Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A whole bunch of notes, quotes and video from today's AAC Media Day

It was AAC Media Day today at the New York Athletic Club in Manhattan. Kevin Ollie, Ryan Boatright and Amida Brimah represented the Huskies. Rodney Purvis had been slated to attend, but had classwork to tend to.

The Huskies certainly got some love from the league's coaches: Boatright was named preseason player of the year, Daniel Hamilton is preseason freshman of the year, and UConn was tabbed to win the conference. Barely. The Huskies got six first-place votes, SMU got five. And really, that's pretty fair, in my mind. Boatright seems to agree.

Here's some video, notes and quotes:


(on UConn barely edging out SMU, by two points, for first place in the preseason coaches' poll)

“I think it was fair. I’m never gonna put another team above us. But I was just telling Amida while Coach (Larry) Brown was talking -- SMU’s gonna be tough. They beat us twice last year, they play tremendous help defense, they can score the ball, they’ve got great players, they move the ball so they’re hard to defend. They’re gonna be a real tough opponent.”

“We’ve still got some learning to do. We’re a younger team. The legs are there, we can get the ball up and down a lot more.”

“I think we’re just as talented (as last year's team). I can’t really say it’s as talented -- we won a national championship. But, we’re real talented. The main thing for me is to work. I’ve always had to work hard and grind for everything I have. What I love about this team is they come to practice every day and work very hard.”

(on Brimah)

"His game has evolved so much on the offensive end. Everybody already knows he’s a force to be reckoned with on the defensive end, but I’ve seem him put a lot of work in this summer on his offensive game. He has a knock-down, 15-footer now. He has a tremendous right-hand hook. I’m proud of the work he put in.”

(on Daniel Hamilton)

“He’s just a natural-born scorer. He has all the intangibles -- 6-7, long, lanky, athletic, a knock-down jump-shooter. He has all the things he needs to be a great player. Obviously, he’s young, so the I.Q. has to increase a little more. But as far as athleticism and intangibles, he has them all.”


“I don’t think (his off-season surgery) held me back this summer. When my shoulder was hurt, I would so stuff with my right hand to work on my form and shooting and stuff. As soon as I couldn’t do the upper-body lifts, I was doing a lot of leg workouts and stuff like that. I made up for it.”

“I think I have a pretty good jumper. My post moves have gotten way better.”

Brimah says he'll be taking more shots from 15-17 feet out. No 3-pointers, however.

(on avoiding foul trouble)

“I’ve got to have good timing and make good decisions, and know when to go for a block and when not to go for it.”

“A lot of people had a lot of doubts about our program two years ago. So, those questions are answered. But there’s gonna be other questions -- about autonomy, the (power) five conferences, about me leaving to the NBA after I sign a five-year contract. At the end of the day, I love UConn, these players love UConn, they play they great for the university. To see the men’s and women’s teams do it together, that means everybody’s on board."

(on what former Big East teams, besides Georgetown, UConn may schedule in the future)

"Maybe Providence, I’d love to start something back with Syracuse. That’ll be great, just to get back to the Carrier Dome, Syracuse come back to the XL Center or Gampel, I think that’d be awesome. I’m glad we’re starting out with Georgetown, we’ve had some epic battles … It’s gonna allow us to stay in the D.C. area, also, where we do a lot of recruiting. It’s gonna be an opportunity for us to get better. Playing against a Georgetown, Syracuse, Villanova, St. John’s, to get back in the Garden -- we’re always looking for opportunities like that.”

“We’ve had some great battles against Providence, B.C. We played them a lot when I was playing there. If the opportunity arises, it works out on our schedule, we’ll definitely look at all those opportunities.”

(on Omar Calhoun, currently sidelined by a knee injury)

“Omar’s doing great. We had the MRI come back, everything was structurally sound. He does have a little sprain in his MCL, but I think he’s gonna be back, hopefully in time for the season’s start. If not, we’re gonna go with the guys that we have. But it was great results we got back from the doctor, saying there was no structural damage and he’s just gonna have to rehab.”

“You saw Omar handle adversity well last year. That’s the beautiful thing about Omar.”

(on whether or not being picked to win the conference is a "burden")
“It’s not a burden. It really doesn’t matter to me now, so how can it be a burden if it doesn’t matter to me? What matters to me is, hopefully we’re No. 1 in team chemistry. That’s gonna allow us to be where we need to be at in March and April. It can’t be a burden if I don’t care.”

“I care about Ryan getting voted, because I didn’t vote for that. I think that’s a great, humbling award for him, and how much the coaches think of him. But we’re not putting extra pressure on ourselves as a team.”


“I don’t know who’s on the all-league teams, I don’t know who was picked where. I try to practice what I preach to my players. I wouldn’t care if we were picked No. 1. I don’t think any of it matters. I think it’s a burden if you’re picked to win. To me, whoever was picked to win the league, I’m sure if you asked the coach, he’d probably rather not be picked to win the league.”


(on Emmanuel Mudiay, now playing in China)

“He’s done pretty well. He’s trying to adjust to the food. But he’s got his mom, his brother and his cousin there.”

“I’m excited for him. I’m not excited for the precedent it might set. But, you’ve got to recognize a lot of kids, when they have an opportunity to help their families, it’s tough to pass up. But, it’s not a good message for young people. Hopefully, the NBA will address it.”

“I think it’ll get worse. If he’s as good as I know he is, and he’s the first, second or third pick in the draft, which I’m pretty confident he will be, I’m worried that a lot of kids will think about it. They won’t think of Jennings or so many kids who have come out early and aren’t playing anymore. We’ve got to address that. Maybe do it like baseball -- let them come out after high school if they’re great, and if not, it’ll help make the college game better, stay in school, give us a chance to coach and teach kids.”

“If Emmanuel had stayed -- he’s the only kid we signed -- we could have played with anybody. WIth him not being here, it gives opportunities for other kids. We have depth, we have experience. We lacked maturity in big games last year, at times. If we can get over that, I think we’ll be better.”


“The coaches in this league -- wow. From Larry Brown, Hall of Famer, to Kelvin Sampson, who’s coached in the Final Four, to Kevin Ollie, who just won a national championship -- you know these guys are going to play at the highest level, because of the competitiveness and the coaching, the knowledge of the coaches in this league. That’s exciting for me.”

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UConn tops AAC coaches poll (barely); Ryan Boatright player of year, Daniel Hamilton rookie of the year

UConn dominates the American Athletic Conference's preseason awards.

The Huskies were picked to win the conference by the league's coaches -- though just barely. Meanwhile, Ryan Boatright has been tabbed as the preseason player of the year, and freshman Daniel Hamilton the conference's preseason rookie of the year.

The defending national champions edged out SMU by two points as the preseason conference favorite. The Huskies garnered six first-place votes and a total of 96 points, while SMU earned five first-place votes and 94 total points. The Mustangs beat UConn both times they played last season.

Memphis is picked to finish third, followed by Cincinnati and newcomer Tulsa to round out the top five.

Along with earning preseason player of the year honors, Boatright was a unanimous choice for first team all-conference. SMU's Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy were also unanimous first-team selections, while Memphis's Shaq Goodwin and Austin Nichols and Tulsa's James Woodard round out the first team.

UConn's 7-foot sophomore center Amida Brimah earned second team all-conference honors. He's joined by South Florida's Anthony Collins and Chris Perry, and Temple's Will Cummings and Quenton DeCosey.

1. UConn (6) 96
2. SMU (5) 94
3. Memphis 82
4. Cincinnati 71
5. Tulsa 62
6. Temple 59
7. Houston 39
8. South Florida 32
9. Central Florida 26
10. East Carolina 24
11. Tulsa 20

Preseason Player of the Year

Ryan Boatright, G, Sr., UConn

Preseason Rookie of the Year

Daniel Hamilton, G/F, Fr., UConn

Preseason All-Conference Teams

First Team

Ryan Boatright, G, UConn *
Shaq Goodwin, F, Memphis
Austin Nichols, F, Memphis
Nic Moore, G, SMU *
Markus Kennedy, F, SMU *
James Woodard, G, Tulsa

Second Team
Amida Brimah, C, UConn
Anthony Collins, G, USF
Chris Perry, F, USF
Will Cummings, G, Temple
Quenton DeCosey, G, Temple

* unanimous selection

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Omar Calhoun has sprained MCL, out at least a week

Omar Calhoun was all set to make amends for last year's disappointing season. He looked leaner and
in much better shape in early practices, but his redemption has been put on hold, at least temporarily.

Calhoun suffered a right knee MCL sprain in practice on Sunday. There is no definitive timetable for his return, but will likely be out of action for at least a week or so.

Calhoun had surgery on both hips after the 2012-13 season and was sidelined all of that summer. He never seemed to catch up last season and wound up averaging just 3.8 points per game and shooting 24-percent on 3-pointers after averaging 11.1 ppg as a freshman.

Calhoun was noticeably more toned this season after working hard over the summer.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Some video, notes and quotes from UConn's practice today

Some notes 'n quotes from UConn's practice today at the Werth Center:

Asked about today's announcement that the Huskies were rekindling their rivalry with old Big East foe Georgetown, Kevin Ollie had some interesting things to say ... about possibly rekindling a rivalry with Syracuse:

A lot of talk today about Phil Nolan, who is noticeably bigger after adding about 20 pounds of muscle in the off-season. Here's a story on how Nolan put on the extra pounds over the summer, and how the early results are positive. Ollie noted that Nolan will be playing alongside Amida Brimah at the four at times when UConn goes big this season.

“We got a glimpse of it last year against South Florida," Nolan recalled, "and it was pretty fun that game.”

*** Asked a couple of Calhouns -- Jim and Omar -- about the North Carolina situation, where the Tar Heels program apparently ran fraud classes for athletes for the past 18 years or so. UConn, of course, got a postseason ban for the academic shortcomings of players who wound up leaving the program. UNC allegedly kept players eligible by cheating. But the Huskies aren't paying much attention to see if UNC gets a similar punishment.

“We don’t want to say bad things about other teams," said Omar. "You’re kind of upset because we weren’t really to blame for it, but we’re just focused on the season we have now.”

Said Jim Calhoun: "Ours is almost the exact opposite situation ... it's obviously something that got away from the institution ... I think coaches, someone on their staff, has pretty good idea of what every kid was doing."

Summed up Ryan Boatright: “I heard about it. I’ve got my own academics to worry about.”

Boatright said he's been keeping tabs on Shabazz Napier from afar.

“I caught that one (game) and saw the highlights. We’ve been keeping in touch. He’s being Shabazz.”

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

CPTV to air Jim Calhoun documentary on Nov. 6

Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) will air the broadcast premiere of the new documentary Born to Lead: Jim Calhoun on Thursday, Nov. 6 at 8 p.m. This film provides a unique look at the life and career of Jim Calhoun, whose powerhouse coaching legacy includes 26 years spent as head coach of the University of Connecticut men’s basketball team. Encore presentations of the film will air throughout the month on CPTV and CPTV Sports, CPTV’s 24/7 local sports channel.

Calhoun has come to be thought of as one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history, having led his UConn players to three NCAA titles in 12 years and making the UConn men’s basketball program one of the most accomplished in the country in the process. Calhoun’s leadership style, motivational tactics and run-ins with the media are the stuff of legend, as is the tough-love commitment he showed to his players. This new film explores his larger-than-life persona, but also provides insight into a softer side of the former coach not often seen by fans, and explores his past with archival materials never before shared with the public.

Born to Lead: Jim Calhoun features 70 percent original material, including interviews with more than 30 members of Calhoun’s “inner circle” — from Kevin Ollie, who succeeded Calhoun upon his retirement in 2012, to Ray Allen and Ben Gordon, former UConn players who went on to achieve professional basketball success.

The film also includes footage of Calhoun being honored at the 2005 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony; a tour of Madison Square Garden with Calhoun, who reflects on the greatest shots in Big East history from the spots on the court where they took place; and much more!

Produced and directed by six-time Emmy Award winner Chris Martens and co-produced by screenwriter, producer and award-winning writer L.C. Cragg, Born to Lead: Jim Calhoun tells a story of underdog determination, human compassion and one very unique three-time NCAA champion.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My AP preseason Top 25 ballot, All-America team

Happy to be an Associated Press Top 25 voter again this season. Our preseason Top 25 and five-man All-American team is due by Friday. The first AP Top 25 will be released on Oct. 31, with the All-America team moving on Nov. 3.

Here's what I'll be submitting:

1.       Wisconsin
2.       Kentucky
3.       Arizona
4.       Duke
5.       Kansas
6.       North Carolina
7.       Louisville
8.       Texas
9.       Wichita State
10.   Iowa State
11.   Villanova
12.   UConn
13.   Florida
14.   Gonzaga
15.   Virginia
16.   SMU
17.   San Diego State
18.   Michigan State
19.   Virginia Commonwealth
20.   Michigan
21.   Harvard
22.   Ohio State
23.   Stanford
24.   Syracuse
25.  Memphis

Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
Georges Niang, Iowa State
Marcus Paige, North Carolina
Fred Van Vleet, Wichita State

I’ve never particularly liked the Wisconsin men’s basketball team. Just hasn’t been very aesthetically pleasing over the years, a bit too … boring, we’ll say. Yeah, boring.

But the Badgers won me over last season, led by big Frank Kaminsky and dynamic Sam Dekker (who’s anything but boring). Now, pretty much everyone’s back from last year’s Final Four team that fell a few points short of a date with UConn in the national championship game. That’s why I’m picking them as my preseason No. 1.

It seems most people are going with Kentucky, the team that beat the Badgers in last year’s Final Four, after all. The Wildcats have a record nine McDonald’s All-Americans on their roster, including key players from last year’s runners-up like the Harrison twins (Aaron and Andrew) as well as Willie Cauley-Stein (whose injury for the national championship game undoubtedly helped UConn).

But Kentucky also loses key players like Julius Randle and James Young. They’ve got great freshmen coming in, led by Karl Towns, but so often we’ve seen teams with great newcomers have trouble jelling and, ultimately, disappointing. 

I'll side with teams like Wisconsin -- veteran, experienced teams who truly love being in college and value their entire collegiate experience -- over teams stacked with talent but, too often, have too many guys with one eye on the next level and perhaps aren't buying into the whole team concept.

Sure, every now and then there’s a team like 2012 Kentucky, which rolled to a national title behind freshmen and sophomores, led by Anthony Davis. But look no further than 2014 Kentucky. Remember, some pundits were predicting an undefeated season for a team led largely by freshmen? The Wildcats wound up disappointing through much of the season and were a No. 8 seed for the NCAA tournament. Kentucky started to come together at just the right time, of course (John Calipari deserves a lot of credit there) and wound up in the national title game … where it fell to UConn.

Ah yes, UConn. What to do with the Huskies? It’s funny to look at the preseason coaches’ poll and see four of the teams UConn beat in last year’s NCAA tournament (Kentucky, Florida, Villanova and Iowa State) all ranked ahead of the Huskies. But it’s somewhat understandable.

The graduation of Shabazz Napier is huge. Yes, Ryan Boatright is a terrific player who really matured last season – particularly in the postseason – as a true point guard, a leader and a defensive whiz. Yes, Amida Brimah should be one of the best shot-blockers in the nation. Yes, Rodney Purvis, Daniel Hamilton and Sam Cassell, Jr. are outstanding additions. Yes, Terrence Samuel boasts championship pedigree, and if Omar Calhoun can turn things around … watch out!

But it’s hard to quantify just how much Shabazz meant to this program that past couple of seasons. There were so many games in which his late heroics saved the Huskies from defeat. Never mind the obvious ones like Florida and Indiana last season; don’t forget South Florida on the road, where Napier delivered an inspirational halftime speech (after the Huskies had played their worst half of the season and trailed by six), then scored 11 of UConn’s final 14 points in a 61-56 win. Or how about against Quinnipiac in the 2012 Paradise Jam, when he scored 23 of his 29 points in the game’s final 3 ½ minutes of regulation and two overtimes? Those are just two of too many other examples to list.

I like UConn this season. There’s a lot of talent, but I see it taking a while for it all to jell together. It’s going to take a couple of months for guys like Hamilton, Purvis and Cassell, Jr. to learn how to play together, share the ball and do what’s best for the team. I don’t worry about Boatright – I think he knows he’s got to prove to NBA scouts that he’s a distributor and that he can make his teammates better. He’ll do that. But there are a lot of shots to go around, and it’ll be interesting to see how everybody co-exists. It’ll also be interesting to see if UConn still has some long-distance threats now that Napier, DeAndre Daniels and Niels Giffey are gone. Early returns are that Cassell may just be that guy.

So, I like the Huskies more than some (for instance, Lindy’s magazine has them ranked No. 36. Even though I did the UConn and AAC season previews for this edition, I’ll take no blame for that low ranking. Wasn’t me). However, it wouldn’t shock me at all if SMU beats out UConn for the AAC championship. If Emmanuel Mudiay had stayed at SMU rather than zipped off to China, that might be a no-brainer. Even without Mudiay, however, the Mustangs return just about everyone from last year’s 27-10, NIT runners-up, including all-AAC picks Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy, former McDonald’s All-American Keith Frazier and talented Xavier transfer Justin Martin. And, let’s not forget, SMU beat UConn last season both times they met. This Larry Brown guy can coach a little bit.

In fact, I was prepared to rank SMU even higher and pick it to win the AAC until reports the other day that Kennedy may be sidelined for at least the early part of the season due to academic issues. If Kennedy misses part (or all) of the season, it’s a big blow to the Mustangs.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Some sights and sounds from UConn's First night

A few sights and sounds from First Night:

Omar Calhoun went 3-for-6 from the floor to finish with six points. He also looks markedly slimmer than he did a year ago, and while he hasn't lost weight (still at about 205 lbs.), he's toned up and looks good and refreshed. And that's a good sign for UConn.

*** Amida Brimah looked good, scoring 10 points and blocking Rodney Purvis here ...:

... as well as at the end of the game on Purvis's shot attempt in the waning seconds, preserving the win for Brimah's "Team Geno." Brimah scored the first points of the night on a nice, low post turnaround. If he can hit that shot consistently -- watch out.

Having said that, you really shouldn't take much from the scrimmage. This may come across as sexist, but when you're playing in a co-ed game, you're not really going to show all our true skills.

*** This didn't come out very well, but trust us, it's the unveiling of the 2014 men's national championship banner:

It was rollicking at Gampel prior to First Night festivities on Friday:

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A look at UConn's new basketball facility

The media got a tour of UConn's new practice facility this afternoon. The $39 million project isn't completely done yet -- they've raised $33.5 million thus far -- but the academic, training and weight rooms are complete, as well as the men's and women's gyms. Really a beautiful new facility. (Interesting to note: Jim Calhoun's got his own office in there, as well).

Here's some video and pictures from today's tour:

The men's practice gym:

The men's locker room:

Here's the Ray Allen mural adorning one of the inside walls:

Here's a view of the stadium-style seats inside the team's film room:

And here's a list of former players who have donated to the new practice facility, including Kevin Ollie and Steve Pikiell, along with several former women's stars:

The shared academic room, where players can study:

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A list of some expected attendees at UConn's First Night festivities

Here's a list of some of the recruits expected at UConn's First Night festivities on Friday:

Jalen Adams: 2015 point guard out of Brewster Academy via Roxbury, Massachusetts. Committed to the Huskies in late June. Hard to think of a more perfect fit for the UConn program. 

Steve Enoch, 2015 power forward out of St. Thomas More, via Norwalk. Committed to UConn last month. An up-and-coming, 6-foot-9 talent who really blew up early in the summer on the AAU circuit.

V.J. King, a 6-7 2016 small forward out of Fairfax, Virginia, who is rated the No. 19 overall prospect in his class by

Mamadou Diarra, a 6-foot-8, 225-pound 2016 power forward out of Putnam Science Academy. Seems to have been attracting largely mid-major interest to this point.

Hamidou Diallo, Diarra's Putnam Science Academy teammate and a 6-foot-4, 2017 shooting guard.

Tremont Waters: 2017 point guard out of South Kent School. A New Haven native, not much more to say about him that hasn't already been said in this space.

Nate Pierre-Louis: Another 2017 point guard who hails from Jersey City, New Jersey and plays at St. Benedict's. 

Nazreon Reid, a 6-9, 2018 power forward out of New Jersey's Roselle Catholic -- same school attended by Isaiah Briscoe.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

UConn readies for First Night festivities

UConn will hold its annual First Night festivities on Friday, as the 2014-15 season officially kicks off. Or unofficially ... the Huskies have, after all, been practicing since Oct. 4.

Anyway, should be a fun night at Gampel Pavilion. Just like last year, in lieu of a slam dunk competition there will be a co-ed scrimmage between Team Kevin and Team Geno, with each team featuring members of the men's and women's teams. Also, the national championship banners for both the men's and women's teams will be unveiled. Here's a schedule of the night's events:

3 p.m. - Fan Fest on Fairfield Way
5 p.m. - Doors Open
5:30 p.m. - 6:30 PM- Autograph Session
6 p.m. - Pre-event begins
7 p.m. - Showtime

Indeed, Friday is all about UConn's championship past intertwining with its promising future. After the Huskies unfurl their championship banners and put an official stamp on their 2013-14 season, it's all about the present -- and the future -- going forward. 

For one, UConn will hold a media tour of its new basketball practice facility on Friday at 2:15 p.m. Then, from 4-6 p.m., there will be an official dedication and a special naming announcement of the new facility. In other words, we get to see who the biggest donor towards the facility is. (Don't forget, Kevin Ollie donated $100,000 toward the facility two years ago).

Meanwhile, as always, UConn will have some special guests at the First Night festivities. Among them are expected to be recent commits Jalen Adams and Steve Enoch, along with New Haven's Tremont Waters, a Class of 2017 point guard up at South Kent School.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Kevin Ollie, Geno Auriemma talk the talk at Oakdale Theater

Kevin Ollie and Geno Auriemma entertained a crowd of about 450 at the Oakdale Theater on Tuesday night. (First time I've been to the Oakdale, by the way, though I hear the acoustics are good for concerts. May have to make a point of coming back).

Anyway, here's a little of what Ollie had to say:

“We’re gonna have good chemistry. That’s what we work on, first and foremost. Then, everything else follows after that. We’re just trying to build them up from the neck up, then we’ll worry about the neck down. It starts with mental toughness, because that’s what it takes to be a champion. We want to win a championship every day. If they can do that, ultimately we’ll be where we need to be at the end of the season.”

(comparing Ryan Boatright to his point guard predecessors)

“They’re loyal to the program: Kemba was loyal, Shabazz was loyal, and Ryan is real loyal to the program and wanting to see the program succeed. When you have that common thread between the three of them, they all want to see UConn be the best university it possibly can be.”

Ollie said that the team has mostly been practicing in its new facility, and had its first scrimmage on Saturday. He said the team is healthy and ready to go, though Ryan Boatright and Amida Brimah have each sat out a few practices with foot soreness lately. Not a big deal, it seems.

Speaking of the new facility, its official dedication ceremony will be held on Friday from 4-6 p.m., prior to First Night festivities. New Haven's own Tremont Waters, as well as UConn commits Steve Enoch, Jalen Adams are expected to be in attendance at First Night.

So on Friday, just before the Huskies put an official exclamation point on their incredible 2013-14 season with the unfurling of dual championship banners at First Night, the program will unveil the symbol of its positive future, as well.

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Isaiah Briscoe decision could come "soon"

Sounds like Isaiah Briscoe could be making his collegiate decision sooner than originally thought. He had said over the summer that he'd likely wait until the spring to make his choice, but now is saying that his decision could come "soon."

And it sounds like UConn and Kentucky are the two front-runners.

Briscoe, a point guard out of Roselle Catholic in New Jersey, visited both schools recently. He speaks glowingly of Kevin Ollie and his entire UConn visit, and while it's impossible to know how much of a factor this will play, it's worth noting that Jim Salmon, Briscoe's New Jersey Playaz AAU coach, coached Kevin Freeman for a season at Paterson Catholic and thinks the world of Freeman.

Elsewhere, it appears UConn is already in on one of the top big men from the Class of 2018, Marvin Bagley III, a 6-foot-10 center from Tempe, Arizona.

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Notes, quotes and video from UConn's first practice of 2014

As usual, UConn's first practice of the season consisted mostly of running, running and more running. The Huskies started practice in Guyer, doing almost nothing but running, then finished the last hour or so in Gampel Pavilion. There, we saw some very spirited box-out/rebounding drills.

At one point, Kevin Ollie shouted at freshman Rakim Lubin, telling him, "The only way you're gonna play is to get some rebounds!"

“He thought I was going too soft against my teammates," Lubin explained afterwards. "But I didn’t want to hurt anybody. Once he told me if I don’t go harder against my teammates I was gonna have to run, I had to get in there and get rebounds.”

In all, Lubin came out of his first UConn practice pretty well.

“Rebounding drill’s not too tough," the 6-foot-8, 265-pound frosh said. "I was able to get my three and get out of there every time. The rest of those guys, it looked pretty tough.”

“He got through it pretty well," said Ollie. "He used his physicality, played very well, played hard. He got winded a couple of times, like everybody did, but he didn’t give in or quit. That’s a good mark for a UConn basketball player, when he has that will.”

Said Ryan Boatright: “Rock surprised a lot of us. He worked extremely hard.”

Another frosh, Daniel Hamilton, had an impressive battle with 7-foot Amida Brimah, grabbing several boards and getting his entire team to cheer wildly for him. After that sequence, however, Hamilton looked pretty gassed and could seemingly barely move for a few moments.

A tough first practice, as always -- particularly for the freshmen and newcomers. But overall, a good one. Here's some of what the Huskies had to say afterwards:


Boatright says running and getting out on the fast break is a key emphasis this season:

Not surprisingly, Sam Cassell, Jr. said he's never been on a team with so much talent in the backcourt.


“We want to be a better fast-breaking team than we were last year. We want to get more easy buckets. We can’t have Shabazz bailing us out with 35-footers at the end of the shot clock. We want to definitely run a little bit more, get our athletes out in space where they can create for themselves and for others.”

(can team be a strong perimeter-shooting group again)

“I hope so. They’ve got to work. We lost a lot of great shooters, everybody knows that. DeAndre and Neils and Shabazz were our three best 3-point shooters and those guys are gone. We’ve definitely got to have some people step up. I like my team, I like how hard they’re playing, I like how they compete. Hopefully Amida establishes himself in the low post more so we can go down low. Phil, we can go down low, Rock and Kentan -- all those guys got better. So, hopefully it gives me an option to do that a little bit more.”

(on competition for playing time)

“Coach (Calhoun) used to bring a different point guard in every year. You learn from the best.”

“My dream is to have four guys who can get it off the backboard, push it and be a point guard. That’s what I’m recruiting for ... Let’s go, let’s push it, let’s play fast-break basketball. I don’t want to call a lot of plays. I can if we need to ... but I want us to use our athleticism.”


“It was probably one of the hardest practices a lot of these guys have ever been to. Everybody went hard, and we got better today.”


(on competition among guards)

“It’s a good thing. All our guards are different, we all play different. It’s gonna help me in practice, because I have to guard these guys -- some of the best guards in the country. So, in the game, it’ll be easier for me.”


“(Ollie) wants me to be a leader, help them develop. He knows me as a vet and understanding what it takes to be a champion, that I’ll be able to help everytone, as well as me being able to be explosive on offense and challenge people defensively. He wants me to keep working, challenging myself, and not taking plays off. I feel like that’s embedded in me. We kind of have the same mindset coming into he season.”

“I can definitely shoot the ball, everyone knows that. I’ve been working on that, as well as every other part of my game. I should be able to do more than hit 3’s -- hit mid-range shots, find people, finish at the rim and affect games defensively, as well.”


“It was a real tough practice, but we were prepared for it all preseason, so I was able to get through it ... I knew what to expect coming into it. I didn’t see the weight vests, we just saw the weight vests this year. But it was fun.”


“We have a lot of guards with different dimensions to our game. We can always switch things up. Sam is a pretty good shooter, me and Terrence are pretty much fast guards along with Boat. Speeding the game up and getting guys involved for open shots and things like that, we’ll be pretty good. Omar’s shooting the ball really, really well. We’ll be fine.”

“I know for a fact, there’s not many teams that really have a genuine love and care for each other as much as we do. We really want to show that each and every day. Even if you guys weren’t in here, we still would’ve been in here picking guys up, because that’s what we do. We take that back to our apartment, in the locker room, everywhere.”

“Guys don’t have to play 30, 40 minutes a game. We’ve got a lot of different guys who do different things. We can switch the game up a lot. Competition for playing time, that’s really not a huge issue, because we’re all on the same team and we have one goal: to win games. Whoever’s rolling that day, we’ve just got to go with that.”

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

UConn sophomore Amida Brimah wins Husky Run

History was made when 7-foot sophomore Amida Brimah won the Husky Run this afternoon.

“That’s probably the first time in history a big guy won the Husky Run," Kevin Ollie noted. "That’s very impressive. Records are meant to be broken. I imagine nobody’s done that -- ever.”

Brimah certainly looked proud of his victory, accomplished in a time of 20:22.

“That’s an amazing sign," Ollie continued. "I like that. We know he can run. I think he said his forte is long distance running. He proved that. I had to ask him who’s got DeAndre’s spot. He said, ‘I got it, Coach.’”

Ollie also competed in the event, something no one can recall Jim Calhoun ever doing (though he may have done it at some point in his first couple of seasons as coach). He finished with a time o 21:25, behind only Brimah and Omar Calhoun.

Jon Gill, a Lyman Hall student, won the event with a time o 18:30. Here's how UConn's players finished:

1. Amida Brimah, 20:22.
2. Omar Calhoun, 20:51.
3. Kevin Ollie, 21:25.
4. Kentan Facey, 21:48.
5. Ryan Boatright, 21:50.
6. Terrence Samuel, 22:12.
7. Daniel Hamilton, 24:01.
8. Rodney Purvis, 25:37.
9. Sam Cassell, Jr., 25:38.
10. Phillip Nolan, 25:46.
11. Nnamdi Amilo, 26:40.
12. Rakim Lubin, 29:14.

Pat Lenehan didn't compete, due to a left foot injury.

Here's Ollie and Boatright addressing the crowd before the start of the race:

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