Monday, March 30, 2015

Rakim Lubin transferring, could cost UConn APR points

Rakim Lubin is transferring from UConn, according to his mom on Twitter.




Lubin played sparingly in his one and only season with the Huskies. He missed a few games late in the season after suffering a concussion during a weight-lifting incident, and was suspended -- along with Omar Calhoun and walk-ons Dan Guest and Marcel Lewis -- for UConn's loss to West Virginia in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off championship game on Nov. 23.

But Lubin also showed some physicality and toughness that his fellow frontcourt players sometimes lacked. His best moments came in the AAC tournament, when he played a season-high 13 minutes in a win over Cincinnati and had three points and three rebounds in a loss to SMU.

Lubin wound up averaging 1.0 points and 1.2 rebounds per game.

He may also cost UConn an APR point when it's all said and done. Transfers must have at least a 2.6 grade-point average, or the school loses APR points.


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Ryan Boatright a 3-point contestant, but not an All-America honorable mention

A few quick items today:

Ryan Boatright will be competing in the 3-Point Shooting Championship out at Butler University in Indianapolis on Thursday night, during Final Four festivities. The contest will be broadcast on ESPN.

Boatright declined an invite to play in the All-Star Game as his shoulder heals. There is no structural damage to his shoulder, and it's getting better with rest, but he just didn't want to risk further injury.

*** As you likely know by now, Diamond Stone spurned UConn (and, more notably, his hometown Wisconsin) and chose to take his talents to Maryland. While UConn had seemingly been resigned to this for a while, the fact that the Milwaukee native didn't choose the Badgers but instead fellow Big Ten rival Maryland was a surprise.

UConn will still get to see him up close and personal on Dec. 8 at Madison Square Garden, when the Huskies and Terps square off in a Jimmy V Classic game.

*** The AP All-America teams were released today. No UConn player made even honorable mention. To make honorable mention, you must either have been conference player of the year or received at least two votes by AP writers.

Boatright got just one All-America vote.

First Team

Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin, 7-0, 242, senior, Lisle, Ill., 18.2 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.7 apg, 55.3 fg pct, 39.5 3-pt fg pct, 1.6 blocks (65 first-team votes, 325 total points).

Jahlil Okafor, Duke, 6-11, 270, freshman, Chicago, 17.7 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 66.9 fg pct (64, 323).

Jerian Grant, Notre Dame, 6-5, 204, senior, Bowie, Md., 16.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 6.6 apg, 1.7 steals, 36.6 minutes (53, 298).

Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky, 7-0, 240, junior, Olathe, Kan., 9.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.0 apg, 58.8 ft pct (45, 285).

D'Angelo Russell, Ohio State, 6-5, 180, freshman, Louisville, Ky., 19.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 5.1 apg, 41.5 3-pt fg pct, 1.6 steals (51, 282).<

Second Team

Delon Wright, Utah, 6-5, 190, senior, Los Angeles, 14.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 5.3 apg, 52.9 fg pct, 83.4 ft pct, 2.1 steals (15, 186).

Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky, 6-11, 250, freshman, Piscataway, N.J., 9.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 55.4 fg pct, 81.4 ft pct, 2.4 blocks (8, 139).

Seth Tuttle, Northern Iowa, 6-8, 240, senior, Sheffield, Iowa, 15.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 3.3 apg, 61.6 fg pct, (3, 139).

Bobby Portis, Arkansas, 6-11, 242, sophomore, Little Rock, Ark., 17.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 54.7 fg pct (2, 102).

Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia, 6-5, 215, junior, Atlanta, 13.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.5 apg, 87.1 ft pct (2, 98).<

Third Team

Buddy Hield, Oklahoma, 6-4, 212, junior, Freeport, Bahamas, 17.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 82.2 ft pct (3, 96).

Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga, 6-10, 240, junior, Portland, Ore., 16.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.9 apg, 53.6 fg pct, 46.6 3-pt fg pct (4, 93).

Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse, 6-9, 250, senior, Philadelphia, 17.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 55.2 fg pct, 2.5 blocks (74).

Georges Niang, Iowa State, 6-8, 230, junior, Methuen, Mass., 15.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.5 apg, 40.2 3-pt fg pct, 80.5 ft pct (1, 51).

Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga, 6-2, 182, senior, Holland Landing, Ontario, 11.5 ppg, 5.0 apg, 44.4 3-pt fg pct, 83.3 ft pct (1, 50).<

Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order)

Lawrence Alexander, North Dakota State; Justin Anderson, Virginia; Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova; Ron Baker, Wichita State; Jalen Cannon, St. Francis, Brooklyn; Karl Cochran, Wofford; Kyle Collinsworth, BYU; Quinn Cook, Duke (1 first-team vote).

Kris Dunn, Providence (1); Perry Ellis, Kansas (1); Rico Gathers, Baylor; Madarious Gibbs, Texas Southern; Anthony Gill, Virginia; Kendall Gray, Delaware State; Ty Greene, S.C.-Upstate; Olivier Hanlan, Boston College (1).

Montrezl Harrell, Louisville (1); Martez Harrison, UMKC; Tyler Harvey, Eastern Washington; Corey Hawkins, UC Davis; Tyler Haws, BYU; LaDontae Henton, Providence; Darrun Hilliard, Villanova; R.J. Hunter, Georgia State.

Stanley Johnson, Arizona (1); Tyus Jones, Duke; Tyler Kalinoski, Davidson; Tim Kempton, Lehigh; David Laury, Iona; Damon Lynn, NJIT; Derrick Marks, Boise State; Jerell Martin, LSU; T.J. McConnell, Arizona.

Mikh McKinney, Sacramento State; Nic Moore, SMU; Justin Moss, Buffalo; Saah Nimley, Charleston Southern; Cameron Payne, Murray State; Chasson Randle, Stanford; Justin Sears, Yale; Kenneth "Speedy" Smith, Louisiana Tech.

Keifer Sykes, Green Bay; Marcus Thornton, William & Mary; Melo Trimble, Maryland; Fred VanVleet, Wichita State (1); Thomas Walkup, Stephen F. Austin; Jameel Warney, Stony Brook; Dez Wells, Maryland; Joseph Young, Oregon (1).

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Bummed about UConn not being in this year's tourney? Have I got a book for you ...

Bummed out about UConn's season being over, while the NCAA tournament rages on? Well, I know of this book about last year's remarkable run to a national championship ...



You can find it at local bookstores, including Barnes & Noble, as well as online at amazon.com, and the University Press of New England's website.

Always great to talk to UConn radio analyst Wayne Norman, and had a chance to do so this morning on his WILI morning program. We talk about the book, what went into writing it, why I wrote it, etc., as well as some other nuggets from the 2013-14 season, this past season and the program's future (including conference affiliation).

Do take a listen, if you get a chance.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Daniel Hamilton's mom: "He's going back to (UConn)"

Been getting some emails (and some strange comments on the blog) about the prospects of Daniel Hamilton and Amida Brimah electing to leave UConn and take their chances at the 2015 NBA draft.

It appears UConn fans have nothing to worry about.

Brimah's legal guardian said late last week that Brimah isn't thinking at all about throwing his hat in the ring of the draft. And on Tuesday, I chatted with Daniel's mom, Karen, on the phone, and she told me that her son has no plans to enter this year's draft, either.

"He'll be going back to school," Karen said, matter-of-factly.

And yes, that means UConn, not another program.

"He's definitely happy," she continued. "He wants the opportunity to continue to get better. He wants to concentrate on his studies. Those are the types of things that we care about."

Hamilton, of course, lost his grandmother, Lucine Noble (Karen's mom), recently. It's been tough on him, especially being so far away from his Los Angeles home. It was a decline in Lucine's health a couple of years ago that precipitated Isaac, Daniel's older brother, to break his commitment from UTEP and play closer to home at UCLA.

Karen, who wasn't able to get out to a UConn game this year because of her mother's deteriorating health, has done her best to comfort Daniel from afar.

"We've been on the phone every night," Karen said. "I keep telling him, (take) one day at a time."

Karen added that Daniel wants to improve not only as a basketball player, but as a person -- something easier to do at college than playing professional basketball.

"It's the mental toughness and things you have to deal with," she said. "It's not just basketball, it's maturing. When you're in a college setting ... we're talking about the difference between going to school and being in the pros. You can do what you need to do and get better either way, but you can't get your college experience back."

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Steve Enoch honored, Amida Brimah likely staying, Richard Hamilton loving retirement (and deodorant)

A couple of things today:

*** UConn commit Steve Enoch was named the 2014-15 Gatorade Connecticut Boys Basketball Player of the Year. Enoch, from Norwalk, played this past season at St. Thomas More School.

The 6-foot-10, 235-pound senior forward averaged 15 points and 11 rebounds per game this past season, leading the Chancellors (29-9) to the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council Class AAA semifinals. The state’s No.1 recruit in the Class of 2015 as rated by the New England Recruiting Report, Enoch scored 18 points with seven rebounds in an 83-76, come-from-behind victory over Vermont Academy at the Spaulding Hoophall Classic in January.

Enoch has maintained a 3.27 GPA in the classroom. He has donated his time delivering meals and clothing to families in need and has volunteered as a tour guide for prospective students at his school.

“Steven Enoch possesses tremendous integrity and initiative,” said St. Thomas More head coach Jere Quinn. “He has had a wonderful season while playing in the strongest conference in the country. He will have a very successful career at UConn as a student and as an athlete.”

*** There apparently has been some scuttlebutt about potential UConn transfers, seemingly based on Kevin Ollie's postgame quotes on Wednesday night. While the quotes did raise a few eyebrows, especially since they started off unsolicited, I don't think there's a whole lot to them. For the most part, the "exit interviews" next week are standard operating procedure.

I spoke with Amida Brimah's legal guardian, Nana Baafi, on Friday, and he scoffed at the idea that Brimah might want to transfer.

"Nobody’s thought about anything like that at all. That stuff is not … I don’t know how that stuff got out there," he said.

What about the NBA? A veteran Eastern Conference scout told me the other day that both Brimah and Daniel Hamilton would "both, for sure, be drafted -- maybe high second-round picks. To say they're first-round guys? I wouldn't say that right now."

But Baafi doesn't think that will happen, either.

"Shoot, honestly I don’t know. I don’t think so. He just took a couple of days off, we haven't had that discussion at all. It's not on our minds. We're not even close to that at all."

Then, asked about this past season, Baafi said: "Next year will be better, I know that much for sure."

*** Had a chance to chat with Richard Hamilton on Friday. He's currently promoting the new Gillette clear gel product called Undefeated, which promises wetness protection and no odor for up to 48 hours.

"From a guy's perspective, as a dad and an athlete, you need something that's gonna last you 1-2 days," he said. "Especially out in the sun."

Here's  the story I wrote for the Register, in which he talks retirement, his greatest memory as a player, and why UConn is the "best campus in the world," and here are a few leftover quotes:


(on who he likes in the NCAA tournament)

"I think Wisconsin. The only reason why I say that, you have to be lucky to win. You have to have a great team, but also be lucky. (Kentucky is) young. They don’t have guys on the team that have been in college four years, so when there's adversity, how do you handle when stuff ain’t going right for you? Are you gonna go out on your own, or stay in team concept? But also, they've got a great coach in Coach Cal, so ..."

(would he ever get into coaching?)

"You never know. One thing I love is being an analyst, doing work with NBATV, ESPN. I'm excited about doing that.


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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Is UConn trying to build a recruiting pipeline through Vermont?

UConn has bagged a few big-time recruits since Kevin Ollie took over the head coaching reins.

Daniel Hamilton was a national Top 25 recruit, as is Jalen Adams. Amida Brimah has proven to be a bit of a diamond-in-the-rough (his late-season play notwithstanding), and Steve Enoch appears to be better than some originally thought.

Still, the Huskies haven't exactly burned up the recruiting trails since their national title. They've lost out on numerous recruits, and while they're in on many of them and obviously can't get them all, it's a bit surprising that they haven't landed more.

It appears one of UConn's new recruiting pastures sits up in southern Vermont. Three of the Huskies' top targets play for Alex Popp up at Vermont Academy: Bruce Brown, a Class of 2016 (for now) combo guard; Tyrique Jones, a Class of 2016 power forward who hails from Bloomfield; and Samuel Mathias, 6-11 1/2 center from the Class of 2017.

UConn has offered all three players -- two of them (Jones and Mathias) in the same day. In fact, Kevin Ollie extended his offer to Mathias on the same day that Mathias went up against Enoch and St. Thomas More back in January.

It'll be interesting to see if UConn and Vermont Academy can establish a recruiting relationship. Popp was recruited as a player by Glen Miller when Miller coached at Brown, and he has known Miller and Karl Hobbs for several years and got to know Ollie out on the recruiting trails while he was an assistant at Holy Cross and thinks "very highly" of the Huskies' head coach.

"The opportunity to cultivate a great relationship with Vermont Academy makes a lot of sense," Popp said of UConn. "Say they miss on two of these three, or even three of three. We're gonna have a lot of great players coming forward. You're gonna go out and get other guys that can play at that level. Both parties are hoping the relationship can grow."

Here's a look at the three current VA players that UConn is recruiting:

BRUCE BROWN

"He's a leader, a guy who doesn't take days off," Popp said. "That translates to basketball."

Popp added that Brown, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound guard, is a multi-dimensional talent.



"We try to emphasize versatility in our program. We put him on the ball, off the ball. Defensively, ini a league where every team has rosters full of Division 1 players, he would guard four different positions in the span of a game. If LeBron James doesn't have a position, why do our guys have a position. He's somebody who really thrives at that."

Popp noted that Brown is very athletic, as well.

"He's explosive, both laterally and vertically," the coach said. "Combine that with his strength. He's a football player, with a football players' mentality. A lot of people compare him to Russell Westbrook. He just kind of overpowers the opposition."

Unprompted, Popp said that Brown would make a great backcourt mate with Jalen Adams.

"He's a power guard, he really is," the coach continued. "Looking at Jalen Adams, it's hard to ignore that. Put the two of them in the same backcourt, it would be special."

Popp said that Indiana, Iowa State, Michigan, Arizona State, UMass, VCU and UConn are working the hardest on him right now. IU's Tom Crean has been the most present of all the coaches. 

Brown hails from Boston, though his mom recently moved to Georgia. There has been lots of talk that Brown will re-classify to the Class of 2015, but Popp had no comment on that and, as of now, Brown is still '16.

"The best way I could describe Bruce Brown is he's a winner," Popp summed up. "If you're a college basketball coach, that's what puts food on your table. He's a winner. He's constant with it. It's not, 'I'm gonna mail it in today, coach, because we don't play in four days.' It doesn't matter if it's a simple drill, he wants to win every single drill in practice. It's remarkable how contagious that is when you have a guy who's as talented as Bruce Brown, because everyone in your program falls in line."


TYRIQUE JONES:

Jones is a 6-8, 240-pound jumping jack from Bloomfield.

"He grew up a big-time UConn fan," said Popp, "so they have that going for them, no doubt about it. That was his squad growing up."

Popp added that noted recruiting analyst Adam Finklestein recently named Jones the best rebounder of the Class of 2016.



"I spent time as a D-1 coach," Popp said. "For me, if you're not emphasizing rebounding in your recruiting, you're doing it wrong. Rebounding not only wins games, it wins championships at this level. He's very much a target."

Popp added that Jones has a "nose for the ball. He does a great job of winning all those 50-50's. He rebounds out of his area, above the rim. He's an underrated passer."

SAMUEL JAPHET-MATHIAS

At 6-11 1/2, 290 pounds, Mathias is a raw 16-year-old who has excellent hands and feet.


"He's a little bit of a dying breed," said Popp. "You don't have a lot of those positional, back-to-the-basket guys anymore. He knows what to do with it when the ball gets on the block."

Mathias was born in Nigeria and grew up in London. Ollie and Hobbs saw him play in some preseason open gyms and offered a scholarship after he went for 16 points and nine rebounds against St. Thomas More.

"In that game, he showed off an array of skills," said Popp. "He scored the ball on the block, pick and popped, scored with both hands, got a tip dunk. It was pretty obvious he could help UConn right away."

Of course, the Huskies would have to wait a couple of years, as the big kid is Class of 2017.

Whether UConn winds up with any of these players remains to be seen. But Popp is confident that any team that could get all three would be in very good shape.'

"You get those three guys," the coach said, "you're gonna win some national championships."


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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Ryan Boatright on his injury, future; Kevin Ollie on Boatright, Amida Brimah, and who wants to return next season

It's over.

We'll have a postmortem on this most frustrating UConn season some time tomorrow. As for now, digest some of these interesting postgame quotes:

RYAN BOATRIGHT:

(on whether he would have played had it been an NCAA tournament game)



Don't diss him, folks. Boatright made the right decision concerning his future. Really, it was the only decision.

More:

“It’s my last year. There’s no way. If I told you I wouldn’t (play if it was an NCAA tourney game), I’d be lying to you. But it wasn’t the NCAA tournament. Speaking with everybody that I need to speak to -- the coach, the trainers, the doctors and stuff -- they came up with the decision that I need to sit down. All I can do is honor that.”

Boatright said his shoulder injury has something to do with his rotator cuff, and that he'll likely have an MRI on Thursday.

“It was extremely tough. I was contemplating five minutes in if I wanted to go in there and throw my uniform on. It was rough. But I had belief in my team, I really thought we were gonna pull that game out. It sums up the season, man. Just inconsistent. We just need to get better, period, in all forms of the game.”

(on moving on to the next level)

“Just taking care of what I can control going into this process. I know it’s a long process, but it’s something I’ve been waiting for my entire life. It’s something I’m going to continue to work for, before and throughout the process. I’m just gonna control what I can control, which is my play. Hopefully, somebody believes in me and gives me the opportunity.”

KEVIN OLLIE:

“It just shows kind of our whole season -- the inconsistencies we’ve had. From the first half to the second half, I thought our guys really came out and played, started really executing and finding the open man. (But) we’ve got to do a better job as a coaching staff and as players to really fix that next year, because to be a good team, you can’t have inconsistencies as much as we had this year.”

(on the season as a whole)

“Fellas, we lost four games within 10 seconds. I mean, it’s not like we're in a damn pit. Ten seconds go our way, we’re gonna be in the NCAA tournament. I’m just gonna be real with you. There were a lot of games we lost at the end. I’m not crying over spilled milk, it is what it is. It’s a fine line. Those are the inches you’ve got to fight for as a coaching staff, as a program. I mean, it’s right there. It’s a fine line from being in the NCAA tournament or not in the NCAA touranment. ANd it’s a great life lesson I can teach the kids, too. You’ve got to value every game, every possession.”

Then there were these somewhat cryptic words:

“Whoever’s coming back, they’re gonna understand that we have a mission in mind. We’re gonna take the guys that want to be here, that are gonna fulfill that mission going forward.”

Asked if he's expecting transfers, Ollie replied: “I have no idea. I’m gonna have exit meetings next week, my door is gonna be wide-open. They can tell me their concerns, if they want to be here or not. If they want to transfer, I can’t stop them ... Hopefully everybody comes back. But, if not, we’ll keep moving on as a program.”

“I always have an open-door policy, with anybody. That’s the kind of relationship I want to have with my student-athletes.”

(on Boatright's chances in the NBA)

“It just takes one person in the NBA to love you. It doesn’t take all 30 teams, just one general manager, one person that believes in him. I think he really established himself as a better shooter this year. If you’re gonna be that small, at 5-9 -- he claims that he’s 6-feet, so we’re gonna say 6 feet -- he has to be able to shoot the basketball. I think he really worked on that this year, really shooting the ball at a high pace. And it wasn’t like he was just sitting in the corner. I mean, he had three people on him sometimes, and he still shot the ball at a high rate from the 3-point line.”

“He still has to work on body language and things like that. When you’re stuck in the NBA locker room, you have 30-year-olds, 32-year-olds, that you have to gain their respect. Not by talking, by working. I think he’s gonna do that from Day One. Hopefully, he’s in a position to do that on a day-to-day basis, because I know that kid wants it. He works so hard. Many times I try to sit him down, (he says) ‘No, coach, I want to work for my guys, get out here and practicre.’ I just wish the best for him. Because if he gets in a situation and it’s a dogfight, I’ll put my money on Boat.”

(on Amida Brimah, who played just three minutes in the second half and wound up without a point or a rebound for the game)

“He wasn’t banged up. Amida’s got to get better.”

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