Monday, July 11, 2011

Life is Good for Jim Calhoun

It’s good to be Jim Calhoun these days.

As if being just a few months removed from your third national championship, then getting commitments from a pair of blue-chip recruits, wasn’t enough, Calhoun now has all six of his beloved grandchildren living nearby. His oldest son, James, just moved from California back East to Massachusetts. The whole family, in fact, is heading down to Jamaica for a vacation on Friday.

Before that, however, Calhoun is heading down to Augusta, Ga., tomorrow for the Peach Jam, where many of the nation’s top recruits will be playing (and where the Huskies first laid eyes on an under-the-radar recruit named Jeremy Lamb a couple of years ago).

When Calhoun returns from Jamaica, he’ll be heading to Orlando and Las Vegas for another pair of showcase events. The Huskies have already got one recruit (6-foot-6 – yes, 6-6, not 6-4, as has been commonly reported – Omar Calhoun) and are planning on bringing in two more. UConn hopes to get a scholarship back from APR if it shows it is taking steps towards improving its academic situation, and there’s a strong chance that Lamb (and maybe even Alex Oriakhi) could go pro after this season.

Anyway, here’s a little of what Calhoun had to say about the current state of his program:

On DeAndre Daniels:

“He and ‘Scoe (Roscoe Smith) can play very well together. DeAndre is not quite strong enough to play inside, now, but he’s gonna be a player.”

“He’s much more effective when he’s on the perimeter. He can put it down, pass it and really, really, really shoot it.”

On Lamb’s breakout performance at the U-19 World Championships:

“Couldn’t be prouder. The ball didn’t go in the hole (always). With him, as with other players over the years – particularly kemba – if he didn’t play well, Jeremy would go find a gym and shoot. We talked on the phone twice, and it was bothering him that Coach Hewitt didn’t want him to shoot, he wanted him to rest. If that’s Connecticut, he’d be shooting. But I’m really proud of what he did. They didn’t have a great team, but he had a great, great tournament.”

On how close Lamb came to going pro:

“His family talked about it. I told Rolando (Lamb’s father) it’s a real bad idea. Yes, he would have been a top-25 pick – the earliest I heard, definitely, was the Knicks – but most importantly, he was not ready mentally or physically. He has the chance to be a special player, whether it’s this year, next year, whenever it may be.”

On Niels Giffey:

“Niels played on the (German) 20-and-under team, and his coach Henrick Rodl just elevated him to the senior team. The last month (of summer) could be really great for him.”

On next year’s team:

“We should have a solid, 9-man rotation – maybe 10, maybe 8. We have a lot of good pieces. Roscoe can play the 3 and 4, Tyler can shoot the ball. We’ll probably play a lot the same, but in some ways be a lot different … We’ve got good pieces on the outside, good pieces on the wing, we can play multi-dimensional. I’m worried about our muscle. Tyler is 240 now, Niels or Michael – one of them’s got to emerge, get a little more muscle. I have great confidence in Shabazz, he’s getting more mature, and he’s going to have to carry that into the season. Jeremy can play at the 1, 2 or 3, he played at the 1 in 19-under. Without question, Ryan’s coming in with the ability to pass the ball. He’s quick, and he can certainly score the basketball. We can play Niels at the 2, DeAndre – against zones, in particular – as a 2.”

On another ‘key’ loss, besides Kemba – Charles Okwandu (yes, Charles Okwandu):

“He gave us 15 minutes per game, blocked a shot-and-a-half, he was 260 pounds, a 7-foot wide-body. We don’t want to lose sight of that right now. Alex can be good, and we hope Enosch or Michael does, because I don’t see anybody right now being able to do what Charles did for us.”

On filling the position of director of administration vacated by Glen Miller:

“We hope to have that done within the next week … It involves a former UConn player.”

Calhoun noted that the hope is to essentially bring in two new people, one to work with academics, alumni relations, etc., and the other to concentrate more on compliance and other aspects.

On Kemba Walker:

“He came to school a couple of days ago and hung out with us. Tomorrow, he’ll be honored at the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce in Cromwell. He’s staying here because this is home to him … To get a player that special again would be an awful lot to ask.”

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