Sunday, December 18, 2011

'He's Going to Have Jerry West on His Jersey'

Andre Drummond didn't have a particularly good practice on Friday, according to Jim Calhoun.

"He said to me, ‘Coach, I’m saving it for Sunday,'" Calhoun recalled. "That’s nice to hear from your freshman center. There’s no saving around here, you get better on Friday to be better on Sunday.

"But, quite frankly, he was a lot better on Sunday than he was on Friday.”

He certainly was. Drummond had 24 points on 11-for-12 shooting (including four monster dunks), eight rebounds and five blocked shots.

His most impressive dunk came on an alley-oop from Shabazz Napier after Napier's steal with 6:47 left to play.

"It was just God’s gift," said Drummond, perhaps confusing his teammate with the St. John's player for a moment. "I was in the right place at the right time.”

As impressive as the dunks were, however, it was Drummond's all-around arsenal of offensive moves that stood out the most. He scored on low-post spin moves and some short-range jumpers that hadn't been a big part of his repertoire to this point.

"He made a couple of jump shots and post moves today that we definitely weren't expecting," said Holy Cross coach Milan Brown. "He's a good player. If he keeps working, he's going to have Jerry West on his jersey, for sure."

In other words, Drummond has an NBA future. We all know that. But even though it did come against an outmatched, outsized Holy Cross squad, this was by far the most NBA-ready Drummond has looked to date.

“I’m working on slowing my game down a little bit, so I can get myself more comfortable to get the right shot up,” Drummond said. “There’s always room for improvement. I think I had a good game today. It was a great team win, collectively.”

Added Alex Oriakhi: “His confidence has definitely grown. The guards are finding him. When you know your guards are looking for you as a big man, it definitely gives you confidence because it tells you they want to give you the ball.”

*** In truth, just about everybody contributed today. Oriakhi had his best game in a while, with 15 points and only a couple of scoldings by Calhoun. He got off to a good start with the team's first four points on a pair of dunks, but was still yanked quickly by the coach.

“I guess I do have to adjust to it," Oriakhi said. "I kind of expect it now. You kind of know when you’re going to come out. I’ve just got to make things happen early.”

Later in the game, Calhoun seemed to have some words for Oriakhi, then put his hands on the big man's cheeks as if to tell him everything was OK.

“I’ve been here for three years. If you get mad when he yells at you now, I don’t know what to tell you, because he’s going to yell at everybody. He’s going to yell at you, even if you weren’t in the play. I just don’t think about it, I just tell myself, ‘Next play.’”

A few numbers:

*** Napier doled out 13 assists.

*** All nine uniformed, scholarship players scored at least three points.

*** UConn had 10 dunks -- four by Drummond, three by Oriakhi and one apiece from Jeremy Lamb, Ryan Boatright and even Niels Giffey.

*** The Huskies outscored Cross 58-16 in the paint and 26-4 on fast breaks (16-0 in the latter half).

*** UConn had committed just one team foul well into the second half before a flurry of whistles in the waning minutes. Holy Cross took just two free throws.

“Good officiating, probably,” Calhoun explained.

*** Holy Cross guard R.J. Evans, a Salem native and Norwich Free Academy grad, led the Crusaders with 15 points and did a good job holding Lamb to 10 points on 4-for-16 shooting.

But Evans' day was not without some adversity. Just before taking the floor in the latter half, Evans had what Brown called the “dry heaves” and wound up throwing up into a trash can near the Holy Cross bench. He went straight into the game, anyway.

“That’s a Connecticut guy trying to play in Connecticut,” said Brown, who also noted that after watching his team lose by 37 points, “I wanted to throw up, too.”

*** Sickest move of the game, easily, was Boatright's ankle-breaking, baseline crossover move for a reverse layup, in the midst of UConn's 18-0 run late in the first half.

*** Calhoun said he and Napier had a "meeting of the minds" early in the game.

"That's an interesting place, his mind and my mind," the coach said. "I mean, you talk about confusion ..."

*** For some reason, Calhoun loves to use the word "logy" to describe lackadaisical play, and he broke the word out for the first time this season on Sunday in describing UConn's first 10 minutes of play.

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