Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Who Did Jason Collins Call Right Before Announcement? Emeka Okafor

Emeka Okafor has always been someone to look up to, not only for his basketball skills but for his intelligence, class and leadership.

So it may come as little surprise that one of the first people Jason Collins called before the Sports Illustrated article that announced that he's gay was made public was Emeka Okafor, who was Collins' teammate on the Washington Wizards this season.

"I'm happy for him and I congratulated him," Okafor told Yahoo! Sports on Monday. "While it's a great thing, it's tough not knowing how it will be perceived. Whenever you're the first there is always that uncertainty. He called me right before the article came out and told me. But before that I didn't know ... I told him that I thought it was a very brave thing that he's doing."

Okafor added that he didn't believe the fact that Collins is gay would have a negative affect in the locker room.

"We all get along so great," he said. "Jason was part of the group. I thought the only difference is him coming out saying he's gay. He's still the same person. He still has the same rapport with us. Everything is going to be the same."

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Former UConn Assistant Patrick Sellers Lands at Creighton

Former UConn assistant Patrick Sellers has been named an assistant coach at Creighton University.

Sellers, an assistant on UConn's 2009 Final Four team, had been at Hofstra the past few years as Mo Cassara's assistant. When Cassara was fired last month, Sellers was named interim head coach and interviewed for the permanent head coaching position. That job went to former Niagara head man Joe Mihalich, however, and Mihalich brought in his own staff, meaning Sellers had to look elsewhere.

He had a few other opportunities but opted for Creighton, thanks to his friendship with Blue Jay assistant Steve Lutz, as well as a recent visit out to Omaha.

"It's hard not to love Creighton," Sellers said. "They get 18,000 every night, rabid fans, they love their basketball. I had never been to Omaha and I was like, 'Nebraska?' But when I got there I was like, "Wow, this place is big-time.' Great facilities, the fan support is unbelievable. They'd be the 10th-best attended team if they were in the NBA."

Going to Creighton also means Sellers returns to the Big East. The Blue Jays, of course, will be joining the "new" Big East next season.

"It's good to be back," Sellers said.

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Friday, April 26, 2013

With Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, DeAndre Daniels Back Next Year for UConn ... Watch Out

As you surely know by now, Shabazz Napier announced today that he'll return for his senior season at UConn. Here's the story from today's Register.

Napier's not alone. Ryan Boatright also announced he’s returning to UConn for another year. DeAndre Daniels, too. With those three back (along with everyone else from last year's team except R.J. Evans and, possibly, Enosch Wolf), the Huskies should be a very good team next season. Preseason Top 15 easy, one would think.

Here's what Boatright and Daniels had to say today at Gampel:

Boatright said he made the decision a couple of days ago, and that he knew all along that Napier would be returning, too.

“Shabazz is Shabazz,” he said with a smile. “I’ve been around him long enough to know how to read him.”

(on reaching his decision to stay)

“It was tough. I really had my mind set on going, that’s what I really worked for this year. The way the situation went, me and my family felt like it wasn’t the right time. I’ll never put myself in a harder situation than it’s got to be.”

He said he had conversations with Kevin Ollie, Jim Calhoun … “everybody.”

“Coach Ollie’s got the best interests at heart for me, so I take his opinion very (seriously). He told me the best decision was for me to come back. I took it back to my mom, and we made the decision it was best for me to come back.”

(on how good a team the Huskies should be next season)

“Next year’s going to be a great year. Everybody’s going to be extremely hungry. Watching that (NCAA) tournament’s painful. It’s humbling and it makes you even hungrier. We all watched it together, so we’re going to come back with a chip on our shoulder even bigger than last year.”

Boatright knows what he must improve upon in order to be a sure-shot draft pick after next season.

“Decision-making and my 3-ball. Decision-making can always be better, as far as being a point guard and reading when to shoot and when not to shoot. Knocking down open shots – everybody in the NBA knocks down open shots. And you’ve got to be able to shoot the 3 more consistent than I did.”

Did he have pressure from his friends and family back home to get to “The League” this year?

“Nobody really makes it out of from where I come from. Just making it to college is good for them. They’re like, ‘We’ve got your back, no matter what you do. You go to the NBA or come back to school, we’re going to always be your fans.’ The most pressure was put on by me, because I expect much more from myself. I’m glad with my decision and I’ve got to make the best of it.”

*** And here's what Daniels, shooting around on his own (as he does so often) had to say:

"It really wasn't ever a tough decision for me. We sat down with my family and decided it was best for me to stay here, get better, work on my game and just become a better person and come a step closer to graduating."

Daniels has been hitting the weights hard and is up to 203 pounds, after ending the season at 195. You can see more definition already in his shoulders.

"(I need to) be more consistent with my play -- ballhandling, shooting and just getting stronger," he said.

"I think we have a chance to be pretty good. Hopefully, we can go far in the tournament and hopefully win a national championship."

(On Napier)

"I see him walking around now, he's all happy, like he's got a weight off his shoulders. I'm happy for him."

*** Elsewhere, bumped into Ricky Moore, who's been promoted from assistant director of basketball ops to full-time assistant coach.

“It’s nice to be able to get out on the floor (in practice) and do some teaching," Moore said. "I learned a lot alongside Coach Blaney."

He added that he’s excited to get out on the recruiting trail in July. As an assistant at Dartmouth, Moore did plenty of recruiting. He realizes it’s a different world recruiting for UConn, but says the hard-working attitude he had to have while at Dartmouth – staying in gyms long after the bigger programs had left to get an even better idea about what kind of player/person a recruit is – will benefit him with the Huskies.

*** Also saw Niels Giffey in the gym. His broken finger is still taped, and he's unable to shoot. Giffey hopes to be able to get back to basketball activities in a couple of weeks or so.

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Shabazz Napier's Statement

Shabazz Napier's statement:

“After many days of figuring out what decision was best for my family and me, I finally came to a conclusion. Before I announce my decision, I would like to thank many generous people.

“I would like to thank Coach (Kevin) Ollie and the UConn coaching staff for their understanding and cooperation as my family and I needed space and time during this process of deciding what move was best for us. Also, I would like to thank my teammates for allowing me to lean on their shoulders when I needed some support. I thank them for helping me get to this position in my life. Without them, along with the coaching staff, I would not be where I am now. Brendan Allen and Enosch Wolf, especially, were two people who made things a lot easier for me. I’d also like to thank the UConn fans for understanding as well. Their support for me and the team and their passion for the game have helped me tremendously.

“I’d like to give a special thanks to Coach (Jim) Calhoun, who has pushed me to become a better man, along with becoming a better player every day. We have spent many hours leading up to my decision, figuring out the pros and cons of staying and leaving.

“Of course, I would like to thank my family members, who have helped me through these difficult days and who have wanted nothing but the best for me. Most importantly, I’d like to thank my mother, who has inspired me to be the best that I can be and to try and be a great a role model for those who look up to me.

“That being said, I have decided to remain at UConn for my senior year. I am very much looking forward to getting closer to receiving my college degree, as well as becoming a stronger leader for my teammates on and off the court. We think we have a great team for next season and we’re excited about playing for a conference championship and in the NCAA Tournament.”

Shabazz Napier Returning to UConn for Senior Season

Shabazz Napier will return to UConn for his senior year, the school announced on Friday.

Napier puts to rest weeks of speculation since the season ended that he may enter the 2013 NBA Draft. But considering he wasn’t likely to be taken anywhere higher than the middle of the second round (if at all), and the fact that a foot injury would limit his ability to work out for NBA scouts, it seemed likely he would remain in Storrs.

Napier’s return means the Huskies return virtually every player back from last year’s team that went 20-10 overall and 10-8 in the Big East (assuming DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright also return, which both seem highly likely). UConn could be a force in the new American Athletic Conference, along with defending national champion Louisville as well as Memphis, Temple and fellow Big East holdover Cincinnati.

NBA scouts also largely believed Napier would be wise to eschew this year’s draft.

“I think he should stay in school,” an Eastern Conference scout told the Register last month. “I think he’s a talented kid. He needs to show more consistency, more leadership. I think he needs to take the program back to where they all want it to be. I believe he’s well capable of it. He needs to have a good summer.”

The conventional wisdom was that Napier would be, at best, a mid-second round pick – if he was selected at all.

“Either one is crazy to leave school for,” a Western Conference scout said last month.

Only first-round draft picks get guaranteed money. Occasionally, a second-round pick will, as well, but that’s rare. In fact, it’s often considered better not to be drafted than to be selected in the second round. At least then, a player can then pick and choose from potential suitors.

Napier had a terrific junior season for the Huskies, leading the team in scoring (17.1 points per game), assists (4.8) and clutch shots (too many to count). The 6-foot-1 guard also averaged 4.4 rebound per game, second only to 6-8 forward Daniels’ 5.5.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Shabazz Napier Decision Coming Friday

Shabazz Napier will announce his decision on whether or not he'll turn pro on Friday, probably sometime in the early afternoon. No one seems to know for sure what his decision will be, including even his AAU coach,  according to a Tweet by Jeff Borzello. It's funny: while there is rampant interest and speculation here in Connecticut on what Napier's decision will be, there seems to be virtually no interest nationally. Sort of like how UConn's entire 2012-13 season unfolded, when you think about it.

The overwhelming consensus is that Napier SHOULD stay. NBA scouts are near-unanimous in that assessment. Kevin Ollie seems to think he'll stay. Jim Calhoun, too. Both have helped advise Napier through this decision.

But it's up to Napier, and we'll find out Friday. He is slated to announce his decision through UConn's sports information department. If he does decide to go pro, however, there's a good chance he will be made available to the media, we're told.

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A Video by Ryan Boatright, DeAndre Daniels and Tor Watts

A school project by Ryan Boatright, DeAndre Daniels and Tor Watts on YouTube.

Seems they've got some heavy hitters helping them on this project, too. (Is Kris Humphries a heavy hitter? I don't even know).

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mark Twain, Noah Webster ... Jim Calhoun. Some Notes and Quotes from Husky Day

It was Husky Day at the State Capitol on Wednesday. Members of the men’s and women’s basketball teams and football team were on-hand, along with coaches from all three teams. And before that, next door in the legislative offices building, Jim Calhoun and Geno Auriemma joined the likes of Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Noah Webster in the Connecticut Hall of Fame.

"I think Noah Webster would be very upset with me because I've bastardized so many of the words (in the dictionary)," Calhoun quipped. "Harriet Beecher Stowe probably wouldn't be pleased with the words I use all the time."

Yeah, but who's sold more books?

Anyway, here are some notes and quotes from the day:

*** Kevin Ollie on Enosch Wolf: “It’s a university process, we’re just going forward. We’re still evaluating him as a person. But I think he’s really turning it around, on and off the basketball court. He’s been working out on his own. Off the court, I’ve been hearing some great things about him. I’m not really concerned with basketball right now.”

“I want him to continue to get better, so when he’s in that situation again, he knows how to handle it a little bit better. That’s what he’s doing, and I’m very happy for him.”

Translation: If it was up to Ollie, I'm guessing Wolf will be back for his senior season. But ultimately, it's not Ollie's decision.

*** Regarding next year's schedule, Ollie said the Huskies are "trying to have the same RPI as we’ve had in recent years … That means, going out and getting some games. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

It looks like Stanford, Maryland and the 2K Classic (Indiana, Washington, Boston College) will be UConn's top non-conference matchups next season. The slated game at Washington will likely be pushed back a year, since the teams could meet at MSG in the 2K Classic, and continuing the series with Texas seems unlikely this season, as well.

And don't expect any former Big East mates on the docket, at least for next season, though there has been contact with Providence and Notre Dame.

Said Calhoun: “I think we can be very good next year … I can’t decide if it will be less difficult or more difficult. This year we played the bottom teams … and did a very good job."

*** Shabazz Napier's decision should come either Thursday or Friday.

“I’m in the same boat as you," Ollie joked with reporters. "I’ve got my tape recorder, too. I’m waiting for him, too, I’m right there with y’all. I know he’s reached out to a couple of people, I had him in my office … Hopefully, he makes the right decision at the end, with his heart, with his mind.”

On how Ollie has helped Napier with the process, he said: “The general managers call me, I give him feedback. I imagine other people in his circle know people in the NBA that he’s getting feedback from, too. Hopefully, he gets all the information and makes the right decision.”

Nothing's etched in stone with Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels, either, but both are leaning on returning.

*** Calhoun loves incoming freshmen Kentan Facey, Amida Brimah and Terrence Samuel.

“(Brimah's) got a chance to be really good. He’s dynamic, long. Facey’s just a machine – 100 MPH on every play. And Terrence Samuel is what Kevin really wants. He’s a point guard. Kevin has a viewpoint on point guards that others may not have … I think Terrence would be happy defending, playing the fast break, and he’s strong and tough.”

Calhoun also noted that Facey and Samuel both committed to him and really want to be Huskies. He noted that Samuel "called me while I was laying in bed in late August, saying, ‘Coach, I really want to come to Connecticut.’"

*** Don't be shocked if UConn shows interest in Alabama's Trevor Lacey, a 6-foot-3 guard who led the Crimson Tide in assists and 3-pointers this past season but announced today that he'll be transferring after two years with the team. 

*** Ollie is happy to get Ricky Moore on board to get on the road for the July recruiting period, and glad George Blaney is sticking around in an advisory role, as well.

"He's someone to lean on," Ollie said of Blaney. "He always has the right thing to say, so I’m glad he’s staying onboard, too.”

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Charges Against Enosch Wolf Dropped

Charges against UConn basketball player Enosch Wolf related to an on-campus domestic dispute in February were dropped on Wednesday.

In a brief hearing at Rockville Superior Court, Judge Sheila Huddleston agreed that Wolf had completed his counseling and other measures ordered through a diversionary program by Family Court.
“I’m happy that the court part is resolved,” he said.  I still have to focus on my schoolwork, get all my finals done. I will keep staying in the counseling for myself, just because it has a positive effect on me.”

Whether Wolf, a 7-foot-1 center from Germany, is allowed to return to the Husky hoops program is still in question. Head coach Kevin Ollie said last week that a decision will be made around the end of the spring semester, which is a few weeks away.

Wolf has been on indefinite suspension since being arrested in a UConn dorm room on Feb. 11. He was charged with burglary in the third degree, criminal trespass in the first degree and disorderly conduct after an incident with his girlfriend. According to a police report, Wolf refused to leave his girlfriend’s apartment when he was asked to and grabbed the hair of the victim and pushed her head.

Wolf also knocked the glasses off her face with his hand and continued to remain in the apartment until he was arrested.

“Enosch has learned how to address alcohol, which was an important part of the equation,” said his attorney, Rob Britt. “What I’ve seen in him is a decision-making process that involves prolonged thought. It’s much less spontaneity, there’s more of a contemplation of what’s in front of him, and what his actions have cost him. I don’t think he wants to make any mistakes like that in the future.”

Britt added that he “can’t give you a more positive remark” than the fact that Wolf has decided to stay in counseling on his own accord.

Wolf, a junior, said “it hurts” that he had to miss UConn’s final eight games of this past season due to his suspension.

“I’m here to play basketball, my passion is to play basketball,” he said. “I love basketball. When I can’t be out there to play with my teammates, it’s painful. I did this to myself, and it’s a big lesson learned.”

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Enosch Wolf Back in Court Today

Enosch Wolf makes his latest visit to Rockville Superior Court today, stemming from a domestic incident with his girlfriend in a UConn dorm room back in February.

This will be his third court appearance and, possibly, his last, if he has been in full compliance with the counseling and other steps he's been ordered to take since the case was diverted to Family Relations.

Whether Wolf returns to the UConn basketball team is another issue, of course. Kevin Ollie told reporters last month that the decision will be made at the end of the spring semester, which is still a few weeks away.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ricky Moore Bumped Up to Assistant; George Blaney Now Special Assistant

Ricky Moore has been bumped up to full-time assistant, while George Blaney remains on UConn's staff as a special assistant/advisor to head coach Kevin Ollie. Here's the press release sent out by the school:

University of Connecticut men’s basketball head coach Kevin Ollie has announced changes on his coaching staff.
Ricky Moore, who joined the UConn staff in October, 2012, and served as the assistant director of basketball administration through the 2012-13 season, has become a fulltime assistant coach and assumed all appropriate duties, including player coaching during practice and games, as well as complete recruiting status.

“I’m really excited to add Ricky to our coaching staff,” Ollie said. “When Ricky was here as a player, he epitomized what UConn stands for and I know he will do the same thing as a coach.”

George Blaney, who just completed his 12th season with UConn, remains on the staff as a special assistant/advisor to the head coach.

The rest of Ollie’s staff remains intact, with Glen Miller as associate head coach, Karl Hobbs as assistant coach, Kevin Freeman as director of basketball administration, and David Sevush as graduate assistant.

“I’m really grateful for the opportunity to be an assistant coach on the UConn staff,” said Moore, 37. “I know firsthand what a great experience it is to be a student-athlete at UConn and to be part of the UConn basketball family. I’m looking forward to working with our players and to bringing high-caliber people and players into the program as we move forward.”

Moore, a 1999 UConn graduate with a degree in community program development, returned to Storrs last year after serving as an assistant coach at Dartmouth College for two seasons. Moore’s stint at Dartmouth followed his retirement after an 11-year career in professional basketball that spanned five countries --- Austria, Ukraine, Sweden, Turkey and Germany --- as well as stops in the Continental Basketball Association and the NBA Developmental League.

“I have a lot of faith in Ricky as a recruiter and a coach,” Ollie said. “He’s had experience on the road and I know the kind of strength and enthusiasm he has for the game and our program. I’ve already seen it in the role he had with us last year. Going into this new era of UConn basketball, I’m looking forward to having him on the road recruiting and using his coaching style to help us on and off the court.”

Moore, co-captain of the Huskies’ first NCAA national championship team in 1998-99, spent four successful years in Storrs as an undergraduate. During his tenure, UConn compiled an overall record of 114-24 and a BIG EAST mark of 55-17, winning three BIG EAST regular-season championships, three BIG EAST tournament championships, and reaching the 1996 NCAA Sweet 16, the 1998 NCAA Elite Eight, and capturing the 1999 NCAA title.

Moore was named to the 1999 Final Four and West regional All-Tournament Teams and Basketball News Magazine selected him as the National Defensive Player of the Year in 1998-99. He was a three-time UConn co-captain and in 2001, he was named to UConn’s All-Century Team. His 510 assists still rank sixth on UConn’s all-time list.

Originally from Augusta, Ga., Moore was born on April 10, 1976. He and wife Heather are the parents of two children, daughter Kendyll, 6, and son R.J., 4.

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Monday, April 22, 2013

UConn Receives Amida Brimah's LOI. A Look at His Journey from Ghana to U.S.

UConn has received a national letter of intent from Amida Brimah, the 6-foot-11, 215-pound center from Miami.

Here's a story I did on him a couple of months ago, detailing his journey from a soccer player in Ghana to a shot-swatting center in Miami.

And here's what coach Kevin Ollie had to say about him, per UConn:

“Amida was one of the most passionate basketball players I saw during the entire recruiting period, and I fell in love with his passion for the game. He showed leadership both on and off the court, and then he was the best player in the game.”

“We think Amida can be another in the long line of outstanding UConn big men. He’s a terrific shot-blocker and rebounder. He’s obviously got to get stronger, but he’s got a chance to make an impact right away. I love the fact that he is dying to get up here this summer.”

“With Amida joining Kentan (Facey) and Terrence (Samuel), we think we have three new players coming in who can all help us. What I like best is they each have a relentless motor that just keeps going. They are excited to play basketball.” 

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UConn Not Likely to be Headed to the ACC Anytime Soon

UConn's chances of an exodus to the ACC took a severe (if not fatal) blow today when it was reported that the ACC is set to sign a grant of rights deal that will all but keep its existing schools together until 2026-27.

That means that all of the ACC programs turn over their media rights to the conference. If any school were to leave for a new conference, the ACC would receive the school's media rights payments from the new league.

In other words, leaving the ACC for, say, the Big 10 (as schools like North Carolina and Virginia have been rumored to be considering) is now extremely cost-prohibitive and, really, all but impossible. And obviously, that means now new openings will likely be coming in the ACC for UConn (or Cincinnati, for that matter).

Do those schools now have to really get used to the American Athletic Conference? Most likely. Maybe the Big 10 could still come calling, we'll see. Hey, it took Rutgers, after all. Or maybe the Big 12, which only currently has 10 teams and may want to make inroads on the East Coast (and make West Virginia's travel regimen a little easier).

I highly doubt conference realignment is even close to being over. But UConn's options just got a little narrower -- and a little less sexy, as well.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Report: Daniel Hamilton to Visit UConn

According to Eric Bossi of rivals.com, Daniel Hamilton, a 6-foot-6, Class of 2014 shooting guard out of St. John Bosco High in Los Angeles, will make an official visit to UConn the first weekend of May.

Senior Leadership

If UConn is looking to add a little veteran presence next season with its final available scholarship, maybe it can skip the JUCO route and look at these guys.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Rodney Purvis Transfer to UConn is Complete

Rodney Purvis is officially a Husky. Here's UConn's press release:

STORRS, Conn. (April 19, 2013) --- Rodney Purvis, a former McDonald’s All-American who played 35 games as a freshman for North Carolina State during the 2012-13 season, has signed a financial aid agreement to complete his transfer to the University of Connecticut.

Purvis, a 6-3, 195-pound guard from Raleigh, N.C., will have to sit out the 2013-14 season as per NCAA transfer rules, although he will be able to practice with the Huskies. He will have three years of eligibility remaining, starting in 2014-15.

“Rodney is a great athlete, but first and foremost a great person,” UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said. “We’re very excited that he will be a part of our program.”

Purvis played in all 35 games for the 24-11 Wolfpack last season, starting 23 and averaging 25.5 minutes per game. He averaged 8.3 points, 2.4 rebounds, shot 44.2 percent overall and 38.5 percent from three-point range. He played 32 minutes and scored seven points in N.C. State’s 69-65 victory over UConn in the Jimmy V Classic last December in Madison Square Garden.

“Rodney is a solid, strong guard who can score in a lot of ways,” Ollie said. “He gets to the hole and he was a good three-point shooter last year. In pick-and-roll situations, we can use him a lot. He loves the up-tempo game. Plus, we can use his versatility. He can play the one, he can play the two, he’s even big enough to play the three, like we used Omar (Calhoun) this year.”

Ollie expects Purvis to help the Huskies even during the 2013-14 season.

“He brings us leadership, even next year,” Ollie said. “No, he won’t be playing, but he gives us a high-caliber basketball player that we can practice against every day. And he’s going to improve just by going against our guards, going through our workouts, and developing. Then, when he plays the following year, he’s going to be hungry, he’ll be chomping at the bit to play. Rodney will come right in and add stability to the backcourt and that’s something we’ll welcome. And he won’t be a freshman. He’ll be a junior maturity-wise.”

Purvis is a product of Upper Room Christian Academy in Raleigh and he was named the North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year, the Associated Press North Carolina Men’s Prep Basketball Player of the Year, and a McDonald’s All-American in 2011-12. In addition, he was a member of the USA Basketball team that won the gold medal at the FIBA Americas U-18 Championship.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Amida Brimah Signs National Letter of Intent to Attend UConn

Amida Brimah made it official today, signing his National Letter of Intent to attend UConn. He'll send it back to Storrs by the end of the week.

Here's a picture of Brimah (second from right), along with his Archbishop Coleman Carroll High teammates Gianni Garcia, Brandon Lima and Diego Cohen, each of whom signed LOI's to attend Webber University. Carroll coach Juan Hernandez is on the far right.

And here's Brimah and Hernandez, with Brimah sporting a UConn t-shirt.

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Kentan Facey, Terrence Samuel Look Good in (and After) Jordan Brand Classic Game

Took in the Jordan Brand Classic regional game Saturday evening at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to check out UConn commits Terrence Samuel and Kentan Facey in action.

The two players were paired in the same five-man rotation, which played in five-minute intervals. Both players had some highlights, particularly Samuel, who took it to the hole strong a few times, once making a strong layup and another time dropping off a nice dish to NC State-bound Kyle Washington for a layup:

Samuel also scored an easy layup on an assist from an unlikely source: Facey, who hit him with a nice pass from the wing. Over the next few years in Storrs, it'll be Samuel, the 6-foot-3 point guard, hitting Facey, the 6-8 forward, for baskets the majority of the time.

Facey had some moments, too, knocking down a 16-foot elbow J at one point and finishing with a double-double: 10 points and 10 rebounds. He looked particularly aggressive on the boards, as evidenced here:

It's also worth noting that Amida Brimah flew in from Miami to be at the game as a fan and was slated to stay over Samuel's house Saturday night as the two future Huskies form a bond. Samuel said the two would probably go catch a movie or something, and that they text frequently.

Brimah's legal guardian, Nana Baafi, said in a text message that Brimah wanted to "support his future teammates and get to have a great time and bond with them."

Here’s some of Facey and Samuel had to say Saturday night:


(on how excited he is to get to Storrs, with Samuel, sometime in early July)

“I’ve been excited since the first time UConn sent me a letter.”

(on UConn no longer being in the Big East, playing league championship at Madison Square Garden)

“Basketball doesn’t change. You play at the Barclays, you play at Long Island Lutheran, whatever. Basketball is basketball. It doesn’t matter where you play at, to me, personally. That’s not going to really affect me in any way. I mean, it would be great to be a part of all that history. But, embrace change, you know?”


***I also asked Shane Rector if UConn had contacted him:

"They were saying, if some guards leave, if (Shabazz) Napier enters his name in the draft, then they would come in and offer me a scholarship," Rector said. "But I guess if he stays, there’d be too many guards there.”

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

UConn's New Logo

UConn has a new Jonathan Husky logo. Not bad. Looks a lot like a wolf, which has always been my favorite animal and, of course, is a direct cousin of the husky and all dogs. But enough "Wild Kingdom" for ya, here it is:

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A YouTube Feature on Kentan Facey

Here's a look at Kentan Facey, who'll be attending UConn next season. Facey and Terrence Samuel will each be playing in the Jordan Brand Classic regional game on Saturday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. We'll be there to let you know how they look:

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Rodney Purvis Transfer Helps Kick Off 'Era of Good Feeling' at UConn

The college basketball season is over (save for that pesky women's game tonight). No more talk of postseason bans and APR. It's all about moving forward now for UConn after this year's season in limbo, and the vibes coming from Storrs these days are very positive.

The buzz of construction trucks are a constant reminder of work on the new practice facility, which UConn officials hope will be done by the start of the 2014 season. Most, if not all, of this past season's team will return for next season (nothing official on Shabazz Napier yet, but all signs point to his return). Rodney Purvis, a talented and likeable kid, is transferring from NC State -- a very nice get for Kevin Ollie and his staff.

And while the Huskies aren't in the ACC or Big 10 like they want to be (yet), they'll be in a new league next season that won't be half-bad. The American Athletic Conference, after all, will feature the defending national champion (Louisville, for one season anyway), as well as good programs like Memphis and Temple and potential up-and-comers like SMU, Houston and Central Florida. For a year, at least, it will be at least as good (if not better) than the "new" Big East/Catholic 7 league.

Throw in three good recruits (so far) for next season and the Era of Good Feeling has begun in Storrs.

The addition of Purvis, the McDonald's All-America, for the 2014-15 season is a big coup for the Huskies. Purvis, who will complete his classes this semester at NC State before transferring, can play both guard positions at a very high level. If he wants to be a point guard, as has been written, he should be able to flourish in a UConn system that doesn't necessarily have a defined "point guard," per se.

In NC State's more controlled offensive system, Lorenzo Brown (who, ironically, recently declared for the NBA draft) was the point guard this past season, no if's, and's or but's. But in the Huskies' more run-oriented system, several different players can put the ball on the floor as point, or fill the lanes as two-guard. Purvis can flourish in either role.

And, as a well-liked kid who's well-connected on the AAU circuit, it's not unreasonable to think that Purvis could attract other top players to Storrs.

As for other guards UConn is recruiting for 2014, the program is still looking for players who can handle the ball. Assuming Ryan Boatright goes pro after next season, the Huskies would only have one true point guard in Terrence Samuel for '14. So while Purvis's transfer means the program may not need to recruit two new ballhandling guards, UConn is still on the lookout for one.

The Huskies apparently have interest in Bronx point guard Shane Rector, who de-committed from Rutgers today in the wake of the Mike Rice fiasco. UConn is one of several schools to reach out to Rector, according to Kelvin Jefferson, his coach at South Kent School.

It's not all wine and roses for the Huskies just yet. No doubt, they'd still like an invite to one of the BCS conferences. The Enosch Wolf situation still has to be resolved. Inevitably, other issues will crop up.

But the page is turned on this past season in limbo. No more postseason ban talk, which is a relief to everyone (writers included!). The program is moving forward, and things are looking positive in Storrs.

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Friday, April 5, 2013

Rodney Purvis Transferring to UConn

Rodney Purvis nearly committed to UConn about 18 months ago, but instead chose to attend his hometown North Carolina State.

Now, Purvis really will be a Husky.

The 6-foot-3 guard announced via Twitter on Friday that he’ll be transferring to UConn.

“I really trust Coach (Kevin) Ollie,” he told the Raleigh News & Observer. “They have a great tradition of producing NBA guards, and that’s where I want to be someday.”

Purvis will have to sit out the 2013-14 season per NCAA transfer rules.

A McDonald’s All-American from Raleigh, N.C., Purvis averaged 8.3 points and 2.4 rebounds this past season at NC State. He started 23 games and averaged 25.5 minutes per game. Purvis scored seven points in 32 minutes off the bench in the Wolfpack’s 69-65 win over UConn in a Jimmy V Classic game on Dec. 4 at Madison Square Garden.

Purvis was down to UConn and NC State back in September, 2011, after making an official visit to Storrs. Omar Calhoun, who just completed his freshman season at UConn, tried to persuade Purvis to join him as a Husky. But two weeks later, Purvis elected to stay closer to home. However, it seems there were some issues of playing time for Purvis as a freshman under head coach Mark Gottfried.

How Purvis's transfer affects UConn's relationship with 2014 guards who it has been recruiting remains to be seen.

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Welcome to the American Athletic Conference

Be honest, you were going to hate whatever name they came up with. So take a day or two to let the American Athletic Conference sink in, then live with it. Hey, UConn may not be living there long, anyway.

The strangest thing about the whole thing is having Louisville (and Rutgers) hanging in the newly-named league for a year before bolting. Just awkward.

The press release:

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The current Big East Conference has announced that it will be renamed the American Athletic Conference and will rebrand as such across all platforms, associations and media at the conclusion of the 2012-13 sports seasons. The announcement was made today by Commissioner Mike Aresco after unanimous approval by the Conference’s Board of Directors.

“We worked with our institutions, sports marketing experts, media partners, and also solicited opinions and reactions from collegiate sports fans to create a compelling list of names,” said Aresco. “Versions that included the word ‘American’ led every list. American Athletic Conference represents a strong, durable and aspirational name for our reinvented Conference.

“We engaged our fans through social media and focus groups in multiple cities, and we conducted extensive quantitative research,” Aresco added. “We also received terrific input from our partners at ESPN and CBS Sports. Our name is a nod to tradition, but at the same time makes clear our determination to be a Conference with national impact and appeal. The American Athletic Conference will represent core American values of optimism, energy, growth and innovation. We have a broad geographical footprint that represents unity as well as diversity.”

“Our exciting new name is the result of a thorough process that has energized our Conference,” said Judy Genshaft, President of the University of South Florida and Chair of the Executive Committee. “The American Athletic Conference brand will embody the values of competition and sportsmanship that our student-athletes have always exemplified.”

“The American Athletic Conference is a brand that suggests a national scope and quality membership,” said Burke Magnus, Senior Vice President, College Sports Programming, ESPN. “It is an exciting time for the new conference and ESPN looks forward to our future together.”

“We congratulate the American Athletic Conference on the selection of a terrific new name for college sports,” said Sean McManus, Chairman, CBS Sports. “We look forward to partnering with The American as they introduce their new brand and increase their presence as a conference going forward.”

Beginning with the 2014-15 academic year, the American Athletic Conference will consist of the University of Central Florida, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Connecticut, East Carolina University, the University of Houston, the University of Memphis, Southern Methodist University, the University of South Florida, Temple University, Tulane University and the University of Tulsa. The U.S. Naval Academy will become a football-only member in 2015. With 12 football schools in the fold by 2015, it will play a football championship game.

A full set of marks for the American Athletic Conference will be presented in the coming weeks.


UConn to Open Next Season vs. Maryland in Brooklyn

UConn announced yesterday what the Washington Post had reported last week -- that the Huskies will open their 2013-14 season at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn against Maryland on Friday, Nov. 8.

A lot of people have noted that UConn's press release regarding the game had the following words:

“We are looking forward to opening our 2013-14 basketball season in such a wonderful way, playing a great program like Maryland in a beautiful facility like Barclays Center,” said UConn Coach Kevin Ollie, who expects to return his top six scorers and top five rebounders, including All-Big East first team pick Shabazz Napier. “I know all our student-athletes, but especially the ones from the New York City area, are very excited about the opportunity.”

While it would appear that the Huskies are expecting Napier (and Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels, not to mention Enosch Wolf) back in uniform next season, it's important to point out that those weren't Ollie's words. Nothing is set in stone yet.

That said, it looks highly likely that UConn will have no NBA draft defections this year. Napier is still in a walking boot, so even if he did get the chance to work out for NBA teams, he'd be extremely limited (if able at all to do so).

*** UConn does not currently have a game scheduled with Texas next season. In November, 2008, the schools signed a four-game contract over six seasons, with games schedule for 2009-10 at UConn, 2010-11 at Texas, no games in 2011-12 or 2012-13, 2013-14 at UConn and 2014-15 at Texas.

This year's game isn't a certainty yet, but that's not to say it won't happen. Right now, all we know for sure is that the Huskies will open the season with Maryland, then play either Boston College, Washington or Indiana on Nov. 21-22 at Madison Square Garden in the 2K Sports Classic.

UConn will play two of those three teams, though it's not known which ones yet. It will also play two prior 2K Classic games in Storrs against yet-to-be-determined opponents. Even if UConn (or BC, Washington or Indiana) lose one of their opening two games, all four of those teams will still go to the Garden. Apparently, the tournament is trying to avoid a situation like it had a few years ago, when Gardner-Webb popped Kentucky in Lexington and the Wildcats didn't get a chance to go to MSG.

UConn was supposed to play Washington in Seattle next season, after hosting the Huskies on Dec. 29 in Hartford. But because the teams may meet in the 2K Sports Classic, that game is likely to be put off for another year.

*** Andre Drummond was back in Storrs on Tuesday. Drummond's Pistons play the Celtics tonight.

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Monday, April 1, 2013

Rodney Purvis Transferring from NC State; UConn a Possible Destination?

Rodney Purvis is transferring from NC State, according to the Raleigh News-Observer, and there is speculation that he could wind up at UConn.

Purvis nearly committed to UConn in September, 2011 with Omar Calhoun doing some serious recruitment of his own. Seems like it came down to the Huskies and Wolfpack, and Purvis wound up staying close to home. He averaged 8.3 points per game for NC State this past season but apparently never really saw eye-to-eye with Mark Gottfried.

Purvis would have to sit out a year if he transferred to the Huskies.

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