Who'll Be the Big 'O'?
This we know: UConn's starting lineup for Wednesday night's exhibition opener with AIC will feature Kemba Walker, Jerome Dyson, Stanley Robinson and Gavin Edwards.
Who's at center? All we can say right now is that his last name will begin with an "O".
It's between Charles Okwandu and Alex Oriakhi, obviously, but neither has been given the starting nod yet by Jim Calhoun – at least publicly.
"I told them a couple of days ago, over the next couple of days, whoever's the best player will start," Calhoun said. "I think they're going to be sharing their time, just because of foul situations alone. One is inexperienced, the other is very young."
Calhoun expounded on the foul problems of both players, particularly Okwandu, the 7-foot junior.
"I don't think either of them can play 30-something minutes of game, because of the foul situation. Charles is always fouling in practice, plus he's physical. Alex … the other night (during an intrasquad scrimmage), he had three fouls called on him just because he's a rookie. One time he was walking up the lane and they called a foul on him. You don't get the same type of whistle that you would … until you know how to play. Hasheem (Thabeet) could block a shot and maybe get a piece of your hand as a junior, than when he was a sophomore. I see it as two players for one spot, really."
Indeed, as far as the freshman Oriakhi is concerned, it doesn't really matter who starts.
"It's who finishes. That's what I go by," Oriakhi said. "When I go out there, (I just want to) be productive and hope for the best."
(Personally, I think Okwandu gets the start. Oriakhi is just a freshman, and I think Calhoun would like to give Okwandu the chance to prove he can be a 7-foot intimidator in the middle. But he won't have a very long rope. And, as Oriakhi noted, it really doesn't matter -- especially this early in the season).
Calhoun did note that Okwandu has been the team's leading rebounder in practices/scrimmages. But neither he nor Oriakhi are natural shot-blockers.
"Our best shot-blockers are Stanley, one, Gavin, two. When Ater gets eligible, he's probably our best shot-blocker."
***Ah, yes, Ater Majok.
"The best of the five new guys would be Ater (Majok) right now," Calhoun noted. "He's only played five days, but he's very talented – more talented than I thought he was. He doesn't necessarily know how to play yet. He could desperately need a game like this. There was a time when you could play two exhibition games and sit out rest of time."
*** With UConn stressing an uptempo, running game (and with several young guards expected to get minutes), Calhoun was asked if he will be able to live with a few more mistakes this season.
"It's always tough, but if we don't play fast, I don't think we'll be as good. It's not that much more complex than that … We may make a few more turnovers. As long as they're good turnovers, we can live with them."
Yeah, OK. When asked if he believes Calhoun will just "live with" more mistakes, Walker quickly responded: "Um, no. Coach is a perfectionist. That's something I'm trying to work on, too, to limit my turnovers, get my assist-to-turnover ratio down."
***Calhoun said freshman guard Darius Smith has been committing a lot of turnovers in practice.
***Who does Walker want to see taking a last-second 3-pointer to win a game?
"'Rome. He's been great in practice, scoring the ball the best."
But then, Walker thought a little harder.
"Maybe not even 'Rome, to tell you the truth. I'm going to go with Jamal Coombs, the freshman. He can shoot the ball very well. There was a play in practice where coach had us guarding each other and Coombs was on our team. There was a last-second shot, I got down the floor, he was wide-open. I through it to him and he made the game-winning shot. He's a great shooter."
***UConn should be getting an official visit from Doron Lamb on Nov. 15-16. That means Lamb could take in the Huskies' Nov. 16 bout with Colgate at Gampel.
The Huskies may also be soon getting another visit from Cleve Melvin.
***Denham Brown has practiced with the team the past couple of days. He'll be leaving in about a month to play overseas in South America. Rashad Anderson is expected to come up on Friday. Anderson turned down an offer to play in Italy and will look to play in the "D" League, with hopes that an NBA team will scoop him up at some point.
***New Haven's Chad Dawson, the undefeated two-time light-heavyweight champion of the world, will fight Glen Johnson in a rematch Saturday night at the XL Center. The fight will be broadcast live on HBO and will be simulcast to over 100 countries worldwide.
Dawson grew up a big UConn fan and got to meet Calhoun for the first time prior to today's practice.
"I go back to Ray Allen, Donyell Marshall, Donny Marshall. I go back to those days. I'm a big Ray Allen fan … whatever team he goes to, I'm always support that team."
Dawson was slated to address the UConn team before practice.
"I'll try to say a couple of encouraging words to them. Not that they need it. They've probably heard every encouraging word they'd need to hear from Jim himself, so I'll try to say something different."
Calhoun, a big fight fan, will be at Saturday night's fight, along with his son, Jeff.
"It'll be fun. I watched the first Johnson fight. Johnson's a brawler. He can hit you and knock you out, but (Dawson's) a terrific boxer. He's got great legs, he sticks and moves very well. He got suckered into it a few times in the first fight. I asked him what's his major role as far as change, and he said 'I want to discipline myself. That's harder to do sometimes. I don't like to get hit.' None of us do."