Thursday, October 31, 2013

UConn Ranked No. 18 in AP Preseason Poll; Kentucky No. 1, Michigan State No. 2

Here's the AP preseason poll, released just moments ago:

The top 25 teams in The Associated Press' preseason college basketball poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, 2012-13 final records, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and 2012-13 final ranking:<

Record Pts Prv

1. Kentucky (27) 21-12 1,546 _

2. Michigan St. (22) 27-9 1,543 9

3. Louisville (14) 35-5 1,501 2

4. Duke (2) 30-6 1,435 6

5. Kansas 31-6 1,357 3

6. Arizona 27-8 1,311 21

7. Michigan 31-8 1,120 11

8. Oklahoma St. 24-9 1,093 17

8. Syracuse 30-10 1,093 16

10. Florida 29-8 1,048 14

11. Ohio St. 29-8 1,036 7

12. North Carolina 25-11 954 _

13. Memphis 31-5 741 19

14. VCU 27-9 680 _

15. Gonzaga 32-3 538 1

16. Wichita St. 30-9 512 _

17. Marquette 26-9 510 15

18. UConn 20-10 448 _

19. Oregon 28-9 408 25

20. Wisconsin 23-12 338 18

21. Notre Dame 25-10 332 23

22. UCLA 25-10 244 24

23. New Mexico 29-6 213 10

24. Virginia 23-12 189 _

25. Baylor 23-14 180 _

Others receiving votes: Tennessee 176, Creighton 145, Indiana 111, Colorado 83, Iowa 83, Harvard 46, Boise St. 22, Villanova 14, Arizona St. 11, Georgetown 11, UNLV 8, Washington 8, LSU 6, Pittsburgh 6, Stanford 6, Boston College 5, La Salle 4, Missouri 3, Saint Louis 3, St. John's 3, Cincinnati 1.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

UConn's Exhibition Opener: There's A Lot to Like Here

Some notes, quotes and video off UConn's 93-65 win over Southern Connecticut in Wednesday's exhibition opener. As I write in tonight's column, I like this team. Yes, it was a D2 opponent. Yes, the Huskies got outrebounded again (no excuse for that). But there's depth on this team, talent, veteran presences and a real sense of selflessness. Too much to glean from an exhibition game? Maybe. But I see real good things from this team this season.

Things like this:


"All in all I was pleased. I just wasn't pleased with the rebounding effort. Those guys are going to understand that on Friday when we come to practice."

(on Amida Brimah)

“When we first saw him in the gym, he was the best player, but not only that, he had the best passion out of everybody ... He plays with passion, energy and effort, and he is very, very long. He’s hard to shoot over, and he’s got a pretty nice jump-hook down there, too. He’s not as raw as a lot of people say.”

(on Lasan Kromah)

“He’s gonna give us some versatility, I can play him at the two, or the three. He’s a seasoned veteran, so it’s not like he’s worrying about starting. He’s just gonna come in and take care of his minutes.”

(on DeAndre Daniels becoming more vocal)

“He’s coming in the office, talking to his coaches. That’s just a beautiful thing that came in and hardly said a sentence, now you can’t shut him up. That’s maturity. I think he’s going to have an incredible year.”

(UConn gave up 27 points in transition)

“We still need to get back on transition to set up our defense, especially now that we’ve got the big guy back there now. He’s gonna alter a lot of shots and cover up a lot of mistakes on the perimeter that’s going to give us a lot of opportunity to be more aggressive.”

(Ollie was asked if the new hand-checking roles had an effect Wednesday night)

“No, not gonna use that as an excuse. That was just laziness on our part.”


(on Brimah)

“That guy’s amazing. He doesn’t allow anybody to lay the ball up easy in the paint. He blocks everything, he runs hard. He’s gonna be a great player here at UConn.”


“I was always the most energetic player on the team (in high school), cheering my team on all the time.”

“I was nervous a little bit ... After I scored, I felt more comfortable.”

“I run hard all the time. That’s what I do best, shot-blocking.”


“Everybody’s got some improving to do. Playing a D2 team, we didn’t play as well as we should have. If that was Maryland, it would have been a tough game for us, so we’ve got to get back to the drawing board.”

“Any time you can have bench players come in and produce while your starters are on the bench getting some rest is always good. Anybody that has a good bench is a championship team.”

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

NCAA New Rules: No Hand-Checking, No Cheap Charges

Interesting to note that there are two significant rules changes for the 2013-14 men's basketball season that could have quite an impact on the way the game is officiated.

The changes include defending the player with the ball and the block/charge call.

The NCAA rules committee in May determined that both rules have loosened over time, leading to a more physical style of play. Here, in the NCAA's own words, is a rundown on the two major rule changes:

Defending the Player with the Ball.

What Changed: Several officiating guidelines were voted in as rules, which raised the expectation and importance in this area. Four types of illegal tactics were cited:

1) Placing and keeping a hand/forearm on opponent.

2) Putting two hands on opponent.

3) Continually jabbing by placing hand or forearm on opponent.

4) Using an arm bar to impede the progress of the dribbler.

Please note that simply touching the player with the ball is NOT an automatic foul.

Intended Outcomes:

*** Defenders will need to move their feet as opposed to using their arms/hands to negate an offensive opportunity.

*** Increased emphasis will create a less physical game.

*** Enhancement of freedom of movement principles and a smoother game flow.

Block/Charge Plays.

What Changed: In a review of recent seasons, two types of plays were identified as the most difficult to call correctly: Defenders moving forward at the time of contact (even though the contact may occur in the defender’s torso) and the time frame when the defender must be in legal guarding position during airborne shooter situations. Now, when a player begins his upward motion to pass or shoot, the defender must be in legal guarding position.

Intended Outcomes:

The expectation is that by providing a longer timeframe for the officials to see the actions of both the offense and the defense, the accuracy of officiating these plays will improve. It is important to note that there is no default call in this rule; officials are to call the play as it develops.

Kentan Facey Kicks a Chair, Smell of Popcorn in the Air, UConn Ready to Go

Some notes and quotes from Gampel today, as UConn is set for its exhibition opener Wednesday night against Southern Connecticut.


"I’m more relaxed about it, because I know what’s going to come. I know how to approach certain things, certain situations. In my freshman year, I didn’t know how to get my body right for that type of a season. The whole summer, I’ve worked so hard, I know I’m mentally and physically ready.”

(on how excited Kentan Facey was to learn he was ruled eligible to play for the next four years):

“He kicked a chair, he took it out on a chair, so if you call that excitement, I guess so. I just told him, ‘The chair didn’t do anything to you. Take it out on an opponent Wednesday night.’ He was excited when I told him the news. Compliance did a great job … everybody upstairs did a wonderful job.”

Ollie said he has no set rotation yet, only that he'll probably start all veterans Wednesday night, per tradition. He said Shabazz Napier had his best day of practice Monday, and that Tyler Olander and Omar Calhoun, each coming off off-season surgeries, have no physical limitations. 

Asked if he's interested in the World Series game that will be going on at the same time as UConn's game Wednesday, he said:

“Not really, no. I like the Red Sox, I like them to win it. I wish the Dodgers were in it, I’d definitely be at Fenway one of these games. Since they’re not, the games are a little late, I’m not staying up watching them.”


“There weren’t any doubts in my mind, I was just hoping it would work out pretty soon.”

"Everyone was really supportive, they were telling me to keep my head up, keep working hard, because you never know what the outcome will be. If I get to play, I need to be in the best shape I can be in. If I don’t, I have an extra year to prepare myself for next year.”

“I was real happy. That day I came out with a little bit of extra effort. We always go hard, but that was something different. I felt like, finally this is over with and I can focus on what I need to for the season.”

(on the "chair-kicking incident")

“The chair was in the way ... I doubt it'll ever happen again."

“When I first got here, I started watching college basketball a little bit. That year I came over, UConn won the national championship, so I started paying a lot of attention to them from then on. Eventually, I started developing that love. It was a ‘first-come, first-serve’ type of thing. I knew nothing about college basketball coming in from Jamaica. It was the first school I found out about, I started to research about it a little bit, I fell in love with it and I wanted to come here from that point.”


“(I'm) trying to be a leader, talking more on defense and just helping the young guys out, because there’s going to be days when they get down, so I’m going to be there, tell them to get through it and just keep working hard.”

“I’m quiet. I was talking to K.O. the other day, he was talking about, when you step through the lines, you’ve just got to be a totally different person – talking to your teammates and just trying to be more vocal. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

(on Facey)

“He walked into the locker room very happy, joking around, and everybody was like, ‘What’s up with you?’He told everybody, and everybody jumped on him, tackled him. Everybody was excited for him.”

“He’s very athletic, he plays hard, he can rebound and he plays defense. He’s going to play a great role in us winning games.”

(on him flying under the radar nationally as the season starts)

“I’m not gonna lie, it bothers me a little bit. But I have no control over what people think of me or what people say. I just control what I can do, so I go out every day, work hard and try to be a better player.”

Incidentally, DeAndre may not be the last Daniels to make his name in the hoops world. His brother Jonathan, 13, is a good young player in Manchester who particpated in a Pangos All-East camp in New Jersey this past weekend. 

The kid already has some pretty impressive handle, too:

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UConn Kicks Off Exhibition Schedule Wednesday vs. Southern Connecticut State

The last time UConn played an exhibition game on the night of a potential World Series clincher (at least one involving local teams), was in 2009 against UMass-Lowell, on the night of Game 6 between the Yankees and Phillies. Pedro Martinez was on the mound that night for Philly, and as Jim Calhoun finished his postgame presser, he left the podium with the words, "Let's hope that Pedro wins, for the Red Sox."

Didn't happen, as we know.

On Wednesday night, UConn faces Southern Connecticut in its exhibition opener at 7 p.m. at Gampel. Of course, the Red Sox will be looking to clinch the World Series at Fenway Park in Game 6 against the Cardinals, starting about an hour later. I doubt Kevin Ollie has much of an interest either way (I've heard he's a Dodgers fan).

Anyway, the World Series will have an effect on UConn's game: WTIC 1080 will not carry the Huskies, but rather the Red Sox. However, you can find the UConn game on WTIC 96.5. FM It'll also be available on WILI-1400 (though for only the first hour, before switching to the World Series), as well as the SCSU broadcast.

As for the hoops, this will mark just the second time UConn and SCSU ever meet. The first time ended rather favorably in UConn's favor: 100-37 on Dec. 23, 1989, behind Chris Smith's 20 points in the penultimate game at the old Storrs Field House.

We all know what happened later in that "Dream Season" for UConn.

The Huskies are 45-6 all-time in exhibition games over the last 27 years and have won 38 straight, dating back to a loss to Marathon Oil on Nov. 21, 1993 at Gampel.

We'll have some notes and quotes after talking to Ollie and some players in a short while.

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Wes Bialosuknia Passes Away; Funeral is Monday

Wesley John (Wes) Bialosuknia, 68, the all-time career average scoring leader in University of Connecticut men’s basketball history, passed away Wednesday (Oct. 23, 2013) at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, surrounded by family and a cherished friend.

Bialosuknia, a resident of Bristol, Conn., was born June 8, 1945 in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.. He was the son of Wes Sr. and Catherine (Tulacz) Bialosuknia. His early years were spent on many ball fields and in gyms throughout Poughkeepsie, including the Fairview Avenue playground. A three-sport athlete, Wes graduated from Roosevelt High School, Hyde Park, N.Y. in 1963.

Known as the “Poughkeepsie Popper” or “Wonderful Wes”, nicknames given to him by long time UConn WTIC radio broadcaster George Ehrlich, Bialosuknia attended UConn on a basketball scholarship and set numerous records during his collegiate playing days.

Bialosuknia is survived by his beloved wife of 39 years, Maureen (Tackett) Bialosuknia; daughter Jane, son-in-law Arturo Portillo, their children, Tomas and Sophia; son John and daughter-in-law Angela (Kress) Bialosuknia; sister Jane and brother-in-law Tracy Scott; mother-in-law Mary Tackett; several brothers and sisters-in-law: Ann and Clyde Fitch, James Tackett, Tom and Diane Tackett, Barbara Meyers, Fran and George Showman, Jerry and Josie Tackett and many nieces and nephews.

A lover of all things outdoors, Bialosuknia enjoyed camping, canoeing, hiking, and gardening. Inspired by “Highpoints of the States” by Frank Ashley, he and Maureen conquered the highest peaks of over 40 states and canoed many challenging rivers throughout New England.

A role model for neighborhood children, Bialosuknia often organized basketball, wiffleball or various other activities. He coached at Forestville Little League for several years and also initiated and coached the first eighth grade girls travel team at the Bristol Boys and Girls Club. The season was completed with a 19-1 record and a New England Championship.

A member of the UConn Basketball All-Century Team that was selected in 2001, Bialosuknia was also a member of the inaugural class of inductees (2007) in the UConn Basketball Huskies of Honor recognition program. The “Huskies of Honor” program pays visible tribute in the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion to the top players and coaches in UConn Basketball history.

Bialosuknia, a 6-2 guard at UConn, carried a school all-time best 23.6 points per game career scoring average over his three varsity seasons (1964-65 thru 1966-67). He is the only player in UConn basketball history to average better than 20 points per game in each varsity season and his 28.0 ppg. scoring average as a senior in 1966-67 ranked him No. 5 in the nation in scoring and remains a long-standing single season school record.

Bialosuknia is considered the greatest long-range shooter in UConn history but played his college basketball before the three-point field goal. He scored 1,673 in just three years of varsity competition and led UConn in scoring in all three seasons.

In all three of his varsity years Bialosuknia was an NABC All-District pick. He was also a three-time All-New England choice by both AP and UPI as well as a three-time All-Yankee Conference honoree.

As a senior, Bialosuknia was an ECAC All-Star and a Helms All-American. He also was UConn’s initial First Team Academic All-American in 1967. At the conclusion of his senior season, Bialosuknia was the MVP of the annual North-South College All-Star game.

In Bialosuknia’s three varsity years, UConn compiled an overall record of 56-18, won three consecutive Yankee Conference titles and earned a pair of NCAA Tournament bids.

Bialosuknia was a fourth round draft pick of the St. Louis Hawks in the 1967 NBA Draft but elected to play professionally for the Oakland Oaks in the ABA after also being chosen in the ABA draft. He ranked second in the ABA (1967-68) in three-point field goal shooting percentage and his nine consecutive three-point field goals made remains tied for the most in ABA history.

Following his collegiate and professional playing days, Bialosuknia was a member of the United States Army Reverses from 1967-73.

In recent years, Bialosuknia and his wife Maureen were regular visitors at UConn games, sitting directly behind the Husky bench.

Calling hours for Bialosuknia will be held on Sunday, October 27, from 4-8 p.m. at Fisette-Batzner Funeral Home, 20 Bonair Avenue, Newington, Conn. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:30 a.m. Monday, October 28, at Our Lady of Sorrows Church, 79 New Park Avenue, Hartford, Conn. Interment will be private.

Memorial donations may be made to the Coach Dee Rowe Men’s Basketball Endowed Scholarship at the University of Connecticut c/o The UConn Foundation, 2390 Alumni Drive, Unit 3206, Storrs, Conn. 06269.


Kentan Facey Cleared to Play This Season

Kentan Facey has been cleared to play this season and will have a full four years of eligibility, beginning this season.

Here's UConn's press release:

STORRS, Conn. (Oct. 25, 2013) --- UConn men's basketball freshman forward Kentan Facey (Trelawny, Jamaica) has been granted a waiver by the NCAA and will have a full four years of eligibility, beginning with the 2013-14 season.

"I am so pleased and excited that everything has worked out for this outstanding young man," UConn coach Kevin Ollie said Friday. "It's great to see him go through this situation and persevere. He just kept working very hard and believed in our university."

Facey grew up in Trelawny, Jamaica, and attended school at Long Island (N.Y.) Lutheran for the past two years. The 6-9 forward was the N.Y. State Gatorade Player of the Year in 2012-13, after averaging 14.8 points, 13.0 rebounds, and 4.5 blocks per game.

"I want to thank our university compliance department, which went above and beyond to help us with Kentan's situation and the NCAA, which took the time to evaluate all the extenuating circumstances before making a final decision," Ollie said. "Obviously, we feel it was the fair solution."

Facey has been practicing with the Huskies throughout the preseason.

"I can't say enough about what a model student-athlete Kentan has been in spite of the situation he was facing," Ollie said. "He never let circumstances distract his positive image of himself and that's just a testament to his strong character. We are very excited that he will be with us this year and beyond."

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Shabazz Napier on the Cousy Award List

Shabazz Napier has made the 2014 Bob Cousy Award Watch List. The annual award goes to the nation's top collegiate point guard.

Ryan Boatright obviously could have made the list, as well, as the Huskies more or less employee a two-headed point guard situation. But, it is what it is.

The full list:

Trevor Releford University of Alabama
TJ McConnell University of Arizona
Jahii Carson Arizona State University
Derrick Marks Boise State University
Walt Lemon, Jr. Bradley University
Justin Cobbs University of California
Kyle Anderson UCLA
Billy Baron Canisius College
Spencer Dinwiddie University of Colorado
Shabazz Napier University of Connecticut
Quinn Cook Duke University
Brett Comer Florida Gulf Coast University
Kasey Hill University of Florida
Devon Bookert Florida State University
Markel Starks Georgetown University
Kevin Pangos Gonzaga University
Keifer Sykes Green Bay
Siyani Chambers Harvard University
Brandyn Curry Harvard University
Yogi Ferrell Indiana University
Jake Odum Indiana State University
DeAndre Kane Iowa State University
Andrew Harrison University of Kentucky
Elfrid Payton Lafayette University
Jason Brickman LIU - Brooklyn
Anthony Ireland Loyola Marymount University
Chris Jones University of Louisville
Chaz Williams University of Massachusetts
Michael Dixon University of Memphis
Joe Jackson University of Memphis
Keith Appling Michigan State University
Jordan Clarkson University of Missouri
Kendall Williams University of New Mexico
Marcus Paige University of North Carolina
Eric Atkins University of Notre Dame
Aaron Craft Ohio State University
Marcus Smart Oklahoma State University
Dominic Artis University of Oregon
Tim Frazier Penn State University
Kris Dunn Providence College
Tyler Ennis Syracuse University
Preston Medlin Utah State University
Ryan Arcidiacono Villanova University
Nigel Williams-Goss University of Washington
Semaj Christon Xavier University
Kendrick Perry Youngstown St. University

*This list is fluid – players can play their way onto and off of the Watch List and the Final 20*

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

My Preseason AP Top 25 Ballot; UConn at No. 13

Happy to announce that I'll once again be one of the 65 media members voting for the Associated Press Top 25 men's basketball poll each week this season. Condolences to fans of Minnesota (they really didn't like me last year) or any other fans who are convinced I'm conspiring against their favorite team.

Here's my preseason poll, along with my five-man All-America team. (The first AP poll won't come out until Oct. 31, while the All-America team moves Nov. 4):

1.       Michigan State
2.       Kentucky
3.       Duke
4.       Kansas
5.       North Carolina
6.       Louisville
7.       Michigan
8.       Oklahoma State
9.       Florida
10.   Arizona
11.   Ohio State
12.   Syracuse
13.   UConn
14.   Memphis
15.   Gonzaga
16.   Virginia Commonwealth
17.   Marquette
18.   Creighton
19.   Tennessee
20.   Oregon
21.   Virginia
22.   Notre Dame
23.   UCLA
24.   Wichita State
25.   Georgetown

All-America team: 

Gary Harris, Michigan State
Russ Smith, Louisville
Mitch McGary, Michigan
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State

Doug McDermott, Creighton

I'm going with the Spartans at No. 1, not to be different but because I'll take experience, guard play and a great coach over what's being labeled as the greatest recruiting class in the history of the world, any day of the week. Kentucky may be the next Fab Five (or, for that matter, the next 2012 Kentucky), but I'd like to see it on the court first before I vault them to No. 1.

Same goes for the five-man All-America team we're asked to submit. No freshmen on my squad. Got burned by Harrison Barnes a few years ago and promised never to do so again. That doesn't mean a frosh can't make my end-of-the-season All-American teams, but again, prove it on the court first.

As for UConn, I've got them as a solid No. 13, higher than most preseason polls. Homerism? Nah, just someone who saw first-hand what this team did last year, largely flying under the national radar, and believes it can really do some special things this season. Kevin Ollie preaches building better men and a strong, family unit, and while some may pass that off as sports cliches, from Ollie, it's truly sincere and very evident in the way this team seems to like each other. There really seems to be something special brewing in Storrs this season, and come tourney time, I'd be shocked if this wasn't a team on a mission to make amends for last year's postseason ban.

Oh yeah, and watch out for DeAndre Daniels this season. Could be a true breakout star.

Are there concerns? Of course. Rebounding being the primary one, but here's my theory on that: the Huskies won 20 games last year despite poor rebounding, and they almost have to be better on the boards this season, right? Heck, their top five rebounders are all back (and that's not even counting Phil Nolan, who'll be better), along with freshmen Amida Brimah, Kentan Facey (pending his eligibility) and transfer Lasan Kromah. I also think Tyler Olander will be a lot better on the boards this season. Plus, how many truly dominant big men/frontcourts are there in the nation? Guard play seems to rule the land these days, and UConn certainly has that covered.

One thing I would watch for is to make sure the guards play together as a unit all season. The NBA will be on the minds of Shabazz Napier and (particularly) Ryan Boatright, so it bears watching to see if the two continue to do what's best for the team down the stretch, rather than try to do what they think will best boost their NBA stock. I don't think it'll be a problem, but you never know.

There's also this somewhat intangible point: Napier was so clutch last season, had so many last-minute heroics, you almost wonder if he should've saved some for this season -- a season that, y'know, really counts. I know, sounds silly. I guess the point is, does Napier still have plenty of late-game magic left this season? My guess: yes, indeed he does.

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Friday, October 18, 2013

UConn's First Night Festivities a Rousing Success

Fun night at Gampel on Friday for First Night. Big crowd that was packed to the rafters and seemed to enjoy the whole thing.

Team Geno won, 51-49, thanks to Omar Calhoun's 3-pointer with 20.3 seconds left. Shabazz Napier and Rodney Purvis each netted 11 points, while Kentan Facey and Calhoun had 10 each. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was the top female with seven points and Breanna Stewart added five.

Here are some quotes and video from First Night festivities:

*** Purvis, who must sit out this season as a transfer, seemed particularly active in the scrimmage, knowing it's his one time to shine this season.

"KO told me, just go out and have fun. This will be the first and last time the fans can see me until next year, so I had to go out there and have a little fun."

Purvis is a real nice and engaging kid, and he truly seems to be falling in love with Storrs.

"I love the fans here," he said. "They’re committed fans, they’re great ... I’m getting accustomed to everything. The guys here play really fast. I had to get used to this – practices are very long and hard. I’m ready now, I got in pretty good shape, so I’m ready.”

*** All the players seemed to enjoy the chance to play with and against members of the men's and women's teams.

Calhoun: "It was definitely fun, seeing both sides. We’re all friendly and cool. We all support each other at the games."

Napier: “I enjoyed going against Moriah, seeing Stephanie step back and take a 3. We hang around each other a lot, but we don’t actually play each other, so it was actually good for us to do that. It shows we’re in it together.”

Stefanie Dolson: “I think it was definitely my favorite out of the four years I’ve been here. The environment was insane, playing with the guys was fun. We kind of let them do their thing, and then had our moment to shine. It was a great night.”

*** Calhoun said he's going full-contact in practice, doing everything everyone else is doing, and is "about 80-percent" right now. He says he's a head of schedule and believes he'll be able to play in UConn's exhibition opener on Oct. 30 vs. SCSU.

*** Nolan said there's a real battle going on for the starting center spot.

"Everyone’s going at each other every single day," he said. "Literally, it’s like a three-headed monster in practice. We all want that starting spot. We’ll see who’s going to get it at the end of the day.”

*** UConn had numerous recruits in the house, including (among others) Jessie Govan, Malachi Richardson, Will Jackson and Jalen Adam. It appears Brewster Acadmey's Donovan Mitchell and Jared Reuter were not able to attend, however. Hearing Mitchell headed home for the weekend to southwestern Connecticut but couldn't get a train to get to the event on time.

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New Kevin Ollie Radio Show Debuts Oct. 28

The UConn IMG Sports Network will host the "UConn Men's Basketball Coach's Show Presented by Webster Bank" this winter, beginning Monday, Oct. 28. The shows will be broadcast live from Rooftop 120 in Glastonbury.

Here are the details:

The show, featuring UConn head coach Kevin Ollie and Husky play-by-play announcer Joe D’Ambrosio, will take place throughout the 2013-14 season and will feature various special guests associated with UConn and the men’s basketball program. The schedule of show dates is listed below and is subject to change:

Monday, October 28 – 6-7 p.m.
Tuesday, November 5 – 6-7 p.m.
Monday, December 9 – 6-7 p.m.
Monday, December 16 – 6-7 p.m.
Monday, January 6 – 6-7 p.m.
Monday, January 13 – 6-7 p.m.
Monday, January 27 – 6-7 p.m.
Monday, February 3 – 6-7 p.m.
Monday, February 17 – 6-7 p.m.
Monday, February 24 – 6-7 p.m.
Monday, March 3 – 6-7 p.m.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

First Night Festivities Set for Friday Night

Here are the details of Friday's First Night festivities at Gampel, courtesy of Register women's beat writer Jim Fuller.

Remember, no dunk or 3-point contest this year. Also had a player recently worry about having to take it a little easy in the co-ed game, and how playing that way could lead to injury. Still, should be a fun enough night.

SCSU Fans Offered Bus Trip to Oct. 30 UConn Game

Fans of Southern Connecticut can get tickets and a round-trip bus ride to the Owls' exhibition game with UConn on Wednesday, Oct. 30 at Gampel.

Tickets are $40 and include round-trip bus and a boxed dinner. There are a limited supply left right now. All those attending should meet in front of Moore Fieldhouse at 4 p.m. that day. The bus leaves at 4:30 p.m. Fans are asked to park in the Wintergreen parking garage (free) adjacent to Moore Fieldhouse.

Tickets can be reserved here.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The American Athletic Conference: Great Coaches, Greater Guards. Should Be a Fun Season

The hallmark of the American Athletic Conference in its first year of existence looks to be two things: great coaches, great guard play. (And atrocious football, but let's stick to men's hoops).

The league features two Hall of Fame coaches (Rick Pitino, Larry Brown), another with NBA experience (Eddie Jordan), others who are well-respected in the game (Fran Dunphy, Josh Pastner, Mick Cronin) and, of course, up-and-comers like Kevin Ollie.

As for guards, UConn, Louisville and Memphis could all lay claim not only to the best backcourt in the conference but possibly even in the nation. And all three do lay such claims, as you'll soon find out.

Here are some notes, quotes and video from today's AAC Media Day:

(on the league's great guards):



“It’s gonna be fun. It’s gonna be more of a guard-type of game, which I (thrive) in. I love those type of atmospheres … it’s gonna be uptempo in a lot of games. It should be a lot of fun, because, who doesn’t want to play a game like that? I don’t want to play smashmouth basketball.”
“I respect all the guards – the Memphis guards, the UConn guards. They do a lot of things well that I try to emulate and put into my game. If I don’t respect their game and love their game then it’s not gonna make me a great competitor.”

“Shabazz is one of the more fundamental guards in our league. He shoots the ball really well, he has a great IQ, he understands the game well, and he’s a student of the game. I understand how explosive Boatright is, how competitive he is. Joe Jackson’s extremely athletic, extremely fierce. The same can be said about Geron Johnson – fierce competitor … and you can’t sleep on the Cincinnati guys. Sean  (Kilpatrick) is a New York native, I’m very familiar with his game … Anthony Collins, the way he operates and runs his team, that inspires me a lot.”


 “The backcourts make it exciting for the fans. This league has a lot of great guards. Everybody talks a lot about Louisville, Memphis, UConn. I don’t think a lot of people talk about South Florida – they’ve got good guards. Houston’s got good guards, SMU’s got good guards, Rutgers has a few guys that are eligible now, Cincinnati … From top to bottom, this league is filled with really good guards. And when you have really good guards, that means every time you step on the floor, any night, somebody could beat anybody at any point.”

So who's got the best backcourt in the league? Pitino said his is "one of the best backcourts I've coached in my 35 years ... maybe the best."
Napier: "I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t think we had the best guards. I’m a competitor, so I’ll put my guards up against anybody."
Jackson: “Tell you the truth, I feel like we have the best backcourt. We’ve got Chris Crawford, Geron Johnson, Mike Dixon. They can shoot the ball, they’re seniors. We’ve got a good backcourt, and it’ll be very competitive."

Smith? Surprisingly, he wouldn't join the fray: “We just play, man. I just play basketball. If I want to talk about how good I am in the backcourt, I’d just get into the media.”
But he later added: “Our backcourt is great, too. It should be reckoned with.”
*** Not a bad batch of coaches, either:

How many leagues have two Hall of Fame coaches in them? Obviously, the ACC’s got there’s, but … I think this and the ACC are the two best basketball leagues in the country. I’d be shocked if six teams aren’t in the NCAA tournament. I think it’s going to be a heck of a deal from the start of the season to the finish.”
“It’s gonna be hard for a lot of guys who had success in their leagues to try to duplicate it because of the great coaches (in the AAC)."

 “You’ve just got great coaches from top to bottom. It’s just great to be here in the midst of greatness. Hopefully, for me, I can touch the hem of their garments one day."
Indeed, Ollie plans on learning from some of the great coaches he'll be going up against this season.

“One of the greatest attributes of a great coach is always being coachable. I’ll ask advice. If it wasn’t for the advice of Larry Brown, I wouldn’t have made it to Connecticut. That was the first person I called when I had the decision of going to Oklahoma City or coaching UConn. He said, without a shadow of a doubt, go back to your love, go back to your heart. That’s why I made the decision, because I really valued his opinion.”
*** Brown dropped this interesting nugget on us today: the first head coaching job he was offered was at UConn, back in 1967. Fred Schabel had left for Penn, and new AD Jim Hickey offered the job to Brown, who was then the freshman coach at North Carolina. He turned down the offer.
“I didn’t know if I was ready. I loved being at Carolina with Coach Smith. Then, lo and behold, I left and started playing again. But I’ve always loved Storrs.”
Burr Carlson took the job instead, went 16-32 in two seasons, and Dee Rowe replaced him in 1969.
Brown, who coached Ollie in the NBA, will always have a special place in his heart for him.
“Seeing the respect people have for him. Generally, guys get respect because they’re great and they play a lot. Kevin got respect because of who he was and what he was about. You could see that early on. I’ve been around great players, and so many guys of the guys I coached taught me how to coach. He was one of them. He always did it in a respectful way. I valued things he said, and I always thought he was a great example for young kids.”
Brown added: "I don’t look forward to playing against him, but I’m proud he’s doing what he’s doing.”
The respect is mutual, not only from Ollie but from Ollie's players:
“Larry Brown, a coach that I always watched because growing up, I enjoyed watching Allen Iverson," said Napier. "I’ll be happy to walk up against Larry Brown’s team and play them and then shake his hand. That’s somebody I thought I’d never be able to play against. It’s a good feeling to have a lot of good coaches (in this league).”
*** DeAndre Daniels didn't make preseason first or second team, but he's not bothered by it.
“I don’t really focus on individual awards and stuff. Basketball is a team sport, so all I’m worried is how I can do things I can do to make my team better – rebounding, scoring, all the little things.”

Maybe Daniels didn't notice, but Ollie did.
“People aren’t noticing him – he knows that, we know that, that only adds fuel to his fire. For something to come out to say he’s not one of the top basketball players in America, I want to see who wrote that. We’re going to show ‘em, that he is a great basketball player and a force to be reckoned with this season.”

*** Ollie noted that he's played for three of the league's coaches: Brown, Jordan and Pitino. For Pitino, it was just in an NBA summer league some 15 years ago when he was trying to make the Celtics as a free agent. It was between Ollie and Kentucky alum Wayne Turner, and Pitino went with Turner.
"Of course he picked the Kentucky guy, but it’s alright," Ollie said with a smile. "It made me who I am."
Said Pitino: “In the end, I had to be a little partial.”
*** UConn received the only other first-place vote other than Louisville. Obviously, it came from Pitino, since coaches can't vote for their own teams.
“I was trying to decide between Memphis and UConn, and to be quite honest, it was 1 and 1A," Pitino said. "I just think that their backcourt is awesome. Memphis’s backcourt is awesome. I wanted to vote as a tie, they told me I couldn’t do it, so I just picked UConn because of more familiarity with them.”
What does Pitino like most about UConn?
"I think they have a great backcourt, a terrific front court. They have a coach that is not only a terrific young coach, but there’s not a living room in the country that he will walk into, where when he leaves, that family won’t want to put him in the top three choices to go to school. I’ve been with Kevin Ollie for the last 10 years."

*** I asked Shabazz Napier who's surprised him most so far in practices. His quick response: "Amida (Brimah). Defensively, he's incredible. Offensively, he needs a little more work."

Napier believes all the team's big men will contribute "by committee" this season. Boatright also praised Niels Giffey's recent play in practice.

*** Interesting tidbit: the back of the AAC media guide highlights the league's NCAA championship teams -- 2013 Louisville, 2011 UConn, 2004 UConn, 1999 UConn, 1986 Louisville, 1980 Louisville, 1962 Cincinnati and 1961 Cincinnati. Of course, none of those teams were AAC teams when they won, and it's worth noting that the league is operating from a brand-new slate in terms of statistical records, etc.

The current Big East, meanwhile, is keeping its record book intact -- even though that league is actually the new league. The AAC is actually considered the same conference as the Big East, only with a different name and a largely new set of teams.

Conference realignment is confusing, eh?


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UConn Tabbed for 2nd; Shabazz Napier 1st Team, Ryan Boatright 2nd Team, DeAndre Daniels No Team

UConn has been picked to finish second in the inaugural American Athletic Conference preseason coaches’ poll, while Shabazz Napier is a first-team all-conference selection.

The Huskies are picked to finish second behind defending national champion Louisville, which garnered nine of the 10 first-place votes. Coaches can’t pick their own team, so it’s obvious Rick Pitino picked the Huskies for first.

Napier earns preseason first-team honors while Ryan Boatright earned second-team status. DeAndre Daniels did not receive any preseason recognition.

Louisville’s Russ Smith is preseason player of the year, while SMU’s Keith Frazier was tabbed the new league’s top rookie.

The coaches poll looked like this:
1. Louisville (9)
2. UConn (2)
3. Memphis
4. Cincinnati
5. Temple
6. SMU
7. Houston
8. South Florida
9. Central Florida
10. Rutgers
First team all-conference is:
Russ Smith, Louisville
Shabazz Napier, UConn
Chane Behanan, Louisville
Joe Jackson, Memphis
Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati
 Second team is:
Ryan Boatright, UConn
Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
TaShawn Thomas, Houston
Isaiah Sykes, Central Florida
Anthony Collins, South Florida
Victor Rudd, South Florida
Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell, Houston’s TaShawn Thomas, UCF’s Isaiah Sykes and USF’s Anthony Collins and Victor Rudd.

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Kevin Ollie: 'If They Rebound, They'll Play.'

Took in my first UConn practice of the season today (I wasn’t able to get to the Huskies’ first open practice a couple of weeks ago).

The thing that stuck out the most to me in the 45 minutes we were able to watch practice was how vocal and intense the team was at times, particularly during rebounding/box-out drills. Shabazz Napier started it off by grabbing a pair of boards during the two-on-two drill and riding the two big guys – Amida Brimah and DeAndre Daniels – for getting outrebounded. All in all, the whole team was enthusiastic during the drill, which is a good sign, as boardwork (or lack thereof) was a huge issue last season for the Huskies.

“It’s definitely a point of emphasis, to make sure we do better,” said Kevin Ollie. “I know we have a team that’s very athletic, very versatile. If we get out on the fast break, we can do a lot of damage. First thing with defensive rebounding is getting back in transition, building a wall and then boxing out. And hitting first. I don’t think we did a lot of that last year. They know, if they rebound, they’ll play. I’ve put that nugget out there, we’ll just see who grabs it. Whoever grabs it will be playing.”

Tyler Olander understands.

“I think everybody, that’s definitely been an emphasis in practice,” he said. “We do three or four box-out drills every day. If we mess up on those, we’re on the line running. If we give up offensive rebounds in drills, we’re on the line running.”

Ah yes, Olander. He’s back practicing with the team afterbeing reinstated last week. Olander showed plenty of emotion during the rebounding drill.

“I’m more happy with Tyler because I’m checking every appointment that he has, every class that he has,” said Ollie. “I could care less about the energy here, if he’s not showing the energy off the court then he’s got a problem with me. I told him this is his last time. He’s stepping up to the plate and changing his ways. It starts with him. I love that about him. Hopefully, he can just continue to create something special for his life. His time here at UConn is expiring. There’s a date on that. Hopefully, he can use this time to be better as a young man, and also have a great senior season. That’s just going to make us a better team. But I need everybody.”

Olander addressed his Sept. 7 arrest and subsequent suspension from the team that was lifted on Oct. 3.

“Probably one of the first things I thought about was, ‘This is going to be all over ESPN,’” he said. “That’s probably something that stuck with me: everybody’s going to know.”

Being away from the team for about a month hurt him, as well.

“It was pretty difficult. That’s all I’ve done for the past four years. To be taken away, it was an adjustment. But it did its purpose. I realized what I had to do and that the things I had done were selfish. And that if I really wanted to be a part of this, which I do, that I need to change that.”


*** It appears there will be no dunk or 3-point contest at First Night festivities next Friday. The intra-gender scrimmage, featuring teams comprised by members of both the men’s and women’s teams, will have to suffice.

*** As it stands now, Napier, Daniels and Ryan Boatright are slated to accompany Ollie to AAC Media Day on Wednesday in Memphis.

*** Stanley  Robinson was helping out at practice today. Always great to see “Sticks.”
*** Some obligatory practice facility video footage. It's worth noting that, immediately after UConn's practice ended, the women's volleyball team staff started setting up equipment for its 7 p.m. match with Rutgers. It only served to reinforce the notion of how badly the basketball team needs its own practice facility.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Daniel Hamilton to Play in Hoophall Classic on Jan. 18 -- Same Night as Louisville Game

UConn recruit Daniel Hamilton will be playing in the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass. on Saturday, Jan. 18 at Springfield College's Blake Arena.

Hamilton's St. John Bosco High team from California will face St. Frances Academy of Maryland that day at 6 p.m. Here's the only problem for UConn fans: the Huskies play probably their biggest home game of the season that night, against Louisville at 9 p.m. at Gampel Pavilion.

Perhaps UConn diehards would be able to take in Hamilton's game and make it to Storrs by tip-off. I'm sure Hamilton will be able to do so. 

It'll be tougher for UConn coaches who might want to see Hamilton play and, well, pretty much impossible for beat writers who want to see him in action, to get to Gampel in time.


Sam Cassell, Jr.: "(UConn) Felt Like the Place for Me"

Spoke briefly with Sam Cassell, Jr., who committed to UConn today, while he was in between classes down at Chipola College. He said his visit to UConn the weekend of Sept. 21 (attending the Michigan game, etc.) was what made him want to be a Husky.

“When I went on my visit, I just felt at home," he said. "It felt like the place for me.”

Seeing so many ex-players return that weekend for Jim Calhoun's tribute dinner (Rudy Gay, Ray Allen, Kemba Walker, etc.) opened his eyes, too.

“That was great, to see a lot of players come back.”

UConn sees Cassell, Jr. as a point guard, but he's an excellent scorer off the ball, as well.

"I think I can fit in great," he said. "I know if I want to make money playing basketball, I've got to be a point guard. Coach Ollie said I'll be in a lot of point guard situations, but whatever guard gets (the ball), go. Up-and-down, fast-paced."
Cassell, Jr.'s dad, of course, made a lot of money playing basketball, spending 16 seasons in the NBA and winning three titles (two with Houston and one, in 2008, with the Celtics in his final year).

Cassell was a teammate of Ollie's for a year-and-a-half with Milwaukee, and dad had good words for his son regarding the UConn coach.

"He definitely spoke highly of him," Cassell, Jr. noted. "They played together, so he knows him. Me having a good relationship with my dad, Coach Ollie having a good relationship with my dad, that's big."

Cassell, Jr. said that "everything is good" with his academics down at Chipola. In fact, the reason he didn't play basketball last season at the junior college was to concentrate on his grades.

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Sam Cassell, Jr. Commits to UConn

The UConn men’s basketball program prides itself on being a big, extended family. On Wednesday, it got a commitment from a player who hails from a pretty good hoops family himself.
Sam Cassell, Jr., a point guard at Chipola College, a junior college in Marianna, Fla., committed to the Huskies.

He is the son of three-time NBA champion Sam Cassell, who’s now an assistant coach with Washington. Cassell was a teammate of UConn head coach Kevin Ollie in Milwaukee for a season.

Cassell, Jr., is a 6-foot-3 guard who can score in a variety of ways.

“He’s that kid that makes shots that other people couldn’t make,” said Ryan Hurd, who coached Cassell, Jr. at Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass., two years ago. “When you’re coaching him, you just have to close your eyes and wait for results. There are some unbelievable shots that kid puts in the basket.”

UConn views Cassell, Jr. as a point guard first, which is something the Huskies could need with the impending graduation of Shabazz Napier and possible NBA departure of Ryan Boatright. UConn will also have current freshman Terrence Samuel and NC State transfer Rodney Purvis as point guards for next season.

The Huskies have been going after Cassell, Jr. pretty hard the last few weeks, with associate head coach Glen Miller making three different trips to see him play down in Florida, most recently this past weekend. Ollie is actually on his way down to Florida right now to see Cassell, Jr. work out.

Cassell, Jr. enrolled at Chipola last year after being deemed ineligible to play at Maryland, to whom he had committed. The NCAA deemed a couple of classes Cassell, Jr. had taken at Notre Dame Prep not to be up to snuff, though Hurd noted it was unfair because several other players who took the same classes were ruled eligible to play last year in college.

Cassell, Jr. didn’t play at Chipola last year but will play this year. He’ll have three years of eligibility at UConn.

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Monday, October 7, 2013

Kevin Ollie: "Hopefully, We Show You All a Great Show"

UConn officially announced today that it will host Eastern Washington on Dec. 28 at 1 p.m. at Bridgeport's Webster Bank Arena. It'll be the first regular-season in-state home game for UConn not in either Storrs or Hartford since Jan. 3, 1987, when it hosted Syracuse at New Haven Coliseum. (The women will also host Temple at the arena on Jan. 11 at noon).

Here's some of what Kevin Ollie and Warde Manuel had to say today at a press conference at the Limerick Pub inside the arena:


The second-year had coach has some family ties to Bridgeport:

Sadly, Ollie's father-in-law passed away last week.

“But I know his spirit is right here. He loved Bridgeport, he loved the community here. It’s just unfortunate he’s not going to be here to see this game. But I know he’s going to be here.”

“Hopefully, we show you all a great show, and hopefully we go out and win a basketball game, and also win hearts of our fans. Because that’s what we really want to do.”

“Some people can’t drive up to Storrs, they can’t drive up to Hartford. Having it right around the corner from them, they can come in and see the fans, see the spirit and integrate themselves into Husky Pride. That’s what it’s all about.”

(will there be more games in Bridgeport in the future?)

“We’ll take it one step at a time. I’d definitely like to see it grow, but that’s up to our athletic department.”


“It’s important for us to come down here and connect with our fans, with our donors and alums, and be closer to our fanbase. It’s a win-win for us."

He noted that some 30,000 UConn alumni live in Fairfield County, and that nearly a quarter of all current UConn students hail from the area.

“We know this building will be rocking, will be sold-out.”

(as for future games ...)

“We’re looking to see how this goes. There’s no long-term plan at this point. But I think we’re pleased with the relationship we have developed with them, we’re pleased with the way the arena is and what they’ve done and the efforts they’ve made to make the fan experience great here. We’re looking now, and we’ll see how it goes in the future.”

*** It's worth noting that UConn's current one-year contract with the XL Center calls for 17 games to be played there this season between the men and women. That's typical of most seasons. The two games being played in Bridgeport fall during winter break, so there probably wouldn't be a big student presence at Gampel. And the XL Center was unavailable for both dates. In fact, UConn deputy director of athletics Paul McCarthy noted that the time of year (three days after Christmas) usually lends itself to a good crowd turnout for UConn games outside of Storrs.

*** UConn is set to resume its home-and-home series with Texas for the 2014-15 season. The Huskies would also like to continue to play Florida in future years, and is working on resuming rivalries with former Big East foes like St. John's, Georgetown and Syracuse (though Providence, for now, appears out of the picture).

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

UConn Still Keeping Close Eye on Sam Cassell, Jr.; A Few New First Night Attendees

With no commitment from Sam Cassell, Jr. on Friday, UConn was back down in the Florida panhandle watching Cassell play in a JUCO Jamboree tournament on Saturday. It's possible a decision could come in the next day or two.

Meanwhile, add Brewster Academy's Donovan Mitchell and Jared Reuter to the Huskies' First Night guest list. Possibly Jessie Govan, a 6-10 center out of Queens, as well. And Devin Robinson still expected to attend, as well.

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tyler Olander Reinstated by UConn

On a day when a UConn football player named Tyler (Bullock) was suspended following a DUI arrest, Tyler Olander has been fully reinstated to the UConn men's hoops team. He practiced with UConn on Thursday afternoon.

"Tyler has demonstrated to me an added level of responsibility and maturity," Kevin Ollie said. "His time management has been outstanding, his academic work has been excellent. We have spoken at length and I thought it was time that he be given the chance to rejoin his teammates."

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Ray Kasongo Picks Oregon over UConn ... Or Does He?

In the latest example of how crazy the world of college basketball recruiting -- and the coverage of it -- can be, it appears UConn may not have lost out on a recruit it seemed to have lost out on after all. At least not yet.

Multiple reports Wednesday night stated that Ray Kasongo, a power forward out of Canada, committed to Oregon. Kasongo, who was down to the Huskies and Ducks, said he "got along great with the Oregon players and Coach Dana Altman," according to Reggie Rankin.

However, in the early hours of Thursday morning came this tweet from Kasongo:

So, it appears Kasongo's recruitment is still up in the air, and he could wind up in Storrs after all. Let's all give the kid some room to breathe and make a decision, OK?

Meanwhile, another power forward, Bonzie Colson, Jr., has crossed UConn of his list. According to his prep coach, Mike Hart, at St. Andrew's School, Colson is down to Florida State and Notre Dame. He'll likely decide this weekend. Colson was slated to make an official visit to Storrs on Oct. 11, but obviously now that won't be happening.

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UConn Putting Finishing Touches on Recruiting for 2014 Class

UConn is putting the finishing touches on its recruiting for the Class of 2014.

Highly-touted shooting guard Daniel Hamilton is already in the fold, as is, more recently, power forward Rakim Lubin, who sort of came out of nowhere but is the kind of big, bruising forward the Huskies need.

And, of course, UConn also has Rodney Purvis, an NC State transfer who must sit out this season, ready to go for next season.

UConn is looking to add another player or two to the mix. Devin Robinson, a 6-7 wing out of Virginia who is Rivals' No. 20 overall prospect, is a high priority. He's making an official visit on Oct. 18, which is UConn's First Night. The Huskies are also very interested in Ray Kasongo, another bruising power forward out of Canada who seems to be down to UConn and Oregon, according to reports. And Bonzie Colson, Jr., a 6-5 power forward from St. Andrew's School in Barrington, R.I., is currently still slated to make an official visit on Oct. 11.

Meanwhile, the Huskies seem to be ramping up their interest in guard Sam Cassell, Jr. UConn has come to watch Cassell work out twice in recent days, most recently on Tuesday down in Florida. Cassell, Jr. is a 6-3 guard who can play point or shooting guard. More succinctly, he's a "scorer," according to Ryan Hurd, who coached him at Notre Dame Prep a couple of years ago.

"He's that kid that makes shots that other people couldn't take," Hurd said. "When you're coaching him, you just have to close your eyes and wait for results. There's some unbelievable shots that kid puts in the basket. You want to ask 'why?', he tells you, 'because they just go in.'"

Cassell is currently enrolled in junior college after the NCAA deemed him ineligible to play last year at Maryland because of a couple of classes he took at Notre Dame Prep. Hurd said Cassell absolutely got a raw deal, considering several other players who took the same classes were ruled eligible to play college ball.

UConn is also keeping an eye on the Devonte Graham situation up at Brewster Academy. Schools still can't talk to Graham as Appalachian State has yet to release him from his letter-of-intent.

Either way, it seems we should be hearing some recruiting news soon out of Storrs.

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