Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Happy Ray Allen Day

Governor Rell has made it official and declared that today, July 31st is Ray Allen Day in Connecticut. Ray will more than likely be the first hall of fame player to come out of Uconn but it is what he has done off the court that makes this man special. His Ray of Hope Foundation and work with the NBA has made Allen a great spokesman for the school and for the state.

Kemba Walker is an emerging star

Kemba lead the Gauchos to a 17 game winning streak to finish out the summer season by knocking out Team Texas, 101-80. The Gauchos applied a four guard assault with Kemba contributing 19 points. The greatest thing to take away from this Main Event in Las Vegas is the unselfish play of Kemba, whom played within the game and let the offense flow through him.

Taliek doing what he can for Beverly

Taking a break from overseas basketball, Taliek Brown is calling Connecticut his home while he practices at Gampel. It was there where he met Donnell Beverly, Uconn’s only freshman. Taliek has taken him under his wing, showing him the ropes and what to expect from Calhoun. Brown was impressed by his toughness and work ethic.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Player Spotlight: Marcus Johnson

Marcus Johnson is another piece of the puzzle that has Calhoun scratching his head in consternation. Here is a player, highly touted, with obvious gifts but hasn’t seemed to put everything together. He is entering his junior year and he hasn’t emerged yet. Time is running out and he needs to find his role on the team.

The Good: Marcus feels most comfortable on the fast break and has become a leaping highlight reel. His average is distorted by the fact that most of his shots were dunks, leading to his .479 overall field goal percentage. If a point guard emerged that ran the break then Johnson would have been a consistent double digit scorer.

Marcus demonstrated quick hands and created 31 steals in his limited role. He plays aggressive on defense which Calhoun loves and isn’t a selfish player almost to a fault and plays an overall team game. Having a great above the rim game, Johnson likes to use backdoor cuts and score on easy baskets.

The Bad: Marcus never felt comfortable in the offense, rarely taking a jumper and only attempted 15 threes all year, making only 4. His free throw percentage is atrocious at .500 and his rebounding is only at 3 a game. He needs to work on his jumper, get comfortable playing the small forward position and take shots coming off pick and rolls and corner threes.

He also needs to work down low and scrap for those easy buckets. But more important than anything else is that free throw percentage. If Johnson has any aspirations for getting to the next level then it starts there. The pros know how to get to the line when their shot isn’t there. If you don’t have confidence in your shot then it infects every other part of your game. Marcus needs to start the season shooting well and get the confidence of being a 20 point scorer like in high school.

Overall: This is a make it or break it year for Johnson. Highly talented small forwards like Nate Miles, are going to be nipping at his playing time. He has the skills but lacks the confidence in his shot and when its not there, he disappears from the offense. He must find out what his role is going to be and assert himself more into the offense and start taking more shots. If Calhoun doesn’t figure out the enigma that is the small forward position then don’t expect a catapult up the Big East standings this season.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Nate Miles Away From Perfect

Nate Miles is the prototypical new athlete. To outsiders it looks self-serving and at times lazy but that is the state of the game. New revelations show that there is a problem with Nate’s academic responsibilities. He was turned away by Sean Patterson of Libbey because of his liability in academics. He bounced from academy to academy and is now rehabbing in Massachusetts.

There is no question that Nate possesses fantastic court skills and he would shine on the college courts but his lack of effort in the academic part shows his work effort. Its not like Uconn wouldn’t open the doors for Miles. They have done so with Marcus Williams, who was suspended for poor grades.

To athletes sports is second nature. They were born with an ability and they know what they want to do with their life but academics takes effort, forcing them unwillingly to do what they don’t want to do. Its not fun to read and retain useless information which you know you will never need.

We must realize that these are kids often with whispering from outside sources that are not necessarily there for their benefit. They need the guidance that shows them that athletic ability can only carry you so far and it’s the work ethic like that of Emeka Okafor that will carry you to the next level.

Nate Miles is still a young kid with his future still ahead of himself but he needs to learn from the current sports scene and look at the people that surrounds him. He has the skills but lacks the commitment to become great, but that’s not going to stop the college sports machine from bringing him into the fold.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Player Spotlight: Stanley Robinson

Stanley Robinson has the build, hops, shooting ability and raw athletic ability to be a star but his game at times looked as jerky as a teenager learning to drive a standard. He would shoot lights out from downtown one game and clank every shot the next, pull down double digit boards and then come up empty on the glass. It is a wonder that a player with his skills could only average 5 points a game but he did.

The Good: Stanley showed he has range shooting .381 from three point range and .374 from the inside. He contributed with 4.4 boards a game and used his hops to sky for some easy put backs, recording 45 offensive boards. He has the best jumping ability on the team and is great in the open court.

His defense wasn’t spectacular but he played solid using his quick jumping ability to record 17 blocks and his speed to snatch 11 steals. He also played defense without fouling, having one of the better minutes per fouls on the team.

The Bad: It starts with his inconsistency. If the small forwards averaged double digits in points, Uconn would have made the NCAA tournament last year. With the position having no clear cut starter, Stanley had to split time with Marcus Johnson, it showed in his confidence.

Robinson needs to improve his free throw shooting which is a paltry .661. His shooting percentage is fine but his shot selection was questionable. He tended to get three happy and forget to mix it up. When he clanked a few from downtown he shied away from the offense and passed up shots. He never truly got into any offensive sets and was relegated to being a three point outlet in the closing seconds of the shot clock or picking up loose balls and going up strong.

Overall: I expect a much more mature, stronger and confident player next year and Robinson has all the tools to elevate his game to whatever level he sets for himself. Once he finds that meanness to his game this kid will be a menace.

His frame could add another ten pounds of muscle without losing his hops and when he finds a consistent shot, expect Stanley to supplant himself into the starting roll as the next big time small forward. I expect him to be the most improved player next year.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Allan Chaney Sky Rocketing

Allan Chaney is souring up the prospected power forward rankings faster then any other player out there. Playing in Connecticut in relative obscurity for the past three years as a forward, he averaged 24 points and 12 boards, but it wasn’t until his performance at the Reebok All-American Camp that he started getting noticed and it might be to late for UConn.

The moon-walking Billy Donovan, who danced his way back to his old job, took a private jet to see this outstanding talent in action and it impressed Chaney. “I just looked, stood there for a moment and saw that Gator on his shirt.”

It would be ominous if UConn started losing talent from their own backyard. Even though Florida is the hottest ticket in town, they are due a tailspin. Calhoun needs to push hard to get Allen, not only for his great ability but for the reputation of the school.

Chaney is a gifted offensive talent, who can flip a switch and get into attack mode. He also has a mid-range game that players three years ahead are developing. The knock on him is his post play and defense, which is a Calhoun trademark.

Donovan might have the spotlight now but Calhoun has the longevity that has earned him hall of fame status, taking two separate teams to the pinnacle of college basketball something Donovan has yet to prove. Not to mention having more NBA players than any other school, which to a talent of Chaney means all the world.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Player Spotlight: Craig Austrie

Craig Austrie split time with Doug Wiggins as the second option at the point position, averaging 19 minutes a game. His athletic ability doesn’t stand out but he gets more out of his talent than any other teammate. He does not have blinding speed, incredible hops or the sharpest court sense but he wrings out every ounce of talent and leaves it on the court.

The Good: It starts on his shooting ability. Craig was the most consistent shooter on the team beyond the arc, averaging .341 and holds the title of best free throw shooter at .756 which shows the glaring weakness of the team last year. Austrie has the right combination of shooting and passing skills needed to keep opposing defenses from doubling the big men and collapsing their zones.

Craig had a calming effect over the team when he ran the point and started 6 games while A.J. tried to find his game. He averaged 2.4 assists per turnover which was best on the team. Price only averaged 1.8 assists per turnover. His combination of playing within himself and running the show helped stabilize the backup point guard position.

The Bad: The knock on Austrie is his athletic ability. He will not blow by defenders and doesn’t have the skills yet to slice into lanes and dish out. His lack of speed is also evident on the defensive side of the ball, where defenders tend to screen him out of plays and enter the lane. He plays off his man and lets them shoot over him.

Craig also needs to work on getting weak side rebounds averaging only 1.7 a game. He needs to find his way inside and help in that department.

Overall: Craig must work harder and longer than his other teammates to take his game up another notch. His speed will not get him to the next level, so he’ll have to work on strength. If he keeps up with his shooting and assists to turnovers, both Uconn bests, then look for Craig to increase playing time and solidifying the back up point guard position.

If he mirrors his game after a Chauncey Billups with a combination of court sense, strength and shooting skills, Austrie could slip into the starting role one day at Uconn and possibly into the NBA.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Uconn will take on Gonzaga

Uconn will be playing Gonzaga in the second annual Basketball Hall of Fame Challenge on December 1st. It will be held in Boston and will be part of a double header including a Providence and B.C. match up. Uconn last met the Zags in the Maui Invitational, which they won on a last second Brown lay up.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Player Spotlight: Doug Wiggins

Doug Wiggins had a rough transition from high school ball to the college ranks. The speed of the game and the physicality had him baffled at times. There is no denying his ability and gifts but at times he couldn’t find his game.

The Good: Doug shot it well, considering he was a third or fourth option, tallying a .388 shooting percentage and did well from the arc, hitting .329 from outside. He wasn’t three crazy only attempting 85 and draining 25. He also tried his hand at the point and dished out 50 assists. He never looked comfortable at that position though and had his best performances when getting the ball passed his way.

He has plenty of speed and showed it in transition. He used his speed to get into lanes and break down defenses. He isn’t the most talented of the guards on the team but did the most in the minutes handed him. He averaged 18 minutes a game and managed 7 points and 2 boards a game. He was one of the more consistent free throw shooters on the team at .737 a game.

Wiggins defense was stout, contributing with steals and closed well in help defense but his small frame made him susceptible to bigger guards.

The Bad: Wiggins stock rose at the tail end of his high school career and Calhoun snatched him up at the last second but his talent barely shined last season. At times Wiggins played out of control, leaving the air with no options and dribbling the ball to far ahead of himself. His floor general skills were lacking and helped cause the prolonged droughts.

Wiggins assists to turnovers are abysmal at 1 to 1.11 and his personal fouls had him on the bench without getting into the flow of the game. Most of the turnovers were unforced and had fans banging their heads against the television.

Overall: Wiggins is a great sixth option but to replace Dyson at shooting guard, not Price. Unless he gets comfortable and brings his assists to turnovers to a more point guard level then he should rely on his shooting ability which is stellar. He needs to bulk up without losing his speed and find shots while driving to the lane.

If he progresses then see his scoring numbers increase by four points and become a consistent 10 point scorer off the bench.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Player Spotlight: A.J. Price

The great mystery that is A.J. Price. He is a talented player but to everyone’s standards he had a bad season. Its tough to fill Marcus Williams shoes and twice as hard when you haven’t played competitive basketball for a year. It showed early but toward the end of the season, he started flashing that talent Calhoun had been talking about.

The Good: He lead the team in assists with 113 assists, Dyson and Austrie came in second with 65. He has the court vision and sees the open teammate and the sky is the limit to his potential. He played solid minutes averaging fourth best on the team at 24 minutes a game, which shows his ability to be a starter.

His defense improved as the season progressed and was rarely in foul trouble, never fouling out. His quickness is not as evident as Dyson’s but he keeps his defender in front of him.

The Bad: Its not fair to nit-pick A.J.’s game with a fine tooth comb because of his two year hiatus but he had some glaring weaknesses that need to addressed over the off season. First is the shooting, his .387 field goal percent is not horrible but his .273 three point percentage is unacceptable. 30 percent of his shots were threes and he clanked more than swished. And his free throw percentage of .690 is just ugly for a point guard. Uconn has put up with point guards like Taliek Brown that have shot horribly from the stripe but if A.J. has aspirations for the NBA, he has to improve that line.

Price’s defense wasn’t his crutch but he had a hard time in rotation and transition defense, letting defenders slip behind him. He needs to play closer to his man and not let players shoot over him.

Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. Most of Uconn’s droughts were based on that one stat and Price had a hand in bad decisions. His 63 turnovers is not the worst on the team but he is the quarterback of the squad and that number is to high. He needs to play the game within himself and not force the action.

Overall: The talent is there but with two years already wasted, time is running out. This coming season is make or break for A.J. There are younger talented kids nipping on his heals and he needs to find his range, his game and his confidence, but if he gets all three on track he will be NBA bound.