Sunday, July 28, 2013

A.J. Price Likes the Potential of Kentan Facey, Amida Brimah (Who Resembled Two Ex-UConn Players on Sunday)

Went to check out Kentan Facey and Amida Brimah square off against each other at the Greater Hartford Pro-Am Sunday evening. Both players, without question, need to put on weight and get stronger. Both are a bit raw, and it all was exposed against the older, bigger, stronger competition at Crosby High (including Edmund Saunders, who is pushing 300 pounds but still has some game. More on that later).

From where I was sitting, Facey is definitely the more polished player right now. He blocked a couple of shots, grabbed some boards and made a couple of inside baskets, finishing with five points. Brimah outscored him with nine, but was definitely more raw and mistake-prone. There was a nice reverse layup and a couple of easy dunks, but also a dropped pass on a breakaway and had some happy feet in the lane.

I asked A.J. Price (who poured in 31 points, including seven 3-pointers) if he saw similarities between Brimah and Hasheem Thabeet when Thabeet was a freshman.

“Without a doubt," Price said. "You hate to compare somebody to somebody, but that’s the first thing you see. I watched Hasheem be the same way when he first came here, not really knowing how to use his body, know how big he is. He has the same problems right now, but he has a good basketball IQ, which is unteachable. I think once he gets in there with the coaching staff, he’ll be fine.”

There was another UConn player with whom Brimah shared an unfortunate similarity on Sunday. With about seven seconds left, Brimah tossed up a wild, midcourt shot, thinking time was expiring. It was pure Roscoe Smith. Everybody had a good laugh about it, including (much to his credit) Brimah.

“I thought the time was over, so I put it up before time (was over)," he explained, with a smile.

Added Facey: "We know we’re not going to have a chance to take that shot unless we have like a second left in a regular game at UConn. If he had realized it, he would have made a smarter play.”

It's interesting: Facey and Brimah are good friends. They share a lot of similarities: both have lived in the U.S. for about three years (Facey's from Jamaica, Brimah from Ghana), both have three sisters ... and both could be battling for minutes at center for UConn come mid-October.

A few weeks ago, Kevin Ollie told me and a couple of other reporters that, essentially, Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, Omar Calhoun and DeAndre Daniels were going to be in his starting lineup. That basically just leaves the five position, with improving Phil Nolan and veteran Tyler Olander (coming off a disappointing season) likely the front-runners. But Facey and Brimah will certainly try to be in the mix, as well.

“That’s why we’re all here, that’s why we play the game, to be the best we can best we can be and be in a good situation," Facey said.

I jokingly asked Facey who got the better of whom on Sunday, but he wasn't kidding with his answer.

“Today, I feel like I had a more all-around game. Amida probably had two or four more points, but I feel like I had a better game all-around.”

Can't disagree with him there.

Price, a Long Island native, actually played with Facey a few times at Long Island Lutheran (Facey's alma mater) the past two summers.

"I think he’ll have a good career," Price said. "He’s gotten better since I saw him.”

As for Brimah: “The big fella has a lot of potential. I think when he gets with Coach Ollie and they teach him how to use his size and be effective as he can, I think he’ll be very good.”

*** After playing his first three seasons with the Indiana Pacers and last year with the Washington Wizards, A.J. Price is an NBA free agent. His agent, Cheshire's Jeff Schwartz, is in the process of looking for potential fits for him.

Price is proud of his career to this point.

“Considering how I came into the league, 52nd pick, not a lot of 52nd picks make teams," he said. "So just to make my first team was an accomplishment in itself. I think it took a couple of years to get acclimated to the NBA style, but I think now I have more of a grasp on it and I’m just eager to get with somebody this season to show what I can do.”

*** Saunders added nine points in Sunday's victory, and was able to get his large frame in the air for a pair of late-game dunks -- one of them an alley-oop.

*** Facey is looking forward to getting some more instruction from the coaching staff in the ensuing weeks.

"Everything’s going tremendous," he said. "Classes are great, workouts are good. We get to work out with coaches now because they’re going to be back from the live period, so we’re going to be able to work out with them more than we have the past couple of weeks.”

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