Thursday, May 24, 2012

Catching Up with Jim Calhoun, DeAndre Daniels, Ryan Boatright ...

Spent some time up at UConn today for a variety of reasons. Witnessed the continued demolition of Memorial Stadium, as a construction vehicle -- looking like some sort of dinosaur straight out of Jurassic Park -- tore up what remained of the bleacher seats at the old stadium.

The press box was scheduled to go down later today. Why is this all happening? So that the area can be used to build a new basketball practice facility. So don't get too emotional about the end of Memorial Stadium. Its long-overdue demise will only help UConn's basketball program in the future.

*** I also saw Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels going through some vigorous workouts in a catch-and-shoot drill. The players took turns taking jumpers off "screens" (two large trash barrels were setting the "picks") from all over the court in one-minute segments. It's a grueling drill, one that keys on moving without the ball (not to mention getting up shots while tired) and both looked good stroking down the bulk of their shots.

Daniels is drawing rave reviews for his work ethic this spring.

"He's working extremely hard," said director of basketball operations Karl Hobbs. He's really focused on what he has to do."

I talked to Daniels for a bit about his tough freshman year, in which he not only went through the typical struggles but also dealt with his sister Keirstyn's frightening health issues -- a non-cancerous tumor on her brain.

"That weighed on me," he admitted. "In the middle of the season, I missed a couple of practices to see her and stayed at the hospital for, like, eight hours just to see if she's OK after surgery. She's fine now. She's good."

Daniels struggles and eventual lack of playing time caused him to consider a transfer -- briefly.

"I won't lie, at some point, me just being a young kid and being selfish and not understanding, it crossed my mind a couple of times," he said. "But I would never really do it. I'm here. I'm still a Husky."

And, of course, with the mass exodus of transfers, NBA draft entries, etc., playing time is available for Daniels next season.

"He sees his opportunity," said Jim Calhoun. "One door closes, another door opens. He's got a great opportunity. I've always thought he was going to be a good player. The shot he has is still the same shot, he's had to learn to shoot it at full speed. He's jumped both feet in and worked as hard as anybody, if not harder."

We'll have much more on Daniels in the next day or two ...

***Oh yes, caught up with Calhoun, too. He's doing well, says his back his fine. He was in good spirits -- his wife, Pat, and her sister and two daughters-in-law were out at the 'American Idol' finals last night -- and knows next year will be a different one. And not only because of the likely postseason ban. UConn will have a different look, without the dominant shot-blocking presence in the middle its had for so many years now (though the Huskies feel incoming frosh Phil Nolan will eventually be a strong inside presence).

Calhoun says Boatright will be the point guard solely next year, with Shabazz Napier moving off the ball. Omar Calhoun will play the 2, and R.J. Evans can play all over the place. Boatright's excited about the proposition, knowing that playing point will be his only ticket to the NBA.

UConn's German trio of Niels Giffey, Enosch Wolf and incoming frosh Leon Tolksdorf will all try out for respective German national teams this summer. Boatright will attend Chris Paul's camp, and Napier will try out for the Puerto Rican national team.

Nolan and Omar Calhoun should be on campus to start summer classes around June 24.

*** Oh, and Tony Robertson's still on campus. He just finished a Spanish course today and begins another Spanish class on Tuesday, as well as an English class. Robertson said he's about 12 credits short of graduating with a political science degree.

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Anonymous basketball ball drills said...

great to hear that you had a talk with them.

May 28, 2012 at 3:09 AM 

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