Paige Sauer
Year: 1996 - 2000
Position: Center
Hometown: Fallon, NV

Paige Sauer was a Center for the UConn Huskies from 1996 – 2001. She was captain of the 2000 National Collegiate Athletic Association Championship Team, and was a member of two Elite Eight and one Sweet Sixteen teams. She also enjoyed four Big East Tournament Championships, and four Big East regular season titles. I had the pleasure of talking to Paige in July 2006, about her basketball memories and experiences as a player and coach.

Paige played a little of every sport until around junior high school when she realized the gift God had given her with her height of 5’ 11”, and she decided it was time to become serious about her basketball skills. Growing up in Nevada, not a state that was big on women’s basketball, Paige was offered by her godparents from Oklahoma, a state that did support women’s basketball, to live with them, go to high school, and play basketball with a good possibility of earning a college basketball scholarship. “My parents and I knew that I had an opportunity, and you just can’t pass up something that good.”

Soon Paige was enrolled at Carl Albert High School in Midwest City, Oklahoma where she became class president, and enjoyed winning a state basketball championship. “High school was awesome. It was the best decision my parents made for me.” Paige is a person that remembered more team memories than individual stats. “I think I scored the most points at Carl Albert High School. I’m not one to keep track of my records. I know we were good. I remember my teammates, and the relationships I made more than the actual games.”

The college recruiting process was overwhelming. “I was pretty much recruited by everyone. It came down to UConn and Tennessee as my final two schools. I just followed my heart, and picked UConn. I do remember that I wanted to pick a big school, and I knew I wanted to win a national championship.” Another criteria was a program that valued post players, and Paige felt it was evident that Coach Auriemma did through former players Kara Wolters and Rebecca Lobo.

The transition from high school to college was being on a team filled with high school All-Americans. Like high school, Paige focused on team stats rather individual stats. “I do remember we won a National Championship, and I do remember we won four Big East Championships and four Big East season titles.” Although her role on the team changed from times being the go-to person to times not getting off the bench, she remained a team player.

Leaving her family to go to college was not very difficult because she had already left her family when she went to high school. “When you play basketball, you have a family so I left one family, and went in to another family.”

Paige graduated from UConn with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology. She was drafted the 31st pick in the Women’s National Basketball Association to the Los Angeles Sparks, and later played with the Cleveland Rockers for a few seasons. During the off season Paige played on teams in Spain, France, Hungary and South Korea. “The WNBA experience was great, and I am forever grateful. I played with the best. There are only 12 teams, and 12 players per team, with approximately 140 players in the league representing the world and I was one of those players, it was an honor.” Paige also enjoyed her time playing basketball in Europe where she had the opportunity to learn their cultures, meet some great people, and see much of the world.

Paige’s next career move was into coaching, which she loves. “I was never the best player but I was smart with the game.” She became an assistant basketball coach at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut moving quickly up the ladder to the second assistant during her three years. Next came an opportunity to move to the west coast, closer to her family. “I totally value my family, and had been away from them for 12 years.” She wanted to move closer to Nevada to spend time with her parents, her sister who didn’t play basketball but was on the cross country team in college, and her twin brother Bryce who also was not a basketball player but is a three-handicap golfer. She accepted a position as top assistant, and head recruiting coordinator at the University of Northern Colorado where she is in her first season.

“The transition from player to coach is a lot of work. As a player you don’t realize that it’s not all about practice, games and performance. It’s an operation from uniforms to travel plans.” The University of Northern Colorado is part of the Blue Sky Conference, and Paige thinks they will do well. They have new athletic facilities, and the university is on board for the basketball team to be successful. They are building their basketball program which involves a lot of work particularly for the head recruiter. “Recruiting has to be one of the biggest aspects of the game because if you get a “game changer” it’s also a program changer. I think right now that is our biggest focus, to bring in someone that is going to get us to that next level.”

Paige believes UConn is going to the Final Four in the upcoming season, and could possibly win it. “They are always going too be in the Final Four or really close, and the reason is, Coach Auriemma is brilliant, and he gets good players.” Former UConn women basketball players don’t get together for an alumni game due to their various schedules, rather they always get together for Final Four weekend. “I say we have the closest alumni team in America, and that will be evident in September 2006 when many former players will be at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts to see Coach Auriemma inducted in the 2006 Hall of Fame class.”

Paige remembered a few things about Coach Auriemma, too. “I remember how he totally demands perfection, and he gets it, and how he is a brilliant x’s and o’s coach. He’s a great guy. He cares about you on the court but he also cares about you off the court, and that speaks volumes.”

Paige values the relationships she gained while at UConn, and the experiences she enjoyed with the elite basketball program there. “We had the best of everything. We were the best, and when you experience that, you know what it takes to be successful. I hope to take that, and apply it to my coaching experience.”