Saturday, June 18, 2016

'If he ever made it happen, it would be a movie'

Not too often I get to write a story that combines my two favorite sports, baseball and college basketball. But Tyler Olander provided me with that opportunity.

As you may know by now, Olander signed a contract with the Toronto Blue Jays and has been at the team's spring training complex in Dunedin, Florida for extended spring training the past couple of months (save for a quick jaunt back to Mansfield last weekend).

Olander has largely been rehabbing since he re-aggravated the broken foot injury that caused him to leave his Spanish pro basketball team last October, come home for surgery and embark on his latent baseball career.

Other than playing catch with Shabazz Napier so Napier could practice for his Fenway Park first pitch in April, 2014, Olander never went back to baseball during his college career. But he would often tell his four-year roommate and teammate, Niels Giffey, that he intended on trying his hand at baseball again one day.

Giffey was one of the first to congratulate him after Olander signed with the Blue Jays back in April. DeAndre Daniels offered his congratulations, as well.

We certainly wish him congratulations and good luck, as well. Will he be the next Randy Johnson? Of course not. He won't even be the next Scott Burrell. But could Olander be the next Mark Hendrickson? Hey, you never know.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

UConn will play Tulsa on the road, Tulane at home, everyone else twice

AAC opponent pairings were announced on Tuesday, and UConn will play every team twice except Tulsa and Tulane. The Huskies will face Tulsa on the road and Tulane at home.

With 11 teams in the league, every team must play two teams just once each season.

Also, it was announced officially that the AAC championship tourney will be held at the XL Center in Hartford March 9-12 (Thursday to Sunday).

The complete 2016-17 men's basketball schedule with dates and times will be announced at a later date.

American Men’s Basketball 2016-17 home and away pairings:

Play Only Home
Play Only Away
UCF
SMU
Tulane
Cincinnati
Memphis
East Carolina
UConn
Tulane
Tulsa
East Carolina
Cincinnati
Memphis
Houston
Temple
USF
Memphis
East Carolina
Cincinnati
USF
Houston
SMU
SMU
USF
UCF
Temple
Tulsa
Houston
Tulane
UCF
UConn
Tulsa
UConn
Temple

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Kevin Ollie's first "Kevin's Kourt" to open on Monday

Kevin Ollie will open his first wheelchair-accessible basketball court on Monday at the Boys & Girls Club of Hartford, as part of his "Kevin's Kourt" initiative.

Ollie, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, chairman Rodney Butler of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and others will participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony starting at 4 p.m. Instead of cutting down the nets (as Ollie did in 2014 as national champion coach) this ceremony will be about putting up nets.



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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Connecticut Select team needs your vote

Remember we told you about The Basketball Tournament, an ESPN-created event to be held this summer with a $2 million, winner-take-all pot? Well, a bunch of Connecticut natives, including former Yale forward Brandon Sherrod and New Haven playground legend Bobby Moore, are trying to qualify - and they need your vote.

Teams need to have at least 200 fan votes and seven eligible players on its roster to qualify for the 64-team tourney, and the local team -- named Connecticut Select -- needs more votes. Voting ends at noon on Wednesday and can be done at thetournament.com.

The Connecticut Select roster is listed below:

Bobby Moore 5-10 New Haven

Danny Lawhorn 5-10 Hartford

Julian Allen 6-5 Waterbury

Brandon Sherrod 6-7 Bridgeport

Roosevelt Lee 6-7 New Britain

Deitrick King 6-7 New Britain

Marcus James 6-7 Waterbury

Dale Saunders 6-8 Waterbury

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

UConn receives LOI from Christian Vital

UConn has received a national letter-of-intent from Christian Vital. Here's the press release the school sent out this afternoon:

The UConn men's basketball program has received a signed Letter of Intent from Christian Vital, a combination guard from Queens Village, N.Y., who will join the freshman class of 2016-17.

Vital, 6-2 and 170 pounds, averaged 16.2 points per game last season at St. Thomas More (Oakdale, Conn.), helping the Chancellors to a 31-7 record and the National Prep Championship finals.
Vital is known as a high-energy athlete, who can play either guard position, with an outstanding long range jumper, and is a solid defender. But UConn coach Kevin Ollie feels that he brings to the program much more than his basketball skills.

"Besides being a great basketball player with a great basketball mind, Christian is just an outstanding leader," Ollie said. "He has won wherever he's been. He's a great person who lifts your spirit when you're around him.

"Christian's ability to play both guard positions and his leadership qualities are what intrigued us. His combination of talent and character are what we're looking for in our student-athletes. We think he'll be a wonderful addition to the program."

Vital was a New England Prep School Athletic Conference Class AAA All-New England First-Team selection. He scored 13 points, including three three-pointers, and handed out seven assists in the Jordan Brand Classic Regional Game, in which he played with fellow UConn incoming recruit Mamadou Diarra.

"He may have improved more than any kid I've ever had here for two years," St.Thomas More coach Jere Quinn told the Norwich Bulletin. "He's such a hard worker. First to show up in the gym, last to leave --- that kind of kid."

Vital is also well-acquainted with more of his future UConn teammates. In 2014-15 at St. Thomas More, he was a teammate of UConn rising sophomore forward Steve Enoch, he played he played AAU ball with current UConn redshirt sophomore Terry Larrier, and knows UConn rising sophomore Jalen Adams from the AAU and NEPSAC circuits
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Vital joins UConn's highly-touted recruiting class which has been consistently rated among the top 10 in the country, including forward Diarra (Queens, N.Y.), guard Alterique Gilbert (Lithonia, Ga.), and forwards Vance Jackson (Altedena, Calif.), and Juwan Durham (Tampa, Fla.).

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Zach Brown, UConn part ways

Zach Brown, we hardly knew ye.

In what can hardly be called a surprise, Brown, the 7-foot center out of Miami, has de-committed from UConn. He and Kevin Ollie spoke on a conference call on Thursday afternoon and agreed it was what was best for both parties. There are no hard feelings, according to a source, it just wound up not being a good fit.

Brown, of course, committed to UConn in January and left his Miami home about a week later to enroll at Putnam Science Academy. He played a few games for PSA, but was involved in a postgame fracas in February and eventually released from the school.

He returned to Miami, made an ill-fated effort to return to Putnam, and eventually re-enrolled in his original high school, Miami Beach High. He's currently playing for the Nike South Beach EYBL team. One of his teammates is Chaundee Brown, a 6-5, Class of 2017 shooting guard who has been offered by UConn.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Vance Jackson excited about coming to Storrs; Kevin Ollie leaving?

Talked to Vance Jackson and his Prolific Prep coach, Billy McKnight, by phone the other night and wrote a story about how Jackson's role could be even bigger than originally anticipated next season, with the departure of Daniel Hamilton to the NBA.

No doubt, Jackson is excited to get to UConn. He's due to arrive on May 29 for summer courses, and plans to stay most of the summer.

Couple of interesting things: Jackson's prime recruiter was Karl Hobbs, who is now at Rutgers as associate head coach. One thing I neglected to mention in the article is that Jackson texts with Jalen Adams almost every day. The gist of those texts:

"We just talk about how excited we are for next year, and how we've got to come in and shock the world, because a lot of people are sleeping on UConn," Jackson said.

Also in the article, McKnight pointed out that Jackson struggled mid-season with his role on the team, and with the way shots were distributed on a team full of fellow D-1 players. Ultimately, Jackson figured it all out and ended the season with a flourish. McKnight said Jackson's biggest challenge as a freshman will be to find and accept whatever role he's asked to do in Kevin Ollie's offense.

Ah yes, Ollie. Didn't get a chance to ask Jackson or McKnight about the latest rumors that Ollie is interested in the Lakers' job, because the rumors hadn't quite surfaced yet when I spoke with the two. Plus, I highly doubt it's going to happen.

Sure, I've been told by someone within college basketball that one of the reasons Hobbs left UConn is because of the belief that Ollie will leave for the Lakers. Yes, it makes perfect sense that Ollie would want to return to his hometown of L.A. to coach one of the premiere franchises in all of sports -- particularly if he's given the autonomy he reportedly would like.

But I don't see it happening. Yet. He has a great recruiting class coming in. He has a daughter in high school in Connecticut and a son playing football at nearby Fordham. He's coaching the U18 national basketball team this summer. And plus, I don't see the Lakers giving Ollie everything he wants, or at least enough to lure him from so many of the things he loves.

Will UConn be Kevin Ollie's final coaching job? No. I don't believe it will be. But I strongly doubt that he'll be coaching the Los Angeles Lakers next season. He'll be coaching Vance Jackson & Co. at UConn.






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