Thursday, June 28, 2012

Andre Drummond, Jeremy Lamb are NBA Lottery Picks

UConn's Andre Drummond was selected ninth overall by Detroit in tonight's NBA draft. Jeremy Lamb was taken 12th by the Rockets.

Here's my story, and here's some video of Drummond and Lamb at the draft:

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UConn to Face Cincinnati, DePaul, PC and South Florida Twice

The Big East announced its 2012-13 men's basketball matchups on Thursday, and ... let's just say UConn won't exaclty be going against the iron of the conference in its home-and-home opponents.

The Huskies will play Cincinnati, DePaul, Providence and South Florida both home and away. They'll also host Georgetown, Louisville, Rutgers, Syracuse and Villanova, while traveling to play Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, St. John's and Seton Hall.

Here are all matchups for all the conference teams next season:


Home: Connecticut, Georgetown, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, USF, Syracuse, Villanova

Away: Connecticut, DePaul, Louisville, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Providence, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Syracuse


Home: Cincinnati, DePaul, Georgetown, Louisville, Providence, Rutgers, USF, Syracuse, Villanova

Away: Cincinnati, DePaul, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall, USF


Home: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, St. John's, Seton Hall, Villanova

Away: Connecticut, Georgetown, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Providence, St. John's, USF, Syracuse


Home: DePaul, Louisville, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Providence, Rutgers, St. John's, Seton Hall, Syracuse

Away: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Marquette, Notre Dame, Rutgers, St. John's, USF, Syracuse, Villanova


Home: Cincinnati, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall, USF, Syracuse

Away: Connecticut, DePaul, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Seton Hall, USF, Syracuse, Villanova


Home: Connecticut, DePaul, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Providence, Seton Hall, USF, Syracuse

Away: Cincinnati, Georgetown, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, St. John's, Seton Hall, USF, Villanova


Home: Cincinnati, Connecticut, DePaul, Georgetown, Louisville, Rutgers, St. John's, Seton Hall, Villanova

Away: Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Providence, St. John's, USF, Syracuse


Home: Cincinnati, Connecticut, DePaul, Marquette, Notre Dame, Seton Hall, USF, Syracuse, Villanova

Away: Cincinnati, DePaul, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Providence, Rutgers, St. John's, Villanova


Home: Cincinnati, Connecticut, DePaul, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, St. John's, Seton Hall, Syracuse, Villanova

Away: Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Rutgers, Seton Hall, USF, Syracuse, Villanova


Home: Cincinnati, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall, USF

Away: Cincinnati, Connecticut, DePaul, Georgetown, Notre Dame, St. John's, Seton Hall, Syracuse, Villanova


Home: Connecticut, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Seton Hall, USF

Away: Cincinnati, DePaul, Georgetown, Louisville, Notre Dame, Providence, Rutgers, Syracuse, Villanova


Home: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Marquette, Providence, Rutgers, USF, Syracuse, Villanova

Away: DePaul, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Providence, Rutgers, St. John's


Home: Connecticut, DePaul, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Providence, Syracuse, Villanova

Away: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, St. John's, Seton Hall, Villanova


Home: Cincinnati, DePaul, Georgetown, Louisville, Notre Dame, Providence, Rutgers, St. John's, Villanova

Away: Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Providence, Seton Hall, USF, Villanova


Home: Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Providence, Rutgers, St. John's, USF, Syracuse

Away: Cincinnati, Connecticut, DePaul, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Providence, Seton Hall, USF, Syracuse

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Andre Drummond Talks Draft, UConn, His Work Ethic, His Mom

Andre Drummond met with the media today for a half-hour to discuss tomorrow night's draft, as well as a lot of other things: his time at UConn, why he decided to leave after one year, rumors that he has a poor work ethic and his mom, who left her job as a nurse at Middlesex Hospital two days ago and will move out with her son wherever he ends up.

Here's some of what Drummond had to say (Jeremy Lamb, by the way, was a no-show):

(on his workouts and everything leading up to the draft)

“It’s a lot of joy and excitement. I’m excited to be here, and I can’t wait for tomorrow to come around.”

(what NBA players have given him advice, and what have they told him)

"Rudy Gay, Ray Allen, Kevin Durant. They've all said pretty much the same thing: 'Once you get drafted, don't stop working hard. You haven't really done anything yet. Just give it your all every single day, work hard, and you'll be fine.'"

Drummond has worked out for Portland, Sacramento, Cleveland, Charlotte and Washington. He went head-to-head, fullcourt, with Thomas Robinson at Charlotte.

“(Charlotte) was probably one of the best two workouts I’ve ever had. I told Thomas (Robinson) before the workout, ‘I’m here to work, not to B.S. I’m trying to get something done here.’ He looked at me like, ‘Alright, let’s try to make each other better.’”

He said he's hearing he could go anywhere from No. 2 to No. 7 in the draft, but doesn't put any stock into what people are saying in the media. 

“I’ve never read anything in the media since I was in high school … I never read what people say about me. Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion. Whether people say good tihjings or bawd things, I just stay away from it.”

(on rumors that his work ethic and 'motor' are concerns to NBA teams)

“Hearing stuff like that, I don’t get upset about it. Nobody knows what I’m capable of doing. They just saw what they saw this year … everybody changes from year to year. They had the same doubts about Dwight Howard, and look where he is now.”

“Whatever team I go to, all that talk is going to be put to rest, because I am a hard worker, there’s nothing wrong with my motor.”

(how he'll be able to help a team as a rookie)

“Coming in, I feel like I’ll run the floor well, gravb rebounds, block shots and let the offense come to me. I’m not going to stress too much on offense, because that’s one of the things I’m working on. I’ve worked real hard on my offensive game. But right now, defense is the strongest part of my game.”

Drummond said he's lost 22 pounds since the end of the season, putting him around 275.

"I feel great, quicker laterally, moving quicker on my feet.”

He also said that his mom will move out with him to wherever he goes and live with him in his house, at least until he gets his second contract. At that point, he hopes to be able to buy her a house.

“She’s been my biggest supporter. She definitely needs to relax now.”

 But, he added with a smile: “Her work isn’t over. She’s going to be my manager, so she’s got a lot of work to do. It feels great to be able to give back to her after she helped me out so much.”

Drummond said that, throughout the spring, he'd come down to New York to work on his game, particularly his offensive skills set and his free throw shooting.

(on his one season at UConn)

“Connecticut's like a big family. I love Connecticut with all my heart. The fans there are amazing, my teammates are amazing, coaching staff is great, but the fans are really amazing."

(did UConn's postseason ban hasten his departure for the NBA)

“I think I was going to leave regardless of the tournament or not. This is an opportunity that doesn’t ocme up too many times. It’s an opportulnity I needed to take, and move forward with my life.”

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Andre Drummond Still Just a Big Kid from Middletown

Here's a nice piece on Andre Drummond from his hometown paper which reminds you that, even though he's on the precipice of fortune and fame, Drummond really still is just a big kid from Middletown.

It's easy to forget that Drummond is still just 18. He was one of the youngest players in the Big East this past winter and may be the youngest player to be drafted tomorrow night at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. It's enough to make you realize he certainly could have used at least one more year at UConn, to mature as both a person and a player.

But then, it's doubtful Drummond's draft stock would have gotten a whole lot higher than it is right now. So in that sense, he made the right decision.

Oh, and in case you missed it, here's the story I wrote on Omar Calhoun's arrival at UConn that ran yesterday.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Report: UConn to Open '12-13 Season in Germany vs. Spartans

According to an ESPN report, UConn will open the 2012-13 season in Germany against Michigan State on Nov. 9 at Ramstein Air Base.

The Huskies, of course, have three German natives on their roster: junior Niels Giffey, sophomore Enosch Wolf and freshman Leon Tolksdorf. And Jim Calhoun will get a chance to play against his "dear, dear friend" Tom Izzo.

Sounds like a win-win for everyone involved.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Omar Calhoun: 'I Was With UConn at Beginning, I'm Going to End Up With Them, Too' (w/video)

UConn's two incoming freshmen, Omar Calhoun and Phil Nolan, have arrived on campus. Summer courses begin today for freshmen and run through early August.

I did a story on Nolan last week, and had a chance to catch up with Omar today, shortly after he began his coursework and had a physical (he's 6-foot-5, people).

Calhoun committed to UConn a year ago and sent in his letter of intent in November. Around that same time, the NCAA announced its APR penalties that will leave the Huskies out of the 2013 NCAA postseason.

The $64,000 question, of course, is whether Calhoun ever reconsidered his commitment to UConn (yes, I know at that point he would have had to been released from his scholarship).

"I considered different things like that, a lot of things that had pro's and con's that I was looking at," he admitted. "But we have a family here at Connecticut, and you can't leave your family. That's the way I thought about it. I was with them at the beginning, I'm going to end up with them, too."

He added: "The way I think about it is, you don't need the tournament, really, to showcase what you want. You have the whole season to do that, so that's what I'm here to do."

Here's some of what else Calhoun had to say on Monday (the young man doesn't lack in confidence):

(his strengths)

"I'm a competitor, I like to win. Shooting the ball, plus I can run the court. (I'm a) combo guard, I can play on the ball, off the ball, different positions, (play) defense, (be a) team leader, (be) vocal, different attritubes to win the game."

(known as a pure scorer, how he scores the ball)

"I can do everything. I can shoot the ball well, get to the rim both ways. I'm athletic, I can play above the rim. I can find guys, I can pull-up with the mid-range. It's hard to stop me."

(Can he be a vocal leader right off the bat as a freshman?)

"Yeah, definitely. It might take some time, getting accustomed to my teammates. But on the court, we're all basketball players, so I know how to put the game of basketball to my guys. That's what I'm gonna do."

(on what the coaching staff said of his potential for major minutes immediately)

"They just want to see me come here, work hard, be a leader, see me focused when I come in. That's what I'm here to do."

(on his sister, Sierra, who'll be a junior next season at Christ the King High in New York)

"She's a top-notch player. She's looking at Connecticut, too."

(on what it means to see Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb as likely lottery picks Thursday night, and all the other players UConn has sent to the NBA over the years)

"It just means that (Jim Calhoun) can get guys better. Guys buy into what he's saying, what he wants. You can be real successful."

*** One other think worth noting: it appears that, the denial of Michael Bradley's "hardship" request to transfer to Western Kentucky will likely hurt UConn's APR. If he had been able to play right away (like Alex Oriakhi will be able to, for different reasons), Bradley would have been a 3-for-3 last season at UConn -- two points for good academic standing in both semesters and one for retention in the first semester. The second semester retention point would have been waived, since it would have been viewed that he essentially had to transfer.

But since Bradley must sit out a year, UConn loses his retention point for the second semester. Hope that makes sense.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

NBA Front Office Source, Scout Assess Andre Drummond, Jeremy Lamb Draft Stock

Talked to a high-ranking NBA front office source and an NBA scout today on what they think of Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb, and what both players should be expecting at the NBA Draft Thursday night in Newark.

On Drummond:

Front office source: "I'm hearing Drummond anywhere from 5-10, that's probably his range. Teams love his potential, his body, his athleticism. He's going to be pretty strong. He's a good shot-blocker, moves his feet pretty well. The concerns are free-throw shooting -- shooting in general -- but his free-throw shooting is poor. And, what kind of motor he has. He doesn't have the reputation of being a great worker, a self-starter. I hear he's a nice kid, but not a self-starter."

Eastern Conference scout: "I've got Drummond 2 to 8. He's the best physical specimen in the draft, without a doubt. He's physically the most gifted kid. There's questions about his skills set, his understanding of the game, and some questions about his motor and his desire. When he gets the money and becomes a rich young man, which he will very shortly, how motivated will he be?

"On some boards, he's in almost a separate category. He could be a big star ... or a big bust."

Drummond apparently recently worked out for the Charlotte Bobcats, who currently own the No. 2 overall pick.

On Lamb:

Front office source: "I've heard 7 to 14 or 15 (overall). Obviously he's a very long, graceful athlete. He has the ability to play up against competition. He was one of the better players, probably the best player, on the Team USA U-19 team in Latvia last summer. He kind of carried that team. His versatility's intriguing. He shoots the ball well enough, though he needs to get a little better as a shooter. There aren't gaping holes in his game. Obviously, he needs to get stronger, be a little better as a shooter. The (UConn) coaches did have good things to say about his work ethic -- coming back at night, getting up extra shots. He's a bit of a low-energy kid, he's got that sleepy look to him. But the coaching staff says, 'Don't let that fool you. He will come back and do the work. You may have to push him some in games, though.'"

Along with the sprained ankle Lamb suffered last week barely five minutes into a workout with Toronto, there are some questions about Lamb's right. The front office source said Lamb's shoulder is "a little loose" -- meaning it has the tendency to pop out of joint.

"It's not a major thing, according to our doctors, but it's something he may need to get minor surgery on to tighten it up. It can pop out of joint easily and he gets a shooting pain. It's not a major surgery, there's no risk to it. He's had it pop out and shift around on him before. It's something where, if it repeated ... it could become an issue some season."

*** If you believe in mock drafts, both and have Drummond going sixth overall to Portland and Lamb eighth to the Raptors. Take that for what it's worth.

*** Oh, and this on Shabazz Napier, who recently left the Puerto Rican national team: Napier was experiencing what the UConn medical staff is terming "symptomatic discomfort" in his right foot --- the same foot that bothered him during last season, but not the same injury. He will be in a walking boot for the next six weeks to relieve any stress and then it will be re-evaluated.

The UConn medical staff feels he made the right decision to come home (from Puerto Rico) and have it treated rather than try to play on it and run the risk that it might have developed into something that could affect the upcoming season. He is at home and expected to be back on campus for the second session of summer school.

By all accounts, this is not a big deal, folks.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Good Day for UConn Sports

After yesterday's official realization that the UConn men's basketball team is almost certainly not going to next year's NCAA tournament, Thursday was a very good day for UConn sports.

It was announced that UConn has accepted an invitation to play in Hockey East in men's hockey, begining in 2014-15. Great news for that program. It's stunning that a state that's produced such great hockey over the years hasn't had a fully-funded program at its state university. Now, it does. Even Title IX couldn't stand in its way.

Meanwhile, former UConn baseball players Mike Olt (Rangers) and Matt Barnes (Red Sox) have been invited to play in the Futures Game during All-Star week in Kansas City. Very impressive.

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Lamb's Agent: 'I Feel Good About Jeremy'

Things are going well for Cheshire native Jeff Schwartz lately.

The successful basketball agent recently joined forces with fellow superagents Casey Close (baseball) and Mark Steinberg (golf), adding clients like Tiger Woods, Derek Jeter, Anika Sorenstam and Mark Teixeira to Excel Sports Management’s already impressive list.

Schwartz, who already represents Jim Calhoun, Kemba Walker, Emeka Okafor and A.J. Price, also added another member of the UConn family to his cliental in the form of Jeremy Lamb.

Lamb is expected to be a lottery pick at the NBA draft a week from tonight in Newark, though his status is a bit up in the air due to a sprained ankle injury he suffered five minutes into a workout last Wednesday in Toronto. It’s not a serious injury (an MRI checked out fine), but it’s been enough to keep him out of any workouts since.

Lamb, whose only full workout was for New Orleans shortly before the Chicago pre-draft camp, still is hoping to work out for three or four more teams (Cleveland, Portland, Phoenix and Milwaukee) before the draft.

“If he’s not able to, he’s not able to,” said Schwartz. “We’ll probably still try for teams to meet with him. He’s such a good kid, comes from such a good family, it’ll help for them to see him and get to know him.”

Schwartz still believes Lamb will be one of the 15 players invited to the green room on draft night, but can’t venture a guess where he’ll be selected.

“I feel good about Jeremy,” Schwartz said. “At New Orleans, they said he was super-competitive in the workout, and way more athletic than they realized he was. To me, that’s what he’ll bring. He can shoot it from anywhere, can get his own shot, he moves well without the ball and he’s more athletic and competitive than was evident at UConn. People questioned that because of UConn’s record and certain games, but he’s saying every day, ‘Jeff I want to get out there, I’m fine.’ I’m saying, ‘No, you’re not fine.’ Sometimes, agents have to protect their clients against themselves.”

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

UConn AD Warde Manuel Talks APR (video)

Just before he was about to hit some balls on the practice range at Wednesday's Travelers Championship pro-am, UConn AD Warde Manuel was asked about his golf game.

"We can talk about the APR, that's how good my golf game is," Manuel said with a chuckle.

Wow, must be a struggle on the links for Manuel. In truth, he was ready and prepared to talk APR -- which was officially released by the NCAA today, pretty much making UConn's posteason ban for 2013 all but official -- and said he still had a "slight, slight hope" that the NCAA Committee on Academic Performance (CAP) might include 2011-12 scores to determine postseason eligibility.

"Look, I’m happy for our student-athletes, first and foremost," Manuel said. "These kids have done a remarkable job. We have three teams with perfect scores, the majority of our teams are above 975 for the year – including basketball. Lots of our teams are above 975 for a four-year rate.

"(The men's basketball team) had a couple of bad years. The timing of the penalty structure was changed. That saddens me, for these kids and for our program.”

He added: “I”ll continue to fight for what I believe is right. They should have allowed membership more time to adjust, they should expedite the way they review the data and include the most reent year. But that’s my persepective.

“There’s a little hope I hold out that they’ll come to the right conclusion and do the right thing, but we’re going to move on and need our fans to support us, and support these student-athletes and support a tremendous program that’s going through one rough year. We’ll get to the point where this will be well behind us and we’ll keep striing to win championships.

“We’re not going to let two years of bad scores from kids who are not on this team stop us from feeling good about what these current student-athletes have done.”

Manuel was also asked about everybody's favorite to someday replace Jim Calhoun, Kevin Ollie: “I love Kevin. I love what he’s done as a player, I love what I see him doing as a coach, I think the world of him as a person. I’ve gotten to know him, I’m very impressed by him as a coach and a person.”

And as for Geno Auriemma: "Right now, Geno’s working through it. I’m monitoring it, he’s keeping me informed, and that’s where it is right now.”

George Blaney and Tom Moore, playing with pro Bo Van Pelt, were tops on the leaderboard as of 2:15 p.m. at minus-7. Blaney said Calhoun didn't play this year because his "knees are bothering him."

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Jim Calhoun Won't Play in Travelers Pro-Am

Jim Calhoun won't be playing in the Travelers Championship pro-am on Wednesday, as he often does, but don't put anything into it. No issues or problems, physical or otherwise -- apparently, he just doesn't feel like playing.

UConn is slated to be represented by George Blaney, Geno Auriemma (that oughta be interesting), Chris Dailey and Warde Manuel.

It's not the first time Calhoun hasn't played, and look at it this way: he doesn't have to field any APR questions.

Ah yes, the APR. The NCAA will officially release APR scores for the four-year cycle from the 2007-2011 academic years tomorrow. UConn will notch a 978 for the past '10-11 school year and an 889 for the four-year cycle, the latter leaving it short of the threshold to qualify for postseason play next year.

The Huskies are expected to get a similar score in the 978 area for the '11-12 year, but there are still things to be determined. For instance, there apparently is still some question how much (if at all) Alex Oriakhi's transfer will effect UConn's score, since he received a waiver to transfer to Missouri and play immediately.

At least we know there are no APR problems with the Huskies' golf, cross country and tennis teams.

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Noah Vonleh Expected to Visit UConn

Jim Calhoun said a couple of weeks ago that this summer's recruiting period -- particularly August -- will be crucial to the program's future, and that the Huskies are expecting visits from several big-name recruits.

One of them, apparently, will be Noah Vonleh, the 6-foot-9 power forward out of New Hampton School. Vonleh, the No. 2-rated power forward in his class, per, is expected to make an unofficial visit in August.

"He's incredibly skilled for a 6-foot-9, 16-year-old with a 7-foot-5 wingspan," said New Hampton coach Pete Hutchins. "He can play multiple positions on the floor, impact the game rebounding and defensively. He shoots it and can put it on the floor."

Vonleh has already made one unofficial to UConn last summer and was also at First Night festivities last October.

Also, the Huskies recently got a visit from Jared Reuter, a 6-8 Class of 2015 forward from Tabor Academy.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

How Phil Nolan Wound Up at UConn

So Kevin Ollie and Ray Allen walk into a restaurant, and ... well, sorry, no punch line here. The result, however (in a very, very, very roundabout way, some 10 years later) is Phil Nolan's commitment to UConn.

Confused? Well, read my story on Nolan, the 6-foot-11 lefthander who'll be arriving at Storrs in about a week. Nolan went to four high schools in four years and struggled academically in Huntington Prep's rigorous  academic environment. But he's got his academics in order and is a soft-spoken, impressive young man, according to all who know him.

Nolan has battled some negative perceptions over the past few years, but Ollie (whose friendship with Trevor Trimble, stepfather of UNC-bound J.P. Tokoto, was a big help in Nolan's recruitment), and two of Nolan's high school coaches, Milwaukee-Riverside University High's Tyrone Lewis and Huntington Prep's Rob Fulford, all speak glowingly of the big man.

“He’s a good kid," said Fulford. "You're not going to have any problems with him." 

(And yes, Fulford now coaches Xavier Rathan-Mayes, the highly-touted Class of 2013 point guard who had an 'amazing' visit to Storrs last fall, at Huntington Prep. Fulford had no new info on which way Rathan-Mayes may be leaning, but did offer this: Rathan-Mayes's father is Tharon Mayes, the New Haven native who starred at Florida State and still lives in Connecticut).

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Some Good APR News for UConn

The UConn men’s golf, men’s cross country and women’s tennis teams have been honored by the NCAA with Academic Program Rate Public Recognition Awards. The awards are given each year to teams with APRs in the top 10 percent in their respective sports.

The golf team, under head coach Dave Pezzino, has earned this honor for the seventh-consecutive year since the inception of the award in 2006. The women’s tennis team, under head coach Glenn Marshall, has now been honored in four consecutive years while the men’s cross country team, under head coach Greg Roy and associate head coach Rich Miller, were honored for the first time in program history.

“I want to congratulate the student-athletes on our men’s golf, women’s tennis and men’s cross country teams for their outstanding success in the classroom,” said UConn Director of Athletics Warde Manuel. “Their commitment to excellence in both academics and athletics is to be highly admired. I want to thank the coaching staffs of all three sports and the staff of the Counseling Program for Intercollegiate Athletics for all their efforts as well.”

APR scores are a measure of classroom performance of student-athletes on every Division I team based on the eligibility and retention for each semester or quarter. The awards announced Thursday are based on the multi-year APR scores from the 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 academic years.

APR scores for this four-year cycle for all schools and teams are scheduled to be announced on Wednesday.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Uniform Numbers for New UConn Players

For those that care about such things, here are the uniform numbers of UConn's four incoming newcomers:

Omar Calhoun will wear No. 21; Leon Tolksdorf will wear No. 22; R.J. Evans will wear No. 12; and Phil Nolan will wear No. 3.

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Ben Wood Finds a Home in Rhody; Charlie Villanueva Cut by John Calipari

Couple of quick little nuggets this afternoon:

I must have missed this, having gone on vacation soon after the basketball season was over, but former UConn grad assistant/jack-of-all-trades Ben Wood has found a new home at the University of Rhode Island.

Wood, a graduate of Woodbury's Nonnewaug High School, is the director of player development at URI. He'll run the team's video operations, coordinate film exchange and opponent breakdowns and edits, as well as oversee the team's community relations program, staff of team managers, and serve as the staff liasion with the academic services office.

Wood, a 2007 UConn grad (and 2009 masters grad from UConn), was a well-respected part of the Huskies' program for the past several years. He started as a team manager as a freshman, became the head manager as a junior in 2007 and, after graduating with a geography degree, became graduate manager while working on his geography master's.

This year, he was slated to begin writing his dissertation and his professors told him he really had to fully commit to that for a year. Not wanting to get out of basketball, he looked for a job and, with a great deal of help from UConn associate head coach George Blaney (who shares Seton Hall bonds with new URI coach Danny Hurley), got the job despite never having met Hurley before the interview.

Everyone in the UConn program was happy for Wood, including Jim Calhoun.

“Before I had told anybody, he knew I had the job," Wood recalled. "He left me a voice mail that was very, very nice, thanked me for all I had helped with. He’s always encouraged me to want more, go for more.”

In his new position, Wood is basically like UConn's Kevin Freeman: can't coach on the floor, can't recruit, but can be in coaches' meetings, etc.

The Dominican head coach, of course, is John Calipari.

"Charlie was not in good form when we saw him," Calipari said to Deportes en la Z, after Villanueva had a private workout for the team in New York. "He was overweight, and unfortunately, we could not slow down the entire team and it was a decision taken collectively."

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Former UConn Trainer Joe Sharpe Heads to Finals with Oklahoma City Thunder

Whether or not Ray Allen helps get the Celtics past Miami, UConn will be represented in this year's NBA Finals.

Joe Sharpe is the head trainer for the Oklahoma City Thunder, who dispatched San Antonio on Wednesday night to advance to the finals. Sharpe spent about a decade as a trainer at UConn and still manages to remain close to the program (even from some 1,500 miles away).

In fact, Jim Calhoun said on Wednesday evening that Sharpe had invited Calhoun out to Oklahoma City if the Thunder made the finals.

Calhoun said he probably would take Sharpe up on the offer (though it's hard to believe he'd be rooting against Allen and his hometown Celtics, should they advance).

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Jim Calhoun: 'Right Now, Everything We're Doing is Planning for Next Year'

Jim Calhoun was at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington this evening to present Dee Rowe with the Community Service Award at the 2012 Franciscan Sports Banquet and Silent Auction.

New York Giants Chris Snee, David Diehl and Kevin Boothe were also there to receive the Saint Francis Award.

Calhoun had plenty to say about the status of both himself and the UConn program right now. Here's some of what he had to say:

(What will UConn be playing for next year?)

“There’s a lot to play for … Every game that we’ve ever played, in it’s own way, has had some special importance.

(Warde Manuel said he had no doubt you'll coach team next year. Is it even worth us asking you that question anymore?)

“It’s really not worth asking … right now, everything we’re doing is planning on next year. Last year, quite frankly, after the championship, there was time to pause. ‘OK, you’re at this particular pinnacle, what do you do from here?’ But right now … I really donm’t start thinking about the road trips, etc., until August or September ... The important thing is how I feel as a coach, and am I able to give my kids everything I possibly can. The fact that I have two years on my contract doesn’t mean anything … there’s really nothing to talk about, in my mind. If I decide it’s not the year, it’s not the year.  I love the staff, love the kids coming in, love the guys coming back.”

“The first thing Warde Manuel told me was, 'I played for Bo Schembechler, who made all his decisions on how he wanted to do it.' Dean Smith did it the exact same way. He retired on Oct. 1 … My point being, I never feel rushed. I knew we had to get through the semester, we did exceptionally well, I know we had to get a few more players to add to the roster, and I know I’m talking on the phone to a lot of recruits.”

(How's recruiting going?)

“Couple kids coming up in June, I would think August would be a very big month for us. Quite a few kids scheduled for unofficial visits.”

(What's the most important thing to incoming recruits?)

“Three letters: N-B-A ... If you say to a kid, ‘I remember going down to Dalzell, S.C., No. 34 – the number (Ray Allen) wore at that time – and now we’ve got two kids in the draft, both probably lotteries, and Rudy Gay, Caron Butler, the whole thing. That seems to be the best advertisement we have going, particularly because not a lot of those kids were McDonald’s All-Americans."

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Hasheem Thabeet an 'Inspirational Figure' in Native Tanzania

Hasheem Thabeet may be one of the bigger busts in recent NBA Draft history, but as this story from points out, he's been a great success helping out kids in his native Tanzania.

And that's really the most important thing, isn't it? Too many times, we judge athletes by what they do on the floor. And certainly, Thabeet was a bad investment for Memphis. But -- and I know this sounds like a cliche -- the most important thing celebrities and athletes can do is give back to their communities (or, in Thabeet's case, his home country, where he remains an "inspirational figure"). 

And Thabeet is doing just that. Always was a really good person and an enjoyable kid to cover who was very proud of his roots.


Jim Calhoun, Rebecca Lobo Among Riders on Saturday

Coach Jim Calhoun, Rebecca Lobo, coaches and a number of Coach Calhoun's former players will be riding and walking on Saturday, June 9th in the Jim Calhoun Cancer Challenge Ride and Walk.  Over 1,000 riders and walkers expected.

WHEN:          Saturday, June 9, 2012
                   7:00AM – 3:00PM

WHAT:          The Jim Calhoun Cancer Challenge Ride and Walk presented by CIGNA and the law firm of RisCassi & Davis is an annual statewide event of Coach Calhoun's to benefit The Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Connecticut Health Center and Coaches vs. Cancer.
                        This year's event is dedicated to Rebecca Lobo's mother, RuthAnn Lobo who lost her 17 year battle to breast cancer last summer.  Rebecca Lobo and her entire family will be walking the 5K distance. She has invited anyone who would like to walk to walk with her.
                        The ride and walk is open to everyone. There will be non-competitive rides of 10, 25, 50 and 75 miles, with riders participating from across the Northeast, and a 5K walk. The event also includes great food, family activities and live music. The UConn Health Center Department of Dermatology will also offer free skin cancer screenings from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
WHERE:        The Calhoun Cancer Challenge Ride and Walk will begin and end at the Performing Arts Center in Simsbury on 22 Iron Horse Boulevard.  

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Friday, June 1, 2012

SEC/Big East Challenge Clarification from UConn

More clarification from UConn SID Mike Enright on why the Huskies aren't in this year's SEC/Big East Challenge:

The way the challenge works is that over a three-year period, each Big East team has a home game, road game and a year off from the event. Last year, UConn hosted Arkansas, this year it is not a part of it and next year it anticipates a road game at an SEC school.

Jim Calhoun Cancer Challenge Ride & Walk on Saturday

The Jim Calhoun Cancer Challenge Ride and Walk will be held on Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon at the Simsbury Performing Arts Center, 22 Iron Horse Blvd. in Simsbury.

The annual event brings together thousands of riders, walkers, and spectators to raise money for the University of Connecticut Health Center’s Carol and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center, “Coaches vs. Cancer” and the fight against this deadly disease. 

There will be a 5K walk as well as rides of varying lengths -- 10, 25, 50 and 75 miles -- and varying skill levels.  At the conclusion of the ride and walk, there will be great food and live music for all participants and their guests.

Also, to help fight skin cancer, UConn Health Center Dermatologists are offering free skin cancer screenings during and after the Jim Calhoun Cancer Challenge Ride and Walk.  Coach Calhoun himself has had multiple bouts with skin cancer and is encouraging everyone to get checked.

To find out more or to register, visit: or call 860-674-1500.  Advanced registration is suggested for the ride and walk, though walk-ups are welcome.

No UConn in Next Season's SEC/Big East Challenge

ESPN has announced the 12 matchups that will be part of the second annual SEC/Big East Challenge on Nov. 29-Dec. 1 at home sites of participating schools. UConn is not one of the teams, but before you get all conspiracy theorist on us, let's explain a little.

First off, two teams (Marquette and Villanova) played in the Jimmy V Classic last year and were not a part of last year's SEC/Big East. Those two teams pretty much have to be in this year's field. And, of course, UConn is playing in this year's Jimmy V (Dec. 4 against NC State at Madison Square Garden). So there you go.

When you have 15 teams (as the Big East does next year) or 14 (like the SEC), obviously some teams have to be left out. UConn isn't being left out because of any politics. If politics played a role, do you think Syracuse would be participating?

Anyway, here are the matchups, if you're interested:

Thursday, November 29
Kentucky at Notre Dame
Marquette at Florida
South Carolina at St. John’s
Seton Hall at LSU
Friday, November 30
Syracuse at Arkansas
Tennessee at Georgetown
DePaul at Auburn
Georgia at USF
Saturday, December 1
Alabama at Cincinnati
Villanova at Vanderbilt
Mississippi State at Providence
Rutgers at Mississippi