Thursday, March 31, 2016

Karl Hobbs leaving UConn for Rutgers

Karl Hobbs is leaving his job as assistant coach at UConn to take over as associate head coach under Steve Pikiell at Rutgers.

Here's what Hobbs had to say in a statement released by UConn:

"I'm a lucky guy to have had the chance to return to my alma mater and enjoy such great success. While at UConn, I had the opportunity to be a part of two incredible eras of national championship basketball with legendary coach Jim Calhoun and with Kevin Ollie, who is also a phenomenal head coach. Not many people can say that they have been fortunate enough to leave and come back and win again so, I'm incredibly grateful. I'm also very appreciative of the entire UConn family, which has given me so much as a former student, an alumnus, and now as a coaching professional.

"I am moving on to another very competitive program at Rutgers where I will be able to coach alongside my longtime friend and fellow Husky alum, Steve Pikiell. As always, I want to bring out the best in each student/athlete and help them work hard to be their best. I am excited about the opportunity and look forward to taking my expertise to Rutgers."

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Friday, March 25, 2016

Kevin Ollie's interview with Cari Champion

I can't watch ESPN anymore. Just can't do it. It's not for me ... literally. It's for an entirely different demographic, and not mine. ESPN has become the sports version of MTV, in my opinion. Unwatchable.

That said, I'm sure there are plenty of UConn fans who'd like to hear Kevin Ollie's recent interview with Cari Champion. So, here it is.


Monday, March 21, 2016

Mamadou Diarra interview, video

Since people seem to like this stuff ... Ladies and gentlemen, Mamadou Diarra:


Saturday, March 19, 2016

Live blog of UConn-Kansas game

Follow tonight's UConn-Kansas NCAA tourney game on our live blog:

Friday, March 18, 2016

Caron Butler makes gift to UConn basketball facility

Caron Butler has made a donation to the Werth Family UConn Basketball Champions Center. Here's the press release sent out by UConn this morning:

The UConn Foundation is excited to announce that former Husky men’s basketball All-American Caron Butler and his wife Andrea have made a gift in support of the Werth Family UConn Basketball Champions Center.

Butler earned All-American honors and was the Big East Conference Player of the Year and the Tournament Most Outstanding Player in 2001-02 and led the Huskies to the NCAA Elite Eight.  After that season, Butler was an NBA Draft lottery selection with the 10th pick by the Miami Heat. He is a two-time NBA All-Star, 2011 NBA Champion as a member of the Dallas Mavericks and is in his 14th season in the NBA, currently as a member of the Sacramento Kings.

Butler returned to campus in February and was inducted as a member of the Huskies of Honor, which recognizes the great players in UConn history.

“Andrea and I met at UConn, and it has always held a special place in our hearts,” said Butler. “Being recognized in the Huskies of Honor event brought back so many incredible memories and emotions. Coach Jim Calhoun and all the coaches—Karl Hobbs, Dave Leitao, George Blaney, and Tom Moore—played a critical role in my life and we are blessed to be able to give back in this small way.”

“We are extremely grateful to Caron and Andrea for their support. We have raised more than $33.5 million in private support toward this project with another $3.5 million needed to complete it. Caron and Andrea’s commitment is meaningful as we work to complete the fundraising for the Center and hopefully provides an example that others will follow,” said Joshua Newton, UConn Foundation President and CEO. 

Butler, whose gift amount remains private, hopes that his act of giving inspires others. “I want everyone who values UConn and its student-athletes to understand that every gift matters, small or large,” Butler added.
“Any time a former student-athlete makes a gift we are grateful, as it shows how much UConn still means to them,” said Rachel Rubin, Interim Director of Athletics.

Butler’s Husky pride does run deep. In fact, he recently said that he is “elated that UConn has been loyal to the Husky Brotherhood” by hiring former UConn and NBA player Kevin Ollie as head coach of the men’s team. 

“We truly appreciate Caron and Andrea’s commitment to the project,” said Rubin.

The 75,000-plus square-foot Werth Family UConn Basketball Champions Center facility features two separate wings for the men’s and women’s basketball programs. It includes common areas for academic support, sports medicine, and strength training areas, as well as separate practice gyms, locker rooms, coaches’ offices, meeting rooms and video analysis theaters.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Some outtakes from the Jim Calhoun, Kevin Ollie Dove soap commercial

You've probably heard of (or seen) the Jim Calhoun/Kevin Ollie Dove soap commercial by now. Here are some "never before seen" clips from the ad:

And here, for those that haven't seen it yet, is the full commercial:

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Sterling Gibbs "really happy" for Seton Hall's success

Listening to Kevin Willard on the radio on my drive to the airport this afternoon got me thinking about Sterling Gibbs.

Gibbs, of course, played for the Pirates for three seasons before transferring to UConn as a grad student this season. He's been up-and-down for the Huskies, hitting some big shots, averaging about 10 points but not putting up the numbers he did last season as one of the top 3-point shooters in the country.

Seton Hall, meanwhile, has played as well as just about anyone in the country the past few weeks and won the Big East tournament on Saturday.

A lot was made about locker room dissension with the Hall last season, and as the Pirates played well and the Huskies struggled at times this season, it may have appeared that Gibbs' departure was a positive for the Pirates.

But there appears to be absolutely no animosity between Gibbs and his old teammates. I asked him shortly after UConn's win over Memphis in the AAC title game on Sunday if he was happy for the Hall.

“I’m really happy for those guys," he said. "I keep in touch with all of them. I actually had a long conversation with Desi Rodriguez. I try to mentor those guys, still, because they’re friends. I live right around the corner from Seton Hall — I went home last week — I saw those guys and I was able to talk to them and get up with them for a little bit. It’s always nice to see a New Jersey school really thriving.”

Good kid, Sterling Gibbs. 

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Friday, March 11, 2016

My AP All-America, player of the year and coach of the year picks

AP voters are annually asked to select our college player of the year, coach of the year and three All-America teams. The AA teams don't have to be in the c-f-f-g-g format, but have to at least conceivably be able to take the floor together.

Unless you want a "position-less" team ...

Anyway, here are my selections. Threw the AAC a bone with Nic Moore on third team. Sue me. And as for player of the year, I get that Denzel Valentine is terrific and maybe a more well-rounded player. But I can't deny a player so offensively brilliant and efficient and skilled as Buddy Hield. He's a rare breed.

Buddy Hield, Oklahoma

Tubby Smith, Texas Tech


Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
Denzel Valentine, Michigan State
Brice Johnson, North Carolina
Ben Simmons, LSU
Kris Dunn, Providence


Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia
Grayson Allen, Duke
Tyler Ulis, Kentucky
Georges Niang, Iowa State
Perry Ellis, Kansas


Yogi Ferrell, Indiana
Josh Hart, Villanova
Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga
Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa
Nic Moore, SMU

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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Mark Wahlberg, Caron Butler teaming up on film version of 'Tuff Juice'

Mark Wahlberg and Caron Butler are teaming up to produce a film version of Butler's autobiography. Here's the press release:

NBA Champion and Sacramento Kings Forward Caron Butler and actor/producer Mark Wahlberg and his partners at Leverage Entertainment, Inc., Music for the People, Inc. and Closest to the Hole Productions have officially entered an agreement for the future financing and production for the film version of Butler's autobiography "Tuff Juice: My Journey from the Streets to the NBA."

The two parties, which also includes Butler's agent Raymond Brothers of IAM Sports & Entertainment, signed on to work together to officially begin the process of turning the book into a motion picture.

"I wanted to tell my story because I'm living proof that it is possible to overcome adversity and make a better life for yourself and your family," said Butler. "The response from the book was overwhelming and when someone like Mark Wahlberg tells you that your life could be a movie, you listen.

"I'm excited to take the next step towards sharing my story with an even larger audience and it's a blessing to have someone as well-known and respected as Mark Wahlberg by my side."

Butler met Wahlberg while playing for the Los Angeles Clippers in 2011 and became friends. They have stayed in touch as Butler has attended Wahlberg's movie premieres and sent him a book when Tuff Juice was published.

"[Caron is] a perfect example to all the young kids growing up in tough neighborhoods to never give up on your dreams," said Wahlberg.

The memoir, which chronicles Butler's troubled youth in Racine, Wisc. to his 14-year career in the NBA and burgeoning businessman, was released in early October to high praise and significant support from fans, athletes and celebrities - including Vice President Joe Biden, Floyd Mayweather, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and Wahlberg.

While Butler has seen much success on and off the court during his basketball career including an NBA Championship, two trips to the All Star Game and an Elite Eight run at the University Connecticut, the idea of seeing the movie version of his life is hard for even him to believe.

"There hasn't been a true NBA story told on the big screen like this," continued Butler. "We have some actors and writers in mind. I can't wait to see how it unfolds on film and be a part of the process. It is a dream come true."

"Tuff Juice: My Journey From The Streets To The NBA" is currently available in stores and for purchase and download through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and IndieBound. A paperback version of the book will be released September 1.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Daniel Hamilton, Shonn Miller earn AAC all-league honors

Here's the AAC's all-conference and all-rookie teams. I thought Shonn Miller might make second team instead of Daniel Hamilton, but despite Hamilton's struggles this season, he's still among the league's top rebounders and assist men. And he's got more name recognition.

Also thought Jalen Adams might make all-rookie, but this isn't a huge crime, either. If you want to go by stats, he doesn't compare to the five who made it -- or, you could argue, with UCF's Tacko Fall, the league's top shot-blocker who's become a bit of an offensive force lately.

The league's defensive player of the year, Sixth Man Award, most improved player and Sportsmanship Award winners will be announced on Wednesday. On Thursday, at a 12:30 p.m. luncheon, the league's player of the year, coach of the year, rookie of the year and scholar-athlete of the year will be announced.

UConn doesn't figure to reap too many (if any) of these awards. Maybe Rodney Purvis for Sixth Man? Maybe Amida Brimah for DPOY (did he play enough? I don't think so).

One thing is certain: if SMU's Nic Moore repeats as AAC player of the year, he won't be on-hand to accept his award. Seems Moore has booked a cruise this week with his girlfriend. Guess you can do that when your team has a postseason ban.

All-Conference First Team
Troy Caupain, G, Cincinnati
Shaq Goodwin, F, Memphis
*Nic Moore, G, SMU
*Quenton DeCosey, G, Temple
James Woodard, G, Tulsa

All-Conference Second Team
Daniel Hamilton, G/F, UConn
Gary Clark, F, Cincinnati
Devonta Pollard, F, Houston
Dedric Lawson, F, Memphis
Shaquille Harrison, G, Tulsa

Honorable Mention All-Conference
Shonn Miller, F, UConn
Damyean Dotson, G, Houston

All-Rookie Team
Kentrell Barkley, G/F, East Carolina
*Dedric Lawson, F, Memphis
Galen Robinson, Jr., G, Houston
*Jahmal McMurray, G, USF
*Shake Milton, G, SMU

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Monday, March 7, 2016

National Prep Championships in New Haven on Tuesday, Wednesday

Several of the top prep hoops prospects in the country will converge upon Albertus Magnus College in New Haven on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 8 and 9, for the National Prep Championships.

Of most interest to UConn fans is Putnam Science Academy, which faces DME Academy of Florida on Tuesday at 2:45 p.m. PSA features UConn commit Mamadou Diarra, along with Husky targets Hamidou Diallo and Eric Ayala. Diallo, a Class of 2017 swingman, is one of the most coveted prep targets in the country.

DME is led by SMU commit Ted Kapita.

UConn will be on-hand for that game and is expected to check out Tuesday's 11:15 a.m. bout between Florida's IMG Academy and Brewster Academy. Brewster features Alpha Diallo, a 6-7 small forward who the Huskies are keeping their eyes on.

Here are some of the other top players who have already committed who'll be in the tournament:

Brewster Academy:
Deleon Brown- Colorado
CJ Keyser- Witchita St

South Kent School:
Mathew Moyer- Syracuse
Elijah Hughes- East Carolina
Myles Powell- Seton Hall

St Thomas More:
Omari Spellman- Villanova
Charles Brown- St Joseph's
Christian Vital- UNLV
EJ Crawford- Iona

Putnam Science Academy
Mamadou Diarra- UConn
Saul Phiri- Lasalle

Hargrave Miltary Academy
Deriante Jenkins- Virginia Commonwealth
Tim Cameron- UTEP
Derek Funderburk- Ohio State

Notre Dame Prep (MA)
Chris Baldwin- Umass
Peter Kiss- Quinnipiac
Travis Atson- Tulsa

Elev8 Sports Institute (FL)
Tyson Jolly- Cal

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Sunday, March 6, 2016

My AP Top 25 ballot this week

Here's our penultimate ballot of the season. Not much change near the top, just a couple of new teams near the bottom -- Iowa State and Dayton. Even though ISU lost this week (to No. 1 Kansas), just about every other team in the bottom half of, or just outside, my ballot also lost, and the Cyclones have a fairly impressive resume despite 10 losses.

1. Kansas
2. Villanova
3. Michigan State
4. Xavier
5. Oklahoma
6. Virginia
7. North Carolina
8. Indiana
9. Oregon
10. Purdue
11. West Virginia
12. Miami
13. Utah
14. Texas A&M
15. Arizona'
16. Maryland
17. Kentucky
18. Louisville
19. Duke
20. Iowa State
21. Seton Hall
22. SMU
23. California
24. Iowa
25. Dayton

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Predicting this year's AAC award-winners

As the American Athletic Conference season winds down this week, it's time to take a look at who could/should be hauling in some hardware at the league tournament next week in Orlando.

A lot of tough choices this season, really. In fact, looking back at the preseason all-conference teams, we've got just two players picked for the first team making either first or second team all-AAC. Of course, we could be very wrong.

Here's how we see it:


Nic Moore, Sr. G, SMU
Quenton DeCosey, Sr. G, Temple
Shaq Goodwin, Sr. F, Memphis
James Woodard, Sr. G, Tulsa
Gary Clark, Soph. F, Cincinnati

Damyean Dotson, Jr. G, Houston
Troy Caupain, Jr. G, Cincinnati
Shonn Miller, Gr. F, UConn
Jordan Tolbert, Sr. F, SMU
Shaq Harrison, Sr. G, Tulsa

Daniel Hamilton, Soph. F, UConn
Dedric Lawson, Fr. F, Memphis
Pat Birt, Jr. F, Tulsa
Louis Dabney, Sr. G, Tulane

Jalen Adams, G, UConn
Jahmal McMurray, G, USF
Dedric Lawson, F, Memphis
Shake Milton, G, SMU
Kentrell Barkley, F, ECU

Candidates: Nic Moore, SMU; Quenton DeCosey, Temple
Winner: Nic Moore, SMU
Moore won the award last season (beating out UConn's Ryan Boatright), and was the preseason pick this year, which certainly gave him the leg up on the competition from the start. Sometimes, guys have trouble living up to the expectations (see: Dunn, Kris), but not in Moore's case. He's third in the league in scoring at 16.7 ppg, third in assists and fourth in steals. It's a shame his NCAA tourney career will be defined by the following: snubbed as a sophomore, first-round loss on controversial goaltending call as a junior, postseason ban as a senior.
As recently as a few weeks ago, I thought Daniel Hamilton had a chance to unseat Moore for the honor. But he struggled so badly for the whole month of January, and UConn has fallen so short of expectations, that it's worth wondering whether Hamilton will even earn all-AAC honors.

Candidates: Dedric Lawson, Memphis; Jahmal McMurray, USF; Shake Milton, SMU
Winner: Dedric Lawson, Memphis
Despite a pair of atrocious performances this season against UConn, Lawson -- a heralded McDonald's All-American coming in -- is the choice. He leads the AAC in rebounding at 9.5 per game (barely edging out Hamilton) while also scoring at a 15.6 ppg clip. McMurray leads the league in scoring, but he's too one-dimensional on a bad team. Jalen Adams was the preseason pick, but while he's really made strides in recent weeks, he's not going to win this one.

Candidates: Fran Dunphy, Temple; Kelvin Sampson, Houston; Larry Brown, SMU
Winner: Kelvin Sampson, Houston
This is a really tough one that could go to either Dunphy or Sampson. Temple was picked to finish sixth and is 12-4 with a chance to finish first. Houston was picked to finish seventh and is 10-6, fresh off a win at UConn. I was really impressed with the job Sampson did in Sunday's win in Storrs, and even more impressed with his postgame press conference. Dunphy won it last year, so maybe there's a tendency to go with someone new. Either that or Dunphy becomes the Mike Brey of the AAC: the de facto coach of the year.

Candidates: Tacko Fall, UCF; Gary Clark, Cincinnati; Shaq Goodwin, Memphis; Shaq Harrison, Tulsa; Amida Brimah, UConn
Winner: Gary Clark, Cincinnati
This usually goes to a shot-blocker, so that eliminates Harrison. Fall, a freshman, leads the league in blocks (2.1 per game). Brimah would be second at 2.0 per game, but he's only played in nine league contests and will end up only playing 11. He is the reigning league DPOY, but is 11 games enough to merit a repeat? I say it goes to Clark, the top shot-blocker (1.8) on the league's most consistently excellent defensive team.

Candidates: Markus Kennedy, SMU; Rodney Purvis, UConn; Rob Gray, Jr., Houston
Winner: Rodney Purvis, UConn
This is another real tough one. Kennedy won it last year, but he's been bothered by a knee injury for much of this season and is only averaging 9.7 points and 7.1 rebounds in league play. Not bad, but not what was expected from a preseason first team all-league pick. Gray leads the league in scoring in overall games (17.1 ppg) but doesn't rank in conference play because he's only played in 12 (starting seven of them) due to a balky ankle. He scored just two points Sunday against UConn. Is it fair to give the league's Sixth Man Award to a player who's only come off the bench in five league games?
Unless I'm missing someone else, Purvis seems to be the best fit. We all know his limitations, but he's come off the bench in 12 of 16 league games and averaged 10.9 points.

I'll go with Temple's Obi Enechionyia, unless anyone can come up with someone else.

UConn's Pat Lenehan won it last year, so could Nnamdi Amilo and his 4.0 GPA make it two Huskies in as many years? Doubtful, since Amilo is not a scholarship athlete this season.

This is not meant to be a sarcastic putdown of the players in the AAC, but I don't have a great guess who's deserving of the award. Sometimes it goes to a real good player who got edged out in another award, so maybe Quenton DeCosey or a James Woodard wins it. If we could give an award to the UConn player who's most amenable to the media (I know that doesn't exactly equate to sportsmanship) then Purvis would be a front-runner.

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UConn takes out interesting ad in Dallas Morning News

UConn wanted to make a statement in Big 12 country that it has national championship pedigree. So, university communications took out a full-sized ad in Monday's Dallas Morning News trumpeting the men's basketball team's success -- and, in the midst, taunting Thursday night's opponent, SMU.

It's funny and cute, but is it really necessary? UConn very much needs a win on Thursday night. SMU will already be brimming with emotion. It's Senior Night, and the seniors (particularly Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy) have been through a lot. They learned in September that they were barred from the postseason in their senior seasons, so it's already been an emotional year for them. Add on the fact that it's their final home game at Moody Coliseum, along with the fact that the Mustangs are still very much in the hunt for their only tangible goal -- an AAC regular-season title -- and, like we said, emotions will already be running high.

An ad like this (and again, it should be pointed out that it was university communications that took out the ad, not athletic communciations) could serve as bulletin-board fodder and only add to that emotion. Maybe I'm overthinking it, but knowing today's athlete, any extra motivation can likely only help SMU.

(Oh, and by the way, the game's on ESPN2, not ESPN).