Friday, April 17, 2015

Incoming UConn recruits Jalen Adams, Steve Enoch impressive at Jordan Brand Classic

Hit the Barclays Center Friday night for the Jordan Brand Classic regional all-star game, in which Jalen Adams and Steve Enoch participated. It's hard to gauge a whole lot from these defense-optional games (final score, Adams' Black Team 125, Enoch's White Team 112), but let's just say both incoming UConn recruits were quite impressive.


Adams poured in a team-high 27 points on 12-for-17 shooting, grabbed four rebounds, doled out five assists against three turnovers and had a pair of steals and even a block. He was named his team's MVP.

Enoch, meanwhile, looked skilled, athletic and active, finishing with 15 points, nine boards and a block in 28 minutes.

We'll have a feature on Enoch posted here in a bit. Here's what each had to say afterwards:

ENOCH:



(on friendship with Andre Drummond)

“I see him when I see him. I know he has a whole season, he’s always busy and stuff like that. I always thank him for whatever he gives me.”

“Great influence, I look up to him. He motivates me, because a lot of people didn’t believe in him. To see him work hard now, be the beast he is right now, that’s motivation for me.”

(on going to UConn, which he'll do in June)

“I can’t wait to get up there and face the new challenges. You face new challenges in life all the time. I just can’t wait to see what’s in store for me.”

(advice he's received from Kevin Ollie)

“He said, just keep working hard. Coach Ollie said every time he sees me, I’ve improved in some area -- working hard-wise, he sees improvement every time he sees me.”

(on Jalen Adams)

“I think he’ll have a lot of responsibility on his shoulders coming in. But, at the same time, he has a lot of help because he has a lot of good, hard-working guards that know how to handle the ball. They’re experienced at the college level, so he’ll have a lot of help. But I think he’ll do just fine.”

“I didn’t really watch college ball or look into it too much. I just knew I wanted to go (to UConn).”

ADAMS



“Coach (Jason) Smith and Coach Lee, they got me in the weight room, eating healthy, just working out. Working out up at Brewster, I feel is a lot different than a lot of other high schools. We have seven high-major kids who are going to Top 25 schools, and the kids who aren’t committed, they’re still really good. Just competing with those kids every day, it gets you ready.”

(on being Enoch's teammate after playing against him three times this past winter in prep, and again on Friday night)

“I can’t wait. I think Steve’s really good. He protects the rim, and he’s getting a little back to the basket (game), and he can step out and shoot the 3’s. I think he’s really good. I like him a lot.”

(Adams has beaten Enoch all four times. Does he remind him of that?)

“Of course. We text a lot.”

(on what he expects from himself next season at UConn)

“Hopefully becoming a vocal leader on the court and off the court.”

“He thinks I’ll fit in pretty well. But he just wants me to come in and learn and get better and be a leader.”

“Just seeing how Shabazz is from my neighborhood, seeing what he did, now he’s on the Miami Heat. That just makes the dream more real.”



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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Daniel Hamilton: Leaving UConn "never crossed my mind"

It was Husky Day at the State Capitol today. Most of the members of the UConn men's and women's basketball teams were there -- no Ryan Boatright, but just about everyone else there, including coaches Kevin Ollie and Geno Auriemma.

One reporter's daughter even got a whole bunch of autographs, including Geno's.

(Oh, and if you're in the Southington area tonight around 6:30, stop by the Southington Public Library, where I'll be doing a book signing and discussion of Rebound!).

Anyway, here's some of what Daniel Hamilton and Ollie had to say:

HAMILTON:

(on rumors he might be leaving the program)

“I never had any thoughts. I had a sitdown with Coach Ollie, and we talked about the season during the exit meeting. Everything was good. I’m excited to be coming back.”

“He said I’ve got to shoot the ball better, and just getting to where I wanted to go, not forcing shots, not taking ill-advised shots.”

“It never crossed my mind. I know there were some rumors out there saying I might leave, but there was no thought of me going. Especially after the year that we had, I want to come back and do even better things next year. I wasn’t satisfied with the year we had as a team. Next year, I want to come back and be better than we were this year.”

“I knew my grandma’s been sick the last couple of years. I was always talking to her, she was always watching my games. She was just proud of me throughout the whole year.”

(on watching his brother, Isaac, help UCLA make a run to the Sweet Sixteen)

“Them making the Sweet 16, it was definitely fun. I was supporting them the whole way.”

“Not jealous, I was happy for him. I was excited for him.”

OLLIE:

(on Duke winning the title)

“They definitely deserved it. Coach K is a wonderful coach.”

(on recruiting focuses)

“We’ve got a couple of players that we’re looking (at). We’re just trying to add some spots. My job is to evaluate the program ... We have a couple that’s right on the brink, and hopefully we’ll get some good news here soon.”

(on any possible transfers)

“No one came in my office yet. It’s always an open door. I’m not telling them to come in the office. If they decide to come in and decide to go somewhere else, I can’t hold them back, I can just give my opinion on going forward. Hopefully, everybody stays and we can add on some compliments to these guys we’ve got now.”

“We just had our regular exit meetings. I gave them my expectations of them. went over the stats with them, just the standards that we uphold here at UConn. It was a character-building season for us, for me as a coach. We’ve got to get better. I think everybody has that desire, to get better.”

(on how Ollie can get better as a coach)

“Everything -- management of the team, getting them in better positions. I can always improve on everything. It’s not just one thing. I’ve got to get these guys better. We all fell short. We’re all UConn, and we’d like to get to the tournament. It’s a fine line between good and bad. We lost a lot of close games. You look back at those situations, I could have done things better, players could have made shots. We’re all in this together. It’s not one thing.”

(on recent college coaching changes)

“I was happy for Dave (Leitao), and to see Shaka (Smart) move to Texas. Some great acquisitions there, but also some great coaches that got their walking papers, which is unfortunate, too.”

(on Steve Enoch)

Every time I see Steve, he’s getting bigger, he’s getting better, he’s performing very well, he’s rebounding the ball. He’s got a chip on his shoulder every time I see him. I think he’s gonna be a phenomonal basketball player for us. He’s gonna be a serviceable big man coming in his freshman year, getting to lear from Amida, Kentan and Phil on how to conduct yourself as a UConn basketball player. I see a lot of potential in him. Now, that potential’s got to turn into skill. And that just depends on how hard he’s gonna work. What I see from him, I don’t see where that pattern’s gonna stop. Every time I see him, he’s adding something to his offensive repertoire, defensive rebounding -- doing things we lacked a little bit last year.”

(on Jalen Adams)

“Jalen Adams is gonna be an instant player for us that’s gonna really impact the game instantly. He can do so much stuff off the bounce, he’s very athletic. A lot of people don’t know how good a passer he is. I’m just gonna weigh on him to come in and do the different things we know he can do. But, athletically, ball-handling, pushing the ball -- those are his strengths. I’m gonna try to display that every single day, give him a platform where he can go out there and show his God-given talents. And God has given him a lot.”

Apparently, Adams may not play in Friday's Jordan Brand Classic regional game at Barclays Center. Nothing's official as of now, however. Doesn't sound like an injury or anything, just a possible conflict of some sort.


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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Taking stock of just how impressive UConn's national championship success has been

Watching Duke win its fifth national championship Monday night and move ahead of UConn on the all-time national-title list got me to thinking of one thing: just how remarkable UConn's four national titles in a 16-season span really was.

Now, I'm not a UConn fan. Didn't grow up as one and, now as a beat writer, I try to be as objective as possible in covering the team. But it's hard not to be impressed by what the program has accomplished, with national titles in 1999, 2004, 2011 and 2014 (and let's not forget a trip to the Final Four in 2009, as well).

Think about it. Only five programs have won more national titles than UConn: UCLA with 12, Kentucky with eight, and North Carolina, Indiana and now Duke with five. But it's taken Duke 25 seasons to win its five; it had won four in a 20-season span. Indiana's span of championships stretches from 1940 to 1987 -- 48 seasons. The Hoosiers best stretch was three titles in 12 seasons (1976-1987).

North Carolina won two titles in five seasons but its best four-title stretch spanned 28 seasons. Remember, before winning in 1982 with a roster stacked with Michael Jordan, James Worthy and Sam Perkins, Dean Smith had the reputation as a coach who could never win the big one.

Kentucky once won three titles in four seasons (1948, '49 and '51) and four in 11 seasons ('48, '49, '51 and '58) but that was an entirely different era -- one in which famed coach Adolph Rupp never recruited a black player. In the more modern era (let's say post-1966, in which Texas Western's all-black starting five beat Rupp's Wildcats for the title), UK never won four titles in a 16-season span. It won two in three years and three over a 17-season span, but that's as close as we get.

Only UCLA's incredible run of seven straight titles and 10 in a 12-season span dating from the mid-60s to mid-70s tops UConn's run. And that was a whole different era, as well, one in which fewer teams reached the NCAA tournament and (like the UConn women nowadays) most of the nation's great players gravitated to John Wooden and Pauley Pavilion.

UConn has one more national title than Kansas, a blueblood program founded by James Naismith himself, and Louisville, the program that got picked for the ACC over UConn in part because of its great basketball heritage. It's got two more than Michigan State, which spawned Magic Johnson and Tom Izzo (who, believe it or not, has actually lost games in the NCAA tournament).

And how about the storied basketball programs that have only one national title to their names: Syracuse, Georgetown, Arizona, Maryland, Villanova, and more football-oriented schools like Michigan and Ohio State.

Heck, the team Duke beat Monday night, Wisconsin, had only been to one prior national championship game -- in 1941, before Jim Calhoun had celebrated his first birthday.

It goes on and on. Let's name a few schools that, when you hear their names, you think, "Pretty darn good basketball program.":

Wake Forest: Tobacco Road occupant along with Duke, Carolina and NC State and alma mater of Tim Duncan and Chris Paul, to name just a couple. It's been to one Final Four (in 1962) and never played in the national championship game.

Purdue: Big Ten stalwart smack dab in the middle of basketball heaven, Indiana. Rick Mount. Gene Keady. The Boilermakers have been to two Final Fours (1969, 1980) and one national championship game, losing to UCLA in '69. (Though they were crowned the 1932 national champs by the Helms Athletic Foundation, seven years before the Big Dance!).

St. John's: Great Big East program of the 1980's. Chris Mullin. Louie Carnesecca. Walter Berry. Ron Artest. New York City's biggest Division 1 hoops program has been to two Final Fours, and finished as national runners-up once. In 1952.

Pittsburgh: Another former beast of the Big East, one that always gave UConn regular-season fits in recent years. The Panthers have been to exactly one Final Four. In 1941, months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

Virginia: Another AAC "powerhouse" that spawned Ralph Sampson and was a media darling for much of this season before sputtering out in the Round-of-32.  Two Final Fours, never played in the national championship game.

Georgia Tech? Two Final Fours, one national championship game in 2004 (you know how that one ended). Texas? Yeah, more of a football school, but Kevin Durant's alma mater has been to three Final Fours and just one (2003) since 1947. The Longhorns have never played in the national championship game. Notre Dame? Again, a football school, but no pushover in hoops. One Final Four, way back in 1978. Zero national title game appearances.

Even some of the teams that have garnered a reputation in recent years as being NCAA tournament upstarts really haven't accomplished a whole lot. I didn't even realize until it was pointed out this March that Gonzaga still hasn't been to the Final Four. VCU's 2011 run from the "First Four" to the Final Four was exciting, but it hasn't done much otherwise.

Now there are a few outliers. Florida won two titles in a row in 2006-07; NC State's got a pair of titles (1974, '83), as does Cincinnati (way back in 1961-62). And you've got to respect Butler getting to consecutive national championship games in 2010 and '11 and falling a Gordon Heyward desperation 3-pointer away from winning one of them.

But try this on for size: Providence (for you younger fans) actually does have a pretty impressive college basketball history. The Friars spawned Dave Gavitt, who formed the Big East; Jimmy Walker, Ernie DiGregorio and Marvin Barnes, and coaches like Gavitt, Rick Pitino and Rick Barnes. They went to the Final Four in 1973 (losing to Bill Walton's Bruins, with Marvin Barnes sidelined by injury) and 1987 (behind Pitino and an overachieving guard named Billy Donovan).

Yet the Friars haven't won an NCAA tournament game since 1997. In that span, UConn has won four national titles, been to five Final Fours, and won 41 NCAA tournament games.

Let that roll around your tongue for a while as you realize just how fortunate you've been as a Husky fan since 1999.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Book signing on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Barnes & Noble in Waterbury. Stop by!

A year ago, we were out in Dallas (errrr, sorry ... North Texas) for the Final Four. UConn-Florida. Kentucky-Wisconsin. You all know how it ended up. Truly exciting stuff.

Kentucky and Wisconsin are back in the Final Four this year, of course, along with Michigan State and Duke. Should be two great games Saturday night, followed by another on Monday night (even if it's Wisconsin-Michigan State, which, somehow, I doubt will happen).

Still, if you want a little taste of UConn's experience at last year's Final Four (and, for that matter, its past two seasons, since Kevin Ollie took over), please stop by the Barnes & Noble in Waterbury on Saturday at 2 p.m. I'll be signing copies of my new book, Rebound!: The Incredible Story of UConn Basketball's Comeback from Defeat to Dominance. Love to see you there!!!

Meanwhile, here's a quick look at where UConn's roster currently stands (no more departures after Rakim Lubin's, whose decision to leave was amicable but, let's just say, mutually beneficial). The Huskies are actively scouring the fifth-year transfer list, still have an eye on some Class of 2015 recruits, and also watching out for any possible decommits who back out of their letters-of-intent due to coaching changes, etc.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Ryan Boatright will don his UConn jersey one final time on Thursday night

Ryan Boatright wore his UConn jersey with pride for four years, playing hard every time he took the floor -- with the scars to prove it.

On Thursday night, he'll put that jersey on one last time.

Boatright will compete in a 3-point shooting contest, as part of Final Four week's festivities. The contest will be broadcast on ESPN at 7 p.m. on Thursday from Butler University in Indianapolis.

"He was debating on if he should do this," Boatright's mom, Tanesha, said by phone on Tuesday night. "Then he was like, 'This is my last time putting on my Husky jersey. I've gotta try to represent one more time.'"

Boatright, of course, was in street clothes for UConn's season-ending loss to Arizona State in the NIT a couple of weeks ago. He had hurt his shoulder in the Huskies' AAC championship game loss to SMU a few days before.

He's still rehabbing the shoulder, and while he wasn't prepared to play in the college all-star game this week in Indianapolis, his shoulder is good enough to shoot.

"If somebody would've asked me a year ago, I would've said he'd be in the dunk contest," Tanesha said with a laugh.

Tanesha, her parents and Ryan's brothers and sisters are planning to make the drive down from Aurora, Illinois to watch Ryan compete. (And if you're wondering how Ryan is getting there despite Gov. Malloy's travel ban to Indiana, his flight and expenses are paid for by Intersport, the event's sponsor, and not with state funds).

"He gets to put on that Husky jersey one more time," she said. "He's walking away at peace, and enjoying it more than having to watch it from the sideline. I told him, 'I know you always compete to win, but as a mom, I'll just love to see you compete with a smile.'"

After that, Ryan Boatright, who hasn't hired an agent yet, will focus on finishing up his classwork and preparing for his dream of the NBA. It'll be a tough road, and both he and his mother know it. The other night, Tanesha was on the phone with Shabazz Napier's mom, Carmen Velasquez, when Carmen put Shabazz on the phone.

"It's a process," Napier said of the NBA draft workout circuit. "People don't really understand until they get into it."

At least the Boatrights have a great "family" to go to for advice.

"I'm just thankful to have all the family -- Andre Drummond's mom, Kemba's mom Angela, Carmen, we're all like sisters -- for real," Tanesha said.



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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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