Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Alumni Profile: Ray Allen

ESPN Power Rankings: 64

Position: Shooting Guard

Team: Boston Celtics

Overview: No UConn Alumni has had to change his game more then Ray Allen. From being the focal point of the offense, he had to transfer his mentality to being the third option. That’s not easy to do when your main weapon is the jump shot. He had to do more with less. When he played a whole season in Seattle, he shot 1,500 shots and last year he only took 986 shots. He never complained and never let his shooting slumps effect his game. He fought the slump through the first two rounds of the playoffs and came out on the other side of it with a record night in the finals and a shiny new trophy. Ray is a team player, underrated defensive player, and an role model off the court. He ranks 4th in free throw percentage and 5th in three pointers made during the regular season.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ray Allen for President

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Know Your Enemy: Gonzaga

UConn's first real test, Gonzaga, will be a revenge game. Lead by Pargo and Heytvelt, they are a complete team. Their style of play matches up well with UConn's tempo and game plan.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Alumni Profile: Rudy Gay

ESPN Power Ranking: 20th

Team: Memphis Grizzlies

Position: Small Forward

Overview: Rudy is a highflying and incredibly gifted athlete. He excels in the open court and can finish a play with the best in the NBA. He ranks 12th in field goals attempted, 15th in field goals made, 17th in steals, 22nd in three-pointers attempted, and 31st in three-pointers made. While he played on a horrible team last year, he proved that he belongs among the elite NBA players. He is a combination of a Stacey Augmon and a Kevin Durant. He needs to limit his turnovers (2.35), should be a better blocker (1 a game) and hit the boards more (6.2). He’s improved in shooting, rebounding, assists, and defense from his rookie year and looks primed to have a breakout year.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Coach Profile: Jim Calhoun

Calhoun, The Architect, was given a predicament four years ago with the exodus of his entire starting class and productive bench players. He was left with an unproven point guard, a young hardworking power forward, and a backup point guard. He had to stock up a roster in one draft class and gave scholarships to players that wouldn’t have normally been given. Coming under scrutiny for his catch and release policy of recruiting, he has built in just three years a team that is talent laden in the back and front court. This team, though hasn’t won a postseason game in some time, has a great chance to make it to the Final Four. Not many coaches can do that.

Calhoun’s style mirrors that of the NBA. The man to man defense and pick and roll get players better suited for the next level. Blue chip players look at the pictures on the walls of Ray Allen, Caron Butler, Emeka Okafor, Rip Hamilton, and Rudy Gay and see the level Calhoun has been able to raise them to. Calhoun knows its all about the talent and he’s been blessed with some of the best.

While he attracts some of the elite talent, he doesn’t coddle them. He’s been known to belittle players, get tossed from games, and be just about as nasty as a man can get. He’ll yank a whole team off the court, refuse to switch defenses, and call out his players as soft. The man hates losing.

But with the success there is also the other side. Calhoun has had to deal with laptop thefts, failed drug tests, horrible grades, underage drinking, and a myriad of other issues. UConn does have high class alumni; Ray Allen, Emeka Okafor, Charlie Villanueva, and Ben Gordon are active in their communities. The best example of both sides of the issue is Caron Butler. He was a kid coming into Storrs with some baggage and upon leaving, he is a role model anyone would look up to.

Be it his robust coaching style, his recruiting practices, or his temper, there is no denying his ability to find talent, make them better players, and be winners. He’s proven on or off the court that he refuses to lose and he’s a fighter. And 'The Architect' has built another team ready to produce a banner of their own.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Alumni Profile: Caron Butler

ESPN Power Ranking: 42

Team: Washington Wizards

Position: Power Forward

Overview: Caron Butler emerged as a top player, earning the nickname Tough Juice. He can play the post, spot up from three (.357), and can carry a team on his shoulder (20.3 points a game). At 6-7 and 228 pounds, he has the ability to take a man off the dribble and explode to the basket, while playing a post game. Caron ranks 4th in minutes per game, 4th in steals a game, 6th in free throw percentage, and 11th in triple-doubles. The knock against him is that he plays better when he is the focal point of the offense. Once Agent Zero came back from injury, Caron’s game wasn’t the same. He looks geared up and ready to improve on his stellar season last year.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Road Warriors

While there is an excitement over the upcoming UConn season, it must be met with trepidation. They’re not going to be handed The Big East, nor a trip to the Final Four. Teams like Louisville, Pittsburgh, Marquette, Notre Dame, Georgetown, and Villanova will be nipping at their heels. Not to mention the up and coming teams like Cincinnati, Syracuse, and Rutgers that might surprise some people. This league could possibly put nine teams into The Big Dance. So while on paper, UConn has a dominate team, they are far from being a lock.

The schedule doesn’t give UConn a break. They’ll have their usual 11 game preseason, where Calhoun will yank any player that makes a mistake. Then they’ll have their first road test at Gonzaga, which will be a true barometer on where this team is. Pargo is a player. UConn will dive right into league play against Georgetown, at West Virginia, at Cincinnati, and at St. John’s. And that’s the soft part of the schedule. They must be a team that can win on the road against teams they are superior against or it will be a disappointing year.

They’ll then make a home stand against Seton Hall and Villanova, before setting out again and playing an important and hyped Notre Dame game. UConn will try to get revenge against Providence at Gampel before heading back on the road to play another important road game against Louisville. If UConn can steal the Notre Dame and Louisville away games, they should put themselves in contention for the title.

But the schedule doesn’t lax. They must have a Gampel home stand against a hungry and talented Michigan team and a super athletic Syracuse team. UConn won’t be able to end the season playing poor ball, because they’ll play Pittsburgh and South Florida at home, head to Marquette, come to Gampel to play Notre Dame, and end the season at Pittsburgh.

They’ll have to be road warriors to be able to remain the last one standing in this slugfest of a league. And it will be an endurance test, and that was something the pups couldn’t maintain last season. So while UConn will have a solid squad of seniors and freshmen, a talented backcourt and frontcourt, and a hall of fame coach, nothing will be handed to them. They’ll have to pack their A-game in their Samsonite every game.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A look back at Emeka and Ben's UConn career

The music is horrible but its great to see that combo again.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Freshmen

Kemba Walker: He is as talented and accomplished a player to come to UConn. He looks and plays the part of a big time point guard. He’s excelled on every team he has played for in the past year. Coaches rave about his leadership skills, and he has the rare ability to be able to be a big time scorer while thinking pass first. There is huge hype and anticipation riding his freshman year, but he is entering a great situation. A.J. Price and Craig Austrie provide senior leadership in the back court and he won’t be expected to bare any of the scoring burden. He’ll be an integral part of the starting rotation by the end of league play.

Ater Majok: While he will miss the first half of the season, he will be asked to battle for the small forward position. It might be better if he red shirted the year. Its tough to miss that much of the season as a freshman and be able to learn on the fly. At that point of the season, Calhoun doesn’t allow costly mistakes on the court. He has all the tools to be the next Rudy Gay. He has tremendous athletic ability and body length to battle in the paint.

Nate Miles: He made it. Nate will be battling Scottie for the same role on the team. He’ll need to be a sharp shooter and be able to rebound. Nate looks to be a bit more athletic and quicker than Haralson, and brings a different game to that position.

Scottie Haralson: Scottie’s job is to hit the outside shot. If he can come in and hit jumpers, then he’ll find minutes. He has the upper body to play a post game and should be able to battle for rebounds, which UConn will need without Stanley Robinson. He has the body type of Denham and Rashad, and Calhoun hopes that he plays the same role.

Charles Okwandu: He’s a raw talent but a big and strong player. He has more girth than Thabeet or Mandeldove, but lacks the fundamentals at this point. There is a tremendous upside with him and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he is the next big man, after Thabeet, to leave Storrs with a high draft pick. While Mandeldove should have the edge with experience, once Okwandu gets his feet wet, he should secure that backup spot at center.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Player Profiles: The Role Players

Gavin Edwards: Gavin supplanted himself as the first big man off the bench. At 6-9 and 234 pounds, he has the size and ability to play power forward and center. He isn’t shy about rebounding, getting 1.6 every 8 minutes. He could use a bit more size to balance his lack of athleticism. It was his reliable play that propelled him beyond Kelly and Mandeldove up the depth chart. It looks like Calhoun will play him primarily in the power forward position with no competition behind him.

Looking ahead: Edwards needs to work on the offensive end. To be a power forward, he’ll need to post up and make a consistent shot. With more muscle he should have a productive season.

Jonathan Mandeldove: Mandeldove couldn’t find the minutes last year to make an impact. He is a legit 7-footer but he wasn’t aggressive. Without getting any flow of the game, he came in cold and primarily focused on staying in front of his man and blocking out. With Thabeet gobbling minutes and Okwandu behind him, it will be a battle again to find the court.

Looking ahead: He’s going to have to bulk up. Okwandu is raw and behind in fundamentals, but he is an inch taller and 15 pounds heavier. Mandeldove needs to be a blocking threat and an aggressive rebounder.

Donnell Beverly: Beverly did a great job coming in during Dyson and Wiggins vacation. He handled the rock, ran the offense, broke the press, and made some jumpers. He’s going to be a steady point guard. He’ll find his way into the rotation, especially with a three guard lineup.

Looking ahead: If he battles for weak side rebounding, he should find minutes. He’ll need to show some speed this year and be willing to take the ball to the basket.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A conversation with Kemba Walker

Kemba talks about why he picked UConn and that he has aspirations of staying all four years. That's a great sign.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Unanswered Questions

While the pups are starting up unsupervised practicing, there are a few lingering questions that need to be answered if they want to reach the goals and expectations of the upcoming season. The talent is sprinkled throughout this roster, from the towering centers, lightning fast guards, an All-American point guard, talented freshman, to a team with senior experience. This team will have to shoulder the burden of high expectations for the first time since the major exodus of talent in 2005.

The New Guys: Will they be able to gel with the rest of the team? At least they’ll have senior leadership to help them, unlike what Dyson, Wiggins, and Thabeet had. How will Miles handle Calhoun’s ire or Kemba handle not being the primary ball handler? Will Scottie Haralson and Okwandu make an impact?

The Small Forward Mystery: Will Calhoun ever figure out the small forward position? Robinson looked to be turning the corner on his game. He’s lost focus on the other end of the deal and now must battle back to hopefully make it during the next semester. That leaves Calhoun in a slight predicament. Scottie Haralson can play the position, but that is asking a lot from a freshman.

Mid-Season Acquisitions: Will Majok and Robinson enter the season at the halfway mark and find their respective roles. It will be easier with Robinson but how will he handle coming off the bench?

Price’s Health: It’s a legitimate question, but one only answered on the court. This team does have an insurance policy with the plethora of ball handlers on the team. But this team’s championship aspirations lay on Price’s health.

Calhoun’s Health: He looks to be ready to roll. It’s the half time upset stomach issues that have me worried. He is the program and this state needs him.

Straight and Narrow: Will this team have another setback. Be it laptops, smoking dope, underage drinking, not showing up to classes or poor grades, this team seems to find speed bumps. Will they get through a season without any issues?

End of the Season Collapse: They need to play their best ball at the end of the year and the last couple of years they haven’t. Will this be the year where they enter the Big East Tournament playing at their peak?

So while the pups are playing pickup games right now, there are some lingering questions that must be answered if they want to reach their's and everyone's expectations. Like the Dallas Cowboys, they have all the talent, but they need to win a playoff game first.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Meet Durand Scott

Durand Scott is an uncut diamond. He has all the abilities to be an elite swing man. Considered the glue on the Gauchos team that featured Kemba Walker, he has all the tools. He has great speed, an ability to glide his way to the basket, has a lethal floater, and plays hard on the defensive end. The only knock is his streaky outside shooting. Class of 2009, he will have his pick of the litter, and it looks like he is leaning Big East. Calhoun will have a battle on his hands, the likes of Georgetown, Memphis, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and Louisville are on his radar. Connecticut has some scholarships opening and the Kemba connection might lean him to coming here. Whoever he chooses, they’ll get a playmaker.