Media Day Maelstrom
Got there at 10 a.m., just as the event was getting underway. I made out better than Jim Calhoun, who didn’t arrive until about 11 a.m. after getting stuck in traffic on his drive from Storrs. He said he left Storrs at about 6:30 a.m.
Calhoun is always a bit fashionably late for his availability to the media throng at this event, but never 45 minutes tardy like today.
“A new record,” he boasted.
Obviously, he was the subject of lots of interest from the assembled media. Calhoun mostly repeated what he’s been saying all along: that he wants to stay in the Big East, but will look out for what’s best for UConn.
“We’re in the best basketball conference in America, and that’s where we want to play,” he said. “The Big East made so many things possible for Connecticut, for me and my players. We’d love to be in the Big East.”
He did note, however, that he has been and will continue to be reaching out to his connections in the ACC and Big 12.
Here are some of the more interesting quotes I gathered throughout the day:
(on UConn’s strong frontcourt)
“The good thing with our big men, we’re not a black hole. If you throw it into us and we see an open man, we’re willing to pass. I think our wings know that.”
(on Andre Drummond)
“He’s just a crazy athlete, man. The thing about his, with all the hype around him, you’d think he’d be arrogant. But he’s not. He listens. I try to coach him out there and tell him what he’s doing wrong, and he just takes it in like sponge. That’s the greatest part about him. When you have a kid with that much talent and is willing to listen and get better … the sky’s the limit.”
(on what Drummond needs to do to improve)
“He’s definitely still raw. He has to get a better understanding of actually playing the game. He’s so athletic, he does everything off pure athleticism. But once he’s able to get a face-up jump shot or a jump-hook, he can really be unstoppable. I think he has to work on his overall skill set. Once he does that, he’s going to be real scary.”
(on what Drummond needs to get better at)
“He needs to improve on a lot, like we all do. The one thing he’s been working on is his post moves. That’s one thing, coming in, he wasn’t really good at. I can tell you now he’s improved a lot. His ability to get to the glass and post his man up underneath the basket is one of the best I’ve seen. He just wants to get better, and that’s one thing about the guy I like. He wants to be the best player he can be.
(on whether he’s thought if this will be his last year in college)
“I haven’t been thinking about that. I’m in college right now, I’m on the team right now.”
(on his own confidence level)
“I definitely have more confidence. Just the fact that I’m going to be a sophomore this year and I know how the Big East is.”
“I don’t think my confidence is where it should be right now. My shot’s been falling, but I’ve been missing too many little shots that I probably should make.”
(on freshmen Drummond, DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright)
“Our three freshmen are really, really good players. All three are terrific.”
“You go out on the street and find me a 6-11, 277-pound kid that can touch the top of the backboard, I’ll find a place to fit him in.
“The biggest surprise is just how athletic he is, and how he can do so many effective things right now, instinctively. I’m not gonna tell him, but he’s really talented. He doesn’t know how talented he is yet, so we’re going to keep it a secret between us.
“Now, the thing is to take this athletic, wonderful kid who listens all the time, and turn it into a terrific basketball player. He’s not that yet, he really isn’t. But he’s got some things you just can’t teach.”
PROVIDENCE COACH ED COOLEY
(on Andre LaFleur, who left UConn to become Cooley’s associate head coach)
“Andre’s been tremendous. He thought it was a different opportunity. To this day, he tells me he misses Connecticut. He loves Jim Calhoun, he’s a father figure to him … but he also thought it was a chance to spread his wings and do something different. He’s added a great element to our program, given us a good profile. We’re really, really fortunate to have Andre.”
“I didn’t ask him why he left … maybe it just was a change. I’ve never asked him that, because I really don’t care.”
(on another Andre … you guessed it – Drummond)
“Great player. I’ve watched him for two years in the summertime, obviously watched him a lot this summer with the young men we recruited who were on his team. Jim’s going to do a great job with him. He’s a tremendous talent.”
A few other tidbits:
*** In the national preseason polls for Blue Ribbon Yearbook, Athlon Sports, Sporting News, Lindy’s, ESPN.com and Yahoo ! Sports, UConn is ranked, respectively: No. 5, 4, 4, 8, 6 and 7. First AP poll of the season will be released on Friday, Oct. 28.
*** Calhoun said that Rudy Gay and Ben Gordon may be practicing with the team this weekend. Kemba Walker and Hasheem Thabeet apparently have already done so.
*** This is the ninth time that UConn has been picked to finish first in the preseason coaches’ poll.
*** Napier and Lamb are on the cover of this year’s Big East media guide, embracing after last year’s national championship victory.