Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Andre Drummond to Enter Team in Greater Hartford Pro-Am (Which is in Waterbury)

The Greater Hartford Pro-Am kicks will have a new look to it when it begins play on July 10.

For one, the league -- for a variety of reasons -- will be based at Crosby High in Waterbury this year.

There will be a few new teams in the league, as well, including one entered by Andre Drummond. The former UConn and current Detroit Piston standout will be put in his own team, according to league co-founder/CEO Peter Higgins, and Higgins is hoping Drummond may bring some of his new NBA friends (like Brandon Knight, etc.) to play from time to time.

Also, the perennial powerhouse team from Waterbury run by Ryan Gomes and Wayne Simone will be split up. Gomes will run with his New Haven buddies, Keith Cothran and Lamonte Ulmer, while Simone will coach a team with some younger players.

Higgins is also trying to get a Bridgeport team in the league, though that's not a done deal yet. There will be three Hartford-based teams, as well as Cambyland and the Springfield Slamm. The Slamm has Jeremy Lamb on its roster and hopes to have two or three of UConn's incoming freshmen (Amida Brimah, Kentan Facey and Terrence Samuel) as well. The frosh are only likely to play on weekends, however, since UConn's freshman summer program has 7 p.m. study halls Monday through Friday.

The league is slated to begin July 10 (though there may be a game or two before that date).

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Kevin Ollie Believes UConn Will Maintain its Edge Next Season

Had a great interview with Kevin Ollie this morning. His enthusiasm knows no bounds, and he is truly excited about this upcoming season. Ollie really believes this team has the chance to be very good, and it's hard to disagree.

One thing I wanted to ask him about is whether or not next year's team can keep it's "edge", so to speak. Last year, with no postseason eligibility and nothing to "play for," the team rallied around the idea that they were playing for themselves, for their university, etc. Will they maintain that next season, even though they'll now have very tangible goals to reach?

"I hope so, because that's the Level 5 team that I want, where we're playing for the love of basketball, for getting the opportunity to get out and play," said Ollie. "I call that a Stage 5 basketball team, and that's what I want. We can't be just, 'I'm good, and everybody else is bad.' If we have that mentality, we might win some games, but we're not going to be the team that I aspire our cast of players to be ... Hopefully they have that same mindset, especially with all the talent we have coming back. If everybody comes back with that level of unity, playing for one another, I think everything else will take care of itself."

Ollie broached a whole lot of other subjects. Here are some:

*** Shabazz Napier is at full-speed and is with Ryan Boatright at the Point Guard Skills Academy in Newark, N.J. UConn may well be the only program with two players at that camp.

*** Tyler Olander is getting back to full recovery and may play in one of the several summer tours set up for college basketball players, specifically the Athletes in Action Tour in South Africa.

"With Tyler, it's just mental," Ollie said. "You learn from negative things in your life, from positive things in your life. I think he's learned from this. He did help us in tremendous ways, so I wouldn't call his whole season a disappointment. He did some great things: his practice, his work ethic, trying to change his body. He's been doing great academically, also ... I wouldn't consider it a disappointment, but I think it was a learning experience for him. I know he's going to bounce back and be a great facilitator for us to go forward and be a person that we can count on, night-in, night-out."

*** Rodney Purvis showed his competitiveness while he was on campus for three weeks recently, earning three credits.

"When he was working out with Ryan, you could see the competitiveness coming out of him: Ryan was pushing him, he was pushing Ryan. It's going to be tough for him to sit out this year."

*** DeAndre Daniels leaves for Kevin Durant's camp in a couple of days.

"I'm not expecting him to come in and average 25 (next season), we're going to let the game dictate that. But I do want him to put his imprint on the game, which he is starting to do. Just being a stat-stuffer in every category. For DeAndre, just seeing Otto Porter, how he made other people around him better, is the next part of his evolution."

*** It's really looking like Enosch Wolf will not return to UConn next season as a non-scholarship player. But he's got a good reference in Ollie.

"If he decides to transfer, anybody who calls me, I'm going to give them great remarks about him as a young man and how he grew up from that situation."

*** On Amida Brimah:

"The first time I walked in the gym and saw him, I maybe got there late, they took him out and he was just clapping and showing so much passion about the game. Once he checked in, he blocked a shot from behind, made an absolutely great dunk, got a rebound, got double-teamed and passed it out. It was like, man, that's what you want a big man to do. Because he was the most passionate, but also the best player on the court. You add those two elements together, that's a recipe of a successful person. That's what we're trying to identify here -- high-character individuals."

"He's got some improvement that he's got to do skill-wise, on the blocks, which all our big men have to do -- getting in the weight room with Coach West, getting his strength up where he has confidence in his base, being able to withstand the bumps and still scoring and making plays for his teammates. I think he'll do that."

*** On Kentan Facey:

"Kentan is the same way. I'm not gonna have to coach hard work and effort with these guys. He has a relentless motor, getting up and down the court. He's an energy-giver, not an energy-taker. He's developed more on his jump shot where he's got more range now. He's probably a little bit more polished in that area going forward. I just think he's going to be a person that can come in and give us major minutes as a freshman. I think all our freshmen can."

*** On Terrence Samuel:

"From a scoring standpoint, from a leadership standpoint, from a facilitator standpoint, I think all our guards have gotten better. Then, to add Terrence Samuel - someone who has size, who's a push guard, a pass-first guard -- it's really going to help us, not only in games but in practice, too."

*** Lasan Kromah will likely arrive for the second summer session in mid-July.

"He's Mr. Versatility. I can put him at the 3, the 2, if we go small put him at the 4. He's going to give us a lot of advantages there, with his length, his defensive prowess. He's not a ball-stopper, which is great. He moves the ball. He can get the ball off the break, push it and be a facilitator. And he's a good person, too."

*** Omar Calhoun is free of crutches, braces, etc. and is rehabbing his way back, working on his strength and flexibility in his legs. Calhoun believes he'll be 100-percent by the start of classes in September.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Basketball Recruit (and High Jump Standout!) Amida Brimah Arriving at UConn Tonight

Remember the story of Dwyane Wade surprising a girl at her high school senior prom last month? That was at Archbishop Coleman Carroll High -- same school Amida Brimah attended.

Brimah, however, wasn't at the prom. He was back in Ghana, visiting his parents. No big deal -- he had already met Wade at Wade's Fantasy Camp last August, and it's not often Brimah, who came to Miami from Ghana a few years ago, gets to see his folks.

It's been an interesting past few months for Brimah, the 6-foot-11 center, who's flying up from Miami to Storrs tonight to begin summer classes at UConn. This past spring, after a strong senior season on the hardwood, he figured he'd try his hand at high jump.

"The coach kept telling me to do it," Brimah said. "I didn't know I could do it. Back home in Ghana, we do it on bare ground and you can get hurt doing it. He was like 'It's different down here.'"

So Brimah gave it a shot and did pretty well. He won the Class 2A Region 4 championship with a leap of 6-2, then took third place at the states at the same height. And if 6-2 doesn't sound too high, think how tough it is for a 6-11, 215-pound kid to unfurl his body over that height. That's some pretty good athleticism.

Brimah also recently got to bond with two future teammates, fellow incoming freshmen Terrence Samuel (who'll arrive in Storrs on Wednesday) and Kentan Facey, while in New York City. He played with Facey in a game at the NIKE Pro City Summer League , and with Samuel at a tournament in Coney Island. He also got in a run at the famed Rucker Park in Harlem.

It looks like Brimah will be playing in this year's Greater Hartford Pro-Am (in Waterbury) for the Springfield Slamm, coached by Dr. Steve Sobel. He'll likely be teamed with Facey and possibly Samuel, though it hasn't been determined yet if Samuel will play in the pro-am this summer. Sobel also said there's an "outside shot" of DeAndre Daniels playing on his team, if he plays in the league.

Sobel said he's looking forward to the possibility of coaching Brimah, Facey and Samuel.

"As Kevin Ollie said, their attitudes and work ethic are going to be what's needed this year," Sobel said. "My role is to put them in the mental and physical place where they can utilize their talents get conditioned to where they can be contributors."

Interestingly, Sobel also draws some UMass kids to his team, and one of them will be Jabarie Hinds, who recently transferred from West Virginia. Hinds, of course, is one of the prime reasons why Ryan Boatright landed at UConn. Boatright had committed to Bob Huggins at WVU, only to find out a few days later that Hinds had committed, too. That persuaded Boatright to de-commit, and he soon wound up at Storrs.

*** Meanwhile, UConn announced on Tuesday that Lasan Kromah, the transfer from GWU, has officially joined the program.

"We're excited to have Lasan join our program," Ollie said. "He is the tyupe of player and person who is going to make us stronger as a team with his ability on the court, as well as his high character ... I think Lasan can be a great facilitator for us. I love his versatility on the court. He can help us in so many ways."

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Kevin Ollie Gets to Talk PAR, not APR, at Travelers celebrity pro-am

Kevin Ollie said he believes he beat Warde Manuel by a stroke in their pro-am round on Wednesday. Here's some of what he had to say about his UConn team:

"We’ve got a great team coming back. Guys are working tremendously hard, doing a great job in first-session, second-session summer school. I feel good about our freshman class. We’ve just got to come back with that same attitude."

(on Ray Allen's huge 3-pointer Tuesday night)

(on how he's handling his first off-season as head coach)

"I'm still trying to figure it out. I learned a lot from Coach (Calhoun). After we won the championship, I was about to book my trip to Tahiti and everything, and he said, ‘Monday, we’ve got a meeting.’ He said this is where you grind and do your grunt work and prepare for next season."

(on next year's schedule)

"We think we’ve got it close to last year, with the scheduling we have, with possibly playing Indiana, possibly playing Washington twice, we have Stanford coming here, playing Maryland, playing Florida. We think we kept it about the same. Then, getting to conference play, we want to play very well. It’s going to be different for us: different hotels, different flights, different states we’re going to. It’s going to be an adjustment."

Ollie said he hasn't heard from Enosch Wolf yet, and that there's no timetable for his decision:

"I wish him the best of luck. We’ll have him come back if he wants to come back. He did everything we can ask for. He did very, very well with his sessions, that he chose to do on his own. I wish him the best of luck, and when he gets back in that predicament, I know he’s going to make a better decision."
He added that the decision to allow Wolf back as a non-scholarship player was "a collaborative effort, coming from Susan, Warde and myself. We worked together on that."

Ollie said Shabazz Napier should be back on the court this week, Tyler Olander is still about a month away and Omar Calhoun is about 1 1/2 months away. Napier will head to the Point Guard Skills Academy camp in Newark and Chris Paul's camp, and DeAndre Daniels is heading to Kevin Durant's camp in Washington, D.C.

"I called KD and told him to take care of him, give him a couple of secrets there," said Ollie, Durant's former teammate.

Helps to have a head coach who's a longtime ex-NBA player and is so well-respected in the league, isn't it?

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Warde Manuel Talks UConn Before Teeing Off at Travelers Championship

Kevin Ollie and Warde Manuel were in the same group today at the Travelers Championship celebrity pro-am. The two were in a group along with Jen Rizzotti and pro Jonaz Blixt, teeing off at 7:30 a.m. off the 10th tee. Here's some video:

Manuel jokingly sported Ollie's caddy's bib as Ollie joined him on the tee.

I talked to Manuel for a few minutes on the practice range. Asked him if he was nervous about teeing off in front of a large group of fans.

"They (the fans) should be nervous," Manuel joked.

In truth, he's a 6-handicap whose swing looks pretty good. And with a 7:30 a.m. pro-am tee time, there wasn't much of a gallery at the 10th tee.

Here's what Manuel had to say about some UConn-related items:

(on being named to Mark Emmert's 10-person council of athletic directors)

"I’m honored to be a part of that group. It’s a great group of AD’s and colleagues from around the country, really just to provide Mark with some advice from our perspective, and to be a sounding board for him, to talk to him about some of the things that are important to us and to really help the membership, long-term. That’s the goal. I’m looking forward to it."

Manuel said the council was selected by the AD's, not Emmert, and that he doesn't envision drumming up the APR issue with Emmert again.

"We made our arguments ... it is what it is, at this point. They’re good people, Mark's a good person. We agree to disagree on the way it was doled out, and the timing of the rule, the implementation. But it’s water under the bridge."

(on the UConn men's hoops team's latest strong APR scores)

"Very happy. Ecstatic with the results and the effort of the student-athletes and the academic staff. It’s really positive, because the kids on the team had nothing to do with it, but it’s a university issue, and they are really pulling through and doing well in the classroom, and on the field of play."

(on whether UConn will replace George Blaney on the coaching staff)

"Unknown at this point. Kevin and I are talking, and we’ll see how the staff shapes up."

(on Jim Calhoun's present and future with the program)

"He’s coach emeritus. He’s going to be helping us with the fundraising stuff within athletics and the university, and continue to be a great ambassador for UConn. He’s already helping us make inroads into some donors and opening doors and talking to people about supporting UConn athletics, as he always has. It’s great to have him with us. I know I’m happy, Kevin’s happy, that he’s going to be around on a consistent basis."

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Way Too Early Look at Some Future UConn Opponents

Conference USA sent out a document with early roster information on its 16 teams this afternoon. Normally, this wouldn't interest me much, but considering that three of the teams (East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa) will be in UConn's American Athletic Conference starting in 2014-15, I took a look.

Here's the link, for anyone who wants an early (real early) scouting report on a few future AAC teams.

American Athletic Conference Trying to Make Conference Scheduling Easier

As the "new" Big East still searches for a commissioner ... and a new building in New York City ... and, well, a staff, the American Athletic Conference is busy putting together its league schedule and preparing for the switch-over on July 1.

The American's staff likely will remain most if not all of the people who worked at the Big East, including commissioner Mike Aresco. The league is currently working on its conference schedule, and it is trying as hard as possible to make it so that teams travel to play in two-or-three-city "pods." In other words, when UConn travels to play SMU in Dallas, it also plays at Houston a few nights later. Or when it goes to Tampa to play South Florida, it makes the trip up I-4 soon after to play UCF.

Likewise, when teams travel to play UConn, they also get Rutgers and Temple within the same timeframe. Cincinnati, Louisville and Memphis would likely be a "pod" as well.

Logistically, it might be hard to make it all work. However, it will be a lot easier with just 10 teams in the conference, as opposed to 16. The league hopes to have its in-conference schedule finalized over the next couple of weeks.

Elsewhere, in news that no one except media members care about: the American's football media day will likely be in Newport, R.I. (where the Big East has held its media day in recent years).

The men's basketball media day will likely be held in Memphis (site of the conference tourney, as well), most likely on Oct. 16. And it appears the women's basketball media day will be held at Mohegan Sun (likewise, the same site as its conference tourney).


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Rodney Purvis Misses the Cut at U19 Tryouts

Rodney Purvis, who transferred to UConn from NC State this spring and won't be eligible to play for the Huskies until the 2014-15 season, missed the cut at the USA Men's Basketball U19 team tryouts.

Here's the release sent out by USA Basketball:

Following four training sessions involving 26 of America's top 19-and-under players, USA Basketball today announced 16 finalists for the 2013 USA Basketball Men's U19 World Championship Team. The roster will be pared down to 12 before the squad departs on June 19 for three days of training at the Washington Wizards practice facility in Washington, D.C. The 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship will be held June 24-July 6 in Prague, Czech Republic. The finalists, who must be 19-years-old or younger (born on or after Jan. 1, 1994) and a U.S. citizen to be eligible for this team, were selected by the USA Basketball Men's Developmental National Team Committee.

Selected as a USA U19 finalist were Ryan Arcidiacono (Villanova University/Langhorne, Pa.); Damyean Dotson (University of Oregon/Houston, Texas); Michael Frazier (University of Florida/Tampa, Fla.); Marcus Georges-Hunt (Georgia Tech/College Park, Ga.); Aaron Gordon (Archbishop Mitty H.S./San Jose, Calif.); Jerami Grant (Syracuse University/Bowie, Md.); Montrezl Harrell (University of Louisville/Tarboro, N.C.); Jahlil Okafor (Whitney Young H.S./Chicago, Ill.); Elfrid Payton (University of Louisiana at Lafayette/Gretna, La.); James Robinson (University of Pittsburgh/Mitchellville, Md.); Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State University/Flower Mound, Texas); Jarnell Stokes (University of Tennessee/Memphis, Tenn.); Rasheed Sulaimon (Duke University/Houston, Texas); Mike Tobey (University of Virginia/Monroe, N.Y.); Nigel Williams-Goss (Findlay Prep/Happy Valley, Ore.); and Justise Winslow (St. Johns H.S./Houston, Texas).

"We had 26 really, really good players and all of the guys made the selection very, very difficult," said USA U19 and University of Florida head coach Billy Donovan. "I think the things that stand out about this team is just the athleticism; the speed and quickness; the ability to defend and put pressure on people; and offensive rebound.

"We still have to get down to 12 players and the challenge right now is to see how these 16 guys fit into what we're trying to do. We'll learn a lot more in the next three practices; we'll see how well guys pick up certain things; how the chemistry is; the way they bond, the way they connect.

"I think the biggest thing is just our unity, us being connected, understanding what the goal is and them playing together, playing unselfishly. We have a lot of versatile players; guys that can move to different positions; I think we have a lot of size and strength on this team; I think we have guards that can defend and have good quickness and speed," added Donovan, who led the 2012 USA U18 Team to a 5-0 record, a FIBA Americas U18 gold medal finish and a qualifying berth for the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

George Blaney: "From an Early Age, I Was Intrigued by the Game. That Never Left'

George Blaney just finished up a teleconference with media members. One of the first things he did was to thank the press for treating him "fairly and professionally" over the years. Probably doesn't mean much to most readers, but it's nice to hear every once in a while. And make no mistake, the feeling is very mutual.

Here's more of what he had to say:

"I've just always tried to represent UConn, Jim (Calhoun) and this year Kevin (Ollie) to the best of my ability. Hopefully, I was able to do that."

“The game has always intrigued me, it has been my life. The players and coaches that have been with me have made it very special, and I hope that I was able to give back to it to some degree.”

"From an early age, I was intrigued by the game. That never left."

(on why he's deciding to retire now, at 73)

“When I turned 65, which is a long time ago now, I remember thinking to myself that I didn’t look as much into the future as I looked at that day. From that point on, I really just looked at how I felt that day, what I was going to do. I just started feeling that this was the right time. I always thought I’d know right time, and hopefully this is.”

Blaney noted the story of former Michigan State coach Jud Heathcote, who said he'd know it was time to retire "as soon as I get a bad team."

He said he called Heathcoate yesterday and told him, "I’m not taking your advice, because we have a really, really good team. But, I’m going to give it up.”

“I was really fortunate to have mother and father that thought sports were important, father good bball player, at Vill., went to every game I ever

(on his relationship with Calhoun)

“We’ve been friends for so long, and I think the reason is the game. What always made our friendship so terrific is that we could be together for 24 hours a day for years, then not be together for long periods of time and pick up where it left off. I will never underestimate what he did for me in hiring me here.”

“He’s a remarkable individual, he really is. The things he does for people that nobody knows about, and how smart he is -- his ability to analyze things and get to the core of what the problem is is really remarkable. He’s been a good friend and he’ll continue to be a good friend. I’m privileged to have him in my life.”

Though, he noted, "Pat (Calhoun) really hired me, not Jim."

(on taking over for Calhoun so many times when Calhoun was ill)

"Our first NCAA tournament game (in 2009), we beat Tennessee-Chattanooga by 63. He's in the hospital, I go see him after the game and he's still pretty sick, I figure I'm gonna be coaching the next game. The next day at 9 a.m., Jim calls me all excited, 'I'm getting out, I'm getting out.' I don't say a word. He tells the story that I wasn't too excited about him getting out of the hospital."

"It was a big thing to me that he had enough faith in me to allow me to coach, and players responded, I hope. It was always Jim’s team. I tried to do what Jim would have done, in my own personality. I didn’t try to change things. I did wind up coaching a lot of games.”

So what's next? Blaney said he and his wife, Maryellen, will live in their house on Cape Cod that they've had for many years, and he'll "take it day-to-day."

"There’s not going to be a hard part to it, because I’m not a history guy. If I do look back, it’ll be with great pleasure, and all the good things that happened to me and I put into it.”

Blaney added that, once the season starts, "I hope I’ll be around. I have too many friends here, too much invested in the team. I think they’re going to be a great team this year, I really do."

Blaney said that, if there was one best memory he could come up with about his career, it would have been stepping onto the floor for the national championship in 2004 for the first time.

"I'd been to 46 Final Fours, so to step on the floor was very special," he said. "That probably was as good a feeling as any that I've had."

What They're Saying About George Blaney

Classy, respected, calm in the eye of the storm, a brilliant basketball mind: this is how many from around the college basketball world were describing George Blaney this afternoon, after he announced his retirement after 43 years as a college hoops coach -- the last 12 at UConn under Jim Calhoun and Kevin Ollie.

We may know Blaney best as the guy who took over for Calhoun whenever the Hall of Fame head coach was sidelined by health problems (or, for three games in 2011-12, an NCAA suspension). By my count, UConn was 12-14 in games that Calhoun missed completely and Blaney took over. Obviously, that doesn't tell the whole story of Blaney's importance to the program. Though he didn't recruit, Blaney's basketball knowledge was key in breaking down opponents on game film, as well as with in-game strategy.

And, of course, he often bore the brunt of Calhoun's sideline rantings during games.

Here's what people from the basketball world, including some former UConn players, were saying about Blaney on Twitter this afternoon:

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George Blaney Retiring After 43-Year Coaching Career

George Blaney is retiring from UConn's coaching staff after 43 years as a college coach.

He'll be having a 3 p.m. teleconference call with the media, but I spoke to him briefly a few minutes ago.

"Sometimes you just know it's the time," Blaney said. "You always kind of think about (retiring). I don't know exactly when I really decided."

Here's the press release sent out by UConn (along with an old photo of Blaney from his playing days with the Camden Bullets in the mid-1960's):

After 12 years on the University of Connecticut men's basketball coaching staff and 43 years overall as a college basketball coach, George Blaney has announced his retirement.

Blaney, 73, served as UConn’s associate head coach under former coach Jim Calhoun and also as an assistant coach for Calhoun and last year for first-year head coach Kevin Ollie. He is currently a special assistant/advisor to Ollie.

“I always said I would know when it would be the right time to go,” Blaney said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed my years at UConn, but I think for me, this is the right time.

“Coaching with Jim has been so special for me. We have always been such great friends and that just made for a wonderful working relationship. His passion for the game, for the kids, and for UConn is what made him such a special coach.

“And I am just so excited about Kevin. I said right from the get-go that Kevin Ollie is a superstar coach and he certainly showed it last year. And I think this year’s team is going to be terrific.”

Blaney brought a wealth of basketball knowledge with him when he joined the UConn staff before the 2001-02 season after coaching stops at Stonehill, Dartmouth, Seton Hall, Rhode Island, and for 22 years as head coach at his alma mater, Holy Cross.

“Coach Blaney is just a great basketball coach … just the way he puts basketball and life in perspective,” Ollie said. “He’s been somebody I can confide in, no matter what the situation. Not only was Coach Blaney a great help to me last year through the transition to head coach, but he helped me when I was an assistant, helped me in my whole path to becoming a college coach. And of course, his decades of coaching experience have been invaluable to me on the bench.”

“I want to congratulate George on his retirement from UConn and thank him for all he has done for our program,” UConn Director of Athletics Warde Manuel said. “During his time his time with us, George has been a big part of the success that our team has enjoyed in winning national and conference championships. George has not only been a special part of UConn basketball, but also to the game of college basketball itself. He is a gentleman of the game and the respect that he has among his peers is unmatched. All of us at UConn wish George, his wife Maryellen and the entire Blaney family much happiness in the future.”

During Blaney’s 12 years at UConn, the Huskies have compiled a 298-112 overall record and he helped guide them to two National Championships, three trips to the Final Four, six Big East championships, and 10 NCAA appearances.

“I’ve known George for 40-plus years, and he is not only one of the best basketball coaches, but also one of the finest people, I’ve ever been around,” Calhoun said. “When he joined me at UConn, I think it was a great marriage of perhaps two very different personalities, but two people who were very similar in our feelings about the game of basketball and the kids who played for us.

“George had an awful lot to do with all that we were able to accomplish here and I will cherish the time we had working together. He will always be very special to me and I’m proud to call him my friend.”

Blaney coached numerous future NBA players while at UConn, including Caron Butler, Ben Gordon, Emeka Okafor, Rudy Gay, A.J.Price, Hasheem Thabeet, Jeff Adrien, Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb, and Andre Drummond, as well as current UConn stars Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright.

“We’ve enjoyed some great success at UConn, and throughout my career, I’ve had the chance to coach some great players here and everywhere I’ve coached,” Blaney said. “I’m very thankful that I was able to be a part of it.”

Blaney, a 2003 inductee into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame, has an impressive lifetime coaching record of 461-383 in more than 30 years as a head coach, including 357 wins and eight postseason appearances as head coach at Holy Cross. During his distinguished career, he served as president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches was a board member of the organization for 12 years.

Blaney also served as the Vice President of Basketball Operations for the International Basketball League before returning to coaching as an assistant at Rhode Island for the 2000-01 season. He then joined Calhoun at UConn the following season.

A native of Jersey City, N.J., Blaney was an All-New England selection as a player at Holy Cross, where he scored 1,012 points. After his 1961 graduation, he was drafted in the fourth round of the NBA Draft by the New York Knicks and played the 1961-62 season with the team.

Blaney and wife Maryellen are parents to daughters Annmarie and Tricia and sons Terry, Kevin, and Brian, who is currently an assistant men’s basketball coach at Providence College. They also have seven grandchildren.

“It is impossible to name everyone and thank them all --- from college presidents, ADs, assistant coaches, players, managers, media and fans --- but they will always be in my heart.

“And finally, I want to thank my family for all their love and support – Maryellen and Annmarie, Terry, Kevin, Tricia, and Brian.”

Ollie said he is keeping Blaney’s phone number close at hand.
“Of course, we will miss Coach Blaney tremendously, both on the bench and in our staff meetings,” Ollie said, “but I know he’ll always be there if I need him for advice. He might be teeing it up on Cape Cod, but he’ll be there for me.”

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

UConn Notches 947 APR for 2011-12 and is Postseason-Eligible Again

UConn is postseason-eligible again.

The Huskies notched an APR score of 947 for the 2011-12 academic year, which -- combined with a 978 from the previous year -- is enough to make them eligible for the NCAA tournament once again.

To be eligible for the 2013-14 postseason, teams must have a four-year average of 900 or a two-year average of 930. UConn's four-year mark falls short at 897 (thanks to an 844 from 2008-09 and an abysmal 826 from '09-10), but its two-year score is 963.

For the 2014-15 postseason, teams must earn a 930 four-year or a 940 two-year. UConn should be fine as it will likely have had three straight years of good APR scores, off-setting the 826. As things stand right now, the Huskies stand to possibly lose a retention point for Enosch Wolf, if he doesn't return to the team and elects to go pro, but that's about it.

Here's the press release sent out by UConn:

The University of Connecticut men's basketball team posted an outstanding Academic Progress Rate (APR) score of 947, out of a possible 1000, for the 2011-12 academic year, which follows a score of 978 that the team had for 2010-11. The scores were achieved in seasons that the team played in the NCAA tournament in both years, while the 2010-11 squad won the national championship. The Huskies two-year average APR score for 2010-11 and 2011-12 is 962.
"Our men's basketball team again had an outstanding APR score for the second-straight season and I want to congratulate the student-athletes, Coach Calhoun, Coach Ollie and the rest of the coaching staff for that accomplishment," said UConn Director of Athletics Warde Manuel. "I think it is particularly noteworthy that they earned these scores during a time in which they were playing incredibly competitive basketball, particularly in their great run to the national championship in 2011.”
The NCAA announced its latest report of the Academic Progress Rate (APR) for all Division I schools on Tuesday. The multi-year rates include the four academic years from 2008-11 and the single-year scores are for 2011-12.
Twenty of the 24 athletic programs at UConn achieved a score of 970 or better, out of a possible 1000, in the multi-year Academic Progress Rate (APR) while 16 of 24 had scores over 970 for the 2011-12 academic year. A total of three Husky teams had perfect 1000 multi-year scores while nine had perfect single-year scores.
Among the highlights for UConn in the latest NCAA report were:
* The single-year score of 947 by the men’s basketball team in a season in which UConn played in the NCAA tournament, which followed a single-year score of 978 in which UConn won the NCAA national championship. UConn’s two-year score is 963.
* A multi-year score of 984 for the women's basketball team during a time period in which UConn won two national championships and played in the Final Four all four seasons.
* A multi-year score of 958 for the football team during a time period in which UConn played in bowl games in three seasons. The football team's score is 11 points higher than the average football score for all public institutions.
* A near-perfect multi-year score of 996 for the field hockey team in a period when the Huskies went to the NCAA tournament all four years and the national semifinal in 2011.
* A multi-year score of 985 for the men’s outdoor track and field team during a period when the Huskies won two BIG EAST Championships.
* A multi-year score of 988 for the women’s indoor track and field during a time period when the Huskies won a BIG EAST Championship. 
* A perfect 1000 multi-year score for the men's cross country, women's tennis and men's golf teams and a perfect 1000 single-year score for the men’s cross country, field hockey, women’s lacrosse, women’s soccer, softball, men’s tennis, men’s outdoor track and field and women’s tennis teams.
"I want to congratulate the student-athletes on all 24 of our teams for their outstanding success in the classroom," said Manuel. "The commitment of our Husky student-athletes to excellence in both academics and athletics is a source of pride to our entire University. I want to thank the coaching staffs of all our sports and the staff of the Counseling Program for Intercollegiate Athletics for all their efforts as well.”

Those Husky teams that scored a 970 or higher on the multi-year scores were: baseball (972), women’s basketball (984),  men’s cross country (1000), women’s cross country (985), field hockey (996), golf (1000), men’s ice hockey (981), women’s ice hockey (979), women’s lacrosse (990), women’s rowing (989), women’s soccer (985), softball (989), women’s swimming and diving (986), men’s tennis (993), women’s tennis (1000), men’s indoor track and field (985), women’s indoor track and field (988), women’s outdoor track and field (989), men’s outdoor track and field (985) and volleyball (970).

UConn teams that scored a 970 or higher on the single-year score were: women’s basketball (976), men’s cross country (1000), women’s cross country (1000), field hockey (1000), women’s ice hockey (987), women’s lacrosse (1000), women’s rowing (986), women’s soccer (1000), softball (1000), men’s swimming and diving (978), women’s swimming and diving (975), men’s tennis (1000), women’s tennis (1000), men’s indoor track and field (980), men’s outdoor track and field (1000) and women’s outdoor track and field (989).

Last week, the NCAA announced that three UConn athletic programs were recognized for top academic performance as part of the NCAA's academic reform program. Based on their most recent multi-year Academic Progress Rates, the UConn men's golf, women's soccer and women's tennis programs have earned NCAA Public Recognition Awards. These awards are given each year to teams scoring in the top 10 percent in each sport with their APRs.


All the Way to Memphis: 2014 AAC Tournament to be Held in the River City

It's official: the American Athletic Conference will hold its 2014 men's basketball championships in Memphis, at the 18,400-seat FedExForum.

It's not Madison Square Garden and New York City, but it's a fine alternative. I've never been to Memphis, but those I know who have say it's a great, vibrant city, with Beale Street, great music, cuisine, etc. And it's a tremendous college hoops town, so the whole show should be a good one this year.

Here's the press release from the AAC:

FedExForum in Memphis, Tenn., one of the nation’s premier basketball venues, will be the site of the 2014 American Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Championship, Commissioner Mike Aresco announced.
“We are very excited to have the first American Athletic Conference championship at FedExForum,” said Aresco.  “We received significant interest from many outstanding venues.  FedExForum is an outstanding facility and the Forum, the city of Memphis, the University of Memphis and the local community will combine to create a wonderful inaugural event that our teams, coaches, administrators and fans will embrace and enjoy.”
The dates of the 2014 championship are March 12-15.  Each game of the 10-team tournament will be televised on the ESPN networks.  The championship game on Saturday, March 15, will be televised on ESPN.  The tournament will begin with two first-round games on Wednesday, March 12.  Two quarterfinal doubleheaders will be played on Thursday, March 13, followed by a semifinal doubleheader on Friday, March 14.  Game times will be announced at a later date.
FedExForum has a seating capacity of 18,400.  It is located off historic Beale Street and its vibrant and popular entertainment district.
FedExForum is the home to the University of Memphis men’s basketball team and the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies.  The building also has hosted regional rounds of the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships.  After the American Athletic Championship, it will host the 2014 NCAA South Regional. 
The first season of men’s basketball under The American banner will include a very strong nucleus of teams, starting with Louisville, the 2013 national champion.  Memphis is coming off a 31-5 season, which included advancing to the third round of the NCAA Championship.  Temple also played in the third round of the NCAAs while compiling a 24-10 mark.  Cincinnati finished 22-12 while participating in its third straight NCAA tourney.  Connecticut, UCF and Houston all enjoyed 20-win seasons.
For 2013-14, the American Athletic Conference will include the University of Central Florida, University of Cincinnati, University of Connecticut, University of Houston, University of Louisville, University of Memphis, Rutgers University, University of South Florida, Southern Methodist University, and Temple University.


Monday, June 10, 2013

UConn Could be Seeing A Lot of Boston College in Coming Years (and Kansas, too?)

Andy Katz of ESPN is reporting that UConn will open against Boston College in the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden in November.

That would mark the first time UConn plays the Eagles since BC left the Big East in 2005 (UConn holds a 54-35 all-time edge). But it doesn't figure to be the last time the teams meet on the hardwood.

According to multiple sources, UConn and BC have been in discussions about meeting in non-conference games in coming years. Warde Manuel and new BC athletic director Brad Bates both know each other from their Mid-American Conference days (Manuel at Buffalo, Bates at Miami of Ohio), and there have been conversations about the Huskies and Eagles meeting not only in men's hoops but in football, as well (though basketball seems more likely to happen at this point).

And there's also this: a source at UConn has indicated that the Huskies have had some casual talks with Kansas, not next season but perhaps a year or two after that.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

UConn Should be Fine When APR Scores Announced Tuesday

Three of the scariest letters in UConn basketball lore – APR – come to the forefront again as Academic Progress Rate scores will be unveiled on Tuesday.

But Husky men’s basketball fans have nothing to fear this year. While the hoops team won’t be honored with an NCAA Academic Progress Rate Public Recognition Award like the UConn men’s golf, men’s cross country and women’s tennis teams were, it will post a strong enough APR to avoid any penalties.

Scores announced on Tuesday are based on the four-year cycle of scores from 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12. Teams must have either a 900 four-year average or a 930 two-year average to earn postseason eligibility. UConn will be eligible, thanks to the latter two years.

The Huskies notched a 978 in ’10-11 and should get about the same score for ’11-12. They would fall short on the four-year average, thanks to the 844 from ’08-09 and the grisly 826 from ’09-10, but it doesn’t matter.

And UConn’s 2012-13 score could be even better. In fact, it appears that the only point UConn stands to lose at this juncture would be that of Enosch Wolf, if he decides not to return to the team and doesn’t sign a pro contract. He’s in good academic standing, so if he goes pro in Europe or whatever, UConn wouldn’t lose a point.

For the 2014-15 season, teams must have either a four-year average of 930 or a two-year of 940. UConn will be fine thanks to three straight strong years (overcoming the 826 from ’09-10).

Confusing? A little, but the bottom line: UConn will be postseason-eligible again next season and likely for several seasons to come.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

UConn Recruit Bonzie Colson, Jr. Comes from Good Stock

Bonzie Colson, Jr., a 6-foot-6 (or so) Class of 2014 power forward out of St. Andrew’s in Barrington, R.I., took an unofficial visit to UConn today.

He’s somewhat of an under-the-radar recruit, though his name is familiar to me because his father was a standout forward at URI while I was there in the late-80’s/early-90’s. In fact, Bonzie Colson, Sr., helped lead the Rams to the Sweet 16 in 1988, knocking off Missouri and Syracuse before being edged by a point by Duke in one of the best runs in school history. (Colson, Jr. also visited URI this afternoon. He said he'll make an unofficial to Georgetown this summer while at Kevin Durant's camp).

As for Colson, Jr., we mentioned him near the bottom of this recruiting post a few months ago

Here's what the kid had to say about his visit:

"I definitely did (enjoy it), the campus is nice. They know I'm an under-sized four, there's not really a right position for me. They said they'd make plays for me and I'll adapt to their offense pretty well, because they'll play four out, one in."

Colson, Jr. added that he's a "post player, very aggressive. I like doing the little things that other players don't like to do -- dive on the floor for loose balls. I bring a lot of effort and energy to the game."

Here’s what St. Andrew’s coach Mike Hart has to say about him:

“He’s kind of an old-fashioned, throwback type guy. He’s not going to ‘wow’ you when you see him play. The ‘wow’ factor isn’t there. You’re not going to see the big body, the unbelievable quickness. What he does is, he’s deceptively athletic and quick, and he knows how to play basketball and score in a lot of different ways.”

Hart said Colson, Jr., is “just a shade under 6-6”, but is very long and his body is still developing.

“He’s shooting the ball better from outside now,” Hart said, “but his game right now is definitely from 15 feet and in.”

Hart said he reminds him of Jeff Adrien, but not because he’s a physical banger like Adrien was.

“You walk in the gym, you’re like, ‘Aw, come on.’ He’s not a prototypical, high-Division 1 power forward. Physically, he’s not that. He’s very Jeff Adrien-like: an under-height power forward that just develops in college and is able to score in a lot of different ways.”

Colson said he "wasn't sure" if UConn actually offered him today. He said UConn, Pitt, Notre Dame, Iowa State, Florida State, Minnesota, Butler, Miami, Stanford, GWU, URI, Fairfield, Quinnipiac, Virginia Tech, Arkansas and Alabama are among the schools showing interest. His father, now the director of admissions at UMass-Dartmouth, coached under Al Skinner at URI and BC and under ex-URI coach Tom Penders at George Washington.

“He’s got a terrific family, a great support system,” Hart noted.

The coach was also happy to learn recently that the lone St. Andrew’s product to play at UConn, Tony Robertson, recently graduated. As for any potential future Huskies now at St. Andrew’s, Hart mentioned Terrell Brown, a rising 6-8 Class of 2016 center. UConn hasn’t expressed much interest yet.

“But they will,” Hart promised.

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