Sunday, April 3, 2011

Kemba's Dreaming of Cutting the Nets

Kemba Walker has been dreaming lately, and he's been dreaming big.

Asked if he's thought about winning the national championship, Walker responded: “I think about it every night. I thought about it (Saturday) night, before the (Kentucky) game. I thought about it after we beat Arizona. I can’t stop thinking about it, honestly. I just keep having these visions of us cutting down the nets and celebrating after the game. So, hopefully, my visions can come true.”

Tough to bet against that, eh?

Foul Ball

Butler leading scorer Matt Howard (16.7 points per game) is a real force. At 6-foot-8, he boasts the ability to step back and hit the 3-pointer (41 percent this season) along with the ability to mix it up down low.

One problem he’s had over the years, however, has been a susceptibility to foul trouble. This season, Howard has fouled out of four games and drawn four fouls in eight others. That will be on Oriakhi’s mind when he most likely draws the assignment on Howard, at least to start the game.

“I’m going to do a good job of making sure my teammates go to me early,” Oriakhi said. “If we can get him into foul trouble early, that would be great, because he’s obviously one of their best players.”

Bradley: ‘It’s Difficult’

Michael Bradley knew the situation entering his freshman year at UConn. He even embraced it, knowing he wasn’t quite ready for the rigors of the Big East.

Still, it hasn’t been easy for the 6-foot-10 center to sit out this season as a red-shirt while the Huskies have made their miracle run.

“It’s difficult, because you want to be out there,” Bradley, a soft-spoken Chattanooga, TN resident, said on Sunday. “It’s hard just watching at times, especially if you’re losing or the game’s really tight and you just really want to be out there."

But, he added, “You’ve got to stay positive and turn everything into a positive, get better, get stronger and help my teammates out and make sure they get better.”

And, he believes, he’s improved as both a player and a person since enrolling at UConn.

“Definitely. I wasn’t as strong, and I hadn’t played much basketball to that point. Just going against Chuck (Okwandu) and bigger opponents, I’ve gotten better.”

Notes 'n quotes

*** Walker said his ankle, which he tweaked Saturday night against Kentucky, is perfectly fine.

*** Calhoun on Butler head coach Brad Stevens, who’s heading to his second straight national championship game at age 33: “If he’s the prototype of what’s ahead in coaching, we’re in great shape.”

*** Shabazz Napier on Calhoun: “If he was young enough, he’d still be out there playing with us. He probably wouldn’t do much because people would lock him up (defensively).”

*** Calhoun on where Walker ranks in UConn history: “He’s going to be just ‘Kemba’ now,” Calhoun explained. “That’s important. If it’s just Ray, Caron, ‘Rip’, ‘Mek,’ Ben … it’s just Kemba now. That’s a great status to have.”

*** Oriakhi on the possibility of helping Calhoun win his third national title:

*** Calhoun on how the NCAA investigation has affected him this season: "I've had three bouts with cancer, that's a lot more devastating ... What others say, a.) it depends on who it is, b.) what they're saying, how much validity it has, c.) how they're chasing the dead horse, as we've had recently."

The latter is an obvious reference to the New York Times' recent interview with Nate Miles.

"I love basketball, I love UConn, I love my life, I love my family, I love my God. I have my two nuns here to make sure I stay holy. The only thing I ask them to do is, Please don't look at me on the sidelines. I'm really not saying that. It's somebody else who made me say that."

Sitting two rows behind the UConn bench on Saturday, I can vouche that Calhoun doesn't want nuns anywhere near the general vicinity.

*** On Oriakhi's pregame dance moves. Kemba: "It was hot." Shabazz: "Smooth. It needs some work, but it's smooth."

*** Calhoun on how odd it would be to win a national title, then sit out the first three Big East games next year: "I haven't even thought about it, nor do I expect to think about it. It's a legitimate question, but I don't have a thought about it because, right now, I'm thinking about Butler. After that, I'll think about recruiting. After that, my golf trip starts May 9. We're going to be gone for nine days, no telephone, play golf, 16 of us. It will be fun."

*** And, finally, Calhoun on whether he might step down and ride off into the sunset if the Huskies win on Monday night.

"You sound like one of our alumni midway through the season when we lost four out of five."

For the record, Calhoun said, as he always does, that it's a decision he'll make after the season has been over for a while.

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