Monday, August 10, 2009

Final Fore!

Went over to the Golf Club of Avon for the 11th annual Jim Calhoun Celebrity Classic this afternoon. Among those playing in the scramble tournament: Calhoun, Ray Allen, Scott Burrell, Dana Barros, Travis Knight, Sam Jones, Dee Brown, Donny Marshall, a bunch of ESPN personalities and many more.

It was hot, but the weather couldn't have been much better. Many of the golf swings could have been better, though not necessarily those of Calhoun and Allen (a 4-handicap), as you'll see in the following videos:

Calhoun hitting a fairway wood:

Calhoun teeing off on a par-3:

Allen smoking a stogie and teeing off on a par-3:

Including a tournament on Sunday at The Mohegan Sun C.C. and a gala event afterwards at the casino, the event raised about $300,000 for the Jim & Pat Calhoun Cardiology Research Endowment Fund for the UConn Health Center. That's down about 20 percent from the norm, but still very strong in this economy.

"We are lucky," said Calhoun, "in the sense that we have great loyalty from the people who show up."

The event has raised about $3.5 million over the past 11 years.

Talked with Calhoun about some basketball news, as well. Here's what we've got:

***There's been some negative recruiting against the Huskies on the summer circuit, but as Calhoun pointed out, "That's every year. Last year it was cancer, this year it's 'I'm going to retire.' I haven't heard much NCAA stuff. We've been upfront with all the people we need to be. We fully expect we'll be fine, but we can't make that decision, obviously."

***To this point, no real progress has been made on Calhoun's contract extension with the university. His current six-year contract, which will pay him $1.6 million this year, expires next summer. It was thought that by now, negotiations would have started on an extension. But save for some preliminary conversations between Calhoun's agent, Jeff Schwartz, and UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway, it doesn't appear much has transpired.

"Nothing that I've heard about," said Calhoun. "I'm not sure why that is. I'm sure something will be worked out, but right now, there's nothing to report."

Calhoun isn't worried, though he'd like to have things ironed out before the 2009-10 season begins.

"I think that would be a good idea," he said. "It's not one of those things, between everything else – recruiting, resolving other situations, etc. – I don't think it's as much as a top-burner issue as it might normally be. And you're also talking about being creative, fiscally, because of the situation in the state.

"For everybody's benefit, it might be better that we have something going forward," Calhoun added. "But, I'm not worried about not being at UConn."

***Calhoun is excited about the upcoming season. He knows Hasheem Thabeet, A.J. Price, Jeff Adrien and Craig Austrie will be tough to replace, but he believes several of the incoming freshmen – Alex Oriakhi, Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, Darius Smith, Jamaal Trice – will be able to contribute right away.

"It would be hard to believe that Alex won't be able to do some of the muscular things we'll be asking him to do right off the bat," Calhoun said. "Darius certainly can play between the one and two. We are going to depend upon them, but we're going to really depend upon, 'Can Gavin Edwards now take his game to maybe a little different level?' And, 'Will Charles (Okwandu) or someone else stand up and be the guy in the middle?'"

***Calhoun isn't too concerned about the leadership vacuum created by the loss of Price and, to a lesser extent, Adrien and Thabeet.

"Jerome (Dyson), when healthy, was always a leader. Kemba, this year, I think, will not defer as much to the older guys. We get on him about that. At times he deferred to them."

Calhoun added that's nothing new in the program.

"Caron was subservient to Edmund Saunders, and there was no reason for it. He was stronger, tougher …"

*** Coombs-McDaniel hasn't been on campus this summer. He's been finishing up work at the Tilton (N.H.) School – a result, apparently, of one of his teachers getting sick and not being able to give him his last grade. Calhoun said the 6-foot-6 swingman "should be" ready to enroll at UConn in September.

***The coach figures Villanova and West Virginia to be the toughest challenges in the Big East this season.

*** As mentioned in the post below, UConn is expected to get an official visit this weekend from Jeremy Lamb, a 6-foot-4, Class of 2010 shooting guard out of Norcross (Ga.) High.

Lamb, who also has offers from Alabama, Clemson, Kentucky, Marquette and Xavier, didn't start last year for Norcross, which had about six Division 1 players and is one of the strongest programs in the nation. He averaged about 14 points per game, however, and was said to be the second or third-best player on the team. A long, rangy 6-4 and 165 pounds, Lamb has been one of the surprises of the summer.

The Huskies should have about another half-dozen unofficial visits over the next couple of weeks, as well. Presumably, those will involve some of these players.

***Funny story from Allen, who was at Calhoun's charity bike ride in June when Calhoun collapsed due to exhaustion and broken ribs.

"The EMT arrives, and the guy is about 22, 23," Allen recalled. "He's nervous already, and now he's going over to Coach to see what's wrong. Coach says to him, 'Here's what you're gonna do …'"

Always coaching, that Jim Calhoun.

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