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Geno Auriemma not planning to have Aaliyah Edwards back at UConn next season

ROCKY HILL — Geno Auriemma, making his annual breakfast talk for the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, said he expects “only one” of his three seniors back.

Paige Bueckers has committed to returning for a fifth season, and Nika Muhl has made public her intention to move on. That leaves Aaliyah Edwards, the Huskies’ front court star, who has yet to announce her plans.

“I’m just guessing,” Auriemma said afterward. “Paige, she dropped a lot of little nuggets, but things change, you don’t know. Until the announcement is the announcement, that’s all you can do is just guess.”

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Bueckers had been telling Auriemma that she came to UConn to play four years and, because of injuries, had only played three. On Senior Night she announced to the crowd at Gampel Pavilion she would be back.

Muhl, from Croatia, and Edwards, from Canada, do not have the same opportunities to earn name-image-likeness income in college in the U.S. and both have played four full seasons for the Huskies. Edwards’ availability could shake up WNBA Draft projections.

“If they changed the rules, I bet you it would affect some of them,” Auriemma said. “They still have opportunities, just not as many and certainly not as varied where they can do it. Some kids, four years is a perfect amount of time. You always like to think, let’s take a kid like Aaliyah and Nika and ask, ‘what are your aspirations after college and how soon can you have those aspirations?’ For some kids, those opportunities come sooner than others. Someone like Nika is probably a second-round pick (in the WNBA Draft), but she is anxious to go back and play in Croatia after being here four years. Somebody like Aaliyah, at worst, will be in the top seven of the draft and her goals might be different than Nika.”

Edwards, 6 feet 3, has played 127 games for UConn, averaging 13.2 points and 7.4 rebounds. This season, with the team thinned by injuries, she is averaging 18.6 and 9.9. She had missed only one game her entire career until sustaining a broken nose in the Big East quarterfinals March 9 and missing the semifinals and finals.

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She has been recovering, and is again wearing the facemask she wore most of last season. Auriemma expects Edwards to be “100 percent ready to go” when the Huskies play Jackson State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Gampel Pavilion on Saturday at 1 p.m.

If Edwards does leave, UConn will have to replace her frontcourt presence on a team that will have Bueckers, with Azzi Fudd, Aubrey Griffin, Caroline Ducharme, Ayanna Patterson and Jana El Alfy recovered from their season-ending injuries. Ice Brady would be a redshirt sophomore next season. El Alfy, 6-5, with extensive international experience in her native Egypt, will be expected to have a major impact.