Thursday, December 31, 2009

'Jim, Recruiting is Hardly an Exact Science ...'

"... but what does Abromaitis do now that blows you away that maybe no one saw ..."

Can you imagine Jim Calhoun being asked that question on Saturday if Tim Abromaitis, the Farmington High product whose father starred at UConn in the 1970's, burns the Huskies for 30?

Actually, it would be a far less fair question to ask than it was when colleague Dave Solomon broached the Ryan Gomes subject back in 2004, leading to one of Calhoun's most famous blow-ups. Abromaitis was hardly a top recruit out of high school, with Northwestern and William & Mary his only other major suitors besides Notre Dame. (Still, Calhoun can't use the "I took Emeka Okafor and Caron Butler. They're not bad!" excuse. The only player UConn got in Abromaitis's 2007 recruiting class was Donnell Beverly).

For his part, Abromaitis hardly holds a grudge that his father's alma mater and hometown team didn't give him a sniff in high school.

"Not at all. Not really. I went through the whole process, they never really looked at me, so I was just taking it as what were the best options for me. I'm glad I ended up here."

He added that he didn't grow up dreaming about one day being a Husky.

"I never really thought about playing in college. I didn’t know if I'd be capable or not. Once I started getting recruited, they really didn’t come after me."

Abromaitis, a 6-foot-8, 235-pound junior with two years of eligibility left, is averaging 16.2 points per game. He's hit 40 of 77 3-point attempts for a 51.9-percent clip, third in the Big East (Stanley Robinson is second, though he's made just 12 of 21).

Can't say the Huskies couldn't use a shooter like that. Just sayin' ...

"He came along slowly," said Notre Dame coach Mike Brey. "He's the youngest kid we ever signed, he was stacked behind older guys. He absorbed our system, watching the older guys, and when he got an opportunity he took advantage of it."

Brey added that Abromaitis has a steady, calm demeanor, and that will help him control his emotions playing in his hometown on Saturday.

"He is who he is, and that really plays into his hands in a situation like this. I think that will really be helpful. His personality and demeanor will be helpful in this."

Oh, by the way, Abromaitis will graduate from Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business a full year ahead of schedule in May and has already been accepted in the school's MBA program.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Big East Prognostications

Yes, we know there have been two games played already. Still, we feel comfortable making our annual predictions as the league season really gets going tomorrow night.

The prevailing thought back in October was that this year’s Big East wouldn’t be as strong as last year’s. Really, how could it? Last year’s conference season was as competitive as any since the days of Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin and 3/4 of the Final Four. (Last year was only half, with UConn and Villanova getting to Detroit).

The conventional wisdom was also that there would be more parity this season, with the good teams not quite as good and some of the weaker sisters taking a step up. I’m down with that. A year ago, the upper echelon teams could virtually guarantee a victory over winless DePaul or Rutgers or South Florida, and teams like St. John’s and Seton Hall hardly inspired fear. We don’t envision any winless league seasons this year, and we’re thinking teams like the Red Storm and Pirates can make some noise. (Heck, I voted for Seton Hall for the Top 25 a couple of weeks ago. But I'm not ready to vote for St. John's. Not even close).

Meanwhile, Louisville and Pittsburgh – who finished 1-2 in the conference a season ago – appear to have taken a step back. That’s what happens when you lose the likes of Terrence Williams, Earl Clark, DeJuan Blair and Sam Young to the NBA.

UConn? Yup, it's lost a lot, too. Certainly, the Huskies haven’t looked terribly impressive at times thus far. But some of that is the style of play some of their lesser foes have employed against them, and some of that is inexperience and a relatively young team trying to find its way. I think once the Big East action starts, the zone defenses and slow-down offenses go away and a more athletic style of play emerges, UConn will be just fine. Maybe I’m putting too much stock in Sunday’s impressive win over Iona, but I think the Huskies are on to something.

I also think UConn will get better as the season progresses. A lot of that is Ater Majok, who certainly looks raw but should contribute some strong rebounding and shot-blocking. We’re guessing the Huskies will start peaking at the right time, in mid-to-late February, just in time to make some noise in the postseason.

And we're going to really go out on a limb and predict that UConn actually wins a couple of games in this year's Big East tournament!

How I see it:

West Virginia (13-5) Butler/Ebanks easily the best two-headed monster in the league

Villanova (13-5) The guards are great, but they’ll miss Dante Cunningham up front

Syracuse (13-5) Why can’t guys initialed A.O. (Arinze Onuaku, Alex Orkiakhi) make free throws?

Georgetown (12-6) Greg Monroe doesn’t have Hasheem Thabeet to burn anymore

UConn (11-7) Dyson, Sticks, Walker, Edwards scoring 81 percent of team’s points

Cincinnati (10-8) Is Lance Stephenson 'born ready' to fit in with Bearcats’ veterans?

Louisville (10-8) Rick Pitino is forever grateful for David Letterman, Tiger Woods

Pittsburgh (9-9) Too many NBA defections to overcome

Seton Hall (9-9) Transfer Herb Pope leads Big East in rebounding

Notre Dame (9-9) ‘Coach Calhoun, what didn’t you see in Farmington's Tim Abromaitis …?’

St. John’s (9-9) Anthony Mason, Jr.’s return could disrupt nice team chemistry

Marquette (8-10) Did Dominic James finally graduate? Yup

Providence (6-12) You just know they’ll beat UConn at The Dunk, don’t ya?

South Florida (5-13) Dominque Jones can play

Rutgers (4-14) Played North Carolina tough last night

DePaul (3-15) Jerry Wainwright’s a dead-ringer for ‘Breakfast Club’ teacher

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
COACH OF THE YEAR: Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: Stanley Robinson, UConn
SIXTH MAN AWARD: Gavin Edwards, UConn

All-Big East First Team:
Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
Scottie Reynolds, Villanova
Wes Johnson, Syracuse
Da’Sean Butler, West Virginia
Samardo Samuels, Louisville
Greg Monroe, Georgetown

All-Big East Second Team:
Jerome Dyson, UConn
Stanley Robinson, UConn
Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall
Deven Ebanks, West Virginia
Lazar Hayward, Marquette

All-Big East Third Team:
Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati
Dominique Jones, South FLorida
Mike Rosario, Rutgers
Chris Wright, Georgetown
Corey Fisher, Villanova

All-Big East Honorable Mention:
D.J. Kennedy, St. John’s
Will Walker, DePaul
Eugene Harvey, Seton Hall
Kemba Walker, UConn
Brad Wanamaker, Pittsburgh

Big East All-Rookie:
Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati
Brandon Triche, Syracuse
Hollis Thompson, Georgetown
Maalik Wayns, Villanova
Travon Woodall, Pittsburgh

Big East All-Academic:
OK, I'm not that good

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Austrie Cut

Not to be the bearer of bad news, but Craig Austrie has been cut by the Springfield Armor, an NBDL team located in Springfield, Mass.


My Top 25

Here's what I submitted last night.

1. Kansas
2. Texas
3. Kentucky
4. Syracuse
5. West Virginia
6. Purdue
7. Duke
8. Villanova
9. North Carolina
10. Michigan State
11. Kansas State
12. Georgetown
13. Connecticut
14. Georgia Tech
15. Texas Tech
16. Clemson
17. Florida State
18. Tennessee
19. Temple
20. Ohio State
21. Dayton
22. Northwestern
23. Mississippi
24. Washington
25. New Mexico

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Dove's Drive

So I pulled into a parking spot in the garage across the street from the XL Center today at about noon and who's stepping out of his car two spots over but Jon Mandeldove.

Apparently, big Jon isn't allowed to take the team bus from Storrs to Hartford during his "suspension". While the exact reason for Mandeldove's suspension has never been fully addressed, it apparently has to do with academics. Mandeldove promises, however, that he has straightened things out in that department and will be back in a UConn uniform come January. We'll see.

***Darius Smith was held up at Midway Airport in his hometown of Chicago for 2 1/2 hours on Saturday and missed UConn's practice. He wound up getting into Connecticut around 3 p.m., but not after a slippery landing for a connector in Baltimore that had him scared on an airplane for the first time in his life.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Happy holidays all. Thanks for visiting the blog.

We'll leave you with the best Christmas rock song there is.

Monday, December 21, 2009

UConn-Notre Dame Ticket Info

Only “single seats” remain for UConn-Notre Dame Men’s Basketball game at XL Center on January 2, 2010.

Tickets can be purchased by calling 1-800-745-3000 or at

A limited number of tickets remain for other January and February men’s basketball games at Gampel Pavilion and XL Center.

UConn’s holiday promotion (Buy 1, Get 1 FREE) still available for games tomorrow (Tue 12/22) vs. Maine and Sunday 12/27 vs. Iona. To take advantage of this special promotion, please go to, click “BUY TICKETS” in the Ticket Center, click “Promotions” and enter promo code: HUSKIES

***Also: Stanley Robinson made the Big East's Honor Roll this week after scoring 26 points against UCF on Sunday. He shot 9-for-13 from the floor and grabbed five rebounds.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Top 25, per moi

Here's the ballot I submitted last night for the AP Top 25. Gonzaga, Cincinnati and Seton Hall are out; Temple, UNLV and Charlotte are in. Bad week for the Big East, good week for the Atlantic 10. I'm starting to like the A-10 this year. Richmond and Rhode Island (yes, my alma mater) nearly got my vote this week, and Dayton and Xavier are good, too. Despite their lackluster win over Central Florida on Sunday, UConn actually moves up a few spots on my ballot. Why? Well, too many other teams (Tennessee, Florida, Georgia Tech, Texas Tech) lost (some badly), and the Huskies -- warts and all -- have still only lost twice, to a pair of teams in the top 10 (Kentucky and Duke).

1. Kansas
2. Texas
3. Kentucky
4. Syracuse
5. West Virginia
6. Purdue
7. Duke
8. Villanova
9. Michigan State
10. Kansas State
11. North Carolina
12. Georgetown
13. Connecticut
14. Texas A&M
15. New Mexico
16. Florida
17. Georgia Tech
18. Clemson
19. Florida State
20. Tennessee
21. Temple
22. Ohio State
23. Texas Tech
24. UNLV
25. Charlotte

Majok's Mystery Tour

Roll up ... roll up for the ... OK, I'll stop.

The Majok-al Mystery Tour got off to the proverbial inauspicious debut this afternoon. One point, three rebounds, one turnover, two fouls and one "F" bomb from his coach in 16 minutes of action in Ater Majok's long-awaited UConn lid-lifter. Let the record show:

"All You Need is Love": Majok started and was the first UConn player introduced. He earned a nice ovation from the crowd of 13,685 but didn't seem to know exactly where to go after his name was called. He jumped center and got beaten bad on the jump-ball.

"Hello, Goodbye": He was pulled from a game for the first time at 17:29, replaced by Gavin Edwards.

"Flying": His first rebound came with 7:47 left in the first half.

"Penny Lane": Majok's first point came on a foul shot 5:08 before halftime, earning another ovation. He missed his ensuing freebie.

Majok didn't start the latter half, Gavin Edwards did. His first official field goal attempt was a misfired 17-footer with 17:01 left to play.

"Goo goo ga joob": His first official public undressing by Calhoun came 20 seconds later, when Calhoun called a timeout and shouted at Majok for a defensive lapse.

His first foul came with 10:51 to play.

"You've been a naughty boy ...": Majok's first official "F"-bomb from Calhoun came with 2:10 left. After Majok seemed a bit confused in an offensive set and was late setting a screen for Kemba Walker, Calhoun called a timeout and yelled "Get the (bleep) out!" at Majok. The crowd just happened to be rather silent at that point, so most people still in the building heard it.

Majok seemed a bit miffed about Calhoun's reaction, blankly staring into the distance while seated on the bench. He took the high road after the game.

"It's not every day that you hear him say that, but when you hear it, there's not much you can do about it," he said. "You just step out off the court, sit down and think about what you did. He's doing it for the best of us. That's his way of telling us, 'that was wrong.' That's his way of saying I'm wrong and I did a mistake."

As for his overall game: "It's good that the bad game is out of the way. It is what it is. It's a bad game, I realize I've got a lot to work on. All I can do is go back in the gym and work on it and get back here on Tuesday. But, a win is a win. Stanley showed up, Gavin showed up, they backed us up. There's not really much I can say.

"It's difficult coming in halfway through the year. I thought it was easier, but once I stepped on the court, it's a lot more difficult because the team has been going for a while without you. You can't just step in and take every shot you take. It's a little frustrating, but we'll get through it. We've got a lot more games to go. I'm happy, at the same time, because I got that game out of the way and it doesn't happen to me in the Big East. But I'm not happy that it's my first game and I had a bad performance."

Said Calhoun: "He certainly didn't have the kind of game I would expect. I didn't necessarily think it would be spectacular, but it certainly could have been better. Alex (Oriakhi) had his worst game since he's been here, energy-wise."

"I really, really think that if you've never been around a basketball team, it's difficult … He just didn't play very well, he didn't look like he was ready to play, he was very hesitant about everything he did. He didn't block shots, or rebound, he stood up a lot – along with Alex too, by the way … He didn't play well."

As for Oriakhi, he went scorleless in 24 minutes before fouling out. He had just two rebounds and attempted just one shot.

"Alex doesn't want the ball," said Calhoun. "He made the decision a while ago, he's a conscientious objector. He doesn't want to score … he was just lousy today.

"I could have used Ater or two or three other big guys – I don't think the names it would have made a difference. Only the names would have changed."

Not Jonathan Mandeldove. He wasn't in the building, apparently battling illness but also seemingly an academic casualty. Charles Okwandu was in the house – at least physically. He didn't play.

***"Baby You're a Rich Man": Calhoun addressed reports that he and the school have agreed on a contract extension.

"It's right on the horizon, but I haven't signed anything," said the 24th-year coach. "Maybe somebody else has. My wife signs all my checks, maybe she did."

A source told the Register that the deal is done.

***Though he's a squat 6-foot-3 left-hander with goggles who looks nothing like his famous father, Marcus Jordan is indeed the son of Michael, arguably the greatest player in basketball history. He shot 5-for-10 from the floor and led UCF with 13 points.

***UConn commit Maurice Harkless, a 6-foot-7 forward, and coveted Class of 2012 big man Andre Drummond of Middletown watched the game from behind the Huskies' bench.

***We got a "logy" today from Calhoun. The extremely archaic word (pronounced "low-jee") is one of Calhoun's favorites when describing his team's lackadaisical effort.

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Majok is Starting



Saturday, December 19, 2009

"Long, Long Time"

While the official word out of Storrs is that Jim Calhoun's contract extension is still not a done deal, a source close to the situation says that, in fact, it is.

An report on Saturday stated that Calhoun has agreed to a new five-year deal. However, a UConn spokesman noted that, in fact, the process of putting things on paper, in contract form, just began on Friday and it still has to be reviewed by both sides.

"There is no signed contract," said UConn men's basketball spokesman Kyle Muncy. "Coach Calhoun's representatives, as well as (athletic director) Jeff Hathaway, have been working on this for several months and continue to."

Muncy added, however: "Jim Calhoun is going to be the basketball coach at UConn for a long, long time to come."

The five-year deal will give Calhoun a raise from his current $1.6 million salary, according to a source. Official word could come any time over the next few days to few weeks.

(Music quiz: Who sang "Long, Long Time"? And no, it's not Bosotn. In fact, it's someone who you probably wouldn't guess I'm a fan of.


Monday, December 14, 2009

My Top 25

Here's the Top 25 ballot I submitted late last night. Goodbye, Washington, Richmond and UNLV. Hello, Kansas State, New Mexico and Seton Hall (yes, Seton Hall. I know they haven't really played anyone, but they've got some real talent and depth). UConn drops a spot on my ballot. Is that fair, after a loss to the No. 4 team in the nation? Maybe not, but you see what I see.

1. Kansas
2. Kentucky
3. Texas
4. West Virginia
5. Syracuse
6. Purdue
7. Georgetown
8. Duke
9. Tennessee
10. Villanova
11. North Carolina
12. Michigan State
13. Kansas State (Curtis Kelly!)
14. Florida
15. Georgia Tech
16. Texas Tech
17. Connecticut
18. Texas A&M
19. Clemson
20. Gonzaga
21. Cincinnati
22. Ohio State
23. Florida State
24. Seton Hall
25. New Mexico


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ater Majok feature

Here's a feature that ran in today's Register on Ater Majok, and his long journey to finally becoming a UConn Husky.

A couple of interesting points I learned about Majok over the past few weeks:

-- He is a true hero to the Sudanese-Australian population after becoming the first African native to be named to the Australian national basketball team (the Boomers). Majok is "on the radar" for the country's team for next August's world championships, as well as the 2012 Olympic Games in London -- though that's a long ways off.

-- What took so long for Majok to be cleared by the NCAA? For one, he was enrolled in two different type of school systems in Australia. At Evans High School, then Parrametta Marist and the prestigious St. Aloysius, he learned under an Australian curriculum. At American International School, it was an American-based course load. There also apparently were some questions about government-mandated English classes Majok took for a couple of years after getting to Australia. Apparently, at one point, the NCAA believed his high school clock should have started with those classes.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

PRE-GAME PRIMER: Harkless the Heralded Recruit Sings

UConn's new commitment Maurice Harkless, a Class of 2011, 6-foo-7 forward, met with the media a few minutes to go. Here's what he had to say:

"I love the campus, love the way (Jim Calhoun) coaches, he's a Hall of Fame coach, the fans are great, it's a great school."

Harkless visited St. John's and Seton Hall, and also had Kentucky – ironically enough – on his final list, though he didn’t' visit Lexington.

"I just do whatever it takes to win, really. I'll play all positions, whatever is needed at the moment. I can shoot the ball, I like to rebound, block shots, play defense."

"They expect me to come in and play the wing, maybe sometimes go down low, but it doesn't matter to me."

"I just like to play my own game, I try not to be like anyone else."

Ben Chobhaphand, Harkless's coach at Forest Hills High in Queens, believes Harkless is a "prototype UConn player."

"He's a 6-7 guy with a 7-2 wingspan, he can play more than one position," Chobhaphand said. "I think that definitely fits in at UConn. UConn leads the country in blocked shots every year, and he's a wing guard who can block shots – guards or bigs."

He believes Harkless has plenty of room to grow, physically. Harkless weighed 170 pounds last year but is up to 187 right now.

Harkless was in a cast at UConn's First Night in mid-October, a result of a minor fracture of his left foot. He got the cast off 3 ½ weeks ago and missed Forest Hills' first 2-3 weeks of practice and its first two games, returned to action on Sunday and went for 21 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks. On Tuesday, Harkless went for 16, 14 and seven.

Harkless is a soft-spoken kid, but his coach believes he'll do just fine with "The Horde."

"I know he'll get a lot of love from you guys at Connecticut. We talk about it all the time, UConn is like the pro team up there, because UConn doesn't really have a pro team, on the men's side."

***Madison Square Garden officially unveiled the top 10 moments in college basketball history at the world's most famous arena Wednesday night. They are:

10. Long Island University's winning streak snapped at 43 – Dec. 30, 1936

9. "The Sweater Game" (John Thompson wearing an ugly, Lou Carnesecca-like sweater) – Feb. 27, 1985

8. St. John's defeats No. 1 Michigan – Jan. 2, 1965

7. Joe Lapchick wins his final game, in the NIT title game – March 20, 1965

6. Oscar Robertson scores 56 points vs. Seton Hall – Jan. 9, 1958

5. Walter Berry blocks Pearl Washington's shot at the buzzer – March 8, 1986

4. Gerry McNamara's heroics in Big East tournament – March, 2006

3. Bill Bradley scores 41 vs. Michigan – Dec. 30, 1964

2. Syracuse's 6-overtime win over UConn – March 12, 2009 (this one predictably drew lots of boos from the many UConn fans when it was revealed on the big screen at halftime)

1. CCNY wins NCAA and NIT titles – March, 1950

***Jim Calhoun, his family, coaches and players will join a team of Stop & Shop employees, the Hartford law firm of RisCassi and Davis, Omar Coffee and Hartford Food Systems to provide holiday meals for 1,000 needy Hartford families tonight.

Calhoun and his team will be at the Pope Park Recreation Center on 30 Pope Park Dr. from 5:30-6:30 p.m., and at the North End Senior Center, 80 Coventry St., from 6:45-8 p.m. They will distribute turkeys and holiday meal fixings to needy families.

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Live Chat Transcript

Here's the transcript from today's live chat. Thanks to all who took part.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Live Chat Today at 2 p.m.

Somewhat late notice, perhaps, but please feel free to join me for a live chat today (Wednesday) at 2 p.m., in advance of tonight's UConn-Kentucky game. Just click on and scroll down towards the bottom at or around 2 p.m.

Thanks, and hope to see you there.

Monday, December 7, 2009

My Top 25

Here's my top 25 poll that I submitted late last night. We say sayonara to Marquette and Louisville, even though I'm confident the Big East is still the nation's best conference. UConn drops a spot, to No. 15. Are the Huskies the 15th-best team in the country? You've seen them, I've seen them. Tough call. But it's hard to move them until they give me a real good reason to do so. Wednesday night should be a good barometer.

1. Kansas
2. Kentucky
3. Texas
4. Purdue
5. Villanova
6. West Virginia
7. Syracuse
8. Duke
9. Tennessee
10. Florida
11. North Carolina
12. Michigan State
13. Ohio State
14. Texas A&M
15. Connecticut
16. Georgia Tech
17. Washington
18. Clemson
19. Cincinnati
20. Georgetown
21. Gonzaga
22. Texas Tech
23. Florida State
24. Richmond
25. UNLV

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Kentucky Headhunters?

Jim Calhoun put it succinctly, as only he could:

"You keep fooling with Mother Nature, she'll put that lightning bolt right through us."

Break out the Calhoun-to-English dictionary and here's the translation: if UConn continues to play like this – weak off the boards, hapless foul shooting and, perhaps most worrisome, startlingly thin off the bench – they could be in some serious trouble, starting on Wednesday night against fifth-ranked Kentucky at Madison Square Garden. The Huskies simply couldn't put the pesky Harvard on Sunday, despite pumping their lead up to as many as 16 points two different times.

"If we play in spurts against Kentucky," Calhoun concluded, "we can't beat them."

The 14th-ranked Huskies will more than take the box score-filling effort of Jerome Dyson, who fell an assist shy of a triple-double (24 points, 14 rebounds, nine dimes) while doing his best to guard Crimson top scorer Jeremy Lin. They'll gladly take the 18 points and 12 boards from Stanley Robinson, the 20 points from Kemba Walker and 12 off the bench from Gavin Edwards.

But with freshman center Alex Oriakhi turning in his "worst performance in a Connecticut uniform," per Calhoun, and just five points coming from other sources, the Huskies clearly need a more balanced team effort Wednesday night.

Unless, of course, you ask the UConn players themselves.

"We don't really base our play off a previous game," said Edwards. "We'll just kind of take a step forward after this and get ready to play Kentucky on Wednesday."

Added Walker: "We have no reason to be concerned. As long as we go in with our game plan, we should be perfectly fine."

***Calhoun's enthusiasm over Dyson's overall effort was somewhat tempered.

"He was brilliant, at times. But he's reflective somewhat of our team."

Late in the game, Dyson was called for a charging foul – one of numerous times on Sunday where he aimlessly drove into trouble.

"If he continues doing that, it will cost us a game," Calhoun predicted.

***The coach didn't mince words regarding freshman center Alex Oriakhi:

"That was his worst game in a Connecticut uniform. He couldn't catch the ball, couldn't rebound the ball, couldn't play defense. Besides that, he was terrific."

In fact, Oriakhi's Okwandu-esque effort had Calhoun wishing he had played Big Chuck for more than just the game's first three minutes.

"Charles did nothing today to deserve only playing three minutes," Calhoun said. "I probably should have given him a chance."

Indeed, Okwandu stuck a 13-footer just over a minute into the game and managed to grab a rebound and block a shot in his short stint.

Back to Oriakhi: "I don’t think he's getting better," said Calhoun. "As a matter of fact offensively, he's heading the other way. He's a freshman, that can happen to you. Alex is too good a player, too good an athlete to play the way he played."

***Edwards had six blocked shots and now has 23 in the Huskies' first seven games.

"Those are starting to get to Hasheem and Emeka numbers," Calhoun noted.

***Jamal Coombs-McDaniel wasn't any better than his high school buddy Oriakhi. The frosh had one point (1-for-4 foul shooting) in eight minutes.

"He's our best 3-point shooter in practice," Calhoun said. "(In games), he's not just missing, he's putting up air balls."

***Calhoun was far more complimentary – and rightfully so – of Lin, who poured in a career high-tying 30 points, including the Crimson's final 11 of the game (replete with a spectacular driving, two-handed dunk with 13.5 seconds left).

"What I really like about him as that he's athletic, more than you think," Calhoun said. "He controls his temperament to a real nice tempo, he knows how to play. He's one of the better kids, including Big East guards, who have come in here in quite some time."

"He's a little more athletic Doron Sheffer … I can't think of a team he wouldn't play for."

*** Harvard coach Tommy Amaker blew off several telephone interview requests over the past week, and apparently did the same to the UConn radio team prior to Sunday's game.

***In the "Just Sayin'" Dept.: Notre Dame's Tim Abromaitis, a Farmington resident and son of former UConn star Jim Abromaitis, poured in 31 for the Fighting Irish today in a win over Central Florida.

***UConn is offering a holiday ticket promotion to fans of its nationally-ranked UConn men's and women's basketball programs for a total of five games over the upcoming holidays.

For each ticket purchased (up to a maximum of eight) for any of the selected games, purchasers will receive an additional ticket for the same game at no charge.

The promotion is for two women's games and three men's games. The women's games are Sunday, Dec. 20 against Iona (6 p.m.) at Gampel and Wednesday, Dec. 23 against No. 2 Stanford (5:30 p.m.) at the XL Center.

The men's games, all at the XL Center, are Sunday, Dec. 20 against Central Florida (1 p.m.), Tuesday, Dec. 22 against Maine (7 p.m.)and Sunday, Dec. 27 against Iona (2 p.m.). Orders can be placed by going to and clicking on the "Buy Tickets" link in the Ticket Center. Fans can then click the "Promotions" link.

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PRE-GAME PRIMER: Wink Calhoun?

Here's one of the best examples why you should never trust what you read on Wikipedia: scroll down to the "Early career and education" section of Jim Calhoun's Wiki biography and check out one of his alleged past former jobs. Game show host!!! Now that is an image (however unlikely) that is nothing short of hysterical.

Here's another image: Ater Majok on the debate team. That actually happened. Majok was a member of the American International school debate team while in Australia. Which leads to the question: has he yet to engage coach Calhoun in a debate?

"There's smart debate, and then there's stupid debate," Majok said with a smile. "Smart debate is a debate you're going to win. Against coach Calhoun, he's always right. He always says the right thing, so you can't really debate about what he says. He always uses the right words."

Majok says he's a B-plus student this semester and can't wait to finally suit up for the Huskies on Dec. 20 against Central Florida.

"Man, I just can't wait. I just can't wait," he said. "It's been a long time, there have been a lot of hiccups, a lot of road bumps. It was a hard journey. There were some times when I was like, 'Why am I dealing with this? I could just be doing something else, go back home.' But a lot of people helped me through it. A lot of the coaches. A lot of people helped me through this journey. Now, I see at the end of the day, it's worth it to go through all the hiccups."

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Crimson & Clover

Some quick-hitters from today's practice, as UConn held its media availability a day earlier than normal for Sunday's 1 p.m. game vs. Harvard:

***Harvard is 6-1 and is coming off an 85-64 rout of Rice. The Crimson has also defeated two common opponents of the Huskies: William & Mary (87-85 in triple OT) and Boston University (78-70). Their lone loss came at Army, 56-53.

***Harvard, coached by ex-Duke star and Michigan and Seton Hall coach Tommy Amaker, isn't your typical Ivy League team. They're athletic (seems admissions has loosened its standards a bit to get some better athletes in), they like to get up and down the floor and play a lot of man-to-man.

"They're playing exceptionally well at Tommy," said Jim Calhoun. "Tommy's one of my favorite people. He's done a great job of getting a different kind of Ivy League team – better athletes, they can do a lot of things."

***Harvard is led by Jeremy Lin, who averages 16 points per game and is one of the few Asian-American players in college hoops.

"He's a little bit like (Duke's Jon) Scheyer in the sense that you don't think he's that quick, but he is," Calhoun said. "He's probably a better rebounder, actually. He shoots it pretty well, maybe not like Scheyer's distance, and he makes plays. He does it with very deceptive speed. He's crafty, and he knows how to play … Lin certainly could play for teams in the Big East."

***Same starting lineup on Sunday.

***Jerome Dyson was practicing and showing no ill effects of his injury Wednesday night (which, apparently, was more of a foot sprain than a groin issue). Jerome was back to being Jerome today. On at least two occasions, he went flying to the ground and seemed a bit shaken up both times, only to pop right back up after a few moments.

"I think if he woke up feeling no bumps and bruises, he'd call a doctor saying 'There's something wrong with me,'" Calhoun noted.

Sticks Robinson on Dyson: "Ever since he got here, he's been falling crazy. He doesn't know how to fall. I hope he doesn't kill himself, because we need him. I felt like if we had him last year, (we would have won) the championship."

***Good Sticks story. On Wednesday night, after a good second half following a subpar first half, Robinson told Calhoun on the sidelines: "See, I told you coach. Everything turned out alright."

Only problem was, according to Calhoun, Sticks never had actually told Calhoun that everything would turn out alright.

***Expecting to see Jonathan Mandeldove in uniform next semester? Don't hold your breath. Not that it really matters much.

***Sticks on if he's happy with the way he's played so far this year:

"Nah. I'm not satisfied yet. When I feel satisfied is when I'm scoring 30 points, 25 points … 10 rebounds."

Robinson is averaging 15 points and 6.3 boards.

***Looking ahead to Wednesday's showdown with Kentucky at Madison Square Garden, Robinson noted that UK freshman DeMarcus Cousins is from his hometown of Birmingham, Ala.

"Yeah, he's so cocky, man. Too cocky for his own good," Sticks said with a smile.

Bad blood between the two?

"No, he just jokes too much. I told him, just stop playing around so much. He jokes a lot, but he's a great dude overall."

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Your Time is Gonna Come

Here's a piece from today's Register on Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, who is trying to find more minutes in UConn's regular rotation.

The freshman admits he's been frustrating with his lack of playing time over the first month of the season, but realizes his time will come if he improves and work hard -- particularly on the defensive end of the floor.

(Who sang "Your Time is Gonna Come"?)


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Slip Kid

Don't worry, folks, Jerome Dyson is fine.

Yes, we've heard that before: after he left the Syracuse game last year, we were told there was no structural damage to his right knee. Turns out, he had torn his lateral meniscus and was out for the season.

But this time he's obviously fine, as evidenced by the fact that Dyson returned to the game about 3 1/2 minutes after leaving with what turned out to be a slight groin strain and wound up scoring seven of his 22 points the rest of the way.

He'll probably be sore and won't be able to practice for the next couple of days, but otherwise, nothing to see here. Not that he didn't scare a few people when he slipped on the floor while trying to drive by an opponent out on the perimeter a minute into the latter half of UConn's 92-64 win over BU. Dyson lay motionless, grimacing in apparent pain for several moments before being helped off the floor by trainer James Doran and walk-on Kyle Bailey.

"It was frightening, no question," Jim Calhoun admitted. "It ended up being nothing. He's so strong, that actually saved him. He slipped, did a split and thought he pulled a groin, but said he felt nothing snap."

Added Gavin Edwards: "I was kind of scared, I'm not going to lie. I was just hoping that everything would be alright, and it (was). I just hope Jerome will make a full recovery from anything that's bothering him and be ready to go on Sunday."

Dyson just can't seem to avoid getting banged up. He's missed numerous practices over the years with dings and bruises, and had even left Wednesday's game with 2 1/2 minutes left in the first half after twisting his right ankle.

***Dyson's 22 points led UConn. Stanley Robinson added 16 points and nine rebounds, Kemba Walker had 15 points and 10 assists and Edwards and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel netted 12 apiece. Edwards and freshman center Alex Oriakhi each hauled in nine boards, as well.

Walker's 10 assists were a career-best, topping his previous high of nine set on Friday in the loss to Duke. Still, Calhoun thought it could have been more.

"I think Kemba could have clearly had 15, 16 assists if our big guys hadn't dropped the ball," said the coach.

Coombs-McDaniel, a freshman, added seven rebounds to go with his 12 points – both career bests.

Charles Okwandu, on the other hand, managed to foul out in six minutes of play. Wow.

***The Huskies, who shot a miserable 15-for-28 from the foul line in Friday night's 68-59 loss to No. 6 Duke, hit 30 of 35 from the charity stripe on Wednesday. They also outrebounded the Terriers by a 54-29 margin, by far their most impressive effort off the boards this season, and held BU to 30-percent shooting.

"In the final analysis," Calhoun said, "the stat sheet started to look a little more normal for us, at least."

On the negative side, UConn did commit 17 turnovers -- six of them by Dyson.

***The Huskies didn't commit their first foul of the second half until 13:03 had elapsed.

***Who sang "Slip Kid"?

***UConn took a 52-34 lead into halftime thanks to an odd sequence. Walker was fouled while attempting a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Apparently assuming time had expired, BU players left the court for the locker room. However, after a video review, the officials determined there were 0.2 seconds left on the clock for Walker's three free throws.

The Terriers were called back onto the court to a chorus of boos, and Walker hit all three freebies.

***BU (2-6) was playing without starters Corey Lowe (right foot inflammation) and Valdas Sirutis (left ankle sprain). Scott Brittain, a starter last season, has yet to play this season after suffering a sixth concussion.

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