Why Windsor’s Brittany Huggins says star guard Ayanna Franks ‘might be the best player I’ll ever coach’

WINDSOR – Ayanna Franks is wearing what looks like a boxer’s championship belt, somewhat self-consciously. It’s what Windsor girls basketball coach Brittany Huggins gives the best player in practice to wear at school the next day, although for a high school kid it may not seem exactly like an honor to have to do that.

“I’m coming to school tomorrow – I’m going to pop in,” Huggins said. “She better have it on.”

“I’ll wear it,” Franks told her coach. “I have a lot of self-confidence.”

On the basketball court, Franks, who was one of four Connecticut girls named as McDonald’s All-American nominee this week, has plenty of self-confidence. She is averaging 29.5 points, 12.7 rebounds, four steals, two blocks and 1.8 assists per game for Windsor, which has struggled this year with a difficult early season schedule after going to the Class L semifinal last year. She will play for the University of Rhode Island next season.

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Franks scored a career-high 42 points in a 56-53 win over Southington Dec. 16 for the Warriors (3-6). She had 33 in an overtime loss to E.O. Smith Jan. 5 before fouling out, and had 26 against Class LL champion Hamden, another loss, on Dec. 29.

“What is special about her is she lets the game come to her,” E.O. Smith coach Mary Roickle said. “Instead of 3-point shots, she used her dribble drive to get pull up jumpers or finished the drive with layups.”

Roickle and her assistant coach Hunter Hamlin said Franks was the quickest player to get offensive rebounds they’d seen: she’d go up for the shot, miss, then go right back up to get the rebound before anyone else was even thinking about it yet.

Huggins won’t just say Franks is the best player she’s ever coached.

“I think I might say she’s the best player I’ll ever coach,” she said.

“We spend two days in practice just preparing for her,” Glastonbury coach Chris Vozzolo said. “We try to talk about it’s our entire team’s responsibility to guard her, basically. Ayanna’s just such a handful you have to prepare your whole team for her.

“Her speed and strength are next level. She gets to the hole, she gets to the free throw line, she can hit the 3. She’s also a complete menace defensively.”

Over the summer, Franks worked on her shot.

“I did shoot 3s, they just weren’t falling, and I wasn’t shooting enough in games,” Franks said. “Now I’m taking more shots. Everybody knew me as a driver, they would always say, ‘Oh, take a charge on 33.’ Now I elevated, I got my shot up and now it’s harder to guard.”

Franks started playing in second grade and by fourth grade, was playing with the middle school travel team.

“I did not like playing up,” she said. “I was afraid of playing against the girls who were bigger than me and taller than me, but I realize now that helped me a lot.”

Fun facts about Franks: she’s been playing the drums longer than she’s been playing basketball. She plays the snare drum in the Windsor marching band and the high school symphonic band. She’s a member of the National Honor Society; a high honor roll student. She also wears glasses but doesn’t play with them and she doesn’t like contacts.

“I don’t, I play blind,” she said, laughing. “I have contacts but every time I wear them, they get poked out.”

“Imagine she’s as good as she is with no glasses,” Huggins said.

“Next year, I’m going to have to get goggles,” Franks said. “Now I take my glasses off a few hours before the game so my eyes can adjust. I can see the clock and the basket fine. I can see everything when I’m on the court. But in school I have to wear glasses to see the board.”

Her father Aula was an excellent athlete at Bloomfield High. Franks is an only child; she tried many sports when she was younger, including gymnastics, which she didn’t like, but basketball stuck. She also runs track in the spring.

The season has been frustrating so far, especially after the success of last year, but Windsor has also played a very difficult schedule, including games against Class L champion E.O. Smith, Class LL champion Hamden, undefeated Holy Cross this week and Class LL semifinalist Newington, which the Warriors will face again Jan. 26.

“I didn’t expect us to have this record and start out really slowly, but I still always try to stay positive,” Franks said. “It’s still early.”