Monday, January 2, 2012

Dissing the Pope?

Andre Drummond was asked about going up against Seton Hall's Herb Pope tomorrow night in Newark.

"I don't even know who that is," Drummond replied. "I'm not interested in who that is."

This has the potential to become bulletin-board material. It sounds as if Drummond, the precocious freshman, is dissing Pope, the senior center who is fourth in the Big East in scoring and second in rebounding.

I'm here to tell you that, as bad as what Drummond said looks in print, I truly don't believe he meant any disrespect. Drummond is not -- repeat, not -- a cocky kid. He's actually very respectful. He's honestly just completely invested in his own team and not worried about his opponents.

"I haven’t seen any other team besides my own," Drummond said. "I’m not interested in any other team besides my own. I’m worried about UConn, not anybody we’re playing.”

Pope might take this all differently if he hears about Drummond's quotes, of course. But if Drummond doesn't know who Pope is, George Blaney sure does.

"Right now, he’s an all-Big East first team, the way he’s been playing," Blaney said of the 6-9 forward. "I’m really impressed with the defense he’s playing. He’s hedging out on the pick-and-roll and stealing the ball, even, on the pick-and-roll. He’s always been a great rebounder, and obviously he’s got scoring talents. We’re just going to have to be solid with him and keep him off the boards as much as we can.”

Jordan Theodore has also picked up his game this season for the Pirates, who are fourth in the latest RPI rankings (UConn is third).

"Theodore has become a really, really good point guard, from sort of a careless point guard," said Blaney. "He’s gotten to 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, he’s really pushing it, he’ll take it all the way or create for others."

Shabazz Napier will be going head-to-head against Theodore. He has a bit more knowledge of Theodore than Drummond does of Pope. Sorta.

“It should be fun, I guess, I’m not sure," Napier said. "I haven’t watched him play, besides (one game) … it was a Little League team, two weeks ago probably. He played real well in that game. Me and Ryan are going to do our best job to stop him. We know he’s the captain of that train. If we make sure he doesn’t do anything offensively, we should be alright.”

In truth, these players don't pay much attention to their Big East foes, for the most part, so Drummond's comments can be taken with a grain of salt.

“For myself, I don’t really," Napier said. "When I get my game data of who I’m playing, that’s when I really look at it and dig deep into it. I don’t follow anybody, really. It’s not like I have any friends on other teams. The people I root for are my AAU teammates, stuff like that. I don’t follow, unless they’re on ESPN and did something spectacular. When Marshon Brooks scored 52, I was like, ‘Wow.’ That’s really the only time I follow somebody. Other than that, I barely watch TV, to be honest.”

A few other items:

*** Roscoe Smith practiced on Monday and looked fine, even with his wrist still heavily taped. Blaney said Smith is still sore, but could see more than the four minutes he saw Saturday against St. John's.

Michael Bradley also had a full practice Monday and is "day-to-day," according to Blaney, who said Bradley's ankle is still bothering him a bit.

*** After tomorrow night's game, UConn will spend some quality time in New Jersey until the Rutgers game on Saturday. The Huskies will stay overnight in Newark tomorrow, then move to a hotel closer to Rutgers on Wednesday, where they will reunite with Jim Calhoun to prepare for Saturday's game.

Also on Wednesday, the Huskies will also venture into New York City for some sort of academic project.

*** Four players are currently averaging in double figures for UConn: Jeremy Lamb (18.9), Napier (14.7), Ryan Boatright (12.1) and Drummond (10.0). It's the first time UConn has had four since 2009-10, when Jereome Dyson (17.2), Kemba Walker (14.6), Stanley Robinson (14.5) and Gavin Edwards (10.6) were in doubles.

Who would have guessed that one of UConn's four double-figure scorers this year wouldn't have been Alex Oriakhi (7.0)?

*** Drummond may not know who Herb Pope is, but he does know Hall frosh point guard Freddie Wilson of New Haven. Why? They were AAU teammates on the Connecticut Basketball Club.

Wilson's playing time has been sparse (7.3 minutes per game in 12 contests), and he's averaging just 1.3 points. But word out of Orange, N.J. is that Wilson's toughness and grittiness has impressed the Pirates staff. As a true freshman, the Hillhouse product is still just a little green.

*** After practice, Drummond was practicing shooting free throws one-handed with assistant Glen Miller.

“It helps me get muscle memory and not have to rely on my left hand," Drummond said. "That’s really my problem, I had my left hand on the ball way too much.”

*** UConn is looking to start off 3-0 in Big East play for the first time since 2003-04.

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