Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Calhoun to Return for 26th Season

Ending whatever doubt still remained, Jim Calhoun has informed UConn president Susan Herbst that he will return to coach the Huskies for a 26th season.

Calhoun, who signed a five-year, $13 million contract extension in May, 2010, has repeatedly said over the past six months or so that he hadn’t made a decision about his return. Even during the Huskies’ improbable run to a third national title last April, Calhoun said he would wait until after spending some time with his family to decide.

He wouldn’t comment publicly on his decision Wednesday.

Certainly, things couldn’t be much better for Calhoun and his program right now. On the heels of the national title, Calhoun has raked in three prized recruits – including one of the top-rated big men in America, Middletown’s Andre Drummond, last week. Jeff Hathaway, the athletic director with whom Calhoun has feuded for years, has left the position and been replaced on an interim basis with Paul Pendergast, an ally of Calhoun’s. Herbst and Calhoun also have great admiration for each other.
Still, Calhoun had apparently put off his decision until Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, UConn’s 2011-12 schedule was made public. The Huskies will kick off their regular season on Nov. 11 at Gampel Pavilon against Columbia. Prior to the game, the 2011 national championship banner will be unveiled. UConn will also play a home-and-home series with Syracuse for the first time since 2006-07.

UConn’s Big East slate begins on Dec. 28 at South Florida. Of course, Calhoun will not be on the sidelines for that game, or the Huskies’ New Year’s Eve bout with St. John’s at the XL Cetner in Hartford or on Jan. 3 at Seton Hall. Calhoun was suspended for the first three games of the Big East season as a result of NCAA violations in the recruitment of Nate Miles.

Obviously, that embarrassment wasn’t enough to keep Calhoun away from the sidelines for good this season.

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UConn Releases '11-12 Schedule

The three games that UConn men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun will miss due to suspension are against three of the weaker teams in the Big East Conference.

As a result of NCAA violations in the recruitment of Nate Miles, Calhoun must sit out the Huskies’ first three Big East games this season. Those three games will be at South Florida on Dec. 28, at home at the XL Center against St. John’s on New Year’s Eve and at Seton Hall on Jan. 3.

The Huskies’ full schedule was released on Wednesday, though starting times of several games remain to be determined.

UConn will play a pair of ESPN Big Monday games on the road: at Louisville on Feb. 6 and at Villanova on Feb. 20. The Huskies will also host Syracuse in an ESPN Gameday battle at Gampel Pavilion on Feb. 25. UConn will also travel to Syracuse on Feb. 11, making this the first season that UConn and Syracuse have played home-and-home in the regular season since 2006-07.

It should also be noted the the unveiling of the 2011 national championship banner will preced UConn's regular-season opener on Nov. 11 at Gampel against Columbia.

And you read correctly: UConn’s game at Notre Dame on Jan. 14, which will be televised by espn2, will start at 11 a.m. in order to avoid bumping heads with NFL playoff games.

2 - AIC Gampel (exhibition) 7:30 p.m.
6 - CW Post XL Center (exhibition) 1 p.m.
11 - Columbia Gampel 7 p.m.
14 - Wagner Gampel
17 - Maine XL
20 - Coppin State XL
24 – vs. UNC Asheville 7 p.m.
25 – vs. UCF or College of Charleston 2 or 7 p.m.
26 – vs. Utah or Harvard or Florida State or UMass
3 – Arkansas XL
8 - Harvard Gampel
18 - Holy Cross XL
22 – Fairfield XL
28 - at USF
31 - St. John's XL
3 - at Seton Hall
7 - at Rutgers
9 - WVU XL 7 p.m.
14 - at Notre Dame 11 a.m.
18 - Cincinnati Gampel 7 p.m.
21 - at Tennessee 4 p.m.
29 - Notre Dame XL
1 - at Georgetown 7 p.m.
4 - Seton Hall XL
6 - at Louisville 7 p.m.
11 - at Syracuse 1 p.m.
15 - Depaul Gampel
18 - Marquette XL Noon
20 - at Villanova 7 p.m.
25 - Syracuse Gampel (ESPN GAMEDAY) 9 p.m.
28 - at Providence

3 – Pittsburgh Gampel Noon


Monday, August 29, 2011

Bradley May Give Up Scholarship

UConn is exploring several avenues to free up a scholarship for top-rated recruit Andre Drummond, and it appears that having Michael Bradley give up his scholarship, at least for a year, is one of the more viable ones.

Bradley, a 6-foot-10 center, sat out last season as a redshirt. He is expected to vie for playing time this season, but may be doing so on his own dime.

“There are several options I know the school is helping him to explore, (like) how much financial aid he would be eligible for,” said Lynn Jordan, program director at the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home, where Bradley spent most of his high school years. “His circumstances are a little unique, so that may open the door up for financial aid.”

As I wrote in this feature story a little over a year ago, Bradley’s background certainly is unique. He moved into the children’s home – a facility that works with families of children who, for a variety of reasons, can’t live at home – when he was about 12, returned to live with his mother, Jacqueline Phinazee, about 18 months later, but soon returned to the home and spent the bulk of his high school years there. For a time, he lived with Jordan and her son, Blake, and maintains a close relationship with the family.

“As far as I know, he hasn’t signed anything yet, officially,” said Jordan. “They’re going to try to get the numbers together, let him see them, and if they think it will work out as far as the money, it’s something he’s willing to do.”

Indeed, she added that Bradley didn’t at all feel forced into sacrificing his scholarship for Drummond, the 6-11 center who’s rated as one of the top big men recruits in America.

If Bradley’s situation doesn’t work out, there are several other options that UConn is exploring, according to a source close to the program.

Drummond surprised everyone – including the UConn hoops staff – by Tweeting his commitment to the program on Friday evening. While the Huskies had been working behind the scenes for a while to make this happen, they were caught off-guard by Drummond’s abrupt announcement.

UConn has just 10 scholarships to give this year due, down from the maximum 13, due to recruiting and academic violations. All 10 are accounted for, so the only way for Drummond to join this year’s team is for one of them to be vacated. Drummond, a Middletown resident who attended St. Thomas More Prep the past three years, can’t pay his own way as a walk-on because he is considered a recruited athlete.

*** Oh, and this: Charlie Villanueva has been named to the Dominican Republic squad for teh FIBA Americas tournament.

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Mr. Drummond

Maybe you've heard the news already: in between a pair of natural disasters (earthquake and hurricane), UConn got some earth-shaking news when Andre Drummond announced, via Twitter, that he has committed to the Huskies.

Here's the story from today's Register.

An amazing turn of events, really. While some have suggested all along that Drummond has always been in play for UConn this upcoming season, it sure seemed a long shot as classes in Storrs were set to begin in a few days. Not to mention the fact that the Huskies' scholarship allotment for this season is already used up.

Which leads us to a very intriguing question: Just how will UConn find a way to get Drummond on the team? A no-brainer, you say? Just nudge one of the current guys off the squad. Send Enosch Wolf back to Germany or tell Niels Giffey to stay over there. Tell Michael Bradley, a redshirt last year, that he'll see no playing time this season with Drummond in the fold and might as well find greener pastures elsewhere.

Nonsense. I have zero information what the Huskies plan to do (people inside the program aren't commenting even off-the-record about Drummond; information they didn't want becoming public has already leaked out). But if a player who was slated to be on the Huskies' roster this season -- indeed, a roster that's been posted on the website for a few weeks already -- suddenly leaves the program, it will be highly suspicious and, quite frankly, totally out of line.

If you made a mistake on a kid, deal with it and take the high road. If you tell him in May that his future with the program doesn't appear filled with playing time, that's one thing. But not on Aug. 27. Not even to make room for perhaps the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NBA draft.

I don't believe that will happen, however. I don't even believe it has crossed the UConn coaching staff's mind. While Drummond & Co. have been typically close-to-the-vest even about this, there are reports that the big man will pay his own way this year. As an in-state kid, his tuition would be somewhat reasonable, and he'd be eligible for student loans, as well. Stanley Robinson qualified for loans while playing as a "walk-on" a couple of years ago.

And, of course, Drummond stands to be more than ready to pay off his tuition a year from now -- provided, of course, the new NBA collective bargaining agreement doesn't up the age of eligibility. If that happens, Drummond can return for another year or two to UConn, where a scholarship will no doubt be available.

But there are no skollies available right now, and I don't want to see any mysteriously open up over the next week or two. I won't believe it was pure coincidence. Not for a moment.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

UConn Dunn Wrong

Providence College hasn't won much over the past decade, though the Friars have had surprising success against UConn in recent years on the basketball court.

Now, for the first time in memory, the Friars have beaten the Huskies off the court, as well.

PC has received a commitment from Kris Dunn, the highly-touted guard out of New London High. Per this article, PC has signed just three McDonald's All-Americans in its history (though I'm not sure I'd include Delray Brooks, since he was a transfer from Indiana).

This also beats the Ryan Gomes situation, since few (including then-PC coach Tim Welsh) knew that Gomes would blossom into such a great player at the time. Jim Calhoun famously recruited Emeka Okafor and Caron Butler ("They're not bad!") instead.

Credit new PC coach Ed Cooley, who started recruiting Dunn while Cooley was still coaching at Fairfield and had never let up. Give some credit to ex-UConn assistant Andre LaFleur, too.

And the good news could keep coming for the Friars ... Ricky Ledo will make his college decision next week, according to a source, and PC appears to be in very standing for Ledo's services.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Battle 4 Atlantis Schedule Announced

UConn will play UNC-Asheville in its first Battle 4 Atlantis game at 7 p.m. on Nov. 24. The Huskies will then play either Utah or Harvard.

Central Florida, College of Charleston, Florida State and UMass sit on the other side of the draw.

Hathaway Out at UConn

Jeff Hathaway’s eight-year tenure as director of athletics at the University of Connecticut came to an end on Friday.

Officially, Hathaway has “retired” from the position, though in reality his departure is the result of an unflattering review of his job performance conducted by an independent group called MGT of America.

Hathaway will remain employed by UConn through Sept. 15 to assist in the transition process.

“I have been proud to serve the University of Connecticut for nearly two decades, including the last eight years as Director of Athletics,” Hathaway said in a statement released by UConn. “It is an honor and privilege to have led this outstanding Division of Athletics and to have worked with so many remarkable student-athletes, coaches, staff members and colleagues at the University, the Big East Conference and NCAA … After 20 years of being associated with UConn, I felt the time was right for me to pursue new challenges.”

Senior Associate Director of Athletics Paul McCarthy will assume responsibilities of the athletic director position until an interim director is named.

“I want to thank Jeff for his long service to UConn and our Division of Athletics,” said UConn President Susan Herbst. “The university has had unprecedented success on the field, on the court and in the classroom for more than a decade and he has a great deal to be proud of during his tenure. I join so many others at the university in thanking him for his service and in wishing him well.”

Under terms of the separation agreement between Hathaway and the university, Hathaway will essentially receive his yearly salary of $531,717, minus any compensation he earns from another job in the athletics field. His biweekly payments will cease on Sept. 15, 2013.

Although UConn’s athletic teams are coming off a tremendous season in which the men’s basketball team won a national championship, the women’s basketball team went to the Final Four, the football team went to the Fiesta Bowl and the baseball team advanced to the Super Regionals, Hathaway has come under fire.

Scandal in the men’s basketball program which led to NCAA sanctions, the failure to replace a key fundraising position, drops across the board in season-ticket sales, even highly publicized criticism from a major donor have been among the many issues embattling Hathaway in recent years.

Last month, UConn paid MGT of America, $28,400 to perform a “360 evaluation” of Hathaway’s performance as athletic director. Reportedly, the review consisted of heavy criticism of Hathaway from the more than 30 people with ties to UConn athletics who were interviewed.

The 360 evaluation process has been terminated prior to its completion, according to the separation agreement, and its results are not likely to be made public.

The arrival of Herbst in June may have signaled the beginning of the end for Hathaway, 52. Herbst has strongly supported UConn men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun, a frequent critic of Hathaway’s.

Among other things, sources say Calhoun is unhappy with the way his contract negotiations – which included monetary penalties for his team’s poor APR scores – unfolded, as well as a perceived lack of support from Hathaway during the NCAA investigation. Hathaway told NCAA investigators that he had never seen a coach so obsessed with landing a recruit as Calhoun was with Nate Miles, the key figure in the recruiting violations.

For the past four years, Hathaway has served on the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Committee, representing the Big East. He is slated to serve as the committee chairman this year, though it’s unclear whether his termination at UConn will thwart that honor. The school has agreed not to interfere with any efforts Hathaway may engage in to chair the committee.

Hathaway has been UConn’s AD since 2003, when he replaced Lew Perkins, who left to take over the same job at the University of Kansas.

While it’s impossible to say who will replace Hathaway or when, it could happen soon. UConn took less than two days, after all, to replace Perkins with Hathaway eight years ago.

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Daniels Finds His Footing

Caught up with DeAndre Daniels the other night and penned this piece on him. Very low-key, almost shy kid, but he seems to be slowly breaking out of his shell and becoming more assertive on the basketball court.

He's pretty athletic and can knock down the 3, as evidenced by the video below:


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Iverson to Visit Syracuse

Caught up with Kuran Iverson at last night's Greater Hartford Pro-Am. The burly, 6-foot-8 forward, one of the top Class of 2013 recruits, said he's making an unofficial visit to Syracuse in a couple of weeks.

Iverson said that his list of schools he's most heavily considering all reside in the Big East: Syracuse, UConn, Louisville, Villanova and Pittsburgh. A Hartford resident who'll be a junior this year at Northwest Catholic High, Iverson said he's always watched and liked UConn, and has been up at Storrs several times to run with the likes of Kemba Walker.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Lamb Scores 58 ... and Loses!!!

Jeremy Lamb was on fire in a GHPA playoff game tonight, pouring in 58 points for the Springfield Slamm.

Unfortunately for Lamb, Gary Forbes was even hotter.

Forbes, a UMass product who played for the Denver Nuggets last season, scored 78 -- that's right -- 78 points to lead the Sparks Auto Body Naughty Boys to a 136-132 victory.

This was seriously fun to watch. Throughout much of the first half, Forbes (who drained 13 3-pointers) and Lamb matched each other, mano y mano, one 3-pointer after another. Kinda some Bird-Dominique '88 action.

Lamb hung tough with the NBA player. He never lost his composure (does he ever?), sank a bunch of long-distance treys and took it to the hole well all night. Here's one instance when he beats Forbes off the dribble:

But Forbes, a Panama native who grew up in New York City, was just too much. His 78 points broke the GHPA record previously held by Will Solomon.

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The Lamb, Daniels Show

Jeremy Lamb has 26 points at halftime, including a Reggie Miller-like four points in the final couple of seconds, as the Springfield Slamm holds a 69-65 lead over the Sparks Motor Naughty Boys in GHPA playoff action.

DeAndre Daniels has 14 for the Slamm, including one of the better dunks you'll see. Late in the first half, Daniels sliced through the lane, took a pass from Lamb and stuffed home a left-handed jam that wowed the big crowd at the Sports & Medical Sciences Academy. (I got it on video, only Daniels is almost completely obscured by the referee. Let me know if you'd still like to see it and I'll post it).

Daniels can appear a bit tentative at times, and has been off badly on a few jumpers. But displays of athleticism like that are something UConn fans are going to enjoy greatly over the winter.

(Oh, and if you're wondering why I'm blogging this instead of Tweeting, it's because I don't have access to Twitter at the SMSA. Hartford public schools seem to have a block on Twitter access.

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Lamb in GHPA Playoff Action Tonight

Jeremy Lamb will lead Little Caesars Slamm into action tonight as the Greater Hartford Pro-Am single-elminination playoffs kick off at 6:30 p.m.

Lamb (and fellow UConn teammate DeAndre Daniels) lead the third-seeded Slamm against the sixth-seeded Sparks Motors Naughty Boyz, led by Gary Forbes of the Denver Nuggets and top prep star Kuran Iverson.

At 8:15, No. 5 Cambyland takes on No. 4 Worldwide Denim.

In a play-in game on Wednesday, Kemba Walker's 25 points led the Doc Hurley Scholars to a 128-98 win over Simoniz. Roscoe Smith added just four points for the winners.

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

College Gameday Coming to Gampel

UConn will host Syracuse in an ESPN College Gameday game on Saturday, Feb. 25 at Gampel.

ESPN’s College GameDay Driven by State Farm will return for its eighth season beginning Saturday, Jan. 14, at 10 a.m. from the campus of Florida State. In a one-time only switch, the season debut will be on ESPN with the second hour on ESPNU. Most other weeks, a two-hour show will air at 10 a.m. on ESPNU, continuing at 11 a.m. on ESPN with a one-hour edition at 8 p.m. on ESPN (except for Jan. 28 and March 3). The Saturday Primetime game-of-the-week series will generally be aired at 9 p.m. (exceptions noted below).

New to the schedule this year is the “flex pick” option for the March 3 game. College GameDay will either stop in Durham, N.C., for North Carolina at Duke in a 7 p.m. Saturday Primetime matchup or in Lawrence, Kan., for the Texas at Kansas 9 p.m. game.

For the eighth year, Rece Davis will serve as point guard for the College GameDay desk, and will be joined by analysts Jay Bilas, Digger Phelps, Hubert Davis and Bob Knight to preview all the day’s action and discuss the biggest storylines in college basketball.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Drummond Will Attend Wilbraham & Monson

As I'm sure you all know by now, Andre Drummond has decided to attend another year of prep school, leaving St. Thomas More (where he's been the past two years) and attending Wilbraham & Monson Academy. He is still considering playing college ball in 2012-13, with UConn as one of his five choices. However, Drummond is expected to be a lottery pick in the 2012 NBA draft.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Funeral Services for Dave Solomon

For those wishing to pay final respects to longtime Register columnist Dave Solomon, his funeral will be on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. at the B.C. Bailey Funeral Home in Wallingford.

Burial to follow at Beth Israel Cemetery, Dudley Avenue, Wallingford.

In lieu of flowers the family has asked that donations can be made in Dave's name to the Beth Israel Synagogue in Wallinford, or the Register Fresh Air Fund.


Gordon Won't Play for Great Britain

Ben Gordon won't be making his international debut for Great Britain at EuroBasket in a couple of weeks, as originally panned.

British Basketball on Monday confirmed that the Detroit Pistons guard won't be a part of Chris Finch's charges as they head for EuroBasket in Lithuania at the end of the month.

The 28-year-old guard decided to sit out because of complications regarding the NBA lockout and the proposed insurance coverage.


'Decision' for Drummond Approaching Soon

Andre Drummond says he will announce a decision on his future on Wednesday. What this means is open to plenty of speculation over the next couple of days, but one person who will be as surprised as everybody else about Drummond's decision will be Jere Quinn, his coach at St. Thomas More the past two seasons.

"I haven't talked with them in a month," Quinn said of Drummond and his family. "We've had two good years of Andre and we'd love to have him back for a third, but I have no idea ... If I had more information, I'd tell you."

It's silly to engage in a guessing game right now, though Drummond basically has three options: return to St. Thomas More (which would seem unlikely, given his lack of contact with Quinn), transfer to another prep school, play overseas or enroll in college. He will be eligible for the 2012 NBA draft.

Only thing I know is that UConn's scholarship allotment is full at 10, and Jim Calhoun told me a short while ago that he doesn't envision any roster changes moving forward.

Stay tuned ...

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

RIP, Dave Solomon

The Register lost a great writer and an even better man on Saturday evening. Dave Solomon, the Register's longtime sports columnist, died in a single-car accident on his way home from covering a UConn football team practice.

I first met Dave in 2004 when we were both covering a Red Sox-Yankees game, and he was as friendly and helpful then as he was the last time we spoke about a week ago.

The first thing I noticed about him as a reporter and writer was that he always looked for the story behind the story, the angle that perhaps no other writer in the room saw but yet made for a better and more intriguing column than anything anybody else would write. It's a trait I've always admired and continued to witness first-hand while working side-by-side with Dave over the past four years on the UConn men's basketball beat.

There's no doubt Dave is one of the best columnist I've ever known. He broke several major stories just in the few years I've known him -- including the Dolphins' hiring of Tony Sporano as their head coach, beating all the Miami beat guys to the punch.

I'm positive Dave could have written for any paper in the country, but he seemed perfectly content where he was, living in Meriden with his wonderful wife, Judy, and chronicling every angle of UConn sports and local sports in general -- not just baseball, football and basketball (OK, he wasn't crazy about hockey), but sports that needed more attention like boxing. He was a great advocate for local boxers and gave them more publicity than any writer in the state.

Maybe the truest mark of what a pro Dave will always be is the fact that he will be greatly missed not only by his colleagues but by the people he covered. People like Jim Calhoun, Geno Auriemma, Randy Edsall, etc. may not have always agreed with what Dave had to write and say, but they always respected his opinon. A writer really can't get a better compliment than that.

That's one of the first things Calhoun told me when I first introduced myself to him after taking over the UConn beat in 2007. Calhoun and Solomon may forever be linked by the infamous Ryan Gomes press conference in '04. But after his over-the-top reaction to Dave's line of questioning about what he may not have seen in Gomes as a recruit, Calhoun called Solomon the next day to apologize.

“With some guys, if they don’t show you the type of respect, you don’t quite feel the same," Calhoun said this morning. "Dave always showed respect to me. I’m going to get written about daily by guys like Dave, and he’s not going to back down. I think that made him even better. We locked horns a few times, but I maintain that we always had a great friendship. I really, really like Dave Solomon. God rest his soul, I will miss him.”

Here's some more of what Calhoun had to say:

“I go back with Dave to the first press conference I had in 1986. We’ve kind of been together the whole time. He’s one of the few.”

“Dave was an opinionated, strong-willed, great guy, and a true professional. And he could really write. I always told him when he really wrote, he was never hurtful, but he could hurt you because he could really write. People who can write can hurt you.”

“I consider him a friend, and at times a confidante. We’ve had many one, two, three-hour conversations … He’s truly a professional and a great person. To the Solomon family, I extend my condolences. Even those who disagreed with Dave’s opinion probably never disagreed with Dave as a person.”

“Into our 26th year, we still had a “Hi, how are you, what’s going on” type of deal. That’s truly indicative. At no point in time I didn’t speak to Dave. At times I agreed, at times disagreed, but I enjoyed his ideas, I liked talking to him. He’s going to be missed by fellow media members, but also by coaches. In his own way, he didn’t have a problem telling you what he thought, but he would always listen to you. That’s unique.”

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Selden to Visit Aug. 12

Wayne Selden, a 2014 guard from BABC, will take an unofficial visit to UConn a week from Friday. The Huskies have already offered.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ed Cooley's Working the Phones

Gotta admire Ed Cooley's enthusiasm as he takes over the reins at Providence. Somehow, I could never envision Jim Calhoun doing this:

Providence College men’s basketball season tickets sales continue to be strong as more than 40 percent of season ticket holders have renewed their seats and more than 130 new accounts have been set up. New Friar Head Basketball Coach Ed Cooley has been joining in the sales process as he has been calling fans to encourage them to purchase tickets and support the Friars. Sales also have been strong for student-season tickets. Last season, the athletics department sold 688 student season tickets, so far this summer more than 550 students have purchased tickets.

“Fans are excited about Ed Cooley and the brand of basketball that he will bring to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center,” Providence College Athletic Ticket Manager Christine Flannery said. “His energy and enthusiasm is contagious. Our fans have commented that they think it is special that our head coach is willing to pick up the phone and make calls to help ticket sales. However, it is more than just selling tickets, it is believing in the product he is trying to create.”

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Olander Has Bulked Up

If there’s one concern for Jim Calhoun this upcoming season – aside from losing arguably the most important player in program history – it’s the strength of the UConn men’s basketball team’s frontcourt players.

The Huskies will have plenty of talent on the wings and should be able to replace Kemba Walker as well as they could hope to with sophomore Shabazz Napier and freshman Ryan Boatright.

But it’s the size upfront, or lack thereof, that has Calhoun worried the most. Alex Oriakhi is a physical specimen, even if he doesn’t always mix it up as well as Calhoun would like. After that, however, there are certainly some questions about UConn’s frontcourt. So much so that Calhoun is quick to point to Charles Okwandu – the 7-footer who averaged just 2.9 points per game – as a key graduation loss.
“I’m worried about our muscle,” Calhoun said recently.

With that in mind, Tyler Olander has worked hard this offseason to bulk up and get stronger. He’s added about 15 pounds of muscle, checking in at about 240 pounds, and is ready to provide the Huskies with some more frontcourt strength.

“(Calhoun has) been telling me about that all summer: getting my body ready is the main thing,” Olander, a 6-foot-9 sophomore, said. “He’s been telling me to muscle up and work hard in the weight room.”

So Olander has done that, and he’s ready to help the Huskies up front.

“I definitely don’t mind going in and banging,” he said. “I feel I can do that, especially with the work I’ve put in this summer, just to get stronger and get my body ready.”

It’s been a whirlwind year for Olander, the Mansfield native who overcame a severe reduction in minutes and production late in the season and found himself in the starting lineup through most of the Huskies’ amazing run through March and April.

Olander’s contributions didn’t increase a whole lot during that span, though he did chip in with seven points and six rebounds in UConn’s win over Syracuse in the Big East tournament semifinals, and kicked off the Huskies’ scoring in both of their Final Four bouts.

When it was all said and done, Olander averaged 1.5 points and 1.8 rebounds in 9.6 minutes per game --- 0.7 points and 1.0 boards in Big East play – numbers Calhoun would like to see increase significantly next season.

“He wants me to produce more numbers so he can play me longer,” Olander said. “I was in there, and he said I was doing a lot of good things, but I had no numbers to show for it. So he just wants me to put numbers up.”

Olander and fellow sophomore Michael Bradley were slated to go on a tour of Italy to play with other Big East players at the end of this month, but those plans fell through. Instead, Olander has been working out in Storrs and also playing with Walker and Roscoe Smith on the Doc Hurley All-Stars in the Greater Hartford Pro-Am.

Although the Italian tour fell through, Olander said Bradley (who red-shirted this past season) will be a pleasant surprise to UConn fans.

“They didn’t’ see him last year, and he’s worked tremendously hard,” he said of Bradley. “I think everyone will surprise people in different ways. Everybody had a productive summer.”

Indeed, Olander figures the Huskies will be right back in the hunt for a national championship this winter.

“I was just talking with Alex, and we both think we’re going to be really good this year,” he said. “We have great players coming back. We’re a young team, but if we play with a lot of energy and determination, we could do a lot of good things this year again.”

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Monday, August 1, 2011

What a Difference a Year Makes

One of the most impressive aspects of the UConn men's basketball team's 2010-11 national championship season was its undefeated record in non-conference play.

The Huskies went 12-0 outside of the Big East, including victories over such top teams as Kentucky, Michigan State and Texas. And that's not counting their run through the NCAA tournament, in which teams like Arizona State, San Diego State, Kentucky (again) and Butler fell victim to the Huskies.

Jim Calhoun recently told the Register, "We're not going to go undefeated in non-conference play again." But that doesn't seem to be out of the question this season for the Huskies.

UConn's schedule of non-conference opponents was released on Monday, and while competitive, it hardly rivals last season's slate.

UConn will face just one team that went to the NCAA tournament a year ago – Tennessee, a program racked in scandal that recently fired controversial head coach Bruce Pearl.

The Huskies, who beat Wichita State, Michigan State and Kentucky to win the Maui Invitational last November, will compete in the Battle 4 Atlantis in Paradise Island, Bahamas this year. The field isn't quite as competitive, however: Florida State and Harvard are perhaps the two toughest teams UConn could face.

UConn men's basketball 2011-12 non-conference opponents:

Nov. 2 (exhibition) vs. AIC Jim Calhoun's alma mater in town for another exhibition game

Nov. 6 (exhibition) vs. CW Post Hamden's Tobin Carberry a sophomore on Pioneers

Nov. 11 vs. Columbia Lions went 6-8 in the Ivy League last season

Nov. 14 vs. Wagner Seahawks coached by Dan Hurley and his brother, ex-Dukie Bobby

Nov. 17 vs. Maine Ted Woodward, a Calhoun assistant many moons ago, coaches the Black Bears

Nov. 20 vs. Coppin State UConn only beat Eagles by a dozen (76-64) last year in Hartford

Nov. 24-26 @ Battle 4 Atlantis, Bahamas (UConn, Harvard, Florida State, Utah, Massachusetts, Central Florida, College of Charleston, UNC-Asheville)

Dec. 3 vs. Arkansas No longer "40 Minutes of Hell," Razorbacks were 18-13 last year

Dec. 7 vs. Harvard Ivy regular-season co-champs could give UConn a battle

Dec. 18 vs. Holy Cross Associate head coach was star player, longtime coach of Crusaders

Dec. 22 vs. Fairfield Olander brothers (Tyler and Ryan) meet as college opponents for first time

Jan. 21 @ Tennessee A Jim Calhoun-Bruce Pearl rematch would have been very interesting

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