Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Kevin Ollie's Speech at Center Court

Monday, April 29, 2013

Remember the Name: Paschal Chukwu

The one word to describe Paschal Chukwu is raw.  He’s a 7’2” and 220 pound center from Nigeria.  As of right now he is primarily a shot blocker and rebounded that has used his length and athletic gifts to score around the basket.  He’s in the 2014 class and plays for Fairfield Prep School.  He’s garnered some major attention since his play in Orlando on his Connecticut Basketball Club. He averaged 12.8 points, 12 boards, and 7 blocks per game in the S.C.C. tournament, Class LL State Finals.  He’s got great wingspan, foot speed, and is a hustles, often times being the first person to dive on the floor for loose balls.  He’s emerged as the best prospect in Connecticut in his class because of his tremendous upside.  With offers from Maryland, B.C., UConn, George Mason, N.C. State, Notre Dame, Providence, Purdue, St. John’s, and Xavier, Chukwu has plenty of options to pick a school that can utilize his talents the most.  He has a good head on his shoulders and hasn’t let the hype that is building around him cloud his judgments, focusing solely on school and his game.  Whoever has the privilege to land this prospect is going to get not only a great basketball player but a fine young man.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Final Grades

Kevin Ollie: A.  Coach Ollie had a terrific season considering what he had to deal with.  He traversed a very turbulent season with the collapse of the Big East, retirement of the legendary coach Jim Calhoun, Enosch Wolf’s police problems, injuries, a team that had no post season, and a depleted roster.  Not only did he have a winning record during this season, but also has landed some solid recruits.

Shabazz Napier: B+.  Napier’s leadership was called into question last year but he silenced all his detractors with clutch play late in ballgames.  The only thing keeping his grade down was slow starts, turnovers, and some poor shot selections.

DeAndre Daniels: B.  Daniels came on late in the season and demonstrated a versatile game.  He led the team in rebounding, blocked shots, and was the only legitimate threat in the paint.  To get an A, he needs to be a bit more consistent with his jumper.

Ryan Boatright: C+. Boatright had a rough stretch at the tail end of the season.  His lack of confidence in his jumper had him dribbling the air out of the basketball with no concise decision where to go.  His turnovers were a major issue and he had problems leading his team when Napier was injured.  He had a good season but still has work to do.

Niels Giffey: C+.  With a depleted bench, UConn was relying heavily on Giffey to produce and he did.  His numbers wouldn’t wow anyone, but he was a pivotal piece off the bench.  Even though he showed a better prowess with the basketball in his hand, his grade is a C+ because of his inability to rebound the basketball.

Phil Nolan: C.  With Wolf’s suspension and Olander’s struggles, Ollie had to lean on Nolan a bit earlier in his development then he probably wanted, but the he played surprisingly well.  He didn’t shy away from fighting for boards and late in the season, he showed ways to score the basketball.

R.J. Evans: C.  Evans had a great start to the season, providing another scoring option for the Huskies, but he couldn’t sustain it throughout the season.  He found it harder and harder to get lay-ups.  His free throws and jumpers were a big obstacle for him.

Leon Tolksdorf: D.  He had a flash or two of that big man who can hit the outside shot, but his inability to rebound or play around the paint had him mired on the bench.

Tyler Olander: D.  It boils down to the inability to rebound the basketball that ultimately hurt Olander’s grade.  He is really a power forward asked to play the center position.  The most disappointing aspect of Olander’s season was that Nolan and Wolf, both inexperienced players, out played him.

Enosch Wolf: D.  Wolf showed promise but he let down his team with poor off the court decisions.  His grade is hovering between a C and a F until his court case is finished with.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

UConn Alumni in the NBA Playoffs

Ray Allen:  He is on the best team with the best record, so it is no surprise that he has the best chance of any other UConn alumni to win it all this year.  He’s blended well with the Heat’s talented core and is still playing at a high level.  The Heat will still need him to knock down shots and be effective because they have a plethora of perimeter shooters to throw out on the court.

Hasheem Thabeet:  He has resurrected his career with solid play off the bench.  He’s found a nice niche on the young but extremely talented Thunder squad that has a chip on their shoulders.  With Perkin’s style of play, Thabeet might find himself in meaningful minutes with chances of making a pivotal impact in the playoffs.  He’ll need to focus on rebounding and clogging up the lane.  Any points from him will be a bonus for the Thunder.

Caron Butler: The Clippers are a hard team to read.  They have the core talent to match-up with anyone in the playoffs but to do that they will need
Butler to step up and contribute more than he has in his previous playoffs.  His last couple of playoff runs have been sub-par for him and he’ll want to make amends for that.

Rip Hamilton: The Bulls are reeling into the playoffs with a team lacking that superstar to carry them.  They’ll need Hamilton to step up and be a 15 to 20 point scorer for them to make some noise in the playoffs.  This might be it for Hamilton and he’ll want to leave it all on the court.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sixth Man of the Year Award: Niels Giffey

Heading into the season, the bench was a major concern for UConn.  They were going to have to lean on some players that barely had playing time, transferred, or had underperformed so far in their short careers.  Neils Giffey was the only player on the bench that Coach Ollie could rely on game in and game out.  Neils isn’t the most athletic or physical player on the bench, but what he brings to the team is a versatility that is hard to find.  He can slide into three different positions and has the tools to play them all effectively.  His numbers won’t wow you, just 5 points and 4 rebounds per game, but it is the hustle plays, defensive intensity, and other intangibles that he also brings to the court that earned him the Sixth Man of the Year Award.

His minutes doubled this year from around 11 last season to 21 minutes per game this year and for the most part his numbers doubled as well.  The only stat that dipped was his 3-point percentage, which took a big hit down from 43 percent to 30 percent.  Judging from the eye test though, Giffey has a nice stroke but just gets streaky at times.  The good thing is that he has done a much better job of mixing up his game and not relying on his outside jumper for a majority of his offense.  He’s shown a better understanding of the dribble drive and angles and avoided those pesky offensive fouls while driving that plagued his previous two seasons.

The biggest contribution that Giffey provided this team was on the defensive end.  He has surprisingly quick lateral movement and uses his length to bother jump shots.  He is good at funneling his opponent where the help is and he isn’t overwhelmed physically against bigger players.  His rebounding has also improved this year and did a adequate job on the defensive boards, averaging 3.6 a game.  Unfortunately his offensive rebounds went down this year.  He snagged 16 offensive boards last season and only had 14 this year. That’s not a good sign considering the increased minutes he was getting.  It might be the scheme that Ollie has installed, but he could do a much better job of crashing the glass on the offensive end.

Every good team has a Giffey on their squad.  An unheralded player that hustles, plays solidly, and does all the little things that don’t always show up on the stat sheets.  He might never become that sharpshooter and double-digit scoring threat that he was supposed to be, but he has matured into one of the most versatile and reliable pieces on UConn’s bench and deserves the 6th Man of the Year Award.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Most Improved Player Award: DeAndre Daniels

DeAndre Daniels had an excellent season and the choice for Most Improved Player of the year wasn’t even close this year.  He did have an increase of 17 minutes of playing time per game from last season to this one but he had a lot of pressure on him to contribute more this season with a depleted front court. Last season he was primarily a 3-point threat, taking 50 of his 91 shots from deep, but he showed a much more complimentary style of play this year, using more of a dribble drive to get to the rim, fighting more for rebounds in the paint, and blocking shots on the defensive end.  He ended this season as a legitimate go-to scorer and an NBA prospect which is something no one saw coming in October.

Daniels’ offensive game grew by leaps and bounds.  He wasn't confident with driving to the basket last year, but quickly developed a great first step and took the ball to the rim with authority this season.  He showed a plethora of moves on the wing and could use both hands when driving.  His deep shots usually came as a spot up shooter, but did well when heading towards the basket.  He also had some pretty nasty dunks this year, attacking through contact for finishes.  He has the total package offensively and the scariest part is that he has just scratched the surface.

While Daniels’ offensive game has developed at an incredible clip, he has also shown improvement on the defensive end.  He has displayed the ability to block shots and played much better perimeter defense.  His rebounding has also developed, having several double-double games this season and leading the team in rebounds per game at 5.5.  Once he gets a bit more size, he should be able to consistently get 8-10 rebounds a game by shear athleticism.

Next season will be huge for Daniels.  He has the possibility to play himself into a lottery pick with just a little improvement.  The major issue will be how he handles success since last year there wasn’t a lot of expectation from him, but now he should be a major focal point to the offense and should demand 10-15 shot attempts a game.  He’ll need to work on his jumper to make it more consistent, find ways to get to the line more, and get more opportunities through offensive rebounds.

Monday, April 1, 2013

M.V.P. Award: Shabazz Napier

It really is amazing the contrast of the past two seasons have been for Napier.  Last season his leadership, offensive game, perimeter defense and over all maturity were all called into questions.  There was an obvious rift in the team between Lamb and Napier which might have also lead into the transfer of Roscoe Smith.  The infighting led to a team that floundered and Napier took the brunt of that blame since he was the point guard.  That all turned around with his play throughout this season.  Everyone knew that UConn’s season would coincide with how Napier was playing and for much of the season it he was stellar.  He improved in just about every aspect of his game from his defense, offense, and ability to make his teammates better, easily earning him the Most Valuable Player Award.

His offense last year was mainly three pointers, one out of every 2 shots, with a majority of them early in the shot clock, too deep, or contested.  While he did take a few of those types of shots this year, they were few and far between. He improved his field goal percentage this year from deep and from the field and cut his turnovers down by 27.  He did a lot more attacking of the gaps and when he did shoot the basketball, the shots were in rhythm.   There were still times when he tried not to press too hard early in games and culminated with UConn’s slow starts, but he made an emphasis to try to get others going before he looked for his own offense.

His defense was much improved, especially around the perimeter.  It was vital for him to not get in foul trouble because the team was so dependant on him being out on the court, so his intensity was toned down in the first half of ball games or when he had three fouls early in the second half.  He still found ways to get steals and fuel the break where UConn was at their most dangerous.  An amazing stat for Napier is that he had the exact amount of steals 56 in this year and last.  He also fought much harder on the pick and roll defense and wasn’t going under the screen as often as he was in previous years.

Napier is a tough nosed kid that has shown this program a ton of loyalty and deserves to be up there with the echelon of UConn stars, no matter how his career ends at Storrs.  He will be heading into a talent laden team with a ton of experience.  Their front court should be much improved and the conference will still have a lot of ranked teams in it to make it competitive.  If he can improve his shot quality, develop a killer mid-ranged pull-up jumper, and continue to get to the line then there is no reason why he shouldn’t lead this team to a possible conference championship and a NCAA tournament berth.