Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Caron Butler on UConn's Best & Business Off the Court

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Jeremy Lamb Orlando Summer League Highlights

Monday, July 29, 2013

Player Profile: Shabazz Napier

Looking Back:  Shabazz Napier was heading into the 2012-2013 season with a lot of questions marks.  Could he be a leader and help transition a team through the loss of their Hall of Fame coach and NCAA sanctions?  It only took a few games to turn the leadership question around.  He played fantastic basketball, putting the team on his shoulders and carrying them to a 20 win season.  If UConn fans were unsure if Napier was the heart and soul of this team, they soon found out when he was out for a couple of games due to an injury.  The team struggled to run smoothly and floundered on both ends of the court.  Most of his numbers improved from the 2012 season to the 2013 season.  He did end up with less assists, 68 less, but that had to do with less scorers around him.  He improved his turnovers which plagued him a year ago and ended the season with 27 less than the previous campaign.  Under the circumstances, this was a huge year for Napier and proved that he wasn’t the poison pill in that 2012 season and that he could lead a team to a successful season.

The Good: Napier has all the tools to become an elite point guard.  He has good floor vision, hits the jumper with regularity, defends the pick-and-roll, can attack the lane with both hands, and can rebound.  He was the second best rebounder on the team with 123, had a team high 56 steals, and made the most 3-pointers on the team with 68. Each and every year he has improved and shown that he can make others better despite the dysfunction of the 2011-2012 team.

The Bad: If there is one thing holding Napier back from being one of the elite point guards is his height.  He also tends to take a more difficult shot or settle for jumpers instead of applying pressure to defenses.  He should be getting to the line more and 171 of his 331 shots were from three. His emotions do get the better of him at times and he isn’t shy to let others know about it.  He’s missing a mid-ranged game at this point of his career, and needs to play better perimeter defense.  He sometimes sags off his man and is slow to recover.

Looking Ahead: Barring injury, Napier should be in the conversation for All-American and All-American Athletic Conference teams, not to mention American Athletic Conference player of the year.  He is that good.  He should be average 17 points and 10 assists a game.  He has plenty of spot up shooters and play-makers around him to do so. If he can develop a mid-ranged game, play north and south more, and not try to make the home run pass all the time then he should be one of the best pure point guards to leave Storrs and is certainly underrated among UConn point guards to ever suit up the Connecticut jersey.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Breakdown: Center

The center position last season was a mess.  Coach Ollie tried to pull every string available to muster any production out of the position.  Olander struggled mightily to rebound the basketball, Wolf was inconsistent and then suspended, Nolan showed flashes but was thrust into a role he wasn’t fully prepared for.  To say UConn lacked production in the paint would be an understatement.  Teams repeatedly had two, three, and even four looks at the basket while daring UConn to toss the ball inside.  Opponents also had twenty more shot attempts then UConn had .  This upcoming season isn’t going to drastically change this position around, but with the addition of Brimah, they have much more size and a pure shot blocker.

Olander will continue to play the center position even if he is a power forward, but he must be better at clearing space.  He ball watched too much, allowing his man to sneak around him for rebounds.  He’s got the size and athletic ability to rebound in the paint.  It is all mental at this point.  It is important for him to play well right out of the gate and wash the memory of last year away.

Nolan was thrust into a major role last season with Enosch Wolf’s abrupt departure due to a suspension.  He made an impact instantly and outplayed Olander.  He is the better offensive center of the three. With Wolf’s decision to leave UConn, He’ll have a great opportunity to build on last season.  He needs more size and show a way to score on the block.  If he can then he’ll be the starting center.

It is hard to tell what Amida Brimah will bring to the game.  He’s raw, but he has the size to make an instant impact that is if he can show an ability to rebound.  Blocking shots won’t be a problem and something UConn hasn’t had in some time.  Ollie will probably ween him in, playing him off the bench until he gets a feel for playing against bigger talent.

UConn doesn’t need much out of this position.  Whoever can play the pick-and-roll, rebound, and defend without fouling then they’ll start.  This team will utilize the three guard line-up and Daniels will be on the court unless he is in foul trouble that makes the power forwards and the centers fighting for minutes.  So there is a lot of pressure on these two positions to show Ollie that they deserve the minutes.  There is no telling who will win the job but it will sure be interesting to watch.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Jim Boeheim on Jim Calhoun

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Breakdown: Power Forwards

The power forward position was non-existent for UConn last season.‭  ‬With the lack of any depth of big men,‭ ‬Kevin Ollie had to use his only true power forward in Tyler Olander as a center.‭   ‬UConn used three guards,‭ ‬a small forward,‭ ‬and a center for a majority of the minutes and it had a major impact on their rebounding.‭  ‬It put a lot of pressure on the four and five positions to play against bigger and taller opponents which allowed teams second,‭ ‬third,‭ ‬and sometimes four opportunities at the basket.

Olander struggled playing out of position and was exposed by bigger and more powerful centers.  He needs to play with another big to be effective.  He still has a nice stroke and has the ability to knock down that fifteen footer that is important against the zone.  This is a make or break year for Tyler and he needs to start out strong because his confidence was at an all time low at the end of last season.  Hopefully he’ll bounce back from his foot injury and make an impact in his senior season.

With the addition of Kentan Facey, UConn has much needed depth at this position, but it is a lot to ask of a freshman to contribute right away at this position.  He’ll get minutes early in the year but Ollie will have to ween him in especially in conference play.  If he can show the ability to rebound and hold his position on the block then Olander’s minutes might dwindle.

The power forward position is disappearing in college basketball.  Most teams like to use what would classically be a power forward as an undersized center, because having two big men on the floor at the same time creates spacing issues in the college game.  Ollie will more than likely have Napier, Boatright, Calhoun, Daniels, and whichever Power Forward/Center is rebounding the best as the starting five.  If this is the case then the power forward position is slowing going the way of the full back in the NFL.  It just takes too long to develop the strength, post game, and ability to knock down the fifteen footer for teams and once they do show that potential they are gobbled up by NBA teams.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Breakdown: Small Forwards

Finding a capable small forward has plagued UConn for years.  They’ve tried various options ever since Rudy Gay left but they never found that duel threat of a consistent outside shooter that can also play around the basket.  Truth be told it has been the bane of many college basketball programs.  But UConn might of found a potential superstar in DeAndre Daniels.  If anyone told you that Daniels would raise his game to the level that he did last season then they should be heading to Los Vegas right now, because Daniels ended his freshman year as primarily an outside shooter and he wasn’t that consistent either, but what happened in his sophomore year was truly astounding.  He demonstrated the use of both the right and left hand drives to the basket, developed a nice mid-ranged jumper, a hook shot, and an ability to score in traffic.  If he can add a post-up game as well as a more consistent jumper than he is a sure lottery pick.   Right now his upside is tremendous, but he needs to build on the momentum of last season.

Neils Giffey isn’t going to be an NBA lottery pick and he won’t put up monster numbers for the Huskies, but he is by far the most versatile player on the team.  Ollie leans on him heavily to hold down three positions.  He has the height to play the four, though he lacks the bulk to hold position on the block.  His natural position is at the three, where he can hit the outside shot, has enough lateral quickness to keep in front of his man, and isn’t afraid to bang inside the paint.  He can also slide into the two position though his ball handling skills are a weakness for him.  He’s developed into a solid 6th man and has demonstrated an above the rim game last year.  The one aspect to his arsenal that he needs to work on is his rebounding.  He must clear space better than he has so far and he also needs go after those second chance opportunities.

Tolksdorf is an intriguing player.  He has shown the ability to hit the deep shot, but has not demonstrated any willingness to enter the paint at all for rebounds which cost him valuable minutes last season.  That should be his major focus each and every time he gets on the court.  He should be thinking about where he is going to seal his man off to get that rebound, not where he should float to get his shot.  It will be an important pre-season for him to show Ollie that he can do the little things to warrant more minutes down the road because if he remains primarily an outside shooter, his minutes will remain inconsistent.

It will be interesting to see how Ollie uses the small forward position.  It is a lock that Daniels will average around thirty minutes a game and Giffey, with his versatility, should hover around fifteen to twenty minutes per game.  Ollie still needs to develop this position for the next season with the possibility that Daniels leaves, so he should give Tolksdorf plenty of opportunities to play early in the year, but come conference time, Daniels and Giffey will get all the playing time barring foul trouble.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Breakdown: The Guards

Everyone who follows college basketball knows that success depends heavily on the backcourt and Connecticut has a three guard tandem to rival any in the country.  Starting with Shabazz Napier.  He is already getting NBA draft buzz and is knocking on the door of an All-American award.  He has all the tools to be one of the best pure point guards to leave Storrs.  Sure Walker and Price have shown that they can handle the point with success, but Napier has a smoother stroke from deep and has comparable to better court vision.  Shabazz doesn’t have that killer instinct nor the ability to light it up like Walker, but he does possess more of a point guard mentality.  He has shown progression each and every year and there is no reason why he shouldn't flirt with 20 points and 10 assists a game this upcoming year.

Ryan Boatright is heading into an important season.  He showed glimpses of a pesky two-guard that has the ability to score twenty a game, but he lacked consistency last season and struggled mightily when Napier was injured.  He needs to show that he can take care of the basketball and play with purpose.  Too many times he dribbled himself into trouble while improvising.  He needs to trust in the sets that are called.  His jumper also needs to improve.  Teams were driving him off the line and he didn't have a second option.  If he can work on the mid-ranged game, get to the line more, and limit his careless turnovers than he should have a great season.

The biggest X-Factor is Omar Calhoun.  He has shown the ability to hit the deep ball and his mid-ranged game began to emerge late in the season.  This year should show a much more mature game in Calhoun.  There is just too many options for the offense that Omar needs to contribute in other ways other than camping out for the deep shot.  He’ll need to battle for those mid-ranged rebounds that plagued UConn last season and also find ways to get points at the line, which will mean playing more downhill.  If he can do these things, then this three guard line-up should be tough to handle for any team in the country.

Lasan Kromah also joins the team, transferring from George Washington University.  Kevin Ollie loved what R.J. Evans brought to the team last year.  A confident, tough nosed, senior guard that is willing to do all the little things from solid defense, rebound in traffic, run sets, and play within himself.  Kromah should be able fill that role.

With the plethora of guards at Ollie’s disposal, he can mix and match his lineup, but he’ll more than likely use Napier, Boatright, and Calhoun to start and end the halves with Kromah and Giffey to slide into the shooting guard roles when necessary.  It all leads up to a very deep line-up and one that can win the new American Athletic Conference and make a deep run into the NCAA tournament.