Friday, November 30, 2012

Jim Calhoun Confident in UConn's Future

Jim Calhoun is confident that things will eventually work out for UConn in conference realignment, though he has no guarantees.

Calhoun believes the ACC sided with Louisville for two reasons: location and, more than anything, Louisville's ability to sell its program.

"They sold it very well, without question," he said. "But I don't think this thing has stopped. There are going to be four or five major conferences, and they'll want the major schools, and we're one of them."

He added that he never worried about the state of the Big East in his 26 years at the helm at UConn, no matter the rumors of its eventual demise, and the program shouldn't start worrying now.

"I think that's what we have to do right now," Calhoun said, pointing out the school's academic strong points. "This is where we are. We're the 20th-ranked state school, 63rd overall and we're bringing in 319 PhD's ..."

As for which ACC schools may or may not want UConn, the coach noted that the basketball-heavy schools (Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest and Virginia) are "allies" ... and also pointed out that Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame didn't have votes in the recent invitation process.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

No Apologies: Kevin Ollie, UConn Grab a Win Over UNH

I'm gonna blog as well as UConn played tonight ... which is to say, not very well. Not well at all. Though certainly better than UNH, which isn't a very good team.

In all seriousness, UConn can take some solace in that it won a game despite not playing very well in any particular area. Even winning a rebounding battle (43-40) for the first time this season isn't overly impressive when you consider the opponent.

But, a win is a win is a win, and as Kevin Ollie rightly noted, "I'm not gonna apologize for it."

Nor should he. But clearly, UConn has to play much better if it expects to upend No. 16 NC State Saturday night at the Garden. Ryan Boatright's quote on that game was telling:

"NC State's a great team. They're athletic, they've got the size, they've got a good point guard, C.J. Leslie's a great player. And, it's in the Garden. Being in New York, period, is going to up your enthusiasm. We've got to up the intensity, or we're going to get embarassed."

Indeed, these Huskies do tend to play up or down to their competition level. I don't see a lot of games where the walk-ons get to get in on the fun this season.

*** Boatright played well tonight with a season-high 19 points (9-for-11 from the foul line), along with four assists and just one turnover. Omar Calhoun added 16 points and a career-best eight rebounds. DeAndre Daniels had a career-high 10 rebounds.

Ollie on Calhoun: "I like his rebounding, I like his aggressiveness, getting 15 points, getting to the free throw lin 11 times. (But) he's got to play better. The Big East is going to be tough sledding."

Said Daniels: “I talk to K.O. every day, he’s always telling me my offense is going to come, all you’ve got to do is keep rebounding. Keep rebounding and everything’s going to fall in place.”

*** Tyler Olander continued his recent funk, fouling out in just 16 minutes of action. He did manage eight points and four boards in that time, but his propensity to pick up fouls is a concern.

“We’ve got the guys we’ve got, we’re going to play with them, believe in them,” said Ollie. “Hopefully, Tyler believes in himself. He’s got to stop fouling. I need him in the game for more minutes.”

*** Shabazz Napier also had an off-night, finishing with just five points, three assists and a pair of turnovers. Why is the junior guard so inconsistent?, Ollie was asked.

“If I had the answer, I’d have a lot of people sitting on my couch and I’d be a psychiatrist,” the coach joked.

*** UConn is providing plus/minus stats after games this season. It's nice, though the numbers can be misleading. Case in point: Napier had the best plus/minus tonight at +14, followed by Boatright at +12 and Olander at +10.

That's it. We'll have some video a little later tonight.

Labels: , , , , , ,

A Look at Tonight's UConn-UNH Game ... and Some ACC Talk

Greetings from the XL Center, in advance of tonight's UConn-UNH game. Here's my gameday from today's Register on the game.

The Huskies are looking to go a perfect 3-0 vs. America East foes this season. And while UConn has already had some tougher-than-expected battles with teams from low-majors (Quinnipiac, Stony Brook) and could still have a couple more this season, this isn't likely to be one of them. The Wildcats have lost to Bryant (which did beat Boston College) and NJIT (which did nearly beat Providence) already this season.

Elsewhere, we've read a few places that Jim Boeheim wasn't a proponent of UConn joining the ACC, and we've heard from a pretty good source that this is true. Also hearing that Boeheim has, at least in the past, related these feelings to a certain Coach K, with whom he's good buddies as an assistant on Team USA, and that the Duke coach likely wasn't on UConn's side in joining the conference, either.

So this is a little of what UConn is up against.

Labels: ,

Jeremy Lamb Sent to the 'D' League

The Oklahoma City Thunder today assigned rookie guard/forward Jeremy Lamb to the Tulsa 66ers, the Thunder’s NBA Development League affiliate. The assignment is the first for Lamb and the 20th of the 2012-13 NBA and NBA D-League seasons.

Lamb (6-5, 180, Connecticut) has appeared in eight games for the Thunder this season, averaging 2.1 points and 4.3 minutes. Originally selected in the first round (12th overall) of the 2012 NBA Draft by the Houston Rockets, Lamb was traded to Oklahoma City in October.

In two seasons with the Huskies, Lamb averaged 14.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 32.1 minutes, becoming only the sixth sophomore in Connecticut history to score 1,000 career points. Lamb was a member of the 2011 NCAA National Championship team, recording 12 points in the title game against Butler and earning a spot on the NCAA Final Four All-Tournament team.

Lamb is expected to join the 66ers today and be available tomorrow, Nov. 30, when the team hosts the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in Tulsa.

Thunder fans can follow Lamb’s time with the 66ers by logging onto to watch all of the team’s games live, online, for free.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Kevin Ollie: 'Susan, Warde Will Make Best Decision for University. Because I Love This University."

Few people in sports are more focused on the task at hand than Kevin Ollie. Banned from the postseason? Left out in the lurch by the ACC? No biggie. UConn's got a game tomorrow night (vs. New Hampshire), and that's all he and the team can control right now.

Here's what Ollie had to say today about Louisville/ACC/conference expansion, etc. (along with some video of Ollie leading Omar Calhoun through a drill, then talking about today's events):

“I don’t pay attention to it too much. You definitely care, but I’m not worried about it. I’m going to coach my team. We’re in a great conference now and we’re going to try to win conference titles. I just really believe in Susan and Warde, that they’ll make the best decision for this university. Because I love this university.”

“Wherever we go, we’re going to compete for conference titles and conference championships.”

“I’m going to leave it up to our great president and great AD to get it done for us and put us in the best situation possible, and I know they’re doing that each and every day.”

“We’re happy to be breathing, happy to have a conference, happy to play these games. I know she’s doing her due diligence with her staff, with the AD and his staff, to come up with the best solution possible for this university.”

The players seem rather unfazed and unconcerned by it all.

“These guys have enough going on – banned from the postseason, all that stuff – and they’ve got to worry about their schoolwork," Ollie noted. "We’ve got so many things we’re looking positively at. Hopefully we hone in on these next two weeks and get these academics done, because we’re in good shape now. I think their minds are on their final exams, not on the ACC.”

Ryan Boatright was asked if playing in the Big East was one of the reasons he came to UConn:

"A little bit, not a huge part. Of course, you're going to a good league, you're going to play good teams day in/day out. My main concern was if we were going to play the style of basketball I like to play."
Oh yes, that pesky game vs. UNH Thursday night. It appears Leon Tolksdorf, who practiced today, will be available. R.J. Evans won't be, but he's making "great progress," according to Ollie.

Evans shot around on the sidelines during practice and looks good.

"His reange of motion is coming back," Ollie said. "He's coming back very quickly, and I just love the way he's doing his due diligence in the training room with James Doran."

A UConn spokesman said it's possible -- though not very likely -- that Evans could be back for next Tuesday's bout at MSG with NC State. Harvard on Dec. 7 is more likely, though there is no timetable for his return.

Labels: , , , , ,

Statements from Susan Herbst, Warde Manuel, Mike Aresco

Some statements from Susan Herbst, Warde Manuel and Big East commish Mike Aresco:

UConn President Susan Herbst:

"I know this may seem like a tough moment for our fans, but we need to focus on the fundamentals of academic success across the university and in our athletic program as well. We are winners -- we win, we like to win and we will continue to play the best possible opponents. We will be athletically successful, regardless of our conference, because of our successes in NCAA competition. We will keep building our winning record through the lens of a great university, that focuses on academics, not on the fluid and unpredictable nature of conference realignment. Again, I realize this is a difficult day, but when we focus on research, discovery, and student success, we'll never go wrong."

UConn Director of Athletics Warde Manuel:

“Conference realignment is a prominent national issue in collegiate athletics and will continue to be so into the future. UConn has established a rich history as a very successful academic and athletic institution. We understand that because of that UConn will continue to be brought up in the discussion regarding potential schools considered in realignment.

“We have and will continue to monitor the situation regarding conference realignment and work to ensure that UConn is in the best position for the continued success of our athletic programs. We are proud of the success of our coaches and student-athletes and the tradition that has been established of winning conference and national championships.

“We are proud and appreciative of our great Husky fan base. Husky Nation is strong all over the country and the world. UConn has one of the most captive audiences of any school in the country and we have strong penetration in several of the nation’s largest television markets.”

The UConn men’s basketball program has won three national championships since 1999 – the only school to do so in this time period – and one of just seven programs in the history of the game to win three or more titles.

The UConn football team has made incredible strides since it moved to the FBS in 2002. The Huskies have won two BIG EAST Championships, played in five bowl games – including four over the past five seasons -- and became the fastest program to rise from FBS inception to an appearance in a BCS game in history.

The excellence of the women’s basketball program is unparalleled to any school in the country as UConn has won seven national championships and appeared in 13 Finals Fours, including five straight.

Olympics sports programs at UConn are successful and have competed in and won NCAA national championship play in a number of them.

UConn will further enhance its athletic program in the 2013-14 academic year as its men’s ice hockey team begins play in Hockey East, the premier league in the country for that sport. Connecticut will become one of just nine institutions nationally to play men’s basketball, women’s basketball, football and men’s ice hockey in a major conference.   Mike Aresco:   We enjoyed having Louisville in the Big East Conference and we wish them well.

The Big East has anticipated the continuing realignment that is reshaping college athletics and has already made important additions as part of our vision for the future. We will continue moving forward to fulfill that vision, which includes a strong national football conference and a strong and storied basketball conference. Big East teams will continue to compete and succeed at the highest level and, as always, will combine athletic and academic excellence. With schools stretching from coast to coast and in many of the top U.S. media markets, the Big East has become a truly national conference with outstanding young men and women competing across a full range of sports.

We are committed to a vibrant and dynamic future for the Big East Conference.

Labels: , ,

Louisville to ACC, UConn Left Out ... For Now

Well, Husky fans' worst fears have been realized, as Louisville -- not UConn -- has been invited to join the ACC.

UConn and Cincinnati have both put forth strong cases as to why their respective programs make more sense for the ACC. UConn believes it brings the Boston-to-New York TV market, a better academic institution, more reasonable geography and more stability.

According to a UConn source, the program “worked really hard (to state its case to the ACC),” and that president Susan Herbst talked “to a ton of presidents” and athletic director Warde Manuel “talked to just about every AD.

“It wasn’t like we didn’t work at it, I just the timing (was tough).”

People at UConn believe Louisville truly wants to be in the Big 12 and would bolt there still if given the chance. Perhaps that's one reason why the ACC is going with Louisville now -- it knows that, unlike Louisville, UConn and Cincy have no other place to go, so if the conference were to lose another school, each program would still be there, groveling to get into the ACC.

According to a Yahoo ! Sports report, the ACC preferred Louisville because of its stronger football program with more tradition and the overall health of its athletic program, which turns a huge profit each year. 

And although UConn offers a much better academic institution, the conference presidents were concerned about the men’s basketball team’s academic woes left from Jim Calhoun’s final few seasons at the helm.

Still, UConn doesn’t believe this is over. Not even close.

“Hopefully, the thing people realize about conference realignment is that it’s far from done,” said a source. “This is not an obituary for UConn athletics. I don’t think this is the end of the line or that we’re stuck in the Big East forever.”

I'll be up at UConn in a short while to get some more reaction. Herbst and Manuel are expected to release statements this afternoon.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Big "East" Adds Tulane, East Carolina

Tulane and East Carolina (football only) will be joining the Big "East" in 2014. BYU apparently has shunned the Big East's advances.

As the once-proud conference starts to take on the look of Conference USA, it's truly time for UConn to look for greener pastures. Obviously, the ACC is the top choice, and by all accounts, it certainly could happen. But nothing's definite yet. 

Here's what the Big East and commish Mike Aresco had to say about the addition of Tulane, which will certainly bolster the conference's standing in women's sand volleyball:

Commissioner Mike Aresco has announced the addition of Tulane University, one of the most highly regarded and selective independent research institutions in the United States that boasts one of the oldest and most storied athletics programs in the Southeast, as a full conference member.

The BIG EAST Board of Directors, by a unanimous vote of its Presidents, extended the invitation to Tulane, which will begin competing in the BIG EAST in the 2014-15 academic year.

“I am pleased and excited to welcome Tulane University to the BIG EAST Conference,” said Aresco. “Tulane University is an outstanding academic institution and is committed to excellence in athletics. They will be a valued member of the BIG EAST.”

Founded in 1834, Tulane is a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, an association of 62 leading research universities in the United States and Canada. Located in New Orleans, Tulane has an enrollment of 13,359. The university is ranked by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as a university with “very high research activity.”

“Tulane University is pleased to accept membership in the BIG EAST Conference,” said President Scott Cowen. “The BIG EAST is a distinguished collection of institutions that will be a wonderful home for Tulane. We look forward to our mutual association and we are delighted to welcome the BIG EAST to the Big Easy!”

Tulane sponsors 16 sports, 10 women’s teams and six men’s teams. The women’s sports are basketball, tennis, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, cross country, golf, swimming and diving, bowling volleyball and sand volleyball. The men’s sports are football, baseball, basketball, tennis, outdoor track and field and cross country.

Tulane’s football team currently plays in the Mercedez-Benz Superdome. The school is building a new football venue, Yulman Stadium, which will have a capacity of 30,000. It is expected to be completed in 2014. Tulane’s men’s and women’s basketball teams compete on campus at Devlin Fieldhouse. A majority of BIG EAST games will be played at New Orleans Arena.

The football team is coached by Curtis Johnson, who is in his first season. The men’s basketball program is led by coach Ed Conroy who is in his third year. The Green Wave won 15 men’s basketball games last season and are off to a 4-2 start this season.

Lisa Stockton is the head women’s basketball coach. She is the winningest coach in Conference USA history with 372 victories. During her tenure, the Green Wave have enjoyed a nine-year streak of NCAA Tournament berths, four regular-season conference championships and five conference tournament titles.

The baseball program has earned five regular-season conference championships, eight conference tournament crowns and has played in the College World Series twice in the last 11 years. The men’s tennis program has won eight national championships.

Over the last eight years, Green Wave student-athletes have been among the highest achievers nationally in the classroom, according to the most recent multi-year Academic Performance Rates (APR).

The BIG EAST has previously announced other new full members that will be begin playing in 2013. Those schools are: University of Central Florida, University of Houston, University of Memphis, and Southern Methodist University and Temple University. Boise State University and San Diego State University will compete only in football. The Naval Academy will start BIG EAST football play in 2015.

And here's what the Big East has to say about East Carolina:

BIG EAST Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco has announced the addition of East Carolina University, one of the nation’s emerging research institutions, as a conference member that will compete in the BIG EAST in the sport of football.

The BIG EAST Board of Directors, by a unanimous vote of its Presidents, extended the invitation to East Carolina. ECU will begin BIG EAST football competition in the 2014 season.

“We are very excited to welcome East Carolina University into the BIG EAST Conference for football,” said Aresco. “They have a strong football tradition and a consistently successful program that will help elevate our football league. The University is an outstanding academic institution that reflects the values important to the BIG EAST Conference.”

“ECU is excited to become a football member of the BIG EAST Conference,” said ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard. “We know we will be successful and add value to the BIG EAST. While hundreds of dedicated Pirates have contributed to this day, I especially want to recognize the relentless energy of Terry Holland and Nick Floyd in making this day a reality. It is a great day to be a Pirate.”

Founded in 1907 in Greenville, N.C., East Carolina University is a 105-year-old public university and research institution that is nationally recognized for preparing rural family physicians, educational professionals and for its strong performing arts programs.

It enrolls 27,500 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students and is North Carolina’s largest producer of education and primary care professionals. It operates the Brody School of Medicine, a new school of Dental Medicine and a growing undergraduate Honors College in Greenville.

On the football field, East Carolina has been a consistent winner. The Pirates went to five straight bowl games and won two conference championships from 2006-10. Under third-year head coach Ruffin McNeill, ECU has compiled an 8-4 regular-season record this season, which included a 7-1 conference mark. The Pirates will be headed to their 18th bowl game.

The ECU football team plays in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium that has a capacity of 50,000. The team has averaged more than 47,000 fans per game in each of the past three seasons.

The BIG EAST has previously announced new members that will begin playing football in the 2013. Those schools are: Boise State University, University of Central Florida, University of Houston, University of Memphis, Southern Methodist University, San Diego State University. Tulane University will begin play in 2014. The Naval Academy will start BIG EAST football play in 2015.


Monday, November 26, 2012

My AP Top 25 Poll

Here's the poll I submitted earlier this morning. Memphis and UCLA, both of whom lost twice this past week, fall out. The Bruins lost to Cal-Poly at home, as well as to Georgetown. Just because they've now got Shabazz Muhammad doesn't mean we have to vote for them.

Baylor, which lost to College of Charleston, also drops out. I've added Colorado, Notre Dame and Paradise Jam victors New Mexico. I strongly considered moving Duke to No. 1 after an impressive week beating Louisville, VCU and Minnesota, but instead went with Indiana, whom I had at No. 2 last week.

UConn? Barely hangs on at No. 25, despite the loss to a good New Mexico team.

Oh, and here's the game story from yesterday's win over Stony Brook.

1.       Indiana
2.       Duke
3.       Michigan
4.       Ohio State
5.       Louisville
6.       Florida
7.       Syracuse
8.       Kentucky
9.       Arizona
10.   Kansas
11.   North Carolina
12.   Creighton
13.   Oklahoma State
14.   Gonzaga
15.   Missouri
16.   Cincinnati
17.   North Carolina State
18.   Colorado
19.   San Diego State
20.   Pittsburgh
21.   Michigan State
22.   UNLV
23.   Notre Dame
24.   New Mexico
25.   Connecticut


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Kevin Ollie: Niels Giffey Has Been My MVP All Year

It was Niels Giffey Appreciation Day in Storrs on Sunday. Giffey finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and a heaping of praise from Kevin Ollie after UConn's 73-62 win over Stony Brook.

“Niels Giffey was my MVP, and he’s been my MVP this whole year. Not just playing time, but doing all the things that epitomize UConn basketball – doing his thing academically, playing great basketball in practice. He got rewarded tonight.”

“He plays every possession," Ollie continued. "He goes through every drill. Every cut is hard. Every drill, there’s never any moaning, ‘Coach is practicing too long,’ never any of that stuff. It’s, ‘What do I need to do? Once I do it, what else you got for me, Coach? What assignments you got for me? Let me play the toughest offensive man.’ If it’s two minutes, if it’s 40 minutes, I get the same thing from him. I get the effort, the enthusiasm and the energy. That’s every day, whether we practice at 7 a.m. or after Thanksgiving, I get the same thing from him. That’s what I love about him … You get rewarded in life if you act like that.”

And here's what Giffey had to say for himself after his big day:

*** UConn missed 11 of its first 12 shots on Sunday. Then, midway through the latter half, it became the "Rainbow Coalition" at Gampel. UConn hit 8 of 9 3-pointers during one stretch starting midway through the second half to salt the game away. The Huskies hit 10 from Trey Land in the game, their most in a contest in almost exactly a year (Nov. 26, 2011 vs. Florida State in the Battle 4 Atlantis).

*** There was a also mutual admiration society between Kevin Ollie and Steve Pikiell on Sunday.

Pikiell on Ollie: “He’s first-class, he’s a UConn guy, he bleeds blue. He’s a good coach. Hopefully, he’ll have the opportunity to stay here and coach for a long time, continue the legacy here that’s been built. And he’s got a great staff – Karl Hobbs can coach anywhere, Glen Miller is one of my mentors, he can coach anywhere, I love Rickey Moore. You’ve got three point guards. Boy, if they don’t see what’s going on out on the floor, you’re really in trouble. Point guards see the game a little bit differently. Kevin’s a great person, first and foremost.”

Ollie on Pikiell: "I came in right when he left, I know how hard-nosed, I know how dedicated he is. Steve Pikiell is his own man. He’s a hell of a damn coach, and I respect those guys very much for giving us a hard game.”

Labels: , , , , ,

Stony Brook Could Give UConn a Battle Today

Stony Brook may be a bit tired, having played a game yesterday (an 82-75 win over Canisius) and ferried to Connecticut this morning. But the Seawolves don't figure to be a pushover for the Huskies.

Stony Brook is looking to go 5-1 for the first time since November, 2009, and just the second time in program history. The Seawolves are a fierce rebounding team, beating Canisius on the boards 47-32 on Saturday. They also hit 27 of 31 free throw attempts.

A win today would give Stony Brook its first-ever victory over a nationally-ranked opponent. It would also give Steve Pikiell his 100th win as Stony Brook’s head coach.


*** As expected, R.J. Evans and Leon Tolksdorf are both out today. UConn associate head coach Glen Miller told The Day's Gavin Keefe that Evans is hoping to be back by the Huskies' Dec. 4 battle with N.C. State at Madison Square Garden.

*** Trying to think of the last time, before Brandon Austin, that UConn lost a much-coveted recruit to Providence. Not Kris Dunn, whom UConn backed off on late in the recruiting process. Not Ryan Gomes, whom UConn obviously didn't think much of. Geoff McDermott, who the Huskies liked after getting in on his recruitment late, might be the best (and only) answer.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Saturday, November 24, 2012

R.J. Evans' Injury a Tough Blow for UConn

R.J. Evans suffered a sterno-clavicular (collar bone) sprain in practice on Thursday and will likely be out for at least a couple of weeks. Nothing’s broken, which means he won't likely be out for six weeks or so, which is obviously good news for UConn.

Still, this is a tough blow for the Huskies. Evans is averaging 5.8 points off the bench, but his contributions go beyond the stats. He gives the Huskies hustle and hard-nosed play, always the most likely to dive for (and come up with) a loose ball, always one to mix things up physically. He’s the proverbial “glue” player for UConn, and while he’ll be back at some point this season, his absence will be greatly missed.

“Everybody’s gotta step up," said coach Kevin Ollie. "He’s doing a lot of key things for us that don’t show up in the stats. You can’t be R.J., but you can be yourself, grow and evolved. There are going to be some roles that are going to be different. Omar’s going to have to play some point if one of the guys get hurt or in foul trouble.”

Ryan Boatright echoed those sentiments:

“Me and Bazz are going to have to rebound a little more, somebody else is going to have to step up scoring. It’s got to be a collective effort, because he does so much. Everybody’s got to step up.”
And here's what Shabazz Napier had to say:

*** Leon Tolksdorf, who has played sparingly thus far, also suffered a mild left knee sprain and will miss the Stony Brook game.

*** After beating Tom Moore’s Quinnipiac squad in double-OT in St. Thomas Sunday night, the Huskies will look to go 17-0 all-time against former Jim Calhoun assistants when they face Steve Pikiell’s Stony Brook Seawolves on Sunday at 4 p.m.

Pikiell played at UConn from 1987-91 and was a two-time captain. After graduating, he spent one season as Jim Calhoun’s assistant before playing for the New Haven Skyhawks for a season, then joining Yale’s staff as an assistant.

He has other ties to UConn’s current staff: Pikiell was an assistant on Karl Hobbs’ staff at George Washington for four seasons.

*** The 4-1 Seawolves, for some reason, played Cainisius on Saturday (winning the game, 82-75), so they’ll be playing their second game in as many days on Sunday at Gampel.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Friday, November 23, 2012

Kentan Facey, Terrence Samuel Send UConn Their LOI's

Kentan Facey and Terrence Samuel have sent in their national letters-of-intent to UConn. Here's a release put out by the school:

University of Connecticut men’s basketball Coach Kevin Ollie has announced that the basketball office has received signed National Letters of Intent from forward Kentan Facey and guard Terrence Samuel to attend UConn and join the basketball program beginning with the 2013-14 academic year.

Both student-athletes hail from the greater New York City area --- Facey, who attends Long Island Lutheran High School, is from Glen Head on Long Island and Samuel, who attends South Shore High School, is from Brooklyn. They have been teammates in the well-known N.Y. Rens AAU program.

“I’m elated to have both of these young men sign a Letter of Intent with our program,” Ollie said. “They are high-character people and quality basketball players. I know they will both have great senior seasons at their high schools and we can’t wait until they get to Storrs this summer and become part of our family.”

Facey is a 6-9, 195-pound forward who was born and raised in Trelawny, Jamaica. A solid shot-blocker and rebounder, Facey helped Lutheran post a 23-6 record and capture the Federation Class A championship last year under Coach John Buck. It was during last summer’s AAU circuit, however, that Facey made a name for himself as one of the most improved rising seniors, starring in tournaments as well as individual skills camps. He is ranked among the Top 100 in the class of 2013.

“Kentan has a relentless motor on the court,” Ollie said. “He is someone who can come in here and be a solid rebounder, who will pursue the basketball every time, up and down the court. Plus, he’s a fabulous young man. I can’t wait to coach him.”

Samuel, a 6-4, 180-pound point guard, called UConn his “dream school,” when he gave the coaching staff an oral commitment in early September. He has established himself as one of the top point guards in New York City under South Shore Coach Michael Beckles. Samuel averaged 11.7 points and 4.8 assists last season, leading the Vikings to a 17-9 record and a second consecutive PSAL Class AA quarterfinal berth. He excels at running a team on the court.

“Terrence is a big, strong guard who plays with grit and toughness,” Ollie said. “He’s a very unselfish player with great court vision. I expect him to be a leader for us on and off the basketball court.”

A signed National Letter of Intent indicates that a prospective student-athlete agrees to attend the designated university for one academic year. The institution agrees to provide athletic financial aid to the student-athlete for one year, provided the student-athlete is admitted to the institution and is eligible for financial aid under NCAA rules. The program is administered by the Collegiate Commissioners Association.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Maybe It's Time for Kevin Ollie to Get That Long-Term Deal

Is it time yet?

The loss of another big-time recruit (Brandon Austin ... to Providence, of all places), coupled with the early-season success and rave reviews for Kevin Ollie begs the question of whether it's time Warde Manuel decides to give Ollie a long-term deal.

Ask anyone from Rick Pitino, Jim Boeheim and Rick Barnes to people close to the UConn program to the vast majority of college basketball media, they'll tell you that Ollie's lack of a long-term commitment (he's only signed through March) is a HUGE impediment to the Huskies on the recruiting trail. Noah Vonleh and Austin are two recent examples.
I asked Manuel at the Paradise Jam Monday night whether he worried that Ollie's lack of a long-term contract is hurting the team recruiting-wise.

"I want us to be in the best position," Manuel said, "but as I've said before, you never know what hurts you in recruiting. Jim Calhoun, in his prime, lost great recruits. Kevin is going to win a lot in the recruiting wars, and he's going to lose some, whether he's been there one year, 10 years or 20 years ... I've been around quite a bit with some great coaches who have lost some kids, and you never truly know. You put your best foot forward, and the student-athlete makes the choice to go somewhere else for a different reason."

Manuel indicated he'd like to see Ollie in Big East competition before he decides on his future, and also said he'd like to make a decision before the season ends on March 9.

"Whether I make it before then or not remains to be seen," he added. "I don't have a timetable."

I may be in the minority on this, but I understand Manuel's position. For one, he was put in a tough spot by Calhoun's abrupt retirement on Sept. 13, essentially forcing him to hire Ollie. For all the praise Ollie got at the time from sources all around the basketball world, it was fair for Manuel to be a bit cautious about giving a long-term deal to someone who'd never coached a game of basketball in his life, at any level. And, he had to show that whomever the new long-term coach at UConn was going to be was going to be his decision, not something thrust upon him by Calhoun's retirement.

And if that was the case two months ago, it's hard to say that things should change too much since then. As impressive as Ollie has looked on the sidelines and in practice (like he's been doing this for four decades, not four games); as impressive as the win over Michigan State was, along with a good showing by a fatigued team in St. Thomas, getting to the championship game; five games would seem to be a little early to make a rash, long-term decision.

But maybe Manuel should. The Huskies are getting killed in recruiting. There's no excuse losing a recruit to PC, even if the Friars seem to be on the rise and Ed Cooley is as likable a coach as any. And, well ... Ollie has certainly done the job to this point, no matter how early it's been.

Back on Sept. 13, here's what Manuel said he'll be looking for from Ollie this season:

“I’m looking to see how he is on the sidelines, how he handles decision-making, how he does substitutions and things that are normal in the course of a game,” he said. “How does he handle a loss with a team, how does he motivate them the next day to come back and play. How's he handling practice and the staff and all the things that come with being a head coach at this level.  I want to see it, because I can’t turn to somebody and say, ‘Hey, how did he do? How was he as a head coach?’ I need to see that. It really, truly is a long-term plan. I want to see where Kevin is before I extend that long-term contract. But I love Kevin, I’ve enjoyed working with him the past six months. I see why Jim believes in him so much, but I want to see it myself before I would make that determination.”

Let's break it down:

"I'm looking to see how he is on the sidelines" -- Ollie appears in complete control. Sometimes the game speeds up young coaches, but that hasn't happened with him. And he's got a stellar staff of Glen Miller, Karl Hobbs and George Blaney behind him, as well.

Manuel admitted as much Monday, saying, "You don't just roll the ball out and say, 'Shabazz, Ryan, go score.' He's designing the plays, and he and the staff are impressive to watch."

"How he handles decision-making, how he does substitutions ..." --- Again, all aces. Ollie lets guys play through their mistakes, by and large (unlike Calhoun), and, in fact, will ride the hot hand (i.e., Enosch Wolf vs. Wake Forest) even if it means a starter rides the pine for a longer-than-expected time. Ollie seems to use his timeouts rather judiciously, but that's not a major criticism.

"How does he handle a loss with a team, how does he motivate them the next day to come back and play ..." --- Well, we'll find out for sure on Sunday against Stony Brook, on the heels of the Huskies' first loss of the season Monday to New Mexico. But so far under Ollie, UConn has shown it can handle prosperity (the Huskies could have laid an egg against Vermont after flying home on the wings of the Michigan State victory, but instead played well), as well as in-game adversity (they were down 10 with less than five minutes to play against Quinnipiac, only to win in double OT).

"How he's handling practice and the staff and all the things that come with being a head coach at this level ..." --- Ollie has taken some of the ideals he learned under Calhoun and put his own personal brand on it, from techniques he learned from 13 years in the NBA (bringing in a sports psychologist, fostering better team communication, etc.) and different basketball philosophies. He's been terrific thus far. Manuel even admitted such Monday night.

"He's been unbelievable," the AD said. "I'm very, very proud. He's doing a terrific job in all aspects. He's a super guy doing a great job. He couldn't have had a better four games, a better script in his first four games. I'm proud of him, proud of the team and the effort they're putting forth. What you see on the court, he's been talking to the student-athletes about. It's a great thing to see."

So maybe it's time for that long-term contract, before the Huskies get hurt on the recruiting trail any more than they already have been.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Kevin Ollie, Steve Alford on Paradise Jam Title Tilt

It's starting to look like the ACC could come calling for UConn. Stay tuned.

Here's some video from the Huskies' Paradise Jam championship game loss to New Mexico Monday night. Kevin Ollie talks about areas his team needs to improve on after his first loss as a head coach:

And, New Mexico coach Steve Alford praises the Huskies' toughness after beating them:

Labels: ,

Monday, November 19, 2012

Warde Manuel on ACC (Not Much), Kevin Ollie (A Lot)

Warde Manuel wasn't going to come down to the Paradise Jam until later this week to watch the UConn women play. But after the Huskies' dramatic double-overtime win over Quinnipiac Sunday night, he decided to make the trip down for Monday's championship game.

Here's some of what he had to say:

(on rumors of UConn being courted by the ACC)

“It’s really too soon for any comment. There are too many unknowns, what’s going to happen, what’s going on. We’ll monitor the situation, figure out what it means to us as time progresses.”

"I’ll make sure UConn is in the best position to be successful for my coaches and student-athletes.”

(on the job Kevin Ollie has done so far)

“He’s unbelievable. I'm very, very proud. He’s doing a terrific job in all aspects. He’s a super guy doing a great job. He couldn’t have had a better four games, a better script in his first four games. I’m proud of him, proud of the team and the effort they’re putting forth. What you see on this court, he’s been talking to student-athletes about. It’s a great thing to see.”

"The guys are responding to him. He’s different than Jim. He’s had to work and get them to understand the way he displays his intensity is different. That’s a good thing to see, particularly when there’s a transition from a Hall of Famer.”

“I don’t want him to worry that I’m watching him and scrutinizing every step. I’m cheering for the team … at the same time, I’m observing him, watching how he’s handling things.”

“It was very impressive, down by 10 with four minutes to play. To see what he got out of the breaks, different motivation, plays he designed. You don’t just roll the ball out and say, ‘Shabazz, Ryan, go score.’ He’s designing the plays, and he and the staff are impressive to watch.”

(on whether the short-term contract Ollie's working on is hurting on the recruiting trail. UConn lost out on highly-touted guard Brandon Austin to Providence on Monday)

“I want us to be in the best position, but as I’ve said before, you never know what hurts you in recruiting. Jim Calhoun, in his prime, lost great recruits. Kevin is going to win a lot in the recruiting wars, and he’s going to lose some, whether he’s been there one year, 10 years or 20 years ... I’ve been around quite a bit with some great coaches who have lost some kids, and you never know truly. You put your best foot forward, and the student-athlete makes the choice to go somewhere else for a different reason.”

(Manuel said he'd like to make a decision on Ollie's future before the season is over)

“Whether I make it before then or not remains to be seen. I don’t have any timetable.”

Labels: , , ,

Source: UConn 'In the Mix' for ACC Invite

UConn is "in the mix" for an ACC invitation, according to a source, though it appears none has been made yet.

UConn believes it fits the bill for the ACC better than Louisville on many fronts: the Boston-to-New York TV market, academics, geography and stability (the prevailing thought is that Louisville truly desires to be in the Big 12 and would still jump at that chance even after it joined the ACC). An ACC source noted that the conference's TV contract with ESPN is already set, so the addition of UConn wouldn't even affect that at this point. However, that contract could certainly be re-negoatiated if UConn joined the conference.

A Look at Tonight's UConn-New Mexico Paradise Jam Title Tilt

While we're all immersed in the latest conference realignment rumors and speculation, and reports say that UConn could announce it's joining the ACC as soon as Tuesday, here's a reminder that UConn has a game tonight against New Mexico for the 2012 Paradise Jam championship.

While most figured these could be the two teams to to meet in the finals, they certainly didn't take easy routes to get here. New Mexico (3-0) had to struggle to get by UIC in its opener, then pulled out a miracle to beat George Mason on Sunday. Tony Snell hit a 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left to give the Lobos their first and only lead of the second half in a 70-69 victory. New Mexico trailed by five with 17.7 seconds left in that one.

Of course, it took UConn two overtimes to get by Quinnipiac in its semifinal game. The Huskies trailed by 10 with less than five minutes remaining, but Shabazz Napier came up big down the stretch and UConn hit 23 of its final 24 foul shots in regulation and overtime.

The Huskies have faced New Mexico just once before, beating the Lobos 78-56 in an NCAA West Regional second round game in Denver on March 13, 1999.

Steve Alford wasn't coaching New Mexico then, but he has coached against the Huskies once before. Alford was in his final season at the helm at Iowa when the Hawkeyes beat top-ranked UConn 70-68 in the Huskies' season-opener on Nov. 11, 1999 in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Madison Square Garden.

UConn hasn't lost a season-opener since. (Thanks to Joe D'Ambrosio for the heads-up on that tidbit).

Here's what Alford had, briefly, to say about the Huskies Sunday night, before he knew whether or not he'd be playing UConn today:

The Lobos are 3-0, but their coaching staff will tell you they haven't played a good game yet. They'll be helped by the return of backup point guard Jamal Fenton, who had to sit out the first three games due to an NCAA infraction.

"They're a good team," Kevin Ollie said of the Lobos. "They showed resiliency, too. They've got great shooters, they're big at every position. It's going to be a challenge. They don't have any give-up, either. I know Steve Alford, he's going to have his guys well-prepared, and it's going to be a great game."

We'll get to realignment after talking to some people throughout the day, and also keep an eye on Brandon Austin, who could be announcing his collegiate decision today. UConn, Texas and Providence are said to be the favorites.

Oh, and Napier is Big East player of the week.

Labels: , , , , ,

My AP Top 25 This Week: Hello, UConn, Oklahoma State, Cincinnati, Michigan State (again)

A double-OT win over Quinnipiac and wins over Wake Forest and Vermont may not seem like enough to vault a team into one's Top 25. But I already had UConn on the precipice after its big win over Michigan State, and after a few other teams on last week's ballot lost, I've pushed them off and put the Huskies in.

I've also got Oklahoma State jumping in with a bang. The Cowboys were very impressive winning the Puerto Rico tip-off, crushing NC State by 20 and also beating Tennessee.

Anyway, here's my ballot for this week:

1. Louisville
2. Indiana
3. Michigan
4. Ohio State
5. Duke
6. North Carolina
7. Florida
8. Syracuse
9. Kentucky
10. Arizona
11. Kansas
12. Creighton
13. Memphis
14. UCLA
15. Missouri
16. UNLV
17. Oklahoma State
18. North Carolina State
19. Pittsburgh
20. Connecticut
21. Michigan State
22. San Diego State
23. Gonzaga
24. Baylor
25. Cincinnati

UConn Avoids Upset, Beats Quinnipiac in Double-OT

It took a 1,700-mile trip offshore and two overtimes, but UConn managed to maintain its supremacy over in-state rivals on Sunday night.


The Huskies survived a terrific upset bid by Quinnipiac, battling back from a 10-point deficit with less than five minutes remaining and holding on for an 89-83, double-overtime victory in the Paradise Jam at the UVI Sports & Fitness Center.

“It was a hard-fought victory,” said UConn coach Kevin Ollie. “My hat’s off to the guys in the locker room, they played hard. We just made plays at the end. It was just a gut-check win for us.”

Conjuring up thoughts of UConn’s classic, six-overtime battle with Syracuse in 2009, and seriously jeopardizing the Huskies’ 26-year dominance over Nutmeg State foes, the game seemed headed Quinnpiac’s way after Garvey Young’s 3-pointer with 4 minutes, 56 seconds left in regulation put the Bobcats up 55-45.

But Ryan Boatright countered with a conventional 3-point play and Napier scored 11 of the Huskies’ final 13 points – including a driving layup to tie the game at 61 with 4.2 seconds remaining.

“The guys gave me the ball, I made a quick move,” Napier said. “I saw the guard was kind of far off, and kind of went to this go-to move I usually go to. I work on that so many times, I was just thankful it went in.”

Napier then came up with a steal near midcourt, but his desperation heave was off the mark.

Quinnipiac’s Dave Johnson hit a 3-pointer with 4.4 seconds left in the first overtime, and Napier misfired on a long 3-point attempt, sending the game into a second OT. There, Napier kicked things off with a trey and the Huskies never again trailed.

“We just stuck together, kept our composure,” said Napier, a junior guard. “I felt like the guys felt we still had a chance to win the game. Up to that point, we didn’t play as well as we should have. We stepped up our game, and luckily we got some bounces our way and won the game.”

UConn has now won 67 straight games against in-state foes, dating back to a Dec. 29, 1986 loss to Hartford in former coach Jim Calhoun’s first year at the helm. The Huskies are now 16-0 against former Calhoun assistants (Quinnipiac coach Tom Moore was on Calhoun's staff for 13 seasons).

Boatright added 18 points and Omar Calhoun had 17 as the guard trio accounted for 64 UConn points. The Huskies also got a burst of energy in the first half from freshman Phil Nolan, who had six points and five boards in eight minutes of action.

Johnson led five Bobcat players in double figures with 16 points and Young added 15. Ike Azotam inished with 10 points and nine boards before fouling out.

“It’s hard,” said Moore. “My kids are a little devastated, because they feel they were close to beating a team that they have a lot of respect for. In tournaments like this, you don’t get extra points for playing really well against a good team.”

Napier had scored all 16 of his points in the final 10 minutes of action in UConn’s 77-71 win over Wake Forest in its tournament opener on Friday.

“I hate when I do that,” he said of his slow starts the past two nights. “I feel like I take so many shots, mentally I get out of the game. Coaches and players tell me to keep on shooting, keep on getting to the basket. I took it upon myself to trust what they were telling me. I got to the basket numerous times.”

Added Ollie: “He didn’t do it the first half, but he was attacking. Some of the shots were poor shots, and we’ll talk about that, but he was attacking. He put a little too much pressure on himself at first, but he hit some big shots at the end for us. That’s what a leader does.”

UConn hit 39 of 45 free throws, matching the highest total of made free throws in a game in program history, including 23 of its final 24. The smaller Quinnipiac, which plays in the Northeast Conference, outrebounded the Huskies, 44-35.

“Those guys put a lot of pressure on you, and on the referees, because they initiate a lot,” Moore said of Napier and Boatright, who combined to go 23 of 25 from the charity stripe. “They’re very crafty, both of them. They’re very savvy, great IQ, great feel.”

UConn advances to the tournament finals, where it will face New Mexico on Monday at 10 p.m. The Steve Alford-coached Lobos got a last-second 3-pointer from Tony Snell to edge George Mason 70-69 on Sunday.

“They’re a good team, they showed resiliency, too,” Ollie said of the Lobos. “They’ve got great shooters, they’re big at every position. It’s going to be a challenge. They don’t have any give-up, either. I know Steve Alford, he’s going to have his guys well-prepared, and it’s going to be a great game.”

Alford said he’d only seen UConn on TV against Michigan State prior to last night.

“They look athletic, they look big, they’ve got two dynamite guards that obviously really run and control their offense,” Alford said. “We’re going to have to guard their drive, and they’re big inside, as well.”

Quinnipiac faces George Mason Monday at 7:30 p.m.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Update from St. Thomas

Greetings from St. Thomas, where I got a little beach time this morning. It's tough walking around the beach for a guy like me. I can feel the ladies dressing me with their eyes.

(Here's a pic of the team hotel ---->)

Kemba's mom was out there, too, along with the mothers of a couple of current UConn players.

Had a chat with Dickey Simpkins, who's doing some scouting for the Charlotte Bobcats. He's been doing this for a few years now, balancing it with some TV work. He won't be doing TV this year, though, just more scouting as he tries to move his way up in the organization. He's elated with what Kemba has brought to the Bobcats thus far.

The UConn women play Texas A&M today and will arrive here in St. Thomas tomorrow. Why not? No school at UConn this week.

It'll be interesting to see if the women's team shows up to UConn's game, which will be either at 8:30 p.m. or 11 p.m. (local time). Maybe Geno can sit next to Jim Calhoun on press row. Or maybe not.

That's it for now. As for conference realignment and rumors of UConn possibly moving to the ACC or Big 10, there's nothing I can add right now. It's all pure speculation, though I'll ask around this afternoon at the UVI Sports and Fitness Center and let you know what I hear.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Tom Moore, Scott Burrell, Kevin Ollie, Others Talk UConn-Quinnipiac Matchup

The last time UConn lost to an in-state foe was Dec. 29, 1986 -- a 49-48 loss to Hartford in Jim Calhoun's ninth game at the helm.

The Huskies haven't lost to an in-state foe since. That's 67-0: 19-0 vs. Fairfield, 13-0 vs. Hartford, 12-0 vs. Yale, 9-0 vs. both CCSU and Quinnipiac and 5-0 vs. Sacred Heart.

UConn is also 15-0 against former Calhoun assistants.

So there's got to be some pressure on the Huskies to avoid an upset by upstart Quinnipiac in the Paradise Jam on Sunday night, right? Wouldn't want to end that impressive streak in Ollie's fourth game at the helm, right?

Meh, not really.

"I wouldn’t necessarily call it pressure," said Ryan Boatright. "We're not gonna take them lightly. We tell each other we’re not going to let them make a name off us.”

Here's what some of the other key figures are saying about the game, which will be televised on the CBS Sports Network Sunday at 9 p.m.:


“It’s a great opportunity for a team like Quinnipiac to be playing a team as storied as UConn, both nationally and in-state. It has huge implications for our alumni and our students and fans. Years and years of living in Connecticut, hearing all about UCOnn, it’s nothing but respect and good feelings towards them.”

“As our program grows, we’ve tried to treat this trip as a chance to sort of grow our national name a little bit. Playing on national TV against a team like that will help that. Now, the task is on us to play well.”

“Their two guards really pressure the ball well. I thought they were terrific (Friday) rolling off screens. Kevin has them working really hard defensively, they have great resilience, and they’re running some really good stuff offensively, too. They looked organized, well-coached, committed.”

“We’re excited to play them. Our guys are really happy and excited to play them. We’re really looking forward to it.”

(on the only other time Moore has faced UConn while at Quinnipiac, an 82-49 loss on Dec. 16, 2007)
“It was a real awkward feeling on my part, just playing Coach Calhoun and all the kids I had recruited and stuff. We both felt more comfortable not continuing the series at that point. Maybe someday in the future it’ll continue, I’m not sure.”


(on Quinnipiac's overtime win over Iona on Friday night)
“They just played hard, stayed within their sets.Their bigs are really relentless on the backboards, Ike (Azotam) came out and had another big game with 10 rebounds, their guards were effective, they had five guys in double figures. It’s a good team we’re facing (Sunday) night.”

“I just want to coach the game, not worrying about who’s on the other side. We’ve got to come out with the identity we’re trying to establish, play hard. I don’t care who’s on the other side.”

“There’s distractions all over the place – contract, this, that. I can’t control that. I can’t control what Quinnpiac is doing in their practice. I can’t control Scott, I can’tcontrol Coach Moore. I know their team is going to be prepared and ready to play. If they’ve got extra motivation, that’s fine. I’ve got motivation for this team to compete and succeed at the highest level. That’s my motivation every day I wake up.”

R.J. EVANS, who was recruited by Moore while at Norwich Free Acadmey and made an unofficial trip to Quinnipiac.

"(Coach Moore) has done a great job with that program. They’ve competed in the NEC the past couple of years, and I definitely respect them as an opponent.”


"It’s exciting. It’ll be fun, especially for our guys. For me, personally, I don’t think it’s any different … it’s a challenge for us as a staff and for our guys. They’re going to try to play against a Big East, high-level team that we don’t play too often.”

(on his friendship with Ollie)

“(It's a) good friendship. We played two years together, play golf together in the summer. We have a good relationship. We’re just going to compete against each other as coaches tomorrow. It’s different.”

(incidentally, Burrell says Ollie is much improved as a golfer and has lowered his handicap from the 20's to about a 9. Burrell, however, says he's around a 4).

IKE AZOTAM, Quinnipiac's star forward, who teamed with Shabazz Napier on the Metro Boston AAU team and remains a good friend with the UConn guard:

"It’s gonna be challenge, but it’s gonna be fun. Coach Moore used to coach there, it’s going to be nice to play them.”

“Shabazz and Boatright are pretty good with the ball in their hands. We’re going to attack them, they’re going to attack us. We’ve just got to play strong.”

“I think our frontcourt can play with them. We’ve just got to be aggressive, make free throws, rebound and defend.”

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Friday, November 16, 2012

Shabazz Napier, Enosch Wolf Step Up When UConn Needed Them Most

Shabazz Napier hadn’t scored a point for the first 30 minutes of play. Enosch Wolf had barely scored any points in his first two-plus seasons as a collegian.

But when UConn needed both players to step up big on Friday night, they did.

Napier did all his scoring over the final 10 minutes of action, finishing with 16 points, while Wolf more than doubled his UConn career output with 12 points to lead the Huskies to a 77-71 win over Wake Forest in the Paradise Jam at the UVI Sports & Fitness Center.

“It was a great game, a hard-fought victory,” said coach Kevin Ollie. “We stayed within our game plan. Defensively, I thought we made the key stops when we needed them. That’s something we pride ourselves on.”

And now the Huskies get to face Tom Moore, Scott Burrell and their Nutmeg State brethren Quinnipiac in a winner's bracket semifinal game on Friday at 9 p.m. The Bobcats overcame an incredible performance by Momo Jones to beat Iona late Friday night. 

Ryan Boatright also netted 16 for the Huskies and DeAndre Daniels added 12, but Napier and Wolf were the main storylines.

Napier missed all of three of his shots – and both of his free throw attempts – in the first half, and didn’t reach the scoring column until a driving basket with 10 minutes, six seconds remaining that got UConn to within a point (52-51).

That started a 12-0 Husky run in which Napier scored 10 points, capped by his 3-pointer and a conventional 3-point play that gave the Huskies a 61-52 lead.

“We need to have a full game out of him,” said Ollie. “But I’m glad he showed up and took the game over. I told him, there are no other guards better than him – they might be just as good as him, but they’re not better than him – in America. He’s got to understand that and play that way throughout the game. He’s gonna get to that point.”

Wolf, meanwhile, had scored just 11 points in his first two-plus seasons as a Husky. But, pressed into action with Tyler Olander in foul trouble, the big (7-foot-1) man stepped up big.

His 12 points came on a variety of inside spin moves, driving layups, even a 17-foot wing jumper that put the Huskies ahead for good (53-52) with 9:41 to play.

“When I’m open, I can shoot it, just like everybody else,” Wolf said. “We believe in each other and trust in each other. When somebody’s open and can shoot it, shoot it.”

Wolf’s 25 minutes of action nearly doubled his previous career-high of 13.

“Enosch was huge,” Ollie said. “He did a wonderful job. It seemed like we had a big presence, a big fella down there. That felt good, coming down the stretch. He wanted the ball down the post. I liked his confidence.”

Added Wolf: “I’ve worked hard for this, I’ve got a chance. I’ve got to show what I can do and keep going from here.”

With Olander and 6-8 sophomore DeAndre Daniels each picking up two early fouls, Ollie first went to 6-9 freshman Phil Nolan. But Nolan missed a layup and turned the ball over quickly, and Wolf stepped up.

“It’s going to be (Olander) one night, me one night, Phil another night,” said Wolf. “That’s how we’re going to do it.”

Ollie echoed those sentiments.

“You never know when it’s going to be your time to shine,” he said. “Phil’s gotta keep his head up, Tyler’s gotta keep his head up, because we’re going to need everybody. We don’t have Kareem Abdul-Jabbar coming around the corner. One night it’s going to be Tyler, one night it’s going to be Enosch, one night it’s going to be Phil, one night it’s going to be Leon (Tolksdorf).”

The Huskies now face either Iona or Quinnipiac on Sunday at 9 p.m.

*** UConn feels pretty good about landing highly-touted, 6-5 combo guard Brandon Austin out of Philly. Then again, Providence apparently feels pretty good about landing Austin, too.
*** Both of Kemba Walker’s parents, Paul and Andrea, were at the game. Paul has moved back to his native Antigua. Andrea was, per usual, bedecked in her UConn No. 15 jersey.

*** Jim Calhoun watched the game from press row, sitting right between me and the Courant's Dom Amore. It's an educational experience hearing him talk basketball. Obviously, he's not as fiery as when he was on the sidelines. But the table did get banged once or twice.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

No Fun, Just Games for UConn ... Until Tuesday

Greetings from St. Thomas, where it is ... hot! Even at night, it doesn't get very cool around here. You probably don't want to hear that, but it's definitely muggy down here.

UConn had a good practice last night at the UVI Sports and Fitness Center and left its hotel around noon local time today for a shootaround at a local high school gym.

As mentioned in my previous post last night, the Huskies (along with Quinnipiac and Wake Forest) landed around 5 p.m. local, arrived at the hotel about an hour later, checked into their rooms and then headed straight out to their practice (Quinnipiac actually went straight from the airport to practice).

Why so hectic? Why didn't the Huskies get in on Wednesday instead? Well, NCAA rules state that teams can't arrive to a tourney site any more than 48 hours in advance of their tip-off. That means the Huskies ostensibly couldn't arrive before 7:30 p.m. local time on Wednesday. Rather than get in late Wednesday, it made more sense to come in Thursday.

Not sure how strict and stringent teams hold to this rule, but it explains why New Mexico, Mercer and George Mason (who all play afternoon games today) arrived on Wednesday afternoon.

It'll be all business for UConn over the next few days. The Huskies' only planned excursion is a snorkeling/catamaran trip on Tuesday, the day after the tourney ends. UConn flies back home on Wednesday.

*** The UConn Student-Athlete Advisory Committee will be hosting a food drive to help those in need who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy at the UConn men’s basketball game vs. Stony Brook at Gampel Pavilion on Sunday, November 25, at 4:00 p.m.  Fans are encouraged to donate non-perishable canned food items and baby food.  The items will be donated to the Foundation for Human Relief in New York that supports many of the hardest hit areas.  Items will be collected through halftime at the North, South and East Entrances of Gampel Pavilion.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

UConn's Tropical Tourneys Can Give Good Barometer of Upcoming Season

When the temperature’s hot, you can often tell what UConn's got.

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.”

Labels: , , , , , ,