Thursday, August 30, 2007

Emeka Okafor - Shot Blocking

Monday, August 27, 2007

Allen Chaney Books Ticket to Florida

Allen Chaney has chosen Florida and this could be a sign of change for Uconn. Letting superb talent such as Chaney leave your own backyard is not a good sign but there was little Calhoun could do. With no roster spots open, Uconn is window shopping talent and it could haunt them in a couple of years. Sophomores and Juniors dominate this roster and the only way to stop a rebuilding year every three years is to have some kids leave early and others stay the full four that way there isn’t three starters leaving every other year. It is possible that with a successful Uconn season that Thabeet or Dyson could leave and that would open up a couple of roster spots but if they have to watch from the sidelines for another recruiting season then Uconn has a big problem on their hands.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Festus Signs With Vandy

It didn't take long for Festus to make up his mind and choose Vanderbilt as his next stop, picking them over Florida, Ohio State and UCLA. It seems that even though he attended Calhoun's Elite Camp, he never had Uconn on the radar.

Uconn doesn't have much wiggle room for incoming prospects and has their hands tied to the players they already have. No blue chips want to fight for positions two or three deep. Its a shame that Uconn can only sit and watch as the talent gets scooped up around them.

With only one senior on the roster, Ben Spencer of hometown Storrs, the roster has little room to grow. Only two players are draftable at this point and the only way that they leave is with a solid run through the tournament, so Uconn must live or die with this cast.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Meet Festus Ezeli

Ifeanyichukwu Festus Ezeli Jr., or Festus Ezeli for short, is an impressive 6-foot-11, 240 pounds but his most prized asset is his work ethic. He graduated from high school at the age of 14 but when he moved to northern California with his 6-foot-6 brother Benin, he decided to go the to an American high school to ‘get the feel’ for the culture. During that time coaches weren’t interested that much in his game and some let slip that he wasn’t that good.

"That's pretty much what started me wanting to be better, and to play the game," Ezeli said. "That's what actually got me hooked."

From there Festus walked into the basketball office of Yuba College in December 2006 and begged for training. He worked hard and quickly developed into one of their highly touted recruits when he opened eyes in Vegas during the Reebok Summer Championships, drawing constant crowds.

His quick rise and soccer skills remind one of Thabeet and academic skills are reminisent of Emeka Okafor. The combination is scary and hopefully the Calhoun Elite Recruiting Camp has swayed him to come to Uconn.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Slam's Pre-Season Top 25

SLAM College Top 25

Rank Team Last Conf. Eliminated Why?

1 UNC 1 ACC by Georgetown 96-84, Elite 8 For a top-seed whose only contention last year was that they were too young to compete, it's surprising the buzz machine hasn't exploded by now. Terry and Wright were key pieces, but the Lawson-to-Hansbrough combo is suddenly both seasoned and horrifying.

2 UCLA 2 Pac-10 by Florida 76-66, Final Four Kevin Love is "the best outlet passer since Wes Unseld." Fantastic! So was Rafael Araujo. Whatever. Love is the real deal and he joins a loaded, NBA-ready starting five that only lost Afflalo.

3 Kansas 3 Big 12 by UCLA 68-55, Elite 8 Would've easily been #1 with a Julian Wright return, but now they're lucky to be in the top 3. But Self has a cast of unproven and underrated sophomores to win over again and turn the media into mush.

4 Memphis 4 Conf USA by Ohio St. 92-76, Elite 8 Derrick Rose! Chris Douglas-Roberts! John Calipari! Sunset! Riding off into it! If by "sunset" you mean "second-round knockout!"

5 Georgetown 5 Big East by Ohio St. 67-60, Final Four Roy Hibbert is the only dominant center left on an established program. Every game against a mid-major is going to be like the last level of Mike Tyson's Punchout: terribly unfair to the little white guys who were wondering when they signed up for this.

6 Tennessee 6 SEC by Ohio St. 85-84, Sweet 16 Chris Lofton and the Volunteers almost runned-and-gunned (ran and gan?) their way through the tournament, long before any pro team from the Bay Area stole their idea. If Chris Lofton can do that Hero thing all the way through the regular season, they're a one-seed.

7 USC 7 Pac 10 by UNC 74-64 , Sweet 16 Ow. Sorry, we can't put them any higher. Please stop hitting us. We tried, but we realized -- ow -- this would cause a stir. Quit it! And we don't want to do that. Not on the Internet. No no! Okay. That one hurt.

8 Louisville 8 Big East by Texas A&M 72-69, Round 2 So it turns out Derrick Caracter was hurt all last season and that's why he didn't tear up the Big East. Not sure I believe his bad knee is, as the French say, "la raison pour sucktitude," but they lose no one and Pitino loves him a good cast of seniors.

9 Arizona 9 Pac 10 by Purdue 72-69, Round 1 Could be #5. Could be #22. Depends on how much confidence you have in Chase Budinger and if you think Jerryd Bayless is next in the line of great Arizona point guards. And I have a lot of it.

10 Stanford 10 Pac 10 by Louisville 78-58, Round 1 The Pac 10 is thin up front and the Cardinal isn't. The legit 7' twins Brook and Robin Lopez could make the noise West Coast media is projecting (and then go straight to the WNBA!). Or they could crumble and still get a gift from the at-large Gods like last year. Either way.

11 Marquette 11 Big East by Michigan State 61-48, Round 1 Are they too high? Absolutely! But they return Dominic "Tim-Hardaway-before-the-bigotry" James, who hopefully won't shoot 20% for most of the season again. And we think he's, um, pretty good.

12 Washington St. 12 Pac 10 by Vandy 78-74, Round 2 Are they too low? Absolutely! But we just don't really buy the hype that least year's success is all that sustainable. They don't lose any major pieces, but, other than Derrick Low, can you actually name me a major piece off the top of your head? No peaking.

13 Indiana 13 Big 10 by UCLA 54-49, Round 2 This is the year that D.J. White and Kelvin Sampson are supposed to make Indiana the college hoops epicenter again. They may be a big man away from anything like that, but at least they're a bubble-contender again.

14 Kansas St. 14 Big 12 by Depaul 70-65, Round 2 (NIT!) We were going to say something about the top-15 showing not just being about
manchild du jour Michael Beasley; it's about depth and coaching and Bill Walker's potential. But we would lying to you.

15 Michigan St. 15 Big 10 by UNC 81-67, Round 2 Drew Neitzel is coming back to a Michigan State team that was starting to get its swagger back at the end of last year. Someone get that kid one of Mateen Cleaves' velour, forest green sweatsuits!

16 Gonzaga 16 WCC by Indiana 70-57, Round 1 I hate this. So much. They're going to hack their way through the WCC with Heytvelt and Pargo and we're going to believe that they're a contender again. Refer me to this post in late-February.

17 Alabama 17 SEC by UMass 79-71, NIT Round 1 Even with Jermareo Davidson off to some foreign land, Richard "I acknowledge that my name is extremely similar name to that of a Nascar driver and have come, begrudgingly, to accept that fact" Hendrix and Alonzo Gee can power an experienced and outright enormous Alabama team through the SEC.

18 Arkansas 18 SEC by USC 77-60, Round 1 This is the same exact team as last year but a year older. They made the tournament last year. Blah blah blah. As if Arkansas wasn't boring enough.

19 Butler 19 Horizon by Florida 65-57, Sweet 16 I know that you think that last year was an abberation and, yeah, it probably was. But this is the same exact team as last year and it's AJ Graves' senior season. So 19 might be low. Even for a novelty midmajor.

20 UConn 20 Big East DNP in Tourneys After the first Jim Calhoun rebuilding year since the Industrial Revolution, the Huskies could surprise in the Big East. We've heard Hasheem Thabeet is becoming polished and this thought scares us a little.

21 Clemson 21 ACC by West Virgina 78-73, NIT Final Hey, maybe this team will actually beat a ranked opponent after the first week of the season next year? Considering they only lost one rotation player and added two actual, breathing, top-100 recruits for the first time in forever (Demontez Stitt and Jerai Grant), they may not have a reason for the selection committee to snub them again.

22 NC State 22 ACC by West Virginia 71-66, NIT Quarters This team got Lebron-in-Game-6 hot in the ACC tournament last year because of some quirky coaching from Sidney Lowe and almost took one of the deepest conferences in the country after a .500 season. They only lose one rotation player. Yes, that is a bandwagon you hear. No, I don't know why they still make those.

23 Virginia 23 ACC by Tennessee 77-74, Round 2 I'm just going to write down Sean Singletary and 2008 ACC Player of the Year so we can move on.

24 Cal 24 Pac 10 DNP in Tourneys DeVon Hardin returns healthy and will fill out a Youtube video full of some healthy posterizations so that he will be a lottery pick. I have no idea where that leaves Cal as a team, but, 24 seems like a good number, I guess.

25 Texas 25 Big 12 by USC 87-68, Round 2 The Kevin Durant Hangover will be awful and there will not be enough black coffee in the world for them to take the Big 12 from either of the teams from the Sunflower State. But D.J. Augustin has to have a little valor left in him, right?

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Stars Return to Storrs

The top notch Uconn players are making their way back to Storrs to help Jim Calhoun run his first camp for varsity players. It will cost $100 dollars and will be held Friday and Saturday. Stars like Ray Allen, Kevin Ollie, Donny Marshall, Caron Butler, Rudy Gay and Marcus Williams will more than likely show.

This is a recruiting tactic in a camp drag. It is legal by NCAA rules only if it is open to anyone but having top talent alumni teach at your school attracts high talented players like Jordan Hamilton, Deshonte Riley, Festus Ezeli and John Riek.

Calhoun has a plethora of guards and is now focusing on low post players and shot blockers because this is most likely Thabeet’s last year. He’s looking hard at Festus, a coachable and intelligent player. This camp is just another tool to wow these kids and get a leg up on the other schools.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Player Spotlight: Jeff Adrien

Jeff Adrien was the heart and soul of the team last season and lead the team with pure hustle and determination. His drive and thirst for winning could be seen in Uconn’s only legitimate victory over Syracuse, where Adrien pumped his fist to the home crowd. Jeff was a tireless workhorse, logging over 33 minutes a game and never fouled out.

The Good: It starts with his hustle. Jeff gets many of his shots from battling on the boards and going back up with shots. He has a knack for the ball and gets great position, recording a Uconn best 9.7 rebounds a game and 117 out of his 301 boards were offensive.

His .497 average is stellar, though that is because most were easy dunks on put-backs and his 13.1 points a game put him second in scoring on the team. Adrien also added a elbow jumper to his arsenal, which he hit regularly, drawing defenders out of the box and helping soften the defense down low.

Adrien solidified the defense and chipped in with 44 blocks and 29 steals. His post defense isn’t quite Thabeet’s but his ability to play hard without fouling is the best on the team.

The Bad: Jeff doesn’t rely on his athletic prowess as much as Calhoun would like. He rarely jumps and plays with both feet firmly planted. This could be seen in his post moves. He would end up taking hook shots rather than squaring up and driving to the basket.

When he did get to the line he stunk, shooting just .586. He left 67 points on the court. If he wants to take the next step then he needs to be a leader and make those crucial shots down the stretch.

Another thing that plagued Adrien’s game was his turnovers, which totaled 76. He had a tough time passing out of double teams and got caught in precarious situations.

Overall: There is no question that Jeff is the leader and the team cues off of his game. He will get his numbers by pure determination and hard work off the glass but his game is two-dimensional at this point. Once he gets comfortable posting up and dishing out of double teams then this team will ride on his back as far as he wants to take them.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Gavin Out for Over a Month

Gavin Edwards is limping around with his foot in a protective boot. He suffered a stress fracture in his leg 11 days ago and is projected to have it removed in a little over a month. Calhoun remarked that it was most likely due to being overworked. Gavin has the frame and length to build into a Hilton Armstrong type player. His quiet demeanor on the court and his hard work off should provide a great coachable player. I expect him to stick around for four years and produce great numbers.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Calhoun: State of the Union

Calhoun made an appearance at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and here are a few of his quotes:

"We took a step back last year," Calhoun said. "There was something missing, toughness-wise, about us. ... We have to be a whole different kind of offensive basketball team. It still comes down to when we lost last March, what have we done to get better?….There's no question that it hurt us. I don't think there are any really good teams where the point guard doesn't have great confidence in what he's doing because he's getting yanked or something. If we can understand what truly our roles are, if we can be more concerned and worried about what we can do instead of what we can't do, we'll be fine."

"We have to be as good defensively and just a whole different kind of offensive basketball team. We just have to be so much better. We've got some ideas on ways we could do that."

"We hope that the veterans beat out (Beverly) because that will give us experience, but he's a point guard who makes other players better."

"We want to get a style of basketball that's more comfortable: run more, press more and play the best group of guys we can."

"If we haven't improved the way I think we have, it'll be an interesting year."

The taste of losing is still lingering on the coach's tongue and his drive should excel this team but to how far, we do not know yet. What we do know is that they will be bigger, stronger and more attuned to what Calhoun wants and with that they will be improved over last year.