Saturday, May 30, 2015

Hamidou Diallo, Steve Enoch, Mamadou Diarra, Bruce Brown at Mary Kline Classic; Jalen Adams not

A few tidbits from the Mary Kline Classic at West Orange (N.J.) High:

*** Jalen Adams did not attend. No real reason given, just a lack of communication with the event's organizers over the past couple of weeks.

*** Bruce Brown, the Class of 2016 guard out of Vermont Academy who is Adams's cousin, said that UConn is a bit off his radar right now.

"They're not really recruiting me as hard as everybody else is," said Brown, who said that Michigan and Arizona are among those school recruiting him the hardest.

*** Mamadou Diarra looked strong and athletic in the low post, with a few dunks -- including this one:

Diarra finished with 20 points, mostly on dunks. He's got good feet, and a good body. Seems fairly skilled.

*** Hamidou Diallo -- who last week said that if he was picking a school now, it would be UConn -- said that there is no timetable for his decision.

"When the time is right," he said. St. John's, Syracuse, Providence and Wake Forest are among his many other suitors.

When asked what he's looking for in a program, Diallo said: "A place that makes me feel like I'm at home. And a coach that doesn't lie to me."

Diallo said he is looking to improve his strength and ballhandling this summer.

I wanted to ask Diallo if he was any relation to Amadou Diallo, the native of Guinea who was shot and killed by four plain-clothed police officers on Feb. 4, 1999. The killing sparked a firestorm of controversy, as the officers fired 41 shots at Diallo -- 19 of which hit him -- even though he was unarmed.

Hamidou said that he is not related, but that his family knew Amadou Diallo's family back in Africa, though not when they both lived in New York City.

*** Steve Enoch said he'll be arriving at Storrs sometime in mid-June for summer courses. His goals on the basketball court this summer?

"Getting stronger, and improving my motor. I have a pretty decent motor, but there's always room for improvement."

Asked Enoch about UConn's three new transfer additions over the past month -- Shonn Miller and Sterling Gibbs, who'll both play this season, and Terry Larrier, who won't be eligible until the 2016-17 season -- Enoch said:

"It's real interesting. I'm waiting to see what we can work with this year."

Enoch is expecting to come in and help UConn right off the bat, at least off the boards this season. The addition of Miller, who led Cornell with 8.5 rebounds per game last season, should take some of the pressure off Enoch.

"Fifth-year seniors are always a good value to a team," the 6-foot-10 Enoch said.

*** I realize this is ancient history by now, but not sure if I had ever heard Prince Ali's reasoning for de-committing from UConn last year. So, asked him why.

"I committed a little early," he said. "I decided to open things up, I was having a good summer. It was nothing with the coaching staff, nothing going on. I just decided to open up, check out other schools. If I had waiting a little longer (to commit), I doubt it would have ever happened."

No hard feelings, he stressed.

"Kevin Ollie's a great guy, all the coaches are great people, I'm cool with their players. They're great people."

Ali will take his talents to UCLA instead.

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

UConn lands another top-notch transfer: Terry Larrier

Just had a phone conversation with Terry Larrier, who will be transferring to UConn from VCU. He'll be in Storrs "soon," he said, to begin summer classes. Larrier will have to sit out next season per NCAA transfer rules.


(why UConn?)

"My relationship with Kevin Ollie and what he's done with the program so far. I just felt comfortable with him. I can't wait to play for him."

(how close between VCU and UConn two years ago?)

"It was pretty close. It was a tough decision. Shaka (Smart) started recruiting me before UConn, even though me and Kevin Ollie had a good relationship then. But Shaka started recruiting me much sooner."

(was Smart's departure to Texas a big reason he's transferring?)


(looking forward to some competitive practices next season?)

"Definitely. They're probably got to be real good competition."

Smart said he knows Daniel Hamilton from AAU and camps, etc., but has to get to know most of the rest of the current Huskies.

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Friday, May 22, 2015

Mamadou Diarra selects UConn; could Hamidou Diallo be next?

To the surprise of no one, Mamadou Diarra chose UConn over VCU on Friday. We'll have a story here soon. Here's some video and pictures:

A couple of funny and interesting quotes and excerpts:

Woodstock coach Tom Espinosa:

“What’s important to me is that you become a Division 1 person. I can tell you this -- Mamadou is a Division 1 person.”


(on Kevin Ollie)

“I just feel like whatever he says, he means what he says. He believes in his players, and he’ll get the best out of me.”

(on how tough the decision was)

“It was tough, because it’s four years of my life. You see a lot of kids transferring out of school, you don’t want to be one of those kids. It’s a big decision.”

Diarra spoke with VCU coach Will Wade by phone before the presser, because he didn't want him to find out about his decision via social media.

Funny story Diarra told about playing with Amida Brimah during a recent visit to UConn:

“I was trying to figure out why Daniel Hamilton was leading the team in rebounding, and not Brimah. I was on (Brimah's) team, he blocked a shot, the ball was right next to him. He’s looking at me, waiting for me to get the ball, and I was like, ‘That’s your rebond, man.’”

“Deep down inside, I always really knew I wanted to go here. I wanted to make sure it was the right decision. I had a good relationship with (VCU’s) coach, too.”

(on whether Shaka Smart's departure to Texas affected his decision)

“That didn’t affect me at all, because I wasn’t getting recruited by Shaka. I was getting recruited by Coach Will Wade.”

*** Meanwhile, Diarra's Woodstock teammate, Class of 2017 combo guard (and UConn target) Hamidou Diallo had this to say about where UConn stands with him right now:

“Right now, I’d have to say, if I were to commit, I would be going to UConn. That’s the school that’s been showing me the most love, and I have the best relationship with the head coach. For right now, though.”

PC, Minnesota, USC, Iowa State and Wake Forest are among his other suitors.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

No trip to East Carolina this season for UConn; no USF game at home

The AAC released its conference schedule pairings on Wednesday, and like all of its league opponents, UConn will play eight conference teams twice and two just once.

The Huskies will play East Carolina only at home and South Florida only on the road. This is what happens in an 11-team league. It's also likely a way for the league to ensure that a top-notch team like the Huskies plays as many games against the league's other top teams as possible, thus helping those teams' RPI numbers and chances of reaching the NCAA tournament.

(Completely unrelated, but last season's trip to ECU was an absolute nightmare, as the Raleigh-area was hit with a freak snowstorm during the Huskies' stay and both the team -- and media -- had trouble leaving town the next day).

Last season, UConn played UCF at home only and Houston solely on the road.

Also, the league announced that the AAC championships will be held March 10-13 (Thursday-Sunday) at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida.

American Men’s Basketball 2015-16 home and away pairings:

Play Only Home
Play Only Away
East Carolina
East Carolina
East Carolina

Monday, May 18, 2015

Mamadou Diarra will choose between UConn, VCU on Friday at 11:30 a.m.

Mamadou Diarra, a 6-foot-8, Class of 2016 power forward who'll play at Woodstock Academy this season, will officially announce where he plans to play college basketball at a press conference on Friday at 11:30 a.m.

Diarra will choose between UConn and Virginia Commonwealth, and the Huskies are deemed to be the favorite. Last month, Diarra's coach, Tom Espinosa, told the Register that "UConn has always been his dream school."

Diarra played for the Putnam Science Academy team last season, but the school is being shut down due to lack of funding. Woodstock has absorbed the PSA basketball team, which will play as a postgrad team, unaffiliated with Woodstock's existing varsity program.

Woodstock will also feature dynamic, 6-5 guard Hamidou Diallo, like Diarra a Queens, New York product who is also coveted by numerous top Division 1 programs, including UConn. Diallo is a Class of 2017 player.

Both Diarra and Diallo attended UConn's First Night festivities last fall.

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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sterling Gibbs: 'I truly believe (UConn) is the right fit.'

Just had a nice conversation with Sterling Gibbs, who, if you don't know by now, chose to transfer to UConn on Saturday evening after two seasons at Seton Hall.

Seems like a very impressive young man who wants to put his disappointing past season at the Hall behind him -- particularly an incident involving Villanova's Ryan Arcidiacono that looked ugly at first, but wound up being a learning experience thanks to the impressive way both Gibbs and Arcidiacono handled the aftermath.

Here are some snippets of what he had to say.

(why did he choose UConn)

"Overall, the coaches. It's a great coaching staff, great players, a seasoned team. Everything Coach Ollie has dealt with as far as guards. It's a UConn tradition, everything their guards have done throughout the years."

"My favorite player has always been Marcus Williams. I used to watch all his games, even when he was on the Nets. The way he dished the ball and was also able to score a little bit. And, of course, Kemba (Walker) and Shabazz (Napier).

(on his role with UConn)

"I'm a point guard, 100-percent. I can score the ball, and the fact that I'm able to score, sometimes people may try to say, 'He's a combo, a two-guard.' But I'm a point guard who can score, and at the same I'm I'm able to get my teammates involved."

(on his visit)

"I was able to spend a little bit of time with those guys, just seeing how important winning is to them. Also knowing some of them beforehand."

Gibbs said he's known Rodney Purvis for a while and spent a good part of his visit with him.

(on what UConn can do this season)

"I think UConn can be really good. The sky's the limit. It's not like anything's gonna be given to us. I know Coach Ollie's gonna push us to the limit, make sure we all jell together as one family, as a brotherhood."

(on why reporters had him committing to UConn a week ago, and then again early Saturday afternoon before his actual commitment)

"To be completely honest, I don’t even know. It was a surprise to me. Obviously, I had no clue where I was going last week. I was completely undecided, going back and forth, trying to figure things out. When a reporter said I committed to UConn, I was like 'Whatever.'"

"I think after my visit, I wanted to talk it over with my parents and everyone, make sure it was the right fit. I truly believe it was the right fit, because of the coaching staff, how it was presented to us. The whole plan of what they see for the future, and the whole opportunity to be able to win, go to the NCAA tournament, hopefully, and do some big things."

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Friday, May 8, 2015

Here's how Shonn Miller wound up in Storrs

As we bid adieu to Terrence Samuel and wait to see if UConn adds any new players, here's a little rundown of how UConn wound up with Shonn Miller.

Spoke with Miller's coach at Cornell, Bill Courtney. Great, affable guy who is happy to see Miller get this chance with UConn -- even if he realizes the grad transfer rules (particularly in the Ivy League) don't help programs like his.

Here's a few Cliff's Notes from the story:

*** Courtney is very familiar with UConn's coaching staff, having been an assistant under Dave Leitao at Virginia. Staff was telling him as early as last summer that they knew Miller would be a grad student and wanted him.

*** Courtney wouldn't let any schools contact Miller during this past season.

"If they talked during the season, they were gonna be out," said the coach.

Once the season ended, however, UConn was the first to call. Kevin Ollie met with Miller at his Euclid, Ohio home just before spring break.

*** Cal (as in California, not Calipari) was probably the runner-up in the Miller sweepstakes, as Cuonzo Martin recruited him hard. Rick Pitino and Billy Donovan called on him, he visited Michigan and Illinois and also heard from Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Indiana, among others.

"Duke, North Carolina and Ohio State -- surprisingly -- were the only three schools he didn't hear from," said Courtney, jokingly (I think).

*** Ollie established a great relationship with Miller's mom, which was big in his decision.

"She really valued that relationship she was able to establish with Kevin," Courtney noted.

*** Courtney on Miller: “He’s 6-7 and can guard any position on the floor, from point guard to center. He’s an elite-level defender. His offensive game has developed in his time at Cornell. He’s a terrific athlete and offensive/defensive rebounder, and he’s better than a 23-percent 3-point shooter. His driving is getting better, but his pull-up game is his strength. And his athleticism makes him strong in transition.”

"He’s a monster defensive rebounder, just goes and gets it. He's got an incredible knack. He and (Amida) Brimah should make a great combo."

*** Courtney doesn't love the Ivy League rule, or the grad transfer rules in general. But he's most interested in what's best for the players.

“Here’s a guy getting an Ivy League degree, and getting a chance to play basketball at another level. You’ve got to do what’s best for the kid. He gave me a lot, and now he’s going to play for a national-championship program. Who am I to keep him back?”

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Terrence Samual leaving UConn; Sterling Gibbs ready to join?

Taking a few days off this week. So, as usual, some big UConn news happens.

Terrence Samuel has decided to transfer out of the program, once he finishes classes this semester. Here's the press release issued by UConn:

Sophomore guard Terrence Samuel has requested and been granted his release from the UConn basketball program and will transfer at the end of the current semester.

In two years at UConn, Samuel appeared in 65 games, starting eight, and averaged 3.0 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game.

"Terrence has been a player who has always given his best on the court and in the classroom," UConn Coach Kevin Ollie said. "We thank him for his contributions to the program and wish him good luck and much success in all his future endeavors."

Samuel, a 6-4 guard from Brooklyn, N.Y., averaged 4.5 points a game and provided solid defense in the six games of the 2014 NCAA Tournament as the Huskies captured the National Championship. This past season, he saw action in all 35 games, averaging 3.6 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.6 assists.

With Jalen Adams coming in (and with the strong probability of Sterling Gibbs transferring from Seton Hall to UConn, per a source), perhaps the writing was on the wall for Samuel. Either way, he leaves the school a national champion, and should help whatever program he decides to join.

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