STORRS - After spending three years at Ohio State, it took Dorka Juhász maybe three days to realize things are different with the UConn women’s basketball team than at most anywhere else.
“Number one is the intensity, how we work out every day, how we come to the gym every day and everything has to be perfect,” Juhász said Tuesday as the Huskies met the media outside the Werth Champions Center. “Every day we push our limits. That was something that I was missing at Ohio State, being able to compete and being pushed hard.
“Obviously the coaches are going to be on our butts. There are no days off, which I love. My body had to adjust that first week because I wasn’t used to this high level of intensity. But as of Week 6 I’ve improved a lot, I can see it in myself. I’m looking forward to keep making progress in these next two months we have at home and come back ready to start the preseason.”
Juhász - a 6-foot-4 forward from Pecs, Hungary - announced her decision to come to UConn as a graduate transfer in April. The two-time Big Ten first-team selection earned her degree in psychology from Ohio State in three years and has two years of eligibility remaining.
The adjustment to life and basketball here has been easier thanks to her time in Columbus.
“It’s different because I do know what I’m going to go through,” Juhász said. “As a freshman it was a little bit harder to adjust to being in America and not at home in Hungary and starting over. I come here as a senior with three years of experience.
“Obviously it’s so different, the two programs. I know I have to compete every single day, do what it takes to get better every single day, and I focus on pushing myself. I have great teammates and a great staff around me here. They allowed me to just get through the first week. After I got more comfortable with my teammates it became fun. It was challenging on the court and in the weight room but a great experience. I love it so far.”
In 75 games for Ohio State, Juhász had 975 points and 722 rebounds. Two of those games were against UConn. Juhász had six points and three rebounds as a freshman in Ohio State’s 85-53 loss at Gampel Pavilion on Nov. 11, 2018. Then on Nov. 24, 2019, she had eight points and 11 rebounds in the Buckeyes’ 73-62 loss at Columbus.
She became the first player in Ohio State history to lead the team in scoring and rebounding as a freshman and sophomore. As a junior, she averaged 14.6 points - second to Jacy Sheldon’s 16.7 - and a team-best 11.1 rebounds in 30.2 minutes over 17 games. She shot 48.1 percent from the floor but slumped to 20.3 percent from 3-point land and 42.9 percent from the foul line.
In her time at Ohio State she did not play in the NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes would have qualified in 2020 but the event was canceled due to the pandemic. Last season they finished 13-7 (9-7 Big Ten) and were ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 throughout the campaign but did not take part in the conference or NCAA tournaments due to a self-imposed postseason ban.
When she entered the transfer portal and was contacted by UConn coach Geno Auriemma, the process moved quickly.
“With three years of experience I knew what I needed and what I was looking for,” Juhász said. “It was totally a basketball decision. I was looking for the best program that could give me the most to improve as a player and obviously UConn was at the top. It was an opportunity from talking to Coach Auriemma that I couldn’t say no to. I want to get better. I know they’re going to push me every single day to become the best player, person, teammate that I can be. This is the perfect spot for me.”
When the opportunity arose to transfer to UConn, Juhász spoke with Ohio State assistant coach Tamika (Williams) Jeter, who was part of two national championship teams at UConn before being selected by the Minnesota Lynx in the first round of the 2002 WNBA Draft.
Jeter, who left Ohio State to become the head coach at Wittenberg University in May, prepared Juhász well for what she would be getting into here.
“This is so close to her heart,” Juhász said. “When UConn reached out to me, obviously she didn’t say, ‘Hey, you should go there.’ But once it happened she was super-excited for me. Being at Ohio State and working with me, she knew that this was what I was looking for. I think she felt that I needed a little bit more. She said she’s going to come visit me so I’m looking forward to that.
“She told me some stories about what it was like in her time here. She knows that I handle that a lot. I was looking forward to working with the coaches here because I respect them a lot. I’m in great hands. When they’re telling me something like when I’m doing something wrong, I take it as, ‘Hey, they actually care about me. They want me to be the best player that I can be. They’re going to push me.’ Maybe Coach will take the ball from me because he didn’t like the way I jump-stopped or something. I’m frustrated, but he wants what’s best for me. That’s important.”
The 21-year-old Juhász has already made a strong impression on her new teammates.
“You can tell she's been doing this for awhile now,” UConn guard Paige Bueckers said. “She’s extremely tough. She kind of reminds me of Aaliyah Edwards in the way she plays - super, extremely hard and with maximum effort trying to do stuff on both sides of the ball. I like her game and I really like who she is off the court.”
“She’s so versatile, and off the court she’s so funny,” guard Nika Muhl added. “It’s just us Europeans. She’s going to be a great add-on for our team and will help us a lot.”
Juhász was scheduled to head home this weekend and will return in late August for the start of fall semester classes.
As the Huskies pursue a 14th straight NCAA Final Four appearance and 12th title overall, she wants to make a difference.
“I can be a vocal leader and a leader on and off the court,” Juhász said. “It’s a little different for me being on a new team. I want to get them to trust me, to see that every day I’ll push them hard and I’ll push myself hard. As the season nears I’ll need to step up.”