Tuesday, August 30, 2016

UConn offers '18 guard Eric Ayala

Eric Ayala, a Class of 2018 guard who plays at Putnam Science Academy, was recently offered by UConn.

Ayala didn't put up great numbers last season at PSA (10 points, five boards, four assists per game). Of course, he had far more heralded teammates like UConn commit Mamadou Diarra and coveted Husky target Hamidou Diallo.

Ayala really blew up this summer, however, earning offers from schools like Maryland and, now, UConn. The Huskies watched the Delaware native pour in 30 points to lead WE R1 to victory over Paul Scruggs' (and Kris Wilkes') team in the Under Armour Association championship and realized he's a talented scorer who will be one of the top prospects in the nation if he remains in the Class of 2018.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Some key upcoming dates for UConn as season approaches

It's that time of year again. Almost.

Students are back in classes at UConn, which means the men's basketball team is present and accounted for on campus. They had a team meeting Sunday night.

Before you know it, college hoops season will be upon us. Teams can start practices six weeks before their first regular-season game, which means UConn (and many other schools) can officially begin on Friday, Sept. 30.

That doesn't mean they will, of course. Teams get 30 practices in those 42 days before the first game, so they're usually spread out. Kevin Ollie didn't begin practice on the first possible day last year, but rather the next one.

The Husky Run will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 28. UConn's First Night festivities will be held on Friday, Oct. 14.

By that time, the Huskies may have a few Class of 2017 commits wrapped up. UConn seems to be in a good place with Makai Ashton-Langford, who has moved up his official visit a week to Sept. 2-4. Fellow point guard Paul Scruggs visited Storrs this past weekend, as did big man Josh Carlton.

UConn is looking to corral at least one of a trio of Ashton-Langford, Scruggs and New Haven's Tremont Waters. Of course, the Huskies would be happy with more than one of the three, but it would seem unlikely more than one would commit with Jalen Adams, Alterique Gilbert and Christian Vital most likely all back next season. The Huskies are stressing that Kevin Ollie's offense involves multiple ballhandlers, a "position-less" offense, if you will, so any incoming recruit could still see plenty of minutes playing alongside Adams or Gilbert or whoever.

As for Hartford's Pancake Thomas, who left the school last week and will be a grad transfer at whatever school he ends up at, UConn never really gauged the situation and it appears Thomas will land elsewhere.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Kevin Ollie's golf tourney has now raised more than $1 million for kids with disabilities

Kevin Ollie's golf tournament has now raised more than $1 million over the past 15 years to support people with disabilities in sports. Here's the press release:

Former UConn players (l. to r.) Donny Marshall, Kevin Ollie and Ray Allen.
The 2016 Kevin Ollie Charity Golf Classic presented by Walmart and PMR/Prime Materials Recovery, Inc. broke records and smiles on and off the course.

This is the 15th year of Kevin Ollie's involvement in the Tournament and with the $170,000 raised this year the Tournament has now donated more than $1 million to help support people with disabilities through sports.  For the first time, Foxwoods Resort Casino and Lake of Isles in North Stonington hosted the event.

"Our goal is help give every child a shot," Coach Ollie said.

But the event was not about playing golf—because every child deserves a shot.  For thirty years, Tournament proceeds have underwritten many programs and athletic events for athletes with disabilities on the world stage and weekend warriors, including Paralympic Gold Medalist Paul Nitz, Ivan Lendl’s Wheelchair Tennis Camp, Connecticut Sled Hockey, and The Miracle Field in West Hartford. Ollie is now building Kevin's Kourts, inclusive basketball courts throughout Connecticut.  Coach Ollie announced that he anticipates breaking ground this Fall in Waterbury on the second "Kevin's Kourt", with a previously announced grant from the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA).

Coach Ollie was joined by NBA star Ray Allen, Southern Connecticut State University Men's Basketball Head Basketball Coach Scott Burrell, TV Basketball Analyst Donny Marshall, NFL Legend Sterling Sharpe and UConn team mates and other former players.

Earlier in the weekend Coach Kevin Ollie and his UConn Coaching Staff hosted a clinic for 80 area Tribal youth at the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation Community Center.

“It’s an honor to partner with the Kevin Ollie Charity Classic.  I’ve witnessed firsthand how inspiring and influential Kevin’s organization is in working with disabled youth,” says Rodney Butler, Chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.  “These programs not only provide access to sports that help build confidence, but also helps kids establish valuable problem-solving and teamwork skills that they’ll use the rest of their lives.”

The Kevin Ollie Charity Classic also announced its annual 2016 Schamback Award Winner, Paige McCullouch-Casciano, a recreational therapist at Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Hospital who co-founded an adaptive rowing program in Hartford; and 2016 George McLaughlin Award Winner, 17 year old David Gelfand. Although born with Proximal Focal Femoral Defiency, missing the bones between his  hip and foot on his left side, David captains the Weston High School swim team.

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Who writes this stuff, anyway?

Here's the UConn season preview that I wrote for Lindy's.
The magazine should be on news stands in a few weeks. Incidentally, they've got UConn ranked No. 16 preseason, and Cincinnati right behind at No. 17. I agree the two are neck-and-neck. Really, flip a coin as to which team deserves to be preseason AAC champs.

There are no other AAC teams in the mag's Top 40. SMU was going to be, until Larry Brown retired in early July. I say that SMU, Memphis or Houston could be NCAA tourney teams this season.

And if you want a sleeper, go with UCF (Johnny Dawkins, Tacko Fall, B.J. Taylor, A.J. Davis.)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Makai Ashton-Langford will make official visit to UConn Sept. 8-10

Spoke with Makai Ashton-Langford before the Big Strick Classic on Saturday night. Here's what he had to say:

(how his summer's going)

“Obviously, it was a great time winning the championship, after coming up short last year. It was a very fun summer – especially playing with a group of talented guys, and against a bunch of talented guys.”

He added that the three things he needs to work on the most this season are: handle, jump shot and defensive footwork.

(on his recruiting)

“I haven’t cut the list yet, but the top three that have been recruiting me a lot were UConn, Providence and Louisville.”

“I’ve always loved UConn.”

(What he's loved about UConn)

“Just what they do to their point guards. They get them to the next level, they really develop their game. If they need help shooting, they’ll help them shoot. If they need help handling the ball, they’ll help them with that. I just really like what they do with their point guards.”

Ashton-Langford said he's visiting Louisville Sept. 1-3, then UConn Sept. 8-10.

(what's he looking for in his school?)

“I’m really good with all the coaches. I really want to have a good relationship with the coaches. All the little things – who they’ve been recruiting, stuff like that, who’s really thinking about going there. Point guard-wise, who they have coming in to help me for the coming years to try to win a national championship.”

(would he mind going to a program that already has an established point guard?)

“That wouldn’t matter to me.”

(would he like to play alongside Jalen Adams, perhaps?)

“That’s my boy. We played AAU together, played Rivals together. I know him pretty well ... That would be fun. That would be fun.”

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Friday, August 5, 2016

Maui Invitational ticket packages go on sale Monday

For those UConn fans thinking of heading to Maui to watch the Huskies play in the Maui Invitational in November, some info:

Ticket packages for the 2016 Maui Jim Maui Invitational Championship Round, which will be held Nov. 21-23 at the Lahaina Civic Center, will go on sale to the public on Monday, Aug. 8, at 3 p.m. ET (9 a.m. HT).

Tickets can be purchased at www.mauiinvitational.com/tickets or by phone at 1-800-325-SEAT.

Select school Booster ticket packages, which provide access to all three Tournament games for a particular school, will be available for purchase. All-Tournament reserved tickets, which grant access to all 12 games at the Lahaina Civic Center, will also be on sale.

This year’s field features Georgetown, North Carolina, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Tennessee, UConn, Wisconsin and host Chaminade. Since 1999, this year’s teams have combined for six national championships and 15 trips to the Final Four. In all, the field has combined to win 14 national titles, make 40 trips to the Final Four and earn 194 NCAA Tournament berths. The Tar Heels, Ducks and Badgers are projected as Top-10 teams once the 2016-17 season begins.

Select Travel Packages remain on sale and include game tickets, accommodations at an official host hotel, Maui Jim sunglasses and customized fittings, game day shuttle service and more. For more information, visit www.mauiinvitational.com/travel or call the Tournament’s official travel department at 800-856-0024.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Jim Calhoun, Kevin Ollie will tee off in Travelers pro-am on Wednesday

Kevin Ollie and Jim Calhoun will each play in the Travelers Championship celebrity pro-am on Wednesday.

Ollie will tee off the first tee at 12:20 p.m.,  in a group with UConn hockey coach Mike Cavanaugh, women's basketball assistant Chris Dailey and PGA Tour pro J.J. Henry.

Calhoun will tee off 20 minutes later, also off the first tee, in a group with Javier Colon, Ming Tsai and tour pro Freddie Jacboson.