Sunday, September 30, 2012

Giving Back: Rudy Gay and Hoops for St. Jude

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ray Allen at NBA Media Day

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ranking the UConn Alumni in the NBA

1. Rudy Gay. 19 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.3 apg. Rudy is in the prime of his career and had a superb season. There is not a better offensive UConn alumni playing now. He can hit the three, is devastating in the open court, has a post game, and has developed the mid-ranged shot. The knock against him has always been his defensive ability but he has worked harder on that aspect of his game and has become a solid but not elite defender.

2. Ray Allen. 14.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.4 apg. There should be a statue of Ray Allen built right next to Jim Calhoun’s in Storrs. He is everything you want out of a player. He has an incredible work ethic, is humble, gives back to the community, and gives it his all out on the court, but he has slipped to number two on the list because of his age. He battled with bone spurs at the tail end of the season which hurt his numbers.  He then  switched teams to the Celtics rival, Miami Heat.

3. Caron Butler. 12 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.2 apg. With a change of scenery, Butler joined the new look Clippers. His size and athleticism creates mismatches and he has become a legitimate 20 point scorer. He has had the unfortunate injury bug plague him again this past season and had derailed what was looking to be a bounce back season from his knee injury.  But he showed tremendous toughness and played with a broken hand through the playoffs.  Now that's "Tough Juice".

4. Ben Gordon. 12.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.4 apg. The Detroit experiment didn’t work and Gordon struggled to find his role on a team that was poorly put together. Consistency was hard to come by for Ben and his scoring numbers were all over the place. He was dealt to the Bobcats in the off season where he looks to be used more readily.  He has all the tools to be a super star but just hasn't put it all together in one whole season.

5. Kemba Walker. 12.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.4 apg. The strike shortened season didn’t help Walker and he struggled out of the gate to get minutes behind Augustine, but once he was asserted into the starting lineup, he flourished. He is one of the best UConn Alumni to play the pick and roll and should have a great sophomore campaign on a yet again struggling franchise.

6. Emeka Okafor. 9.9 ppg, 7.9 rpg, .9 apg. Okafor is the most consistent UConn Alumni on the list. Teammates know what they are going to get from him each and every game. He is a double-double machine and is the best UConn Alumni on defense and rebounding.  He was shipped over to the Wizards were he should stabilize a what was the laughing stock of the NBA last year.

7. Rip Hamilton. 11.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 3 apg. It was supposed to Hamilton’s bounce back year from the mess he left in Detroit, but his body didn’t go along with the plan. He struggled to get on the floor and when he finally did Derek Rose got injured. Rip did produce when he was out there but it was to little and way to late and the NBA's top seed lost in the first round of the Playoffs.

8. Charlie Villanueva. 7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, .5 apg. Villanueva has all the talent in the world but has yet to put it all together into a single season. He can score in a multitude of ways but doesn’t play defense and gets himself mired on the bench.  He's slowly being regulated to a bench player that gets starter minutes only if there is an injury.

9. A.J. Price. 3.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 2 apg. Price did a good job as back up point guard in Indiana, but wasn’t trusted enough to warrant big minutes. He is a smart player and can knock down the outside shot, but he isn’t fast enough or strong enough to beat out others on the depth chart. He signed with the Wizards which will give him the minutes he needs to prove himself.

10. Andre Drummond. While his UConn career was short lived, Drummond has a tremendous upside. He’ll come in and be that Ben Wallace type of shot blocker and rebounder right away and anything he gives Detroit offensively will be icing. He’ll get the minutes he needs to succeed, but the Pistons are in rebuilding mode.

11. Jeremy Lamb. He is more of an offensive threat than Drummond, but he’s on a Rockets team that won’t give him the minutes that Drummond will assuredly get. Houston put all their marbles into getting Dwight Howard and now that they lost out, they have a mix of talented and young players that they might look to bundle for a potential star.

12. Jerome Dyson. 7.4 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 2 apg. Dyson is a great story. He persevered through the D-League and found a home in New Orleans with the Hornets. It didn’t last long and was traded to the Suns where he hopes to catch on as a point guard.

13. Hasheem Thabeet. 1.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg. Thabeet is still looking for the consistency to his offensive game to warrant playing time. His size doesn’t give him the advantage he had in college and he never developed a post game which is necessity for a big man. He’s on his third team and needs to produce or this could be his last shot.

Honorable Mentions: 

Jeff Adrien: He is currently playing in Russia after having a good year with Houston. He plays for the BC Khimki squad but is looking for a home again in the NBA, but will always be that undersized player looking over his shoulder for a replacement.

Hilton Armstrong: Armstrong left a job with Atlanta to play overseas due to the lockout and is looking for a way back in to the NBA. He played in the NBA summer camps.

Marcus Williams. Since leaving the Grizzlies in 2012, Marcus has been on his third European team. His prospects of getting back into the NBA are slim.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Coaching Profile: Kevin Ollie

The choice of Kevin Ollie as head coach was of no surprise to anyone.  He came over to UConn from the Oklahoma City Thunder where he was a mentor to a young but upcoming team.  Once at Storrs, Kevin had instant credibility with the players, because they had the embodiment of what success through hard work could get you standing directly in front of them.  He could also strap on the sneakers and coach by showing, which is an asset that sets Ollie apart from other coaching prospects.  There are so many people that have been around Kevin Ollie that attest to the strong moral character that he possesses and he will carry on the legacy of giving back to the community that Jim Calhoun was known for.

With that all being said, there are still some major question marks leading into Kevin Ollie’s first year of coaching.  Mainly will his coaching in practice translate to the play onto the court.  Especially in this trying season where UConn is missing scholarships and the opportunity to play in the NCAA and Big East tournaments. The X’s & O’s will remain the same.  UConn won’t switch to a zone oriented defense and don’t expect the Princeton offense to take over the pick & roll  or high-low scheme that UConn is used to seeing.  The major differences will be the in-game decisions like pulling a key starter with two fouls in a tight ballgame and keep him there until the second half, or calling a timeout 5-seconds into the second half because someone misses an assignment.  Other differences will be with the dealings with the players and referees in game. Ollie doesn’t have the same personality as Calhoun and that onerous stare that Calhoun used as a weapon towards referees and players isn’t in Ollie’s arsenal.  It will take Kevin some time to get used to the intricacies of the sideline and that 7 month contract is looming over him.

Another question mark is that towards the end of last season there were rumors swirling that Ollie was more interested at coaching in the NBA than taking the UConn coaching job.  While his passionate and heartfelt speech during Jim Calhoun’s retirement press conference, where he stated that this is was his dream job and that he wants to remain at maybe not until his seventies but for a long while, did quell those feelings a bit, but there is still an inkling that this could be a stepping stone to a NBA job.  Maybe UConn fans are a bit spoiled with the longevity of Calhoun’s tenure, but this program needs stability, especially at this fragile stage .

Ollie won’t be judged strictly on wins and losses this season.  That is too difficult of a task to set upon a rookie head coach that is heading into a turbulent season like this one.  He will be judged on the toughness of his team, the fight and effort they put forth each and every game, and his competency on handling in-game situations. If he can show all of these qualities then he should have a three year contract with the possibility of an extension after that.  And for Ollie’s sake, he wouldn’t want it any other way.  He has his foot in the door and that’s all he really wanted.  Look at far that has gotten him.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Meet Leon Tolksdorf

Leon Tolksdorf is a 6-8 and 220 pound, forward, from Berlin, Germany. He’s a hybrid player that has the ability to slide into three positions. He is a fundamentally sound player that has the ability to knock down the outside shot. If he can find a way to stretch the floor at the wing position then he’ll have a good opportunity to get on the court. He’s not athletic though, needs to bulk up, and prove that he can rebound, because that will be UConn’s greatest concern heading into the season. He’s a strong student and should have the stability of Wolf and Giffey on the team to show him the ropes of what it takes to make it in the Big East and adjust to life in the United States. UConn has placed their flag in Germany with the signings of Wolf, Giffey, and Tolksdorf and hopefully this will become a great conduit for some top European talent.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Jim Calhoun to Retire

With the rumors that Jim Calhoun will announce his retirement today, UConn Nation is coming to grips with what they knew was going to eventually happen.  Their coach, the one they had seen their entire life, is moving on.  It leaves fans with a swirl of different emotions from total admiration and appreciation, to a deep sense of unknown, to a feeling of abandonment.

Jim Calhoun is the face of UConn basketball. He built UConn’s fledging program into the powerhouse that it is today and no APR sanctions will tarnish that. The most impressive thing was in the way that he built it.  He found under the radar players and molded them into super stars.  His eye for talent is unlike any of his peers.  He never landed the five star, top ten recruits, until Andre Drummond.  He found a Rip Hamilton, Khalid El-Amin, Emeka Okafor, and Kemba Walker and made them into Champions.  His style of coaching often rubbed players, media, and fans the wrong way, but his Northeastern, straight forward, refusal to lose attitude rubbed off on his players and his teams thrived in the underdog role, creating an almost working class type of team that was easy to root for.

While Calhoun’s statue isn’t built yet, it already casts a large shadow and whoever fills that role, which is more than likely Kevin Ollie, will need to sustain a program that is in a downswing.  UConn fans haven’t been in this situation before, besides the departure of Randy Edsall.  That security blanket of “Trust In Calhoun” is now gone.  Kevin Ollie has all the attributes that would make a great coach, from the admiration of recruits, knowledge of the game, to a great role model off the court, but he has never coached at this level before.  This is all new territory for this program and the program could go the way of so many storied teams that never could regain that luster after their legend of a coach leaves.

This announcement was inevitable but it is the timing of it that leaves one with a sour taste.  This program which Calhoun had built up from nothing is facing its toughest test.  They have scholarship restrictions, they are banned from both the Big East and the NCAA tournaments, and they had a major exodus of players from their roster.  And it is in these dark days that Calhoun is going to announce his retirement?  It is un-Calhoun like.  He is a fighter, one that refuses to lose, and a person who relishes the underdog role and here he is, when his team needs that stability the most, that he announces that he doesn’t want to coach anymore.

While he doesn’t owe anyone anything.  He deserves to go out on his term, but it feels like he is ending his story too early or maybe he should have retired after his latest championship, but there are no fairy tale endings in life. He still loves the game and most assuredly will have his hand on this program in one way or another.  With that all being said, we all must stand up and give this man a giant round of applause for what he was able to accomplish, the joy he gave this community, and the lives he has changed on and off the court, because these transcendent men only come across once in several lifetimes and to have witnessed it is something we will all treasure.  Thank you.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Meet Omar Calhoun

Omar Calhoun is UConn’s top prospect heading into the 2012-2013 season.  He’s a pure scorer from Brooklyn, New York.  Being 6-6 and 185 pounds, Calhoun has a fluidity to his game and has a multitude of ways of scoring but it all stems from his jumper.  He has great basketball instincts, leaking out on the fast break, cutting hard on screens, or finding ways for second chance opportunities.  His best attribute though is his work ethic.  Kevin Ollie has called Omar a “workaholic” and coming from Ollie that is high praise.  He still needs to work on his ball handling, sometimes leaving it exposed for steals and he isn’t explosive or attacks the rim hard.  It might take him a few games to get used to the speed of the game, but with his assets, he might not be starting games, but he will be getting starter minutes, especially late in ballgames.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Meet Phillip Nolan

Phillip Nolan is a 6-10 and 205 pounds from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  He is left handed and is a versatile player, able to slide into both small and power forward positions and even hold his own at the center.  He already possesses a mid-ranged game which could put pressure on Tyler Olander for playing time.  With UConn’s depleted front court, Nolan should have no problem getting an opportunity to showcase his skills since he can fill three positions.  He provides some much needed depth to a position that is the biggest question mark coming into the season.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Meet R.J. Evans

R.J. Evans is a 6-3 and 210 pound guard.  He played three years for Holy Cross and averaged 11.5 points, 4.8 boards, and 2.8 assists a game.  He missed 21 games last season because he sprained his MCL in a pick up basketball game.  While visiting his sister, Kastine, who plays for Kentucky, he decided to forgo his last year at Holy Cross.  He felt that he missed out on playing on such a big stage like he sister was playing at.  So when UConn expressed interest in him transferring, he leapt at the chance.  He’s worked out at camps with Kemba Walker and played with Tyler Olander in the Greater Hartford Pro-Am.  Not only is he a good basketball player, but he’s also a good role model and is looking to get a Master’s degree in economics.  He’ll have plenty of opportunity to get minutes and be that role player off the bench like Donnell Beverly and Craig Austrie were.

Saturday, September 1, 2012