UConn's Tropical Tourneys Can Give Good Barometer of Upcoming Season
The Huskies won the 2008 Paradise Jam, and wound up in the Final Four that season. Two years later, behind Kemba Walker's heroics, they won the Maui Invitational. You know what happened that April in Houston.
Last year, UConn got popped by Central Florida in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas, setting the tone for an underachieving season.
Tropical-weather tourneys have certainly provided a harbinger of UConn's seasons in recent years.
“A lot of good can come out of it,” said junior forward Tyler Olander. “This is a bonding (trip). At the start of the season, it’s always good to come out on a trip like this … When you go back with a trophy, it makes it a lot better. It kind of boosts the team morale for the rest of the season.”
“It always can,” added Niels Giffey, “but it doesn’t need to be like that. It’s always a good start to go into a season with a championship in your hand. It gives you confidence.”
*** The Huskies arrived at St. Thomas -- on the same flight as Wake Forest and Quinnipiac -- at about 4:45 p.m. local time. They got to the team hotel, quickly unpacked their luggage and headed to the Sports and Fitness Center at the Univeristy of the Virgin Islands for a 90-minute practice.
UConn's flight was eventful: apparently, a woman feinted on her way to the restroom. Quick-thinking Shabazz Napier called over team trainder James Doran to help the woman out. Deputy director of athletics Paul McCarthy's wife, Tina, also aided the woman. Tina is the director of nursing at UConn.
*** Jim Calhoun and his family is on the trip.
*** Terrence Samuel, a Class of 2013 guard out of New York, tweeted on Thursday that he had signed his national letter of intent to attend UConn. The Huskies couldn’t comment, however, since no one on the men’s basketball staff was back in the office to receive Samuel’s fax.
*** Ollie talked about the $100,000 donation he and his wife, Stephanie, made the day before towards a new basketball practice facility.
“I just want to be a leader, go out and show my loyalty to the university. They’ve done wonderful things for me and my family … It was, from our family, just a gift back to the university, because they gave me an opportunity and a platform to do a lot of great things. I’m just a beneficiary of their blessings – giving me a scholarship, and also providing a home for me and be at UConn with my fans.
“Hopefully, we can continue to go forward with the vision of building that new enhancement center for our players, and also for our alumni to come back and always have a place they call their own.”