Friday, October 17, 2014

Some sights and sounds from UConn's First night

A few sights and sounds from First Night:

Omar Calhoun went 3-for-6 from the floor to finish with six points. He also looks markedly slimmer than he did a year ago, and while he hasn't lost weight (still at about 205 lbs.), he's toned up and looks good and refreshed. And that's a good sign for UConn.

*** Amida Brimah looked good, scoring 10 points and blocking Rodney Purvis here ...:



... as well as at the end of the game on Purvis's shot attempt in the waning seconds, preserving the win for Brimah's "Team Geno." Brimah scored the first points of the night on a nice, low post turnaround. If he can hit that shot consistently -- watch out.

Having said that, you really shouldn't take much from the scrimmage. This may come across as sexist, but when you're playing in a co-ed game, you're not really going to show all our true skills.

*** This didn't come out very well, but trust us, it's the unveiling of the 2014 men's national championship banner:



It was rollicking at Gampel prior to First Night festivities on Friday:


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A look at UConn's new basketball facility

The media got a tour of UConn's new practice facility this afternoon. The $39 million project isn't completely done yet -- they've raised $33.5 million thus far -- but the academic, training and weight rooms are complete, as well as the men's and women's gyms. Really a beautiful new facility. (Interesting to note: Jim Calhoun's got his own office in there, as well).

Here's some video and pictures from today's tour:

The men's practice gym:



The men's locker room:



Here's the Ray Allen mural adorning one of the inside walls:


Here's a view of the stadium-style seats inside the team's film room:


And here's a list of former players who have donated to the new practice facility, including Kevin Ollie and Steve Pikiell, along with several former women's stars:


The shared academic room, where players can study:



Thursday, October 16, 2014

A list of some expected attendees at UConn's First Night festivities

Here's a list of some of the recruits expected at UConn's First Night festivities on Friday:

Jalen Adams: 2015 point guard out of Brewster Academy via Roxbury, Massachusetts. Committed to the Huskies in late June. Hard to think of a more perfect fit for the UConn program. 

Steve Enoch, 2015 power forward out of St. Thomas More, via Norwalk. Committed to UConn last month. An up-and-coming, 6-foot-9 talent who really blew up early in the summer on the AAU circuit.

V.J. King, a 6-7 2016 small forward out of Fairfax, Virginia, who is rated the No. 19 overall prospect in his class by rivals.com.

Mamadou Diarra, a 6-foot-8, 225-pound 2016 power forward out of Putnam Science Academy. Seems to have been attracting largely mid-major interest to this point.

Hamidou Diallo, Diarra's Putnam Science Academy teammate and a 6-foot-4, 2017 shooting guard.

Tremont Waters: 2017 point guard out of South Kent School. A New Haven native, not much more to say about him that hasn't already been said in this space.

Nate Pierre-Louis: Another 2017 point guard who hails from Jersey City, New Jersey and plays at St. Benedict's. 

Nazreon Reid, a 6-9, 2018 power forward out of New Jersey's Roselle Catholic -- same school attended by Isaiah Briscoe.


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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

UConn readies for First Night festivities

UConn will hold its annual First Night festivities on Friday, as the 2014-15 season officially kicks off. Or unofficially ... the Huskies have, after all, been practicing since Oct. 4.

Anyway, should be a fun night at Gampel Pavilion. Just like last year, in lieu of a slam dunk competition there will be a co-ed scrimmage between Team Kevin and Team Geno, with each team featuring members of the men's and women's teams. Also, the national championship banners for both the men's and women's teams will be unveiled. Here's a schedule of the night's events:

3 p.m. - Fan Fest on Fairfield Way
5 p.m. - Doors Open
5:30 p.m. - 6:30 PM- Autograph Session
6 p.m. - Pre-event begins
7 p.m. - Showtime

Indeed, Friday is all about UConn's championship past intertwining with its promising future. After the Huskies unfurl their championship banners and put an official stamp on their 2013-14 season, it's all about the present -- and the future -- going forward. 

For one, UConn will hold a media tour of its new basketball practice facility on Friday at 2:15 p.m. Then, from 4-6 p.m., there will be an official dedication and a special naming announcement of the new facility. In other words, we get to see who the biggest donor towards the facility is. (Don't forget, Kevin Ollie donated $100,000 toward the facility two years ago).

Meanwhile, as always, UConn will have some special guests at the First Night festivities. Among them are expected to be recent commits Jalen Adams and Steve Enoch, along with New Haven's Tremont Waters, a Class of 2017 point guard up at South Kent School.



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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Kevin Ollie, Geno Auriemma talk the talk at Oakdale Theater

Kevin Ollie and Geno Auriemma entertained a crowd of about 450 at the Oakdale Theater on Tuesday night. (First time I've been to the Oakdale, by the way, though I hear the acoustics are good for concerts. May have to make a point of coming back).

Anyway, here's a little of what Ollie had to say:



“We’re gonna have good chemistry. That’s what we work on, first and foremost. Then, everything else follows after that. We’re just trying to build them up from the neck up, then we’ll worry about the neck down. It starts with mental toughness, because that’s what it takes to be a champion. We want to win a championship every day. If they can do that, ultimately we’ll be where we need to be at the end of the season.”

(comparing Ryan Boatright to his point guard predecessors)

“They’re loyal to the program: Kemba was loyal, Shabazz was loyal, and Ryan is real loyal to the program and wanting to see the program succeed. When you have that common thread between the three of them, they all want to see UConn be the best university it possibly can be.”

Ollie said that the team has mostly been practicing in its new facility, and had its first scrimmage on Saturday. He said the team is healthy and ready to go, though Ryan Boatright and Amida Brimah have each sat out a few practices with foot soreness lately. Not a big deal, it seems.

Speaking of the new facility, its official dedication ceremony will be held on Friday from 4-6 p.m., prior to First Night festivities. New Haven's own Tremont Waters, as well as UConn commits Steve Enoch, Jalen Adams are expected to be in attendance at First Night.

So on Friday, just before the Huskies put an official exclamation point on their incredible 2013-14 season with the unfurling of dual championship banners at First Night, the program will unveil the symbol of its positive future, as well.







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Monday, October 6, 2014

Isaiah Briscoe decision could come "soon"

Sounds like Isaiah Briscoe could be making his collegiate decision sooner than originally thought. He had said over the summer that he'd likely wait until the spring to make his choice, but now is saying that his decision could come "soon."

And it sounds like UConn and Kentucky are the two front-runners.

Briscoe, a point guard out of Roselle Catholic in New Jersey, visited both schools recently. He speaks glowingly of Kevin Ollie and his entire UConn visit, and while it's impossible to know how much of a factor this will play, it's worth noting that Jim Salmon, Briscoe's New Jersey Playaz AAU coach, coached Kevin Freeman for a season at Paterson Catholic and thinks the world of Freeman.

Elsewhere, it appears UConn is already in on one of the top big men from the Class of 2018, Marvin Bagley III, a 6-foot-10 center from Tempe, Arizona.









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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Notes, quotes and video from UConn's first practice of 2014

As usual, UConn's first practice of the season consisted mostly of running, running and more running. The Huskies started practice in Guyer, doing almost nothing but running, then finished the last hour or so in Gampel Pavilion. There, we saw some very spirited box-out/rebounding drills.

At one point, Kevin Ollie shouted at freshman Rakim Lubin, telling him, "The only way you're gonna play is to get some rebounds!"

“He thought I was going too soft against my teammates," Lubin explained afterwards. "But I didn’t want to hurt anybody. Once he told me if I don’t go harder against my teammates I was gonna have to run, I had to get in there and get rebounds.”

In all, Lubin came out of his first UConn practice pretty well.

“Rebounding drill’s not too tough," the 6-foot-8, 265-pound frosh said. "I was able to get my three and get out of there every time. The rest of those guys, it looked pretty tough.”

“He got through it pretty well," said Ollie. "He used his physicality, played very well, played hard. He got winded a couple of times, like everybody did, but he didn’t give in or quit. That’s a good mark for a UConn basketball player, when he has that will.”

Said Ryan Boatright: “Rock surprised a lot of us. He worked extremely hard.”

Another frosh, Daniel Hamilton, had an impressive battle with 7-foot Amida Brimah, grabbing several boards and getting his entire team to cheer wildly for him. After that sequence, however, Hamilton looked pretty gassed and could seemingly barely move for a few moments.

A tough first practice, as always -- particularly for the freshmen and newcomers. But overall, a good one. Here's some of what the Huskies had to say afterwards:

Ollie:



Boatright says running and getting out on the fast break is a key emphasis this season:



Not surprisingly, Sam Cassell, Jr. said he's never been on a team with so much talent in the backcourt.



Ollie:

“We want to be a better fast-breaking team than we were last year. We want to get more easy buckets. We can’t have Shabazz bailing us out with 35-footers at the end of the shot clock. We want to definitely run a little bit more, get our athletes out in space where they can create for themselves and for others.”

(can team be a strong perimeter-shooting group again)

“I hope so. They’ve got to work. We lost a lot of great shooters, everybody knows that. DeAndre and Neils and Shabazz were our three best 3-point shooters and those guys are gone. We’ve definitely got to have some people step up. I like my team, I like how hard they’re playing, I like how they compete. Hopefully Amida establishes himself in the low post more so we can go down low. Phil, we can go down low, Rock and Kentan -- all those guys got better. So, hopefully it gives me an option to do that a little bit more.”

(on competition for playing time)

“Coach (Calhoun) used to bring a different point guard in every year. You learn from the best.”

“My dream is to have four guys who can get it off the backboard, push it and be a point guard. That’s what I’m recruiting for ... Let’s go, let’s push it, let’s play fast-break basketball. I don’t want to call a lot of plays. I can if we need to ... but I want us to use our athleticism.”

BOATRIGHT:

“It was probably one of the hardest practices a lot of these guys have ever been to. Everybody went hard, and we got better today.”

SAM CASSELL, JR.

(on competition among guards)

“It’s a good thing. All our guards are different, we all play different. It’s gonna help me in practice, because I have to guard these guys -- some of the best guards in the country. So, in the game, it’ll be easier for me.”

OMAR CALHOUN:

“(Ollie) wants me to be a leader, help them develop. He knows me as a vet and understanding what it takes to be a champion, that I’ll be able to help everytone, as well as me being able to be explosive on offense and challenge people defensively. He wants me to keep working, challenging myself, and not taking plays off. I feel like that’s embedded in me. We kind of have the same mindset coming into he season.”

“I can definitely shoot the ball, everyone knows that. I’ve been working on that, as well as every other part of my game. I should be able to do more than hit 3’s -- hit mid-range shots, find people, finish at the rim and affect games defensively, as well.”

LUBIN:

“It was a real tough practice, but we were prepared for it all preseason, so I was able to get through it ... I knew what to expect coming into it. I didn’t see the weight vests, we just saw the weight vests this year. But it was fun.”

RODNEY PURVIS:

“We have a lot of guards with different dimensions to our game. We can always switch things up. Sam is a pretty good shooter, me and Terrence are pretty much fast guards along with Boat. Speeding the game up and getting guys involved for open shots and things like that, we’ll be pretty good. Omar’s shooting the ball really, really well. We’ll be fine.”

“I know for a fact, there’s not many teams that really have a genuine love and care for each other as much as we do. We really want to show that each and every day. Even if you guys weren’t in here, we still would’ve been in here picking guys up, because that’s what we do. We take that back to our apartment, in the locker room, everywhere.”

“Guys don’t have to play 30, 40 minutes a game. We’ve got a lot of different guys who do different things. We can switch the game up a lot. Competition for playing time, that’s really not a huge issue, because we’re all on the same team and we have one goal: to win games. Whoever’s rolling that day, we’ve just got to go with that.”

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