot of Big Ten basketball and football,” Yori said, adding that she watched a lot of Big Eight basketball and football as well, but finds irony in seeing her dream come true. “I’m really excited personally to be in the Big Ten,” Yori said, mentioning tonight’s Big Ten home opener against Indiana and how comfortable she is with the way Nebraska’s style meshes with the requirements of playing in a physical league that demands strength and conditioning every bit as much as experience.
Before she made another major point in her keynote address at the sixth of nine HAF luncheon events in the 2011-12 season, Yori interjected a few short remarks about a series of unfortunate circumstances that has affected the men’s basketball program. With three of Doc Sadler’s potential starters on the bench with injuries, “that’s 60 percent of your starting lineup,” Yori pointed out before asking the proverbial question: How much would something like that impact other programs, including football?
Yori didn’t mention it, but she knows first-hand how injuries can take down a program in one fell swoop. Her Huskers went from 32-2 in 2009-10 to 13-18 a year later when she lost two players for the season to knee injuries, another that played with knee and foot injuries that required surgery, a fourth that played most of the season with a knee injury that required surgery and a fifth player that rarely practiced because of a foot injury.
Fortunately, unlike last season, Yori’s young No. 19 Huskers have been able to practice and play at full throttle the vast majority of this season. The Huskers have roared to a 12-1 start that includes three wins over ranked teams – USC at home and Florida State and Penn State on the road. Both Yori and Kaitlyn Burke, the senior guard that introduced her head coach, encouraged fans attending the luncheon to buy some women’s basketball tickets and see the Huskers play this season. In addition to Indiana, Nebraska plays Penn State, Minnesota and Iowa at home in January. In February, the Huskers host Michigan, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Ohio State. The 2012 schedule includes the Huskers’ first appearance in the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis March 1-4.
The seventh HAF Luncheon is set for Friday, Feb. 3, at the downtown Embassy Suites. Featured speakers will be Nebraska head baseball coach Darin Erstad, Husker head softball coach Rhonda Revelle and NU defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator John Papuchis. Interested fans can use this registration form to reserve seats at the Feb. 3 luncheon. Donors can sign up for the luncheon here.
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