Thursday, February 28, 2013

Amida Brimah: "I Hope Shabazz and Boatright Come Back"

Spoke with Amida Brimah this morning for a story that will run in tomorrow’s Register. Yes, he watched the UConn game last night, as he tries to do for every UConn game.

Why did he choose UConn over other suitors like Wake Forest, South Carolina and even Miami?

“I love the environment,” he said. “Coach Ollie is a very family-oriented guy, and (there’s an emphasis) on education.”

Brimah (it's pronouncd Ah-MEED-ah BrAYE-mah) added that he feels like he can make an immediate impact next year at UConn, and loves the team’s prospects, though he noted: “I hope Shabazz and Boatright come back.”

So do UConn fans everywhere.

Brimah plans on studying hospitality management when he gets to Storrs in June. The goal is for him to have added about 10-15 pounds to his 210-pound frame by then, as well, thanks to an off-season weight-lifting regimen he just began on Monday.

Brimah’s got an interesting story. He came to the States from Ghana three years ago at the age of 16, “recruited” by Nana Baafi, a native of Ghana who has lived in the States for over a decade and played college ball at Texas State and St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Brimah played soccer in Ghana (he was a striker) before converting to hoops, largely on Baafi’s suggestion. Baafi is now his legal guardian.

Anyway, here's my feature on Brimah.
*** Meanwhile, another UConn commit, point guard Terrence Samuel out of Brooklyn, announced Thursday on Twitter that he's been invited to play in the Jordan Brand Classic all-star game.

*** Finally, here are a few videos from Wednesday night's Georgetown game. When I asked Kevin Ollie whether or not he could appreciate what a great game it was, despite losing in hearbreaking fashion, I was thinking about how Jim Calhoun failed to appreciate the greatness of the six-OT loss to Syracuse during his postgame press conference -- and, indeed, still to this day.

And here's Otto Porter, with some nice words about DeAndre Daniels:

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Georgetown Beats UConn in Double-Overtime, Instant Classic

Well, it sure is a good thing they’re breaking up the Big East, eh? Wouldn’t want any more instant classics like Wednesday night's double-overtime UConn-Georgetown battle, would we?

“I thought I had seen it all,” Kevin Ollie said when it was over. “But I guess I haven’t.”

A truly amazing game (even if the first half was as ugly as many figured the whole game would be). A 3-point shooting exhibition by both teams in the second half. UConn rallies from 12 points down with 4 ½ minutes left in regulation and five down with as little as 11 seconds left to send the game to OT. Georgetown rallies from seven down with less than 2 minutes left in the second OT and four down inside the final minute.

Otto Porter being Otto Porter. DeAndre Daniels being better than Otto Porter, at least on this night (25 points, 10 boards, three blocks, strong ‘D’ on Porter most of the night).

Great stuff. Shame this rivalry could be over, in the unlikely event that the Catholic 7 somehow breaks off by next season.

Here are a few quotes (we’ll have some video up around 12:30 a.m.):


“It was a very, very, very emotional game, man. These losses are the toughest, because you fight so hard to win the game and you fall short. These are the toughest pills to swallow, but it’s basketball, you’ve got to move on.”

(on his final shot in double OT)

“I just tried to get it up the court as fast as I (could). When I made my initial move, he kind of knocked me off line and I lost the ball. I had to move myself and try to get to an open spot. I thought I had an open shot, but I ran into Smith-Rivera. Once I hit him, I knew I only had two seconds so I went right up with it.”

“It actually felt good coming out of my hands, but it fell short.”


“I’m confident when I get the ball. That’s one thing I’ve always had.”


(on why he seemed to play with extra passion on Wednesday)

“Just hearing a lot of people saying I can’t play with Porter, and all this other stuff. But this is a team game, I just came out, my teammates were finding me and I was able to knock down shots tonight.”


(on the Hoyas winning at Gampel for the first time in four tries)

“Storrs, Hartford, Fairfield, wherever. That was a great game.”

(on UConn)

“The guys in the other locker room, they could have cashed it in … they fought and fought and fought.”


(on Daniels)

“He’s a terrific player. He was just setting ball screens, popping, and we were having miscommunication with that. He’s a tough kid. He was knocking down shots when they needed it. He was playing good defense, trying to make it hard for me, clogging up the paint.”

(on game-winning shot)

“First, we were just trying to get the stop. That’s what I was worried about. Once we got it, I just sprinted the lane. D’Vauntes (Smith-Rivera) was able to hit me and I saw Mikael (Hopkins) sprint to the rim. So I was able to use him to get to the rim.”


(on Boatright’s last shot)

“We weren’t loking for that shot, but Otto Porter got to the rim with (9.5) seconds on the clock. Ryan got the ball. You try to push it and get to the rim, see if we can get an offensive rebound, see if we can get a kick-out. They played good defense, they bottled him up in the corner and he just had to make the play.”

(on his team)

“I’m very proud of my guys. They fought … down 12, they just kept battling, kept fighting, showed character, showed perseverance and showed heart. And that’s what our team is all about. You can say we’re small, we don’t rebound. You can write whatever you want to. But I hope you all write that we’ve got heart … I will go to battle with them any day. All of them, even the walk-ons.”

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Kentan Facey, Terrence Samuel Finalists for Mr. New York Basketball

UConn commits Kentan Facey and Terrence Samuel are among the five finalists for this year's Mr. New York Basketball award. They join Jermaine Crumpton, Jon Severe and Adam Weir on the list, which was announced by the Basketball Coaches Association of New York on Thursday.

Meanwhile, UConn women's recruit Saniya Chong made the final five for the Miss New York Basketball award.

Samuel is averaging 15 points, six assists and five rebounds for South Shore High. Facey, a 6-foot-8 forward, leads Long Island Lutheran, the state's top-ranked Class AA team.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

UConn up for Big Challenge from Georgetown, Otto Porter

Big game -- the last truly big game of the season for UConn -- on Wednesday night at Gampel, when No. 7 Georgetown ambles into town.

The Big East player of the year race may be over (G'town's Otto Porter has all but sewn that up), but coach of the year is still somewhat open, and two of the three favorites (Kevin Ollie and John Thompson III) will be on opposing sidelines. Incidentally, he Republican-American's Ed Daigneault polled 13 out-of-town college hoops writers on Big East player of the year and coach of the year. Porter was unanimous for player and, surprisingly, JTIII got all but two votes for coach of the year. Ollie and Buzz Williams split the other two. It's possible the league's coaches (who actually vote on the award) could see things differently.

About 300 tickets were still available for the game as of Tuesday afternoon.

Here's some of what Ollie and Shabazz Napier had to say before Tuesday's practice at Gampel.


(On Georgetown)

“I don’t think we’ve seen a team – probably since some of Coach (Calhoun’s) teams that went 16-2, 17-1 in league – both offense, defense, field goal perentage. They’re doing it on both ends of the table. They’re a great team – long, athletic. Can’t let them get out in transition, can’t give up easy buckets, and we’re going to have to guard them for the whole 35 seconds.”

(on Otto Porter)

“He’s just a great player. He’s a typical wing player, can put it on the floor, can shoot at a high rate … long, gets offensive rebounds, can go down on the block. Anything else I missed?”

(Ollie said it’ll be a group effort trying to stop Porter)

“Just like our guards. They don’t put one guy on Shabazz or one guy on Ryan (Boatright) … Otto’s gonna be a concentrated effort by all five of our guys in the paint, loading up, making sure he’s not on his sweet spots, distorting his catches, and making sure he sees a lot of UConn players and not getting a lot of easy buckets in transition.”

(on Omar Calhoun)

“He’s passing the ball a little more because of the wrist. It’s a good thing. He had to alter his game by default.”


"I love Gampel. If I had a chance to pick our home games, they would all be at Gampel. The crowd is so right there on you, it can be devastating for the other team. It helps when we go through spurts where we don’t score, and when we go through spurts when we do score. I just really appreciate Gampel.”

(on what happens if DeAndre Daniels guards Porter)

“DeAndre always comes up big in games where we need him to come up big.”

(on the possibility of winning their 20th game of the season on Wednesday)

“It would be a lot. We’ve been through so much, and not one day have we allowed excuses to overcome this team. We’ve continued to fight and be resilient.”

(on how big a game Georgetown is)

“This is, I guess you could say, a championship game, in a sense.”

*** A heavily-bearded Stanley "Sticks" Robinson was at Gampel on Tuesday. He's taken a break from hoops after suffering an Achilles tendon injury, living in Willimantic and working at Prime Materials, the scrap-metal place at which he worked while sitting out the first semester in 2008-09.
Always good to see Sticks.

*** The UConn athletics department and office of environmental policy will host a Green Game Day on Wednesday night. As part of the event, fans are encouraged to bring any lightly-used sneakers to donate for reuse – especially children’s shoes. These shoes will go to Kicks for Africa, a UConn student-run organization whose mission is to donate lightly-used shoes to less fortunate children in Africa. The shoes will be collected at all entrances as fans enter the game.

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Paschal Chukwu Advances, Amida Brimah's Season is Over

Paschal Chukwu, the Class of 2014 7-footer out of Fairfield Prep, finished two points shy of a triple-double – eight points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocks – in an SCC tournament semifinal win over Wilbur Cross Monday night. And that was done in about three quarters of action.

Chukwu sat out the game's first seven minutes – along with two other starters – but it wasn’t for disciplinary reasons. At least that’s what Prep coach Leo Redgate told the Register’s Joe Morelli afterward, saying he simply wanted to start his seniors in a meaningful game. Seems odd that he’d pick a conference tourney semifinal game to do so, but hey, what do I know?

Anyway, Chukwu would neither confirm nor deny the report that said he’s been offered a scholarship by UConn, instead saying he’s just “focusing on his season,” according to Morelli.

Meanwhile, UConn commit Amida Brimah’s season came to a surprise ending in the state semifinals last Tuesday, when Archbishop Carroll was upset. Brimah, the 6-foot-11 center who committed to the Huskies on Jan. 14, picked up two fouls in the first 90 seconds, then picked up his third and fourth back-to-back early in the third quarter. He still finished with nine points, eight rebounds and seven blocks.

Brimah will play in a couple of all-star games on March 9 and 16 in Miami and West Palm Beach, respectively.

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

My AP Top 25 This Week

Here's what I came up with this week. Not a whole lot of movement from my ballot a week ago. In comes Wichita State, Notre Dame and Akron, out goes Marquette, Middle Tennessee State and Louisiana Tech.

Is it fair that MTSU gets bumped after winning both its games? No, but I hadn't realized that Akron beat them this season and I had to get the Zips, whose 18-game winning streak is tied with Kansas and Memphis for longest this season, in this week.

UConn is right on my bubble, and a win over Georgetown on Wednesday should get them in (possibly even if the Huskies lose at Cincinnati three days later).

1.       Indiana (1 last week)
2.       Duke (3)
3.       Michigan (7)
4.       Gonzaga (5)
5.       Georgetown (8)
6.       Miami (2)
7.       Kansas (10)
8.       Florida (6)
9.       Arizona (11)
10.   Kansas State (12)
11.   Michigan State (4)
12.   Louisville (14)
13.   Syracuse (9)
14.   Oklahoma State (13)
15.   Memphis (16)
16.   Ohio State (17)
17.   New Mexico (19)
18.   St. Louis (21)
19.   Wichita State (NR)
20.   Colorado State (15)
21.   Butler (18)
22.   Wisconsin (23)
23.   Virginia Commonwealth (20)
24.   Notre Dame (NR)
25.   Akron (NR)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Boat Show for UConn, and a First Technical for Kevin Ollie

There was a Boat Show Saturday nigh in Chicago (actually, Rosemont, Ill.). Ryan Boatright was mobbed by friends and family after scoring 17 points to go with six assists (one of them niftily behind his back) in UConn's 81-68 win over DePaul.

Boatright was literally kissing babies, signing autographs and posing for photos for some 20 minutes after the game. It seemed like hundreds of people from Aurora were in the house for him Saturday night. Here's the video proof:

He certainly had an extra spring in his step, as Kevin Ollie noticed.

“Yeah, especially when he hit that 35-footer, then he came down and shot another one," Ollie quipped. "I said, ‘Ohh, man.'"

Boatright also had that behind-the-back pass to Omar Calhoun for a layup, as well as a terrific dunk in traffic.

"It was a great opportunity for him to play in front of everybody," said Ollie. "He was really one of our catalysts, when we were struggling on offense to get to the rim. He made some shots, and he played some great defense in the second half. Nobody played good defense in the first half.”

*** Meanwhile, Ollie got his first 'T' as coach of the Huskies. Here's his explanation:

Incidentally, Shabazz Napier said he congratulated Ollie on the 'T' after the game.

*** Calhoun continues to play with a sprained right wrist suffered early in the Villanova game a week earlier. He still managed to hit a pair of 3-pointers – as well as a lefthanded layup – to finish with 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting.

“I can play through it,” he said. “Shooting is the only way it affects me.”

*** Ho-hum ... 28 points for Napier. Kid's been unreal (though Georgetown's Otto Portr wrapped up Big East player of the year honors Saturday afternoon). UConn's guard trio of Napier, Boatright and Calhoun shot 22-for-35 from the floor (9-for-16 on 3's) to combine for 62 points.

*** The press doesn’t always sit as close to the student section as we did tonight, so maybe most student sections are as bad as DePaul’s. But I doubt it.

The “fans” – at least about 20 of them – were nasty and derisive all night, sometimes downright homophobic and X-rated. It’s one thing to be clever and funny like the Cameron Crazies. It’s another to be fat, drunk and stupid (which is no way to go through life, as we know).

“They were getting into our managers and into some other players. We kinda shut them up,” said Napier.

And for students to taunt UConn players with “No postseason”? From a school who hasn’t made the tournament seemingly since the days of George Mikan? No. Just … no.

“They are bad,” Napier continued. “I came here my freshman year and they were ripping into our walk-ons, so I can only think about what they were saying about our new walk-ons.”

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Ryan Boatright Returns Home for DePaul Game, But One Special Fan Will be Missing

Ryan Boatright returns to his "hometown" on Saturday night as UConn faces DePaul at AllState Arena. Boatright was born and raised in Aurora, Ill., about 30 minutes west of Chicago. This will be his first time playing in the Windy City as a collegian (though he has played in nearby Milwaukee and South Bend, Ind. already this season).

While Boatright predicts that "probably all of Aurora is going to be there," sadly, one very important person in his life will be missing. His uncle, Brian McAllister, passed away in June, 2011 (just a few days before Boatright graduated from high school). Boatright was very close to McAllister, and as I write in this story, McAllister is still often on the sophomore guard's mind. In fact, Boatright sometimes sports a Chicago Cubs jacket in honor of his late uncle, who was a big Cubbies fan.

In the article, I also talked to Boatright's mom, Tanesha, about her son's plans for the future (i.e., does he intend to enter this June's NBA draft?)

“I don’t know which way he’s leaning," Tanesha said, "but I am taking a little bit more aspirin lately.”

She added: “All I tell him all the time: ‘I was your mom before you ever put a number on. So, no matter where you go in life, I’m always gonna be you’re No. 1 fan.’ All I do is support him and tell him, wherever you go, I’m with you. I just want him to choose what’s best for him. It’s about him being happy.”

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Shabazz Napier: 'I Think the NCAA Tournament is Gonna Be Missing a Great Team'

Some interesting postgame quotes tonight following UConn's latest overtime win, a 73-66 triumph over Cincinnati.  But none more (as usual) than what Shabazz Napier had to say when asked how much he's thinking about possibly going pro after this season (and whether he deserves Big East player of the year consideration)

Napier finished with a game-high 27 points as the Huskies improved to 18-7, 8-5 Big East. The junior guard’s overtime exploits have truly been remarkable this season. In six OT sessions, Napier has scored 46 points on 9-for-14 shooting – including a sizzling 8-for-12 on 3-pointers. He’s also drained 20 of 22 foul shots.

While Napier was the hero again, he wasn’t the only star. DeAndre Daniels overcame an awful first minute (letting Justin Jackson blow by him for a dunk, then dropping an easy pass and getting yanked by Kevin Ollie) and wound up with 17 points and a career high-matching four blocked shots.

“He took it like a man,” Ollie said of his quick hook with the sophomore forward. “That’s what this team is all about. They take it, and they get back in the fight.”

Omar Calhoun, battling a sore right wrist, gutted through with 10 points and a team-high six rebounds. And, although Ryan Boatright suffered through his second straight poor shooting game (3-for-12, nine points), he “grew and matured” by holding Cincy’s Cashmere Wright to 10 points on 4-for-12 shooting, according to Ollie.

“When my shot’s not falling, it’s my job to make sure the man that I’m guarding’s not hitting them, either," Boatright said. "If I’m not gonna hit them, I’m not gonna let you hit them. I failed to do that in the Villanova game, I let my man get too many points … This game, once I saw that I was missing a few shots, on the other end, I took it on myself that he wasn’t going to score.”

Added Ollie: “He had his head down in the last game because he wasn’t shooting the ball well. This game, he picked up and took Cashmere Wright out of the game in the second half. He stepped up and he grew up.”

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Kevin Ollie, Ryan Boatright Feel UConn Will Bounce Back Thursday Night vs. Cincinnati

Kevin Ollie wasn't overly pleased with his starting 5 as they played defense during a 5-on-5 drill late in Wednesday's practice

"We can go through the motions and get our (butt) kicked again," he shouted at DeAndre Daniels, Shabazz Napier, Tyler Olander, Omar Calhoun and Ryan Boatright.

Later, when asked if his team's been practicing well since Saturday's 70-61 home loss to Villanova, Ollie said: "Yup. Not enough, though. We’ve got to get better, and hopefully we can continue to do that. But we’ve got to be at another level."

Here's a few more notes 'n quotes from Wednesday's practice, in advance of UConn's 7 p.m. bout with Cincinnati on Thursday at the XL Center (the team's last game of the season in Hartford):


on how 'Nova keyed in on and shut down Boatright and Napier on Saturday:

"I don’t think they were the first team that really honed in on our guards. I think every team's been doing that. But they’ve got to adjust, they’ve got to make improvements … Offensively, they’ve got to choose their spots, they’ve got to use their teammates. I think it’ll be a learning experience. I think they’ll take from the Villanova game and be better.”

on how Boatright's been in practice this week:

"He looked real good. Everybody’s going to have tough games like that. We watched tape, and I thought he performed very well in practice. That kid’s been through some adversity in his life. That’s not the first time he’s been through adversity. I believe that he’s going to respond very positively."

on the spark that Leon Tolksdorf gave vs. 'Nova, popping off the bench for a quick pair of 3-pointers:

“I thought we needed a spark. I brought Leon in, I wanted some effort, and he contributed. He’s making my drive back to Glastonbury a little bit more interesting when I’m thinking about (playing time)."

Take that, Andre Drummond and Arinze Onuaku: UConn and Syracuse are tied for tops in the Big East (league games) in foul shooting at 75.3 percent apiece. Ollie said it's a tribute to ...

“(Hard work and) getting the right guys on the free throw line, of course. Our guards are shooting almost 80 percent, Niels (Giffey) and DeAndre are shooting well. Those guys got the ball in their hands most of the time. They’re doing a great job.

“That’s how we’ve been kind of overcoming our rebounding issues: knocking free throws down, shooting a good percentage and having a low turnover rate.”

Indeed, the Huskies have been even better at the line when it really counts. In the last 10 minutes of all games, plus overtimes, UConn is 187-for-225 (83.1 percent) from the foul line. In the last five minutes plus overtimes, the Huskies are shooting 83.9 percent (151 of 180).

Will Enosch Wolf return this season?

“I have no idea. He’s suspended indefinitely. I said my comments to him, and my comments to the paper, and I’m sticking by them.”


on 'Nova game:

"We played so bad, I feel like we owe ourselves and the fans a better performance ... I wasn’t Ryan Boatright that game. I just had a bad game. It happens to everybody in basketball. You’ve got to bounce back and move on."

Boatright said he's pretty tight with Cincy leading scorer Sean Kilpatrick. The two attended the CP3 and adidas Nation camps together this past summer.

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Omar Calhoun is Big East's Rookie of the Week

Omar Calhoun is the Big East's rookie of the week after averaging 15.5 points in a 1-1 week.

Calhoun posted team highs of 15 points and six rebounds in the Huskies' 66-58 win over No. 6 Syracuse on Wednesday night. He finished with 16 points and a team-high six boards in UConn's 70-61 loss to Villanova on Saturday.

Calhoun is averaging 11.5 points per game this season. This is his second Big East rookie of the week honor this season. Only St. John's JaKarr Sampson (six) and new UConn killer Ryan Arcidiacono (three) of Villanova have won more.

Calhoun is a shoo-in for the conference's all-rookie team, but his chances for rookie of the year would appear slim with Sampson in his way. Heck, another St. John's player, Chris Obekpa, should be in the running, too, even though he's only been rookie of the week once. The kid is second in the nation in blocked shots.

The all-rookie team should look something like this:

JaKarr Sampson, St. John's
Chris Obekpa, St. John's
Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova
Omar Calhoun, UConn
James Robinson, Pittsburgh

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

My AP Top 25 This Week

I really was going to vote for UConn this week after its big win over Syracuse on Wednesday. All the Huskies had to do was beat Villanova on Saturday.

We all know how that turned out. The Huskies still merited some consideration, though, and I wouldn't be shocked if they garnered a couple of votes this week. Not from me, though. Not yet.

Anyway, here's what I came up with:

1.       Indiana
2.       Miami
3.       Duke
4.       Michigan State
5.       Gonzaga
6.       Florida
7.       Michigan
8.       Georgetown
9.       Syracuse
10.   Kansas
11.   Arizona
12.   Kansas State
13.   Oklahoma State
14.   Louisville
15.   Colorado State
16.   Memphis
17.   Ohio State
18.   Butler
19.   New Mexico
20.   Virginia Commonwealth
21.   St. Louis
22.   Marquette
23.   Wisconsin
24.   Middle Tennessee
25.   Louisiana Tech

Saturday, February 16, 2013

UConn Coach Kevin Ollie: 'We Need to Hit People'

A few of the more interesting quotes following UConn’s disappointing, 70-61 loss to Villanova on Saturday:

I could be very wrong, but Kevin Ollie seemed to be directing this specifically at a player or two without naming any names:

“We need effort. We need to hit people. We need to have an attitude that it’s my rebound, nobody else is going to get it. I’m willing to knock people over. I told them, they’ve got to see it.

“And it just doesn’t start in the game, it starts in practice. It starts as you walk. When you get to the scorer’s table, when you walk for a jump ball, they should see that intensity on your face. ... You’ve got your chest out.

“It starts more than just talking, it starts with your body. How you’re talking to yourself. I’m getting 10 rebounds today. that’s the key to life. I don’t think we were in that state of mind today. We have to get back there.”

Shabazz Napier, on the team’s chances of a Big East regular-season crown taking a big hit with the loss:

“We’ve just got to understand that we’ve still got a lot of games left. We’ve got to go out there and play with the toughness we didn’t play with today. It’s always hard to play in the Big East, you can lose on any given day. Our goal is to try to win the Big East season championship. You never know, that’s still maybe up in the air. If we continue on the travel we’ve been going on, I think we’ll be OK, we’ve just got to sharpen some edges up.”

Napier on how tough it is for UConn to win when he and Ryan Boatright combine for six points and 10 turnovers:

“Especially when we don’t find other ways to help the team. Offensively, we weren’t there today. We’ve got to find other ways to help the team.”

Napier did have 10 assists, but just two points. All four of Boatright’s points came in the final 51 seconds, when the game’s outcome had been determined.

Niels Giffey:

“We missed Enosch (Wolf) out there. He’s just a big body, getting a couple of rebounds for us, gives us good minutes. He changes shots – he might not block too may shots, but he changes shots just by his presence.”

Jay Wright (who's as classy as Jim Boeheim isn't):   "I don't know if it's the last time around for the Big East or not, but it's been great coming up here. This is special basketball country up here. We've had some great games against UConn I I have so much respect for Coach Calhoun, I got to see him before the game, and I really appreciate that he came to say hello. I think he's one of the all-time greats. Kevin Ollie is doing a really good job here. That's why this was a very good win for us, because I think we beat a very good team."

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Kentan Facey at XL Center for UConn-Villanova Game

Kentan Facey is at the XL Center today for the UConn-Villanova game. Here's a snippet of my interview with him:

Facey's Long Island Lutheran team beat Bishop Loughlin in its regular-season finale on Friday night and begin the playoffs next week.

Also asked Facey, who was born in Jamaica and came to the States in 2010, if he's heard from the local Jamaican community at all since he commited to UConn.

"I just saw dreadlocks just now," he said, pointing to an XL Center usher, "I wanted to walk over and ask if he was Jamaican ... I haven't really heard from a lot of them, not yet, at least. That's something I'm definitely looking forward to."

He's had plenty of support from the Jamaican community in New York over the past few years.

"They definitely have. It's been fun playing in New York with them around. They always try to support me in whatever I do."

As for UConn's potential next season:

"I think we're going to be a pretty good team to beat. With our guards, if they come back, they're going to have a lot of experience that the other guards can't compete with. That's something you gain over time, it's not something you're born with."

And on fellow UConn commit Terrence Samuel, the 6-1 point guard who was an AAU teammate of Facey's:

"He's pretty excited to come here. We were actually talking about coming to UConn before we had an idea this was going to happen. I'm definitely looking forward to playing with him. He's a great teammate. He tries to get all his teammates involved, and that's all you can ask for from a point guard."

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Friday, February 15, 2013

It's a Mutual Admiration Society Between Kevin Ollie and Jay Wright

Jay Wright isn't exactly sure when he first met Kevin Ollie, but figures it was during one of Ollie's three different stints with the Philadelphia 76ers.

His respect for Ollie was immediate, and it grew greater when the two would cross paths on the recruiting trail after Ollie had become one of Jim Calhoun's assistants three years ago.

"I just really like him, he's just a really good guy," Wright said. "My respect for him as a player, and seeing his work ethic as an assistant coach, I've got great respect for him. I'm very impressed with what he's doing."

And that respect is mutual.

"He's always a personable guy, somebody you can go up to and talk to, easy-going, always encouraging," Ollie said of Wright. "He'd tell me if Coach Calhoun decided to retire, if I get the job, then I'll have your back."

At Big East Media Day back in October, Ollie and Wright shared a nice conversation.

"I really respect him as a coach, and as a man and a person," Ollie said. "He's really one fo the coaches I look up to and admire."

Wright has seen other coaches have to replace legends (Rollie Massimimo, for instance) and knows what a difficult task it's been for Ollie to step in and replace Calhoun.

"I don't think anybody can understand what comes with replacing a legend," he said, "even if you played for him. "The stuff behind the scenes ... it's very difficult. Kevin's doing a very good job."

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Amida Brimah Shines in Playoff Victory

Amida Brimah, the 6-foot-11 Class of 2013 center out of Miami who's committed to UConn next season, had an impressive performance in Archbishop Coleman Carroll's regional quarterfinal bout on Thursday night.

Brimah notched a triple double with 20 points, 21 rebounds and 11 blocked shots in Carroll's 72-38 victory. Carroll improved to 25-4 with its 14th straight win. Carroll next plays on Tuesday night in the regional semifinals.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

UConn Very Much in Big East Regular Season Title Hunt

When UConn players and coaches talked about setting the Big East regular season championship as a tangible goal this winter, it seemed a noble yet unrealistic dream.

Even if the Huskies could somehow survive the departures of Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb and Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith, surely they would lose interest in the postseason-less campaign by now, right?

Wrong. UConn is still very much in the regular-season title hunt, just a game behind front-runners Syracuse, Georgetown and Marquette. With eight games left, the 7-4 Huskies don't have much margin for error -- one more loss, maybe two. But at this point, would you bet against this likable, hard-fighting team?

Not me.

Here are the conference standings entering Thursday night's action:

Syracuse 8-3
Georgetown 8-3
Marquette 8-3
Notre Dame 8-4
Pittsburgh 8-3
Louisville 7-4
UConn 7-4
Cincinnati 7-5
St. John's 7-5
Villanova 6-6

Providence 5-7
Rutgers 4-8
Seton Hall 2-10
DePaul 1-10
USF 1-11

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Jim Boeheim Blasts ESPN Reporter, Talks UConn-Syracuse Rivalry

Here's the video of Jim Boeheim berating ESPN's Andy Katz, then talking about the UConn-Syracuse rivalry:

And here's Boeheim's explanation as to why he went off on Katz Wednesday night.

*** Anyway, quite a win for UConn on Wednesday in its final meeting with Syracuse as dual members of the Big East. Maybe the Huskies' best win since the national title victory in 2011? Here are the three best quotes of the night:

Shabazz Napier:

“Coach Blaney always tells me don’t ever throw an alley-oop to a white guy. A lot of people don’t realize it, but Niels has by far the best athleticism on the team. He does a lot of things that guys never see because he doesn’t have the opportulnity.”

Kevin Ollie:

“They can ban us from the postseason, they can ban us from the Big East tournament, but they can’t ban us from getting better and loving each other. That’s one thing I can say about this team: they really love being around each other. And it shows.”

Omar Calhoun:

"They've got to leave with the taste of UConn in their mouth (going) to the ACC."

And let's not forget the good play of Phil Nolan, thrust into 14 minutes of action with Enosch Wolf suspended and contributing five rebounds, a resounding blocked shot and some strong defensive play:

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Jim Calhoun: 'I Don't Think, in a Year, We're Going to be (in the Big East)'

Ask Jim Calhoun his favorite memory of the UConn-Syracuse rivalry and the answer might surprise you.

It’s not the six-overtime game or the Gerry McNamara virtuoso performance. The Huskies, after all, lost those two games.

“It’s not like I walked into my hotel room at 4 a.m. and said, ‘Boy, what a great day,’” Calhoun said, referring to the six-OT classic in the 2009 Big East tournament.

Rather, it was a 51-50 win at the Carrier Dome that sticks out the most in Calhoun’s mind.

“Cliff Robinson had a one-and-one with no time left to win the game,” Calhoun recalled. “Cliff wasn’t the most clutch guy. He was more of a second guy, but he had to be a (clutch leader) on that team.”

Robinson swished the two freebies and UConn had the win in what wound up being its NIT championship season.

The Huskies and Orange have met 90 other times, 69 of them as members of the Big East. The 70th – and final – was Wednesday night at the XL Center.

“There isn’t any question in my mind they’ve been our No. 1 rival in the Big East,” said Calhoun. “I don’t remember a game played with them that wasn’t meaningful.”

Syracuse owned a 54-36 all-time advantage in the rivalry heading into Wednesday’s game. The Orange were 37-32 in Big East play.

Calhoun and longtime Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim had a long chat prior to the game. The two have been good friends, if heated rivals, for years.

“He’s not my best friend, but I have incredible respect for him,” Calhoun said.

Calhoun would like to see UConn continue to play Syracuse in years to come, though it appears the Orange, who move to the ACC, won’t be facing the Huskies next season. It’s possible, however, that the two programs could be league rivals again in the not-too-distant future.

“I don’t think, in a year, we’re going to be where we are right now,” said Calhoun, referring to the Big East. “I think a lot depends on Maryland and its lawsuit.”

The only thing that’s certain is that UConn and Syracuse will never again face each other as members of the Big East after Wednesday night.

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Enosch Wolf Apologetic After Court Date

UConn center Enosch Wolf was apologetic on Wednesday after a hearing on charges of burglary in the third degree, criminal trespass in the first degree and disorderly conduct.

“I’m sorry for what I put the university through, what I put the coaches through, the people of the university, my teammates and my family,” he said after a brief hearing before judge Edward Mullarkey at Rockville Superior Court.

Wolf, who was represented by attorney Rob Britt, had his case continued until March 20. A partial protective order was also granted to Wolf’s alleged victim.

Wolf, a 7-foot-1 junior from Germany, was arrested by UConn police at 5:55 a.m. Monday. According to a police report, officers were called to the LaFlesche building, a residential building on UConn’s campus. Upon arrival, police discovered that Wolf had been in a physical altercation with a female resident of the building. Wolf refused to leave the apartment when he was asked to and grabbed the hair of the victim and pushed her head, according to the report.

Wolf also knocked the glasses off the victim’s face with his hand. He continued to remain in the apartment and was subsequently arrested.

The partial protective order allows Wolf communication with the alleged victim, as opposed to a full protective order, which would bar him from any kind of contact. He is still living in his dorm and taking classes at UConn, but has been suspended indefinitely from the basketball team.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Kevin Ollie Says Little About Enosch Wolf, More About Syracuse

Kevin Ollie didn't have much to say about the Enosch Wolf situation at practice today, as the Huskies prepared for Wednesday's bout with Syracuse. In fact, he seemed a bit perturbed about any questions on the subject:

When asked if Wolf would play again for the Huskies this season, and if he's barred from all team activities, he added: "He's suspended indefinitely ... He's not around, so you can make your own conclusions."

Ollie added that he talked to his team about "just representing the university and making sure you make wise decisions.”

He offered more on how other players have to step up. Tyler Olander "has got to get himself involved – get rebounds, play harder, play with more energy and effort. He’s giving it to us, but it’s got to be another level. We want him to get rebounds, to get double-doubles. I believe he can do it.”

Olander knows he has to.

“I think there is some pressure, just to produce, get more out of the minutes I’ve been getting and the minutes I’m going to get now.”

He added: "I’m still playing my same role. It’s up to Phil Nolan and Leon (Tolksdorf) to step up, other guys like Niels (Giffey) to continue to play well and just fill that spot.”

As for Phil Nolan, Ollie said: "He's gonna have to (step up). There's no more waiting, he's going to learn through experience. I have full faith and confidence that he'll come in, give us a spark and play with effort and energy. That's the only thing we want to coach around here."

Nolan got a little extra work with ex-Husky Donny Marshall today:

*** As to the fact that this is the final time UConn and Syracuse will face each other, at least as Big East rivals, Ollie said: “I grew up watching Syracuse and Connecticut playing. The reason why I came to Connecticut is because Stevie Thompson was from my high school and he chose Syracuse. When I was at Crenshaw, I was a fan of Syracuse. Seeing Connecticut, the Big East, seeing Georgetown, you hate to see it come to an end. But, it’s part of life, you’ve got to move on. I know our AD and our president are going to put us in a good situation going forward.”

*** And, the inevitable question on beating Syracuse's zone: “Just moving the basketball, getting the ball from side to side, making sure the ball’s not sticking in one guy’s hands," Ollie said. "When we passed like we did against Seton Hall and the ball was popping, everyone was moving, we were getting it to the open man. It makes any zone look vulnerable.”

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Delving Into This Week's AP Top 25

Here's little interactive insight into this week's AP Top 25 poll by some crazy Connecticut sports writer.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Enosch Wolf Arrested, Suspended Indefinitely (w/mug shot)

Enosch Wolf was arrested early Monday morning after a domestic dispute and has been suspended from the team indefinitely.

Wolf was arrested by UConn police at 5:55 a.m. Monday and is being charged with burglary in the third degree, criminal trespass in the first degree and disorderly conduct.

According to a police report, officers were called to the LaFlesche building, a residential building on UConn’s campus. Upon arrival, officers discovered that Wolf had been in a physical altercation with a female resident of the building. Wolf refused to leave the apartment when he was asked to and grabbed the hair of the victim and pushed her head, according to the report.

Wolf also knocked the glasses off the victim’s face with his hand. He continued to remain in the apartment and was subsequently arrested.

 “We are aware of the situation concerning Enosch and we are taking the matter very seriously,” UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said in a statement released by the university. “He has been suspended from the team indefinitely, until the legal and university process is finalized.

“I have spoken to the players on the team previously, and will continue to speak with them, about their conduct both on and off the basketball court. We have high expectations of our student-athletes at UConn, and I expect my players to live up to those standards.”

Wolf, a 7-1 center, is averaging 3.4 points and 3.4 rebounds per game for the Huskies.

Wolf’s bond was posted at $500.

Obviously, there are two sides to every story, and Wolf will have his day in court (his initial hearing is on Wednesday). But this sounds all too similar to the Nate Miles incident back in 2008 (although, as Neill Ostrout of the J-I points out, Miles was eventually expelled for violating a restraining order, not the assault charges that led to that restraining order).

As it stands now, it doesn't appear any protective order would have been taken out against Wolf yet, since those are done through the court system and the courts were closed Monday. In fact, Rockville Superior Court is closed Tuesday, too, due to Lincoln's Birthday, which is why Wolf's hearing isn't until Wednesday.

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Another Weekly Award for UConn's Shabazz Napier

Let the Shabazz Napier for Big East player of the year debate begin.

Napier has been named to the league's weekly honor roll once again. It's the fourth time in the last seven weeks that Napier has been so honored. He was also named the league's player of the week a couple of weeks ago, the second time this season he's earned that distinction. Sean Kilpatrick of Cincinnati is the only other player who's been player of the week twice.

No doubt, Napier is worthy of player of the year consideration. If UConn were a little higher in the standings -- or, for that matter, eligible for postseason play -- he might even be the front-runner. As it stands now, I'd agree with Kevin Duffy of the Connecticut Post that Georgetown's Otto Porter is likely the leader in the clubhouse right now. Then again, preseason pick Peyton Siva, as well as Russ Smith, Michael Carter-Williams and even Kilpatrick have all probably been the front-runners at different points this season.

I believe that UConn's banishment from the postseason will hurt Napier's chances. It shouldn't, but I think it will. Coaches (or whoever winds up making the decision for player of the year) may be leery to pick a guy from a team that can't even play in its own conference tournament.

And that's too bad, because this is turning into a truly special season for Shabazz Napier -- even if it will come to a thunderous halt on March 9.

*** Oh, and don't look now, but after Sunday's 21-for-23 effort from the foul line, UConn leads the Big East in free throw shooting at 74.5 percent. As of last week, they were ranked 49th in the nation in the category and have now likely moved up.

Guess there are some positives to losing Andre Drummond to the NBA.

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

My AP Top 25 Poll. This Was a Tough One

My ballot this week. Indiana stays at No. 1. Yeah, the Hoosiers lost to Illinois -- but did you see what they did to Ohio State on Sunday?

And yes, I know Miami crushed Duke by 27. Duke's got the better record and, in my opinion thus far, the better resume. Barely.

Elsewhere, I've got Creighton, Oregon, Wichita State, Mississippi and Virginia out and Colorado State, San Diego State, Marquette, Pittsburgh and VCU in.

1.       Indiana
2.       Duke
3.       Miami
4.       Michigan
5.       Gonzaga
6.       Florida
7.       Syracuse
8.       Michigan State
9.       Arizona
10.   Georgetown
11.   Kansas State
12.   Kansas
13.   Butler
14.   Oklahoma State
15.   Ohio State
16.   Louisville
17.   Colorado State
18.   New Mexico
19.   Memphis
20.   San Diego State
21.   Pittsburgh
22.   Virginia Commonwealth
23.   Marquette
24.   St. Louis
25.   Louisiana Tech

Snowball Fights, Wrestling Matches, Alley-Oop Dunks: Fun Times for UConn

The Peter Pan bus that UConn was taking to New Jersey for Sunday’s noon bout with Seton Hall got stuck in a hotel parking lot near Hartford, where it was picking up the coaches who weren’t able to get to campus due to the heavy snowfall.

(Huskies have some fun beating Seton Hall on Sunday)

UConn players got out of the bus to try to push it out of the snow – something they were able to do back on Dec. 29, following a win over Washington in Hartford. This time, it was to no avail.

“We all looked at each other like, ‘We need to get in the weight room,’” recalled guard Shabazz Napier.

Still, the Huskies made the most of it. Snowball fights ensued, Napier and Omar Calhoun engaged in a Boston vs. New York wrestling match that Napier said he clearly won, and an already close-knit team got even closer.

“We were just enjoying every minute we had with each other,” said Napier. “That helped us forget about the five-hour bus ride.”

Indeed, once the Huskies boarded a new bus, the normally three-hour trek to Newark turned into more than five as team bus driver Scott Kirkpatrick encountered stalled trucks at nearly every exit and ultimately had to travel through the backroads to get back on the highway.

But the Huskies made the arduous journey worth the trip by taking care of the Pirates, 78-67, before 7,634 at the Prudential Center.

“I’m proud of these guys, because they had every excuse in the world to make, and they didn’t make (them),” said coach Kevin Ollie. “They probably had five, six hours of sleep. We got in late last night (shortly after midnight), but no excuses. They came out and played.”

Evans talked about the frolicking in the snow at the hotel parking lot as a “good, team-bonding experience” until Ollie came out and said, “Get back on the bus before we do something stupid.”

Said Napier of his wrestling bout with Calhoun: "I snuck up on Omar the first time. He grabbed me. I've got to teach the freshman a little bit."

Boatright on the long bus ride: “It was an extremely long trip. I’ve never been on a bus that long. But it was cool. We had some movies, we were doing a little homework, things like that.”

***The good times spilled over into late in Sunday’s game, when Napier got out on a fast break and tossed the ball off the backboard. Boatright flew in to catch it and slam it home for an alley-oop. That’s something that Ollie might have labeled as “stupid,” had the play been botched (though UConn was up 14 at the time).

“He doesn’t care what we do as long as we complete the play,” Boatright insisted. “Now, if I had missed, it would have been another story. He doesn’t mind. He lets us play how we play.”

Said Napier: “Boatright’s just outstanding. He’s so athletic. I was kinda nervous because I didn’t think he was going to jump. He told me, ‘Off the backboard!’ I kept looking back and he wasn’t right behind me. I just did it, and next thing you know I turned around and he dunked it.”

Added Ollie: “I wouldn’t have done it, but let the kids have fun, they deserve it. They’ve been through a storm, got in here at (midnight), I got them in early to eat breakfast. It’s something I wouldn’t do, but I’m fine with it, as long as it goes in.”

*** Napier addressed the "violation of team rules" that kept him out of the first five or six minutes of Wednesday's loss to St. John's.

“It was bad communication, to be honest. I felt like I let the team down. I told Coach I’m sorry for that, it was bad communication on my part, and I won’t let it happen again.”

“He took it as a man and he was better," said Ollie. "I’m so proud of him, because he’s making the choice to change. He’s doing a great job. Without him, I don’t know where we’d be at.”

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A Long Trip to the Swamps of Jersey for UConn

UConn’s long journey into the night on Saturday began at about 7 p.m., when the bus picked up the players and other staff members on campus for their trip to Newark, N.J.

After a stop to pick up Kevin Ollie and other members of the coaching staff who weren’t able to access the UConn campus, the bus headed down Rte. 91 However, at some point, the driver got an alert that I-95 was backed up and not a very good option, so he turned around and proceeded on a long and winding tour through the backroads of Connecticut that finally got the Huskies to Rte. 84, then 684 en route to the Garden State.

UConn finally arrived at its hotel shortly after midnight, making what’s usually about a three-hour trip into a five-hour affair.

(It should be noted, too, that while UConn hasn’t had an official practice since Thursday, the team has been shooting around,etc. at Gampel for the past couple of days.)


*** It appears Seton Hall scoring leader Fuquan Edwin is OK and good to go for today, according to a member of the Pirates’ staff. Edwin injured his ankle in Monday’s loss at Pitt. He’s averaging 16.9 points per game.

*** New Haven’s lone recent representative in the Big East, Freddie Wilson, is no longer at Seton Hall after transferring from the program last month. Wilson has already landed at Drexel, where he’s taking classes.

According to a Seton Hall source, Wilson simply wanted more playing time. He got some chances with the Pirates but seemed to make bad mistakes (on the court) too often when those chances presented themselves.

Off the court, Wilson also had some issues – minor issues – but issues, nonetheless. He was suspended for the Hall’s first two games this season and missed five total over his 1 ½ years with the Pirates, though it was usually minor things like missing curfew, etc., according to a source.

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Saturday, February 9, 2013

UConn Makes Late Departure for Newark on Saturday

Getting in and out of New Jersey as quickly as possible is usually a good thing. But it might be a problem for UConn on Sunday.

Thanks to the record snowstorm that battered the Northeast this weekend, UConn wasn't able to leave Storrs until about 7 p.m. Saturday for its bus trek down to Newark. Sunday's game is at noon, so the Huskies might be dragging a bit at tip-off (thought hat wouldn't be too different than their last two games).

Consider also that the Huskies haven't really practiced since Thursday, and their rustiness might off-set the possibility that Seton Hall could be without its leading scorer Fuquan Edwin (ankle) as well as one of its top players off the bench, Brian Oliver.

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Friday, February 8, 2013

Andre Drummond Injured; Huskies Look to Bounce Back vs. Seton Hall

Some unfortunate news for former Husky Andre Drummond, who'll be out 4-6 weeks with a stress fracture in his back.

The good news: "He’ll heal,” according to Pistons team physican Ben Paolucci. “He should have no residual, in other words, he’s not going to have anything lasting.”

*** Meanwhile, UConn faces Seton Hall ("who's Herb Pope?") on Sunday as it tries to bounce back from Wednesday night's loss to St. John's at the Garden. The Huskies didn't practice Friday but will hit the floor again Saturday before taking off for Newark -- most likely sometime in the mid-to-late afternoon, depending on when the storm ends.

The Pirates are 2-8 in the Big East, but as Kevin Ollie notes, "We could easily be 2-8. We could (also) easily be with a better record than we do have."

It appears the Pirates will be without leading scorer (16.9 ppg) Fuquan Edwin for the game, according to head coach Kevin Willard. Edwin injured his ankle in the second half of the Hall's 56-46 loss at Pittsburgh Monday night. He still scored 23 points in the game.

The Pirates may also be without backup forward Brian Oliver, who averages 8 points per game. Oliver is "game-to-game," according to Willard.

A few other items from Ollie's teleconference on Friday:

"I think (Ryan Boatright) needs to attack the basket a little more. Not just him ... we all have to attack the basket more. I think the last two games, combined, we've shot 55 3-pointers."

Ollie also noted that the Huskies missed a whopping 17 layups against the Red Storm.

His somewhat cryptic "I'm going to have to make changes" quote after the St. John's game had nothing to do with tinkering with the lineup or anything like that, Ollie insisted.

“It’s a mindset change,” Ollie said. “How we start games, how we’re thinking about different things. We have to be more confident with our shot, because what we’ve been doing just hasn’t been working. It’s for me to try to change that. Hopefully, we’ll have a different start to the game (on Sunday).”

Willard on the Huskies: "I think Kevin Ollie's doing a terrific job for UConn. It just shows you what type of program they have. They've got two terrific guards playing at a high level."

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Shabazz Sits; Wolf, Sampson Spar; UConn Loses

UConn lost to St. John's on Wednesday night 71-65 in its Madison Square Garden season finale.

Couple of quick tidbits:

Shabazz Napier didn't start due to an unspecified violation of team rules. Kevin Ollie wouldn't elaborate further. Napier probably wouldn't have, either, though we didn't get a chance to talk to him after the game. He had already left the locker room for the team bus by the time we got down to UConn's locker room area, but this didn't seem to be a case of Napier ducking the press. St. John's just took an infinite amount of time in the media room.

As for the dust-up with Enosch Wolf and Jakarr Sampson, Wolf had inadvertently elbowed Sampson in the face while corralling a rebound about two minutes beforehand. Apparently, he elbowed Sampson again at around the 13-minute mark, and this time Sampson responded by pushing Wolf, which was caught by the referees.

After reviewing the play, the refs hit Wolf with the ‘T’, as well, for the second elbow.

“The first time down the court, he elbowed me after he missed and I was like, ‘OK,’” Sampson said. “The second time it happened, I was just a little upset. I probably shouldn’t have reacted the way I did, but it happens. It’s over.”

Explained Wolf: “I guess I hit him with an elbow when I got a rebound. I ran back, kinda bumped into him, we exchanged a couple of words, he didn’t like it. He pushed me on the court, and the refs saw it and called a foul. I think they looked it up on tape and called the foul on me for the elbow and on him for the push.”

Both players made one of two free throws.

We'll try to post some more while on the train ride home.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Ryan Boatright Can't Watch ESPN Much Anymore Because of That 'Daggun'' "Journey to the Tourney" Ad

No doubt, Ryan Boatright had the quote of the day today. The kid can't watch ESPN anymore, and I'm right there with him (though, for me, it has more to do with the station's obnoxious love affair with the NFL than anything else).

When asked prior to UConn's practice (in preparation for Wednesday's bout at the Garden with St. John's) about how frustrating it is knowing that UConn can't play in the postseason, especially at this time of year, he replied: “I don’t even like watching ESPN half the time. I see the daggun’, ‘Journey to the Tourney’ commercial every other commercial. I get irritated, so I turn the TV off.”

Here's the video:

That's "daggun'" as in Roy Williams' pet saying. Maybe it's "daggone," or "daggum." Not sure. But Boatright's point was clear: with March Madness seeping back into the national lexicon over the next couple of months, it's tough for UConn to be on the outside looking in.

“It’s definitely frustrating," Boatright continued, "especially when you work hard every day, you put the work in that we put in, and you see other schools that aren’t even doing as well as you and they’re getting a chance to play in the tournament. It’s frustrating, but we knew going into the season that we weren’t going to be able to (play in the postseason). We’re alright.”

Added Kevin Ollie: “I imagine if you look at it that way, it gets frustrating. We’re trying to emphasize the positive things – you’ve got a good record in the Big East, you still have that opportunity to win that conference championship, which is very elusive. That’s the first and foremost goal, anyway – for any season – to win that conference championship.”

“I don’t see this team dwelling on the negatives.”

*** At the Husky Run back in October, Shabazz Napier noted that the Huskies might relish the chance to play spoiler.

"Why not go out there and hurt someone else’s postseason?," he said at the time. "We’re going to do our best to win every game possible, and realize we’ve still got a chance to win a championship – the regular season championship."

Certainly, St. John's (at 14-8, 6-4 Big East) is a team that needs to build a resume for NCAA tourney consideration.

On Tuesday, Napier added: “You kinda think about (being the spoiler). The first thing you think about is trying to win the game. After you win the game, that’s probably the second thing you think about. I just wanna go out there and play them with utmost respect and try to win a game. Especially playing for the last time in Madison Square Garden, it’s something special for the whole team … If we win, just think about that we spoiled it a little bit for them.”

*** Red Storm freshman Chris Obekpa leads the Big East and is second in the nation in blocked shot at 4.50 per game. UConn, of course,heavily recruited the 6-foot-9 center from Long Island. Omar Calhoun put the hard sell on Obekpa after committing to the Huskies.

"I tried to," Calhoun said. "It didn't work too well, but me and him are close friends. He knows how to time blocks and jump. He’s definitely someone like me likes playing with.”

Enosch Wolf will have to go up against Obekpa on Wednesday night.

“He’s a good defensive player," said Wolf. "I’ve just got to stay solid, try to maybe outsmart him a little bit. I know he’s really athletic.”

*** Naturally, Calhoun (a Brooklyn native) was recruited hard by St. John's, as well.

“Coach (Steve) Lavin’s a great guy," he said. "St. John’s is a great school. Everyone looks at St. John’s if they’re from New York.”

*** Seen at Gampel today: Taliek Brown (he's taking courses to get his degree) and SNY honcho (and Mets owner) Fred Wilpon.

*** UConn's bout with Syracuse on Feb. 13 will be ESPN's 7 p.m. game. Brent Musberger and Bob Knight are expected to be on the call.

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Monday, February 4, 2013

Jeremy Lamb Selected to D-League All-Star Team

It's not the All-Star Game Jeremy Lamb would like to be playing in, but the former UConn standout has been selected to play in the seventh annual NBA D-League All-Star Game on Saturday, Feb. 16 at Sprint Arena during the NBA All-Star Jam Session at Houston's George R. Brown Convention Center. The game will air live on NBA TV at 3 p.m.

Lamb has played for Tulsa on assignment from the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was selected for the Futures Team, which will play the Prospects Team. Players were selected by vote of the D-League's 16 head coaches and were eligible to be selected based on having played in half their teams' games through Jan. 27. Each player must be on an active D-League roster at the time of the game in order to compete, meaning there's a chance Lamb might not play in the game.

Here are the rosters:

Pos.                    Player (Team)                                                             Ht.                  Wt.                 College              Birthdate
F                          Micah Downs (Maine)                                                6-7                  180                 Gonzaga            9/8/86
G                         Courtney Fortson (Los Angeles)                               5-11                185                 Arkansas           5/23/88
G                         Ron Howard (Fort Wayne)                                        6-5                  185                 Valparaiso        11/14/82
C                         Jerome Jordan (Reno)                                                7-0                  253                 Tulsa                  9/26/86
G                         Jeremy Lamb (Tulsa)*                                               6-5                  179                 Connecticut      5/30/92
F                          Marcus Landry (Reno)                                               6-7                  230                 Wisconsin          11/1/85
G                         Shelvin Mack (Maine)*                                             6-3                  215                 Butler                 4/22/90
F                          Arinze Onuaku (Canton)                                           6-9                  275                 Syracuse            7/13/87
F                          DaJuan Summers (Maine)                                         6-8                  240                 Georgetown      1/24/88
F                          Chris Wright (Maine)                                                  6-8                  225                 Dayton              9/30/88

                            Head Coach: Mike Taylor (Maine)
                            Assistant Coaches: Tunde Adekola (Maine), P.J. Clark (Maine)
                                                    Athletic Trainer: Jessica Kendall (Maine)

Pos.                  Player (Team)                                                               Ht.                  Wt.                 College              Birthdate
G                         Andrew Goudelock (Rio Grande Valley)                6-3                  200                 Charleston        12/7/88
F                          Damion James (Bakersfield)                                     6-7                  225                 Texas                 10/7/87
F                          Terrence Jones (Rio Grande Valley)*                      6-9                  252                 Kentucky          1/9/92
G                         Cory Joseph (Austin)*                                                6-3                  185                 Texas                 8/20/91
G                         D.J. Kennedy (Erie)                                                     6-6                  215                 St. John’s           11/5/89
F                          James Mays (Springfield)                                          6-8                  230                 Clemson            3/8/86
G                         Jerel McNeal (Reno)                                                   6-3                  202                 Marquette         6/1/87
F                          Demetris Nichols (Sioux Falls)                                  6-8                  210                 Syracuse            9/4/84
C                         Tim Ohlbrecht (Rio Grande Valley)                         6-11                255                 Germany           8/30/88
C                         Henry Sims (Erie)                                                        7-0                  241                 Georgetown      3/27/90

                          Head Coach: Will Voigt (Bakersfield)
                          Assistant Coaches: John Bryant (Bakersfield), Rod Baker (Bakersfield)
                          Athletic Trainer:  Sean Mirza (Bakersfield)

* - Indicates a player currently in the NBA