Saturday, February 28, 2015

Kevin Ollie, Rodney Purvis, Ryan Boatright talk SMU

A few quotes from after UConn's practice today, in advance of Saturday's bout with SMU:


(on SMU)

“They’ve got speed, they’ve got size, they’ve got balance -- guards and inside. They have all the qualities of a good team. They all share the ball and play well together.”

“We got off to a really good start last game, and then our energy just dropped down. It felt like we were just fighting for our lives, as soon as we lost the lead. We’re home this time, their crowd was crazy there, the whole gym was packed. Hopefully, our gym will be packed-out tomorrow and we’ll come out with a whole lot more energy than what we did and play a well-balanced game.”

(on close calls vs. other ranked teams like Duke, Texas)

“I think we’re close enough. Those games were early in the year, we were a new team. I think that had a lot to do with it, not having our backs against the wall, things like that. I feel like we’re a far better team right now. We’re just looking forward to (Sunday)."

(on discrepancies between his first-half, second-half splits)

“I watch film all the time, and I just don’t understand it myself. I don’t get it.”

(the opposite of Niels Giffey, who would do almost all his scoring in the first half?)

“Niels could afford to do that. We had a really, really good team last year.”

(on Nic Moore)

“If he was 6-3, 6-4, he’d probably be in the NBA right now.”

(on his grandmother, Hildred Bownes, who was diagnosed with cancer about three weeks ago and is now in hospice care in Greenville, N.C.)

“She’s doing a little bit better, going through the radiation and things like that.”


“(Would be big) to beat them and let them know we’re not scared of them, and just to get that confidence that we can beat them. Because we’re gonna have to face them in the conference tournament to win it. We’re probably gonna be in separate brackets, or even if we’re in the same, we’re gonna have to see them. It’s definitely an important game tomorrow.”

(on teammates not being as reliant on him as earlier in season)

“I think they’re playing with a little more confidence. I think they’re taking the shots that the defense is giving to them, and they’re knocking them down better than they were before. I think they’re playing with more confidence, not necessarily relying on me. I’m definitely looking for them. I just think they’re making their shots now.”

(is it starting to sink in that his college career is almost over?)

“I was thinking about it the last few days. Senior Day is around the corner, so it’ll be my last game at Gampel. It’s a long time coming, man. I’ve been through a lot up here, had a great career. It’s crazy that it’s coming to an end. It went so fast. Hopefully, it’s not the end of my season. Hopefully, we can get into that postseason.”


“Glad to be home. It was a tough trip, but it’s always better when you win. I’m glad we got the win. Our guys played very, very hard the second half. We really played lockdown defense, allowed us to get out and run and execute on offense.”

(what UConn must do better this time vs. SMU)

“I mean, it’s the same thing. We’ve got to be real disciplined. We’ve got to take care of the basketball, got to rebound. Nothing’s changed. They had 20 points off our turnovers, we didn’t get back in transition, we didn’t allow it to be a game. Hopefully, we can take care of those mistakes. That’s something we can control.”

(on Nic Moore)

“He’s right there at the top of the list.”

“Whatever you think a point guard is, he does it. He’s mentally tough. When they need a bucket, he goes and gets it. When they need a stop, he goes and gets it. He’s a winner. They look at him for leadership, and he comes through every time.”

“We need a win. If it was South Florida, SMU, if was -- who’s No. 1? -- Kentucky. If it was Kentucky, we need a win. Whoever we face -- if a YMCA team came up to play at the XL, we’d need a win. We need to win these next three. You can’t win three if you don’t win the first one. We’re gonna try to win the first one.”

*** Rakim Lubin (concussion) didn't practice on Saturday. Even if he's cleared for Sunday, it's unlikely he'd see anything but emergency playing time.

*** Sam Cassell, Jr. (leg) is off crutches and will get another MRI on his stress fracture in a couple of weeks.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Rodney Purvis, Kevin Ollie on UConn's road win

Just a couple of videos from Wednesday night's 60-49 win over East Carolina as we try to beat the ice storm back to the hotel.

UConn was sluggish in the first half, particularly on defense. But after getting a short but stern verbal lashing from Kevin Ollie at halftime, then getting Amida Brimah back on the floor after missing 14 1/2 minutes of the first half with foul trouble, the Huskies dominated the final 20 minutes.

Rodney Purvis on the ECU crowd getting on him:

And here's Kevin Ollie (sorta) explaining his rather colorful halftime speech:

Incidentally, UConn bused all the way back up to Raleigh in Wednesday night's ice storm after the game. Normally a 1 1/2-hour trip, it took them about 3 1/2 hours. They boarded their charter, but ultimately thought better of it and wound up checking into a hotel at about 2:45 a.m.

The Huskies took off from Raleigh at about 10:30 a.m. on Thursday and landed at Bradley around noon.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

UConn re-routed on trip to East Carolina

This miserable winter of our discontent continued on Tuesday, as snowy/icy weather closed the airport at Greenville, North Carolina and has forced UConn to fly into Raleigh instead.

Greenville is about a two-hour drive from Raleigh -- or three hours in these miserable conditions, as I learned this afternoon. Of course, it was my original intent to fly into Raleigh and drive. The Huskies are taking a bus from Raleigh to Greenville tonight, thought I thought it would be more wise to stay in Raleigh overnight and make the trip in the morning.

Or they could have stayed over at Rodney Purvis's house. (Incidentally, Purvis once told me it hardly ever snows in Raleigh. Not this year, Rodney).

"They don't get much of this here," Purvis told UConn SID Phil Chardis. "Any little bit of snow shuts the whole city down. Nobody was in school (Tuesday) ... all my friends have been home, waiting for me to get here. When I heard about the weather, I expected this."

He's excited about playing a game back in his home state, however.

"This is my first time back home and getting the chance to play in front of my friends and family. I think i have about 40 or 50 people coming. They are all rallying up to come and suport me. So i get a chance to play in frobt of them again, so it will be fun. I think it will just give me more energy. I will be excited to be out there. I won't be flat or anything. I think it will help me out a lot and I'm looking forward to it."

Bottom line: this is the last thing UConn needs as it tries to improve its road woes. The Huskies are 3-6 on the road this season, 2-5 in conference play. East Carolina, meanwhile, is 11-3 overall at home and is looking for its fifth straight win at Minges Coliseum.

A long night of planes and buses for the Huskies won't help change either of those trends on Wednesday night. But Kevin Ollie realizes the team has to get past it.

"The trip can't be a distraction," he told Chardis while on the bus ride from Raleigh to Greenville. "We've got to play the game ... we get to the hotel and get back to what we need to do to prepare for ECU. No matter what we're going through now, it can't affect us on the court and focusing in for 40 minutes of playing UConn basketball."

Ollie realizes it's now crunch time for the Huskies, and hopes his team recognizes it, as well.

"If they don't," he said, "then they don't need to be playing right now."

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Kevin Ollie will be on the Seth Davis Show on Thursday

Kevin Ollie will be a guest on the Seth Davis Show on Thursday on It will be a sit-down interview with Davis that will be posted to the site on Thursday.

Ollie discusses several things, including the interest the NBA showed in him after he won the national championship:

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Not much change to this week's AP Top 25 ballot

Teams that were in my Top 25 last week went a combined 39-8, including a perfect 14-0 among my top seven. So, not much room for movement in this week's poll, though I did manage to eject Ohio State and Oklahoma State and add Providence and Murray State.

First, a couple of other things. Hard to believe, but Daniel Hamilton was once considered a selfish player. The same Daniel Hamilton who dished out nine assists on Sunday, went for every rebound with ferocity and dominated the final minutes of a game without hitting a shot.

That Daniel Hamilton.

What an impressive player. If he hadn't already, Hamilton has no doubt secured AAC rookie of the year honors. Kid's got a terrific future. I mean, if you're a big man, do you not want to play alongside a kid who is always looking to make the pass -- and usually makes a good one?

Second, I'd like to thank all the people that came to Sunday's book signing(s). Great meeting all of you, and hope you enjoy the book.

And now, my Top 25 ballot this week:

1. Kentucky
2. Wisconsin
3. Duke
4. Virginia
5. Gonzaga
6. Villanova
7. Arizona
8. Kansas
9. Northern Iowa
10. Iowa State
11. Notre Dame
12. Utah
13. Wichita State
14. Louisville
15. Maryland
16. SMU
17. Arkansas
18. West Virginia
19. North Carolina
20. Oklahoma
21. VCU
22. Baylor
23. Providence
24. Butler
25. Murray State


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Reminder: Book signing on Sunday! (Oh, and a UConn game, too)

Hey folks. First off, just wanted to remind you all that I'll be signing copies of my new book, Rebound! The Incredible Story of UConn Basketball's Comeback from Defeat to Dominance, on Sunday.

We'll be at the UConn Co-Op Bookstore at Storrs Center (One Royce Circle, 101 Storrs Center) from 1:45-2:15 p.m., then at the UConn Co-Op on Hillside Road (right next door to Gampel Pavilion) from 2:30-3:30 p.m.

Hope to see you there!

Oh yeah, and then UConn hosts Tulane at Gampel at 4 p.m. Kevin Ollie spoke with reporters in a conference call this afternoon, and here's some of what he had to say:

(on Tulane)

"They present a lot of things. They beat us with backdoor cuts, lately they've been doing great job of offensive rebounding. We’ve got to get back in transition, (Jay) Hook has been playing real well the last couple of games. We've got to keep (Louis) Dabney cold. He hasn’t been shooting well last couple of games."

(on the answer to why UConn has been so inconsistent this season)

"I wish I had it, I’d have been able to figure it out. Not being disciplined for 40 minutes, some bad turnovers at times. We can’t do that. We just don’t have the margin with the personnel we have to zone out, not be in on every small detail, giving up transition points."

(on Ryan Boatright, who got hit in the mouth by a still-unknown source Thursday night that caused a loose tooth and a trip to the dentist on Friday)

"I think he's gonna be alright. Hopefully, nobody knocks him in the mouth. And if they do, I hope our guys protect him. He went to the dentist, there was no structural damage. He participated in practice (Saturday). I think he'll be at full-strength."

(areas team needs to improve on)

"I want to get better with our discipline, the small things – getting back in transition, not having defensive breakdowns, executing on the offensive and defensive ends, hitting first, from the first five minutes to last moment of the last game against Temple, that's what I want to see. It hasn’t changed throughout whole season."

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Friday, February 20, 2015

Ryan Boatright nearly loses a tooth. UConn loses another game, but finds a new superstar

Lotta stuff to process from Thursday's game. Ryan Boatright didn't feel like talking to reporters afterward (no problem with it, he's earned a break), but his mother, Tanesha, reported that he had a loose tooth and will likely have to see a dentist.

Meanwhile, Daniel Hamilton may have grown and matured into a superstar on Thursday night, even in a losing cause.

Let's have Kevin Ollie, Daniel Hamilton and Amida Brimah tell you about the 75-72 loss to Memphis:


(on UConn's comeback, Hamilton and the fracas that left Boatright bloodied)

(on Boatright's seven points on 2-for-6 shooting)

“They were playing a box-and-one on him. If he’s gonna take bad shots all night, I don’t want him to do that. They weren’t focuing on Daniel, and Daniel played a tremendous game. And Amida came in and played tremendous. They had three guys on Ryan most of the night. We don’t want him forcing shots. We’ve got to get him out on the fast break.”

“Phil came in and did an absolutely wonderful job on Nichols and made every catch for him difficult. That’s what we need, guys stepping in.”

(on Hamilton)

“He had a tremendous game, almost a triple-double, had some rebounds, had some bad turnovers, though. He got in that four-hole, he was aggressive, he was shooting, still had great vision with seven assists. We want him to keep playing like that, and hopefully Boat can come back and play his type of game.”

(on Hamilton's missed trey at the buzzer)

“We got a good look. We wanted to do a pick-and-pop. That’s what we drew out in the timeout. He got a decent look, he was the hot man. He squared up, I thought it looked good, it just came off the left side of the rim. But it’s exactly what we drew up, we just wanted to pick and pop with Daniel. He missed the shot, but that didn’t cost us the game.”

“My guys fought. We’re gonna keep fighting ‘til the end, ‘til they tell us our season’s over.”

(on Boatright's technical foul with 9:20 left to play)

“Boatright raised his hands up, and the ref said he showed them up. That’s their explanation.”

(more on Hamilton)

"We’ve all seen Daniel do things like this -- not to this capacity yet in his career -- but he’s a wonderful player. I just like how he gets to the boards. He’s about 185 (pounds), and he’s leading the conference in rebounding. Hopefully this is a confidence-builder for him. Hopefully Ryan can come back and play a great game. Hopefully this takes a little pressure off Ryan.”


“I was just looking to attack off the bounce. That’s what we’ve been working on in practice. Sometimes, we have the tendency just to hold the ball and not get ball movement. So, as soon the ball got passed to me, I just tried to attack off the bounce and make plays. Not only for myself, but for my teammates.”

“I got a pretty good look, but not the one I wanted to get. Next time, I’ll be able to knock it down.”

“I didn’t get a clean enough look. I wish I had gotten a better look at it.”

“I think I matured, taking that next step with Ryan being out in the first half. I just felt like somebody else had to step up. I felt like it was time to step up.”


(on the Boatright incident)

“We saw him bleeding. We just can’t let any team punch us and we don’t punch back. We always have to punch first, so I told the team to pick up the intensity.”

“All I saw was he was in the corner and I decided to try to get him out of there.”

“We’ve just got to get better each and every game. When we played SMU, we didn’t play together as a team. We started well and we started playing individual basketball. We’ve got to play like we did in the second half of this game. If we do that, we’ll be a good team.”

(on Hamilton)

“He’s just got to start with the same intensity that he plays with at the end of the game. That’s what it is. He’s got to make sure he’s got energy, and not get down on himself every time he makes a mistake.”

“We’ll be good. We’ve just got to stay together and keep playing like we did in the second half.”

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ryan Boatright: "It's no secret. We're gonna have to win the (AAC) tournament"

Ryan Boatright tells it like it is, which is refreshing. Never mind all the talk of a weak bubble, etc., etc. -- UConn's only real chance for a chance to defend its national title is to win next month's AAC tournament in Hartford.

Here's some more of what Boatright and Kevin Ollie had to say heading into Thursday night's clash with Memphis at FedExForum.


(on the ups and downs of this team)

“It’s irritating, it’s frustrating. But it’s my job, as the captain of this team, to stay with it and stay positive.”

“I’m always confident going into a game. It’s gonna be a tough game. You can’t look past anybody. They haven’t had a great season as well. They’re hungry to get a win, just like us. We’re on the road, where we have trouble. It’s gonna be a tough game. We’ve got to go in there and have the right mindset.”


(on whether the team prepares any differently knowing Austin Nichols, Memphis's best player who's missed the last two games, may not play)

"We're gonna stay pat with what we do. We're prepared for him to play. It doesn't change anything."

“They’ve got two bigs that are playing well, when Nichols is out there. They get in transition -- that’s a big key. Makes or misses, they’re out, kinda like Tulsa. We struggled with that against SMU, so hopefully we can do a better job.”

(on whether Kedren Johnson has solidified the point guard position, which Memphis struggled at earlier this season)

"Yeah. Johnson and (D'Kar) Cunningham. Cunningham is a blur when he gets in the game. He’s adding a new dimension to their team, pushing it up."

“(Johnson) had a phenomonal season at Vanderbilt, probably was gettiing acclimated to what Josh wants, definitely getting in better shape, pushing the ball, shooting it better. They pose a challenge. But it definitely starts from the inside out with them.”

Ollie said Sam Cassell, Jr. will have an MRI on the hairline fracture in his leg next week. The swelling and inflammation are down, but the MRI will determine whether he plays again this season.

(on walk-on Dan Guest of West Hartford)

“He’s been playing very, very well in practice, putting pressure on our defense, breaking guards down, getting in the thick of the defense. If it comes down to it, we might throw him in there for a couple of minutes to make plays for us. You never know.”

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Who are the frontrunners for AAC awards at this point?

The American Athletic Conference awards won't be handed out for another four weeks or so, at the championship tournament in Hartford. Trying to figure out who the favorites to win each category is tricky. In fact, it appears we could have another similar situation as last year for player of the year, when UConn's Shabazz Napier, Cincinnati's Sean Kilpatrick and Louisville's Russ Smith were all worthy. Conventional wisdom had the award going to Kilpatrick, whose Bearcats tied with Smith's Cardinals for first place in the league.

Instead, it went to Napier, even though UConn wound up finishing in fourth place in the regular season standings. Kilpatrick and coach Mick Cronin weren't too happy about it. Of course, both blew their chance to avenge the perceived snub when Kilpatrick blew a layup in the waning seconds of the AAC semifinals, allowing UConn to win and advance to the finals to face Louisville.

UConn has frontrunners in three categories: Player of the year (Ryan Boatright), rookie of the year (Daniel Hamilton) and defensive player of the year (Amida Brimah). You could make an argument that all three deserve to win. There is no way in heck they do, however, given UConn's disappointing record this season. In fact, it's doubtful the Huskies get more than one of the awards.

Here's how I see the awards panning out -- not necessarily who I think should win, but who I think will win. (All stats referred to are for conference play only):

Ryan Boatright, UConn
Nic Moore, SMU
Yanick Moreira, SMU
James Woodard, Tulsa
Will Cummings, Temple
Austin Nichols, Memphis

Octavius Ellis, Cincinnati
Troy Caupain, Cincinnati
Shaquille Harrison, Tulsa
Jesse Morgan, Temple
Markus Kennedy, SMU

Daniel Hamilton, UConn
B.J. Taylor, UCF
Adonys Hernandez, UCF
B.J. Tyson, ECU
Gary Clark, Cincinnati

Two-man race between Ryan Boatright and Nic Moore. Boatright leads the league in scoring and is fifth in assists. God knows where UConn would be without him. He was also preseason player of the year, which may give him a leg up in the minds of the voters -- the league's coaches. (Of course, Russ Smith was last year's preseason POY and that didn't help him win it). Moore is the best player on the league's best team. He leads the league in assists and is sixth in scoring. Usually, the award goes to a player on a first or second-place team (obviously, that didn't happen last year).
Pick: Moore. I think the coaches will give it to him, based on SMU's success, even though Boatright has been by far the more dynamic player. Boatright says he's not concerned with individual awards, anyway.

Another two-man race between SMU's Larry Brown and Tulsa's Frank Haith. Brown has the best team and has dealt with the loss of several key players at different points of the season. Of course, the Mustangs were picked to finish second int he league. Haith, in his first year at the helm, inherited a team that won the Conference USA tourney last year and was picked to finish fifth in the preseason poll. The Golden Hurricane is currently second in the league standings at 10-2.
Pick: Haith. This is subject to change, however, if Tulsa falters over the next few weeks -- which is entirely possible. Then, Brown will win it.

There are a lot of good candidates. Obviously, Daniel Hamilton (the preseason pick) is a frontrunner. UCF's B.J. Taylor (12.8 ppg), ECU's B.J. Tyson (11.5), UCF's Adonys Hernandez (10.4) and Hamilton (9.8) are among the league's top scorers. Hamilton is second in rebounding, while Cincy's Gary Clark is seventh. Hamilton is also 10th in assists, the only frosh to be in all three categories.
Pick: Hamilton.

Tough one. Amida Brimah is the league's leading shot-blocker and is certainly the dominant defensive force. That's usually enough to win you the award, but I don't think it will this season. My guess is that it will go to either Will Cummings of Temple or Shaquille Harrison of Tulsa, who are 1-2 in the league in steals.
Pick: Harrison.

SMU's Markus Kennedy has yet to start a game since returning to the team from academic suspension. If this is Larry Brown's way of making him earn his way back in the lineup, I'd say he has by now: he's 14th in the league in scoring (11.9), ninth in rebounding (6.2) 15th in blocked shots (0.9) and even 12th in steals (1.2). Unless the coaches don't want to vote for a guy who was suspended for the first semester, Kennedy's gotta be the one.
Pick: Kennedy.

Injuries severely hampered Yanick Moreira last season, forcing him to miss four weeks in the middle of the season. This year, he's averaging 10.9 points and seven boards for the first-place Mustangs.
Pick: Moreira.

Sean Kilpatrick got this last season in what looked like a consolation prize for not winning player of the year. So, we'll go with either Moore or Boatright, whoever doesn't win POY this season.

Your guess is as good as mine, although now that they're scholarship players, either Pat Lenehan or Nnamdi Amilo are as qualified as anyone.

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Monday, February 16, 2015

Inaugural Abdul-Jabbar Award watch list released (no Amida Brimah)

There's a new thing called the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award, which will be given annually to the top center in men's college basketball. The watch list of 15 candidates was released on Monday. No, Amida Brimah wasn't on the list. No, I'm not really suggesting he should have been -- this season -- though it's hard to ignore his shot-blocking prowess.

Anyway, gotta be a two-way race between Jahlil Okafor and Frank Kaminsky, right?

2015 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award Candidates 
Bobby Portis, University of Arkansas
Alan Williams, University of California, Santa Barbara
Josh Scott, University of Colorado
Jahlil Okafor, Duke University
Joshua Smith, Georgetown University
Willie Cauley-Stein, University of Kentucky
Jarell Martin, Louisiana State University
Kennedy Meeks, University of North Carolina
Brad Waldow, Saint Mary’s College
Stefan Nastic, Stanford University 
Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse University
Jakob Poeltl, University of Utah
Damian Jones, Vanderbilt University 
Daniel Ochefu, Villanova University 
Frank Kaminsky, University of Wisconsin

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

My AP Top 25: Serious props to SMU

Yup, I've got SMU ranked No. 16 in the nation. If you watched the Mustangs' thorough dismantling of UConn on Saturday night, I dare you to argue differently.

Of course, if you watched SMU barely squeak by Houston two nights before that, your argument could be valid. Point is, there is so much parity in college basketball these days, and very few consistently good teams. But I believe SMU is a very good team that will make a run in the NCAA tournament this season. Terrific point guard. Strong, experienced frontcourt. Chip on their shoulder from last year's snub. Hall of Fame coach. All sounds good to me.

Could the 'Stangs use another shooter (like, I don't know, Keith Frazier)? Sure. But bet against them come March Madness at your own risk.

My ballot this week:

1. Kentucky
2. Wisconsin
3. Duke
4. Virginia
5. Gonzaga
6. Villanova
7. Arizona
8. Kansas
9. Northern Iowa
10. Utah
11. Iowa State
12. Louisville
13. Notre Dame
14. Wichita State
15. Maryland
16. SMU
17. Arkansas
18. North Carolina
19. West Virginia
20. Butler
21. Oklahoma
22. Ohio State
23. VCU
24. Oklahoma State
25. Baylor

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Connecticut Yankee near King Larry's court

Drove by a home bedecked with UConn banners and flags, right around the corner from SMU's campus on Friday. Drove by again today, and the homeowner was outside working on his garden, sporting his UConn shirt.

It was John Dalton of Shelton, a Shelton High and 1990 UConn graduate who has lived in Dallas for about five years and Texas for the last 15.

Found it interesting that a rabid UConn fans would live down here. Turns out, there's a pretty good UConn alumni base down here in Texas.

What are greatest dunks, and who are greatest dunkers in UConn history?

So ESPN is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the slam dunk, which allegedly was "invented" by Oklahoma A&M's 7-footer Bob Kurland on Dec. 16, 1944 in a game against Temple. (No YouTube or ESPN Top 10 highlights for that one).

The College GameDay crew and some current and former players and coaches had some good (and not some good) nominations for "greatest dunks/dunkers of all-time," including Clyde Drexler, Vince Carter and, for this season, Ohio State's Sam Thompson.

It got me thinking what fans consider the greatest dunks and dunkers in UConn history. In my eight years on the beat, no one's been better than Stanley Robinson. He literally looked like he was bouncing off a trampoline on some of his dunks. His most memorable, to me, came in the famous six-overtime game vs. Syracuse in 2009. Here it is, at about the :17-second mark in this clip:

I also remember watching Jim Calhoun on the sidelines as the play transpired. He popped up from his chair and was ready to pull "Sticks" out of the game had he missed. But he didn't miss, and Calhoun folded his arms, looked up in the sky and left Robinson in the game.

So I ask fans who've watched a lot more UConn basketball than me over the years: Who are the greatest dunkers in UConn history? What are the greatest dunks? And I mean in-game dunks.

Dunk contests are fun:

But in-game dunks are more impressive, in my opinion.

And we can include opponents against UConn, as well. This may not be the greatest, but it's one of the most memorable, considering how unlikely it seemed at the time:

As for the greatest dunk I've ever witnessed in person (in a game), my mind keeps going back to Julius Page of Pitt in a game against Providence in the early 2000's. I can't find it on YouTube, but here's another Page dunk that displays the type of athleticism this kid had:

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Larry Brown talks UConn, Ryan Boatright, Amida Brimah ... and Allen Iverson's love of practice

Just back from the funeral of Dean Smith, his former mentor at North Carolina, Larry Brown spoke with the media on Friday at SMU's practice gym.

Here's some of what Brown had to say about Saturday night's UConn-SMU showdown -- an ESPN College GameDay feature (not to mention a meeting of the frontrunners for AAC player of the year)::

(on Kevin Ollie leading UConn to a national title last April ... and an amusing comment about Allen Iverson)

Brown continued:

"I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Nobody’s like Allen. Allen Iverson, every day I think about him and realize what he accomplished. There will never be another one like him. But I have a lot of admiration for Boatright. He’s such a competitor. Allen was a great competitor. He’s got a will to win. Our little kid (Nic Moore) has a lot of the same qualities. It’ll be fun watching them going after each other.”

(on Saturday night's bout being a College GameDay feature on ESPN)

“I’m a big fan of GameDay. The people that are here, and Jay Bilas, Seth (Greenberg), Jason (Williams) -- it’s hard for me to talk about Duke guys -- but they do a wonderful job for college basketball. I think it’ll be neat for our students. We didn’t know how to storm the court when we beat Connecticut. I’m sure we won’t know how to act with GameDay here, but hopefully we’ll be good enough where this will be an annual occurrence.”

(on UConn this season)

“They were great last night. They would’ve beaten anybody, I think. They’ve got the best shot-blocker in the country ... God, he’s unbelievable. (Daniel) Hamilton is one of the best young players I saw. They’re pretty versatile. Then they’ve got Boatright. You’ve got a kid that’s won before. When things go bad, you can look to him, he can bail you out on the offensive end. And then on the defensive end, you’ve got somebody that goes after every shot. I was walking today with some of my staff. If you ask me to take one guy in our conference, besides some of the kids you hear mostly about, I’d take that center who corrects everything, every mistake you make. And he plays with passion. I think they’re only gonna get better. Hamilton’s still young, and he’s figuring it out. I like their team.”

“I think you need shot-blocking in college. With the 3-point line, everybody has to extend. You’re gonna make mistakes, and you’re gonna need somebody to protect. I think that’s a real big factor for their success. And he even made a couple of jumpers last night.”


“They’re gonna come in angry, we’re gonna come in angry, too. We beat them twice, we didn’t make the tournament. That’s our ultimate goal this year, to make the tournament, so they’re just another team in our way.”

(on Boatright)

“Whoever’s guarding him, Ryan (Manuel), Nic (Moore), whoever’s guarding him is gonna have to stick him tough. We’re gonna have to stop him and get to the shooters.”


“They played really well against Tulsa. I don’t think they’re better than us. We’ve just got to get better today in practice, prepare for the game and see who can get it tomorrow.”

(which team has the bigger target on its back Saturday night?)

“I think we are, just because we just took first place in the league and everybody’s trying to get to the tournament. Right now, we’re in a better position than them to get to the tournament, and they need some big wins. So I’d say it’s on our backs.”

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

That was UConn's most impressive win of the season. And it's really not even close.

Quotes, video from UConn's most impressive win of the season -- a 70-45 thrashing of Tulsa Thursday night in Hartford. Geared by a four-guard starting lineup, the Huskies got off to a fast start, then kept their foot on Tulsa's throats at the start of the second half.


“Probably our most complete game, from top to bottom -- defensively, offensively.”

“Offensively, I thought the ball moved. Daniel really spread out the court and allowed us to attack. And Boatright is just playing real great basketball.”

(the four-guard starting lineup of Ryan Boatright, Rodney Purvis, Daniel Hamilton and Terrence Samuel)

“It really gives you spacing. Nothing against Kentan (Facey), or anything like that, but with Daniel out there ... he hit two 3’s in a row, on a play that we just designed. It just gives us a lot more spacing, a lot more creativity in a package that we have offensively. I thought we did a marvelous job executing.”

“We were able to get out and press a little bit. We wanted to stop them, because their fast break is so potent. On mades, we wanted to get up and press a little bit, so they can just hesitate. I think we did a good job, just having them pause a little bit, then kind of get deep in the shot clock. They’re starting off at 22, 23 seconds.”

(on Ryan Boatright)

“He’s just getting better every day. He’s learning how to talk to his teammates. With Ryan, he says the right things, but sometimes it doesn’t come out the right way. And now, he’s really just talking to them, explaining what he wants.”

“When it’s time to take over a game, he’s starting to get that switch where, ‘Alright, it’s my time.’”



“It opens up the game for me. The guards were playing great defense, too, it just opens up the game for all of us.”

(on going 3-for-3 on his mid-range jumpers)

“I’ll work on it a lot. I just don’t use it ‘cuz I feel like, to me, jumpers are kinda soft. So I’ll just go in the paint more. If you give me a lot of space, I’m gonna shoot it. But if I’m in the paint, I’m gonna go for a post move, a stronger move.”

(will he ever shoot a 3 in a game?)


(why not?)

“I can shoot 3’s, but I’m not doing it.”


(on the small lineup)

“We get up and down the floor a lot faster. The transition speed is high. And on the defensive end, we irritate. We’re into you 94 feet.”

“The sense of urgency is there. Our destiny is in our own hands.”

(on SMU)

“They play tremendous defense, great team defense. They communicate extremely well, they’re physical, they’re balanced, they’ve got great guards. They’ve got guys in the frontcourt that can produce. They’re a tough team.”

(on Nic Moore)

“He’s just a small, firey, feisty guy. He plays hard all the time, he has a knockdown jump shot, a knockdown trey-ball. He leads his team. He’s a good player.”

(on Moore, Boatright being favorites for AAC player of the year)

“Nah, I’m worried about UConn winning the next seven games. Individual awards, I couldn’t care less. I’ll take the Final Four and the championship any day.”


(on Hamilton)

“Having him at the four really helps out a lot. With Daniel, you can pick and pop. With me, Boat and T-Sam, we’re attacking guards. Once we attack, we’re drawing two people every time.”

(think Hamilton would be this good a rebounder?)

“No, I didn't. When he first got here, I thought he was skinny. I thought he was gonna get pushed around and beat up. I don’t know how he does that rebounding stuff. He’ll be stealing his teammates’ rebounds. He just likes to rebound.”

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Kevin Ollie on Dean Smith, Jerry Tarkanian; Ollie, Ryan Boatright, Rodney Purvis on Tulsa

Some video and quotes after UConn's practice today, in advance of Thursday night's key clash with Tulsa at the XL Center:


“You don’t get a better chance than this. To have Tulsa, then come and play SMU -- great teams on the plate, No. 1, No. 2 in our league, and especially in the RPI. To get a good win like this would be great. Both teams are in the Top 50 RPI ... It’s a great opportunity for us. Hopefully, we take advantage of it.”

(on Rodney Purvis vs. Tulane)

“He missed a couple of layups in transition, but I love how he responded and came back and made some great plays. Kinda went on his own 7-0 run to salt the game of way. Him being aggressive, taking it to the rack like that, is exactly what we want to see.”

(on Purvis's defensive ability)

“When he gets down in his stance, it’s hard for people to get by him. One-on-one defense, when he really puts his mind to it, he’s a terrific, terrific defender.”

(on Jerry Tarkanian, Dean Smith)

“I knew Jerry Tarkanian a little bit more than Dean. I didn’t ever really get a chance to talk to Dean Smith. The latter part of his career, I was still in the NBA. I had a chance to get recruited by ... UNLV, had a chance to talk to Tark. It’s unfortunate. I love those guys to death. They’ve done a lot for our profession and really allowed us to do what we do now. They paved a great way for us. And they always cared about their team and their student-athletes. It’s two guys we’re really gonna miss in the game, and my heart goes out to their families.”

(on what Huskies must do better this time vs. Tulsa)

“We’ve got to keep them off the free throw line, gotta cut down our turnovers, got to be more efficient on the offensive end. I could keep going down the list. We can’t have live turnovers, and we’ve got to do a better job boxing them out. They had 17 offensive rebounds. That’s the combination for a loss, with stats like that. Hopefully, we’re a better team, and we can correct some of those things that are just effort plays -- boxing out, rebounds, 50-50 balls, eliminating the turnovers. Those are the small things we’ve got to do for us to win against good competition.”

(on if Sam Cassell, Jr. has shown any progress lately. Cassell is still on crutches)

“Not really. We have an MRI next week, but it’s still kind of swelling up. He is working on a bike a little bit more, so he is moving around a little bit. Still no significant process. We’ll see the MRI results next week. Hopefully, we see that stress fracture calming down a little bit.”

“Hopefully, we can. Hopefully, we’ll be playing deep in to March and April. Then, I know it’ll be a possibility to come back. But it’s hard to say now, with eight games left on the schedule. I know he’s not gonna be back in a week or two.”


“It’s been really, really, really tough for me. I’m one of the guys who really gets down on myself when I’m not doing so well. He stays in my ear all the time. The main thing is staying focused, through the highs and the lows.”

(on the Jan. 13 loss at Tulsa)

“We didn’t show much toughness down there. We didn’t hit them at all. We got off to a terrible start. The main thing with Tulsa, we’re coming out with a lot of energy. I think they’re one of the best transition teams in the country. They play four guards, as well, so it’s gonna be a really good game. The main thing for us is getting back in transition and playing with a lot of energy and passion.”

“Coach Ollie stays on me a lot, about having a quick memory, getting things out really quick, even if I mess up. Just forget about it, ‘cuz it’s behind. He always says the good ones bounce back after bad things. I was just happy I was able to show a little toughness, because that was a tough period. Four minutes, and I missed two easy layups, and I think we were down. I just stayed positive, my teammates continued to encourage me, and I was able to go out there and help my team get a win.”


“It’s the last home stretch, we’ve got to win all our games. We’ve got a huge two-game stretch right here coming up. We want to be in that tournament, we’ve got to take care of these wins.”

“Everything. We played a horrible game up there. We played sluggish, took bad shots, didn’t make shots, didn’t play defense, they beat us in transition ... they beat us down real well. It’s got to be a whole different game.”

“I didn’t come back to play in the NIT. I know what it takes to be where we were at last year. I know what it takes to get into the tournament, with the predicament we’re in right now. I’m just trying to express to these

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Monday, February 9, 2015

UConn-SMU will be a College GameDay feature

It's official: UConn's game atNo. 25  SMU on Saturday, Feb. 14 will be an ESPN College GameDay presentation.

First-year College GameDay Covered by State Farm analysts Seth Greenberg and Jay Williams will join host Rece Davis onsite. Dave O'Brien and Doris Burke will call the game.

Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas and reporter Shannon Spake will have the call of No. 4 Duke at Syracuse at 6:15 p.m. on ESPN, and Bilas will contribute to the GameDay telecasts from the Carrier Dome.

GameDay’s first hour begins at 10 a.m. on ESPNU, continuing live at 11 a.m. on ESPN, plus an evening edition from Dallas leading into the primetime game on ESPN, following the Duke-Syracuse game.

While it was reported months ago that UConn-SMU would be a GameDay feature, ESPN has reserved the right to switch during the season per its flexible scheduling. But the network apparently was content with the defending national champ playing probably the best team in its conference, before a rowdy crowd on Saturday night.

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I'll be signing my new book on Sunday, Feb. 22, prior to UConn-Tulane game at Gampel

Believe it or not, I'm not big on self-promotion. But when you've got a new book out on UConn's rapid rise from a postseason ban and a first-time head coach to a national championship, self-promotion is part of the deal.

With that, I'll be doing a signing of copies of my new book, Rebound!: The Incredible Story of UConn Basketball's Comeback from Defeat to Dominance, on Sunday, Feb. 22 on campus. I'll be signing books at the UConn Co-op Bookstore (One Royce Circle, 101 Storrs Center, Storrs, CT 06268) at 1:45 p.m., then from 2:30-3:30 p.m. at the UConn Co-op on Hillside Road, right next to Gampel. The Huskies face Tulane at 4 p.m. that day in Gampel.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, February 22
1:45 pm, UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center
2:30 pm – 3:30 pm UConn Co-op on Hillside Road, near Gampel
Award-winning sports journalist David Borges will autograph copies of his new book Rebound!: The Incredible Story of UConn Basketball's Comeback from Defeat to Dominance. The book is a game-by-game chronicle of “one of the most unlikely comeback in all of sports.” Join us prior to watching the 4:00 pm UConn/Tulane game at Gampel
Event date: 
Sunday, February 22, 2015 - 1:45pm
Event address: 
One Royce Circle
101 Storrs Center
StorrsCT 06268

Sunday, February 8, 2015

My AP Top 25 this week

Not a whole lot new. Georgetown out, Oklahoma State in. Thought about Murray State (always like to look out for the little guy). Would've put in Tulsa had it defeated SMU on Saturday night. Syracuse's absence is self-imposed. And we bumped up Carolina a notch out of respect to Dean Smith (not the real reason).

1. Kentucky
2. Wisconsin
3. Duke
4. Virginia
5. Gonzaga
6. Villanova
7. Arizona
8. Kansas
9. Louisville
10. Iowa State
11. Northern Iowa
12. Utah
13. Notre Dame
14. Wichita State
15. Baylor
16. West Virginia
17. North Carolina
18. Maryland
19. SMU
20. Butler
21. Oklahoma
22. Ohio State
23. VCU
24. Oklahoma State
25. Rhode Island


Jim Calhoun on Dean Smith

Just chatted briefly by phone with Jim Calhoun, who was profoundly influenced by Dean Smith over the years.

Here's some of what Calhoun had to say about Smith, who passed away Saturday evening at age 83:

"He showed me the difference between a team and a program. A team is one year, a program -- in his case, the University of North Carolina -- continues to go on forever. He's just a special guy. To the outside world, he was about Carolina, but he was a great ambassador, much involved with civil rights. People who competed against him understood you were going against a very special guy."

"The world benefitted from what he did with Carolina basketball. He was a great gentleman, one of those clear icons."

(Early in Calhoun's tenure as head coach at Northeastern, he and his staff went to Chapel Hill to see how Smith ran his program)

"We were watching their program, the way they do business -- Eddie Fogler, Roy Williams, Bill Guthridge and, of course, Dean. The way they interacted with the program, altering things -- running, pressing, especially running -- but just the way their program was handled. It was pretty special."

(on joining, even surpassing, Smith in the college basketball record books)

"My dad said you're known by the company you keep. When my name was beside (Smith's) -- Dean Smith was great, great company."

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Tough traveling call on UConn (and its beat writers)

Traveling is part of life for college basketball teams -- and the beat writers that cover them. And sometimes it can get messy.

UConn was able to fly out of Houston on Sunday evening and land at Bradley airport around 10:30 p.m. Sure, they missed the Super Bowl, but they also just missed the snowstorm that hit the area hard.

The beat writers weren't as lucky. We all had flights cancelled on Monday. I had a 6 a.m. flight out of Houston, through Orlando, to Hartford, but my flight got banged in Orlando. So I was able to re-book on a flight from Orlando to Albany, then back to Baltimore and finally to Hartford. I considered exiting the plane in Albany, renting a car and driving back. But it was snowing pretty hard at the time (Monday, around 6 p.m.), so I stayed on the plane to Baltimore, crossing my fingers that the flight wouldn't get cancelled. It didn't, and I wound up landing at Bradley at 10 p.m.

A circuitous route, no doubt, and very little sleep from my 4 a.m. wake-up call to the time I arrived at my Southington home at about 11:15 p.m. But I was one of the lucky ones.

Ed Daigneault of the Waterbury Republican-American was stuck in Houston and didn't get back to Hartford until Tuesday at about 4:45 p.m.. Dom Amore of the Courant also was stuck in Houston and didn't get in until early Tuesday afternoon, then driving straight from the airport to Gampel for UConn's coach/player availability. Neill Ostrout of the J-I was one of the lucky ones -- he beat me to Bradley by a couple of hours on Monday night.

Anyway, you're probably not overly interested in the travel ordeals of beat writers. But travel has been an issue for UConn this season. Yes, the Huskies charter almost all of their flights, but they've logged a lot of air miles -- from California to Oklahoma to Texas to Florida to Puerto Rico, with trips to New Orleans, Dallas, Memphis and Greenville, N.C. still on the docket.

It's all a part of playing in the AAC, which doesn't make a whole lot of geographical sense.

To the Huskies' credit, they're not blaming their poor play as of late on travel fatigue:

 But you've got to believe it's affected them -- or will affect them -- at some point.

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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Ryan Boatright: "Now I know how Shabazz felt"

First New Year's Eve, now Super Bowl Sunday -- another awful loss for UConn in Houston. What more can we say? We'll let Ryan Boatright and Kevin Ollie do the talking:


“I kept going over, talking to K.O., he did a great job of helping me stay in the game, staying mentally tough, keep playing. Even though you’re getting hit, you’ve got to play through it, you can’t dwell on it.”

(on Amida Brimah's fifth foul)

“Ridiculous. Every time we come down here, tough, there’s a call like that. Last year, we lost when (TaShawn Thomas), they called a crazy foul (for) him. I just don’t understand. There’s three seconds on the clock, he caught the ball with his back to the basket. You know he’s trying to do a move that he’s not comfortable doing. Personally, it looked like he slipped to me. But that’s the referee’s call, you’ve got to live with it.”

“I’ve just got to continue to lead, continue to play UConn basketball. I never set out to play outside of the system. Today I shot 26 shots, I didn’t even know that. I don’t like shooting that much, personally. But it was called for.”

“I’m trying to play within the system and let everybody eat.”

“Now, I know how Shabazz felt last year in some games. I can honestly see what he was going through sometimes.”


(on Houston committing just one turnover)

"You’ve got to get a little bit more ball pressure, take a little bit more gambles, getting in the passing lane a little bit. Because we need cheap buckets. We have a hard time now scoring in halfcourt. That’s been all year, that’s been one of our deficiencies.”

(on relying on Boatright)

“It’s a tough situation, any time you’re getting double- and triple-teamed. I’m not gonna talk about the refs, but some of those calls, he’s going to the bucket, he’s getting hit, and for some reason they’re not making the calls that I see out there. But, at the end of the day, you’ve got to leave the refs alone. He’s got to play his game. He’s got the heart of a champion. He tried to will us to a victory, but it was a little bit too late.”

“He’s got three guys draped on him. You’ve got to make the passes. We wanted to establish Amida. He got one dunk, but he got in foul trouble. I’m not gonna run an AAU team, he comes down and just run pick-and-roll and jack up on three people.”

“It doesn’t make any sense to have a pity party for ourselves. Nobody’s gonna help us out of this. We’ve got to help ourselves out of it by playing hard, looking at the tape, everybody coming in, chipping in and doing their part. We’re gonna play hard each and every game, until the end of the season.”

(on why UConn started off playing zone)

“They’ve got two 6-7 guys, and I wanted to keep Amida out of foul trouble. I knew they were gonna isolate Amida with Pollard. That was our matchup. He’s a 6-7 three-man. He can put it on the floor, he can shoot, so it’s a mismatch problem for Amida. I didn’t want to get him with a quick foul.”

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My AP Top 25 this week

Here's my ballot this week. After Virginia's loss to Duke, who's No. 2? I'm going with Wisconsin. Why? Because I think the Badgers are the second-best team in the country right now, that's why.

Gave some love to the American Conference (SMU at No. 17, and was going to go with Cincinnati until Sunday's loss at East Carolina), as well as my alma mater on my ballot this week. It's not homerism, but rather rewarding the teams with which I'm most familiar.

I can't pretend that I've seen a lot of Saint Mary's or Colorado State or Wyoming this season. I'm sure they're all good teams, but I'll leave it more up to the voters out West who are more familiar with them to vote for them. That doesn't mean I'm voting for, say, Louisville over Arizona, or SMU or Gonzaga. But when it comes to that huge clump of teams that merit consideration for the last 10 or 15 spots on the ballot, yes, I'm more likely to go with teams that I've seen more often.

So anyway, this week it's goodbye to Miami, Providence and Texas, and hello to Butler, Oklahoma and URI.

1. Kentucky
2. Wisconsin
3. Duke
4. Virginia
5. Arizona
6. Gonzaga
7. Villanova
8. Kansas
9. Louisville
10. Iowa State
11. West Virginia
12. Notre Dame
13. Northern Iowa
14. Utah
15. Wichita State
16. Maryland
17. SMU
18. North Carolina
19. VCU
20. Baylor
21. Georgetown
22. Ohio State
23. Butler
24. Oklahoma
25. Rhode Island