Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Four!

UConn had an open practice and media availability today, in advance of Friday's season-opener vs. William & Mary. Here's what we learned:

Jamal Coombs-McDaniel will see some time at the four on Friday and will likely continue to see minutes there until Ater Majok is eligible on Dec. 20.


The reason: 7-footer Charles Okwandu simply isn't getting the job done, and Jim Calhoun doesn't want to move Stanley Robinson from the three – where his open-court skills shine – to the power forward position.

"It doesn't matter," shrugged Coombs-McDaniel, who was known for his versatility while starring at the Tilton School in New Hampshire. "My whole goal is just to be out there, whether it's the five or the one, it really doesn't matter. I'm just going to play hard."

Coombs-McDaniel is listed at 6-foot-7 but actually seems taller than that when you're standing next to him. He's a solid 210 pounds, and should certainly be able to handle the position against weaker foes like William & Mary on Friday.

"The teams that we play right now aren't really that big, we won't have that big an issue," said Jerome Dyson. "It's just like Stanley being there sometimes, we'll be able to get up the floor faster and do different things."

Calhoun's assessment of Coombs-McDaniel: "He's a good athlete, certainly not a great one. But he's effective, he's got a nose for the ball. His instincts are very good, his basketball IQ – he's learning, like a lot of kids, how to fit into the system. He's tough, he goes after the ball. He's one of those guys that can get two 3-pointers, two offensive rebounds, a couple of garbage points on drives, get ahead of the field. That's what I see him as, not just a shooter, not just a rebounder, not just a passer."

Coombs-McDaniel had to sit out UConn's first two exhibition games but was cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center on Monday. He said one of his summer classes had to be "re-activated," and it took some time to get the paperwork through.

"I think it set me back a little," he admitted. "I've just got to keep working harder to try to beat out some guys for some minutes. We have a little rotation going, so it's going to be tough to break into the rotation. But once I break it, I'll find myself in there."

Added Calhoun: "He wants to be a basketball player. If he plays eight minutes on Friday, he'll want to know why. And that's good."

***By the way, Calhoun still hasn't completely lost faith in Okwandu, even though the junior showed a penchant for traveling and double-dribbling today in practice. Calhoun continues to insist Okwandu has looked good at times.

"We need him to play," said the coach. "We're going to need to have a good, solid inside rotation."

***Dyson limped off the floor late in practice after Ater Majok landed on his toe. but he said that "one way or another," he'll play Friday.

He was wearing a size-14 shoe in practice today (he's normally a size-13) so that he could put padding around his toe. Dyson's toenail is still stitched on, and there's still a good degree of pain there. He practiced without getting his toe numbed today, but will likely have to have it numbed for Friday's game.

According to Calhoun, it's "Door 1, Jerome 0" right now.

***Speaking of injuries, Calhoun was watching the Memphis Grizzlies' game last night when Hasheem Thabeet broke his jaw while bumping into teammate Zach Randolph's head.

Calhoun said he tried to get in contact with Thabeet, but "I don't think wants to talk right now. I don't know if he's Twittering. He's one of the world's great Twitterers."

***Another great Calhoun quote on the possibility of players getting into foul trouble on Friday: "This time of year, you usually have some type of flu – this year it happens to be swine – and you also have whistles disease, where a rash breaks out. Some of these young (refs) try to impress you with their whistling."

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