Talkin' 'Bout Practice (Facility)
Some notes & quotes from UConn's media availability this afternoon:
***Jim Calhoun sat in on a meeting this morning regarding a potential new basketball practice facility, and he came out of it rather optimistic.
"We're looking at what it would look like, and where it may be," Calhoun said. "I think it's a positive step. The biggest step we'd have to take would be from a fiscal standpoint … how much money would we actually need, in-hand, to start something? It appears to me over the past two years, it looks like we've identified a site. I think we're going to start doing something over the next couple of weeks to look at that site."
Calhoun didn't indicate where the site is, only noting that it would be near Gampel Pavilion. He looked at images of what the facility might house -- from a 1,800-square foot study hall (which would be about six times the size of UConn's current one) to areas that can showcase the program's success over the years -- and was happy with what he saw.
"We need it desperately, for a whole bunch of reasons," he said. "We want to be able to tell our story as loudly and boldly, when you walk on this campus, about UConn basketball. I felt good coming out of the meeting. When I see the pictures and diagrams, at least I think we've identified where we want to be and what we want to do."
***Of course, a new facility would be an absolutely huge recruiting tool, one at which that schools like Duke and Louisville already boast a huge advantage over UConn.
On the recruiting end, Calhoun noted that assistants Patrick Sellers and Andre LaFleur are currently on the road -- in Las Vegas and Florida -- working hard on the recruiting trail. Normally, they might not be out on the road at this time of year, but the program is intent on restocking talent after the Jerome Dyson and Stanley Robinson -- and possibly Kemba Walker -- depart after this season.
***What's that about Kemba, you ask?
"I'm not planning on Kemba going or staying," Calhoun said. "If he has a great year, I think you know what my advice is going to be for him."
***Walker, incidentally, hyperextended his right knee during practice last week and missed four days of practice before returning on Tuesday.
Walker said he was trying to block Darius Smith's shot on a fast break, "and Jerome (Dyson) came out of nowhere, blocked his shot aggressively and just knocked everyone down. My knee kind of went back."
He said he's fine now, however.
"I don't usually miss sophomores," Calhoun quipped, "but I did miss him.
***There is no doubt in Calhoun's mind who UConn's best player has been in the early goings.
"Stanley's our best player right now, there's no question. The other day he had the third-most rebounds, most points, most blocked shots. He can guard the two, three or four, he's a jumping jack. It seems like, from somewhere in March, into April, he hasn't lost any of that enthusiasm and hard play. He gives effort and productivity, which is very, very nice."
Added Walker: "He's looking like he did in the NCAA tournament last season. He's doing everything for us – scoring, rebounding. Every day, he's playing well."
***Freshman Jamaal Trice has been an early-season eye-opener for Calhoun.
"The guy who jumped back into the scene from day one has been Trice. Jamaal's a much better all-around player. His biggest problem is, he's a right-wing conservative. (Not politically ... it's a pun, and a reference to former guard Craig Austrie's play). I called him Craig the other day, 'is Craig Trice here?' Craig Austrie didn't make a lot of mistakes, because he didn't take a lot of chances. He was a terrific player for us, but there were times when you wanted him to initiate a few more things."
Walker noted that Trice and fellow freshmen Alex Oriakhi "are probably the two most physical guys on the team. The aggression on the team, we didn't lose any of that, definitely."
***Calhoun did note that Oriakhi "has got to be better. I think Alex will be better. I think it's just a matter of time with him, because he's strong enough to play in this league."
The coach still isn't certain whether Oriakhi or junior Charles Okwandu will start at center for next week's exhibition game opener. Gavin Edwards will start at the four, Calhoun promised, but there's plenty of room for improvement there, too -- noting that he was seventh on the team in rebounding in scrimmages so far.
"He's running the floor very well, he's a guy who knows how to play, but he's got to get back into rebounding," Calhoun said.
***Dyson has missed a little of nearly every practice with nagging injuries. Ater Majok (stress fracture) is slated to return to the practice floor this afternoon. He'll run for about 45 minutes today and increase his workload a bit tomorrow.
***Calhoun watched six UConn alums play against each other the other night when Memphis (Hasheem Thabeet, Rudy Gay, Marcus Williams) faced Detroit (Rip Hamilton, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva).
"It's fun, but it's a little bit depressing," he joked, "because (we) don't have them anymore. I was wondering why I was such a good coach, and then I see Ben and Rip doing what they do, and realize that's the real reason."
***New Haven boxing native Chad Dawson, who will square off in a championship bout at the XL Center on Nov. 7, will be at UConn's practice on Tuesday in Hartford to talk with Calhoun and some of the players.