Thursday, October 31, 2013

Open Season

UConn opened its season with an exhibition game against Southern Connecticut University and the upstart Owls took an early 3 to 2 lead but powered by DeAndre Daniels, Ryan Boatright, and the high powered UConn offense, the Huskies pulled away and never looked back.  There was plenty of rust, especially with the jumpers, and Ollie mixed and matched different line-ups throughout the game, but there were some great signs in the new players like Brimah, Kromah, and Samuel and encouraging signs from the still developing front court.  In the end, UConn had too much fire power, 44 points off the bench, and 51 points in the paint, for SCSU to keep up with and pulled off the convincing victory.

Napier had the first points of the game on a jumper seconds into the game, but other than a few nice assists, he was a non-factor for much of the game.  He more then likely did’t force the issue and tried to let the game come to him but this team will need more from him in upcoming games.  Boatright had his jumper working.  He hit two 3-pointers, a jumper, and had two lay-ups.  When his jumper is working, his whole arsenal opens up.  This was a great start to the year for him and hopefully builds his confidence which had waned at the end of last year.

The offense flowed through Daniels for much of the game.  He had a four lay-ups, two jumpers, two dunks, ten boards and three blocks.  He was a bit sloppy with the basketball though and had six turnovers.  With the basketball in his hands so much and little help offensively from Boatright and Napier, Daniels played aggressively which is what this team needs.

Coming off a major rehab, Calhoun had little court time this summer, but he shook the rust off pretty fast.  He hit an early jumper, had a block, and an offensive rebound, but then missed two lay-ups.  He had a steal, a turnover, a lay-up, and a jumper in the second half.  UConn fans will need patience with Omar while he catches up with the rest of the team.  Giffey had a quick start and got a rebound, a steal, and a lay-up, but then had two turnovers and three missed 3-pointers.  In the second half he had a dunk and a 3-pointer.  It was good to see him take those outside shots though.  He is one of the best shooters on the team.

UConn needs one thing from Olander, rebounding.  He had two of his three boards early in the game and was benched four minutes in.  He did have three steals but also took a 3-pointer which is not what this team needs from him. It wasn't a good start for him. Nolan played a well rounded game and had a team high three offensive rebounds.  On top of that, he had two jumpers, a steal and a lay-up.  It was a great first outing and has placed himself as the prime recipient for the starting center position.

Samuel had a good game and found ways to get to the line and had a lay-up. Facey played sparingly but did have a lay-up.  Tolksdorf came in at the end of both halves and had two nice 3-pointers but also played sloppy defense.  Kromah had several steals, got to the line, and had a lay-up.  He added a nice spark off the bench.  The biggest surprise was Brimah who made an immediate impact with five blocks, two jumpers, and a dunk.  His length is what this team didn't have last year and will make a major impact.

It will be interesting heading forward to see how the front court shapes out.  Right now Nolan looks like the more competent starter but Brimah adds that anchor defensively right now.  Olander is quickly sliding down the depth chart if he doesn’t rebound better.  This team still needs to clean up some of the sloppy turnovers and get back on defense better, but Ollie has so many options on this roster.  In all, it was a great start for the team with a lot of the young players getting their first sips court time.  Hopefully that will give them the thirst in practice to work hard and earn more playing time.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Shabazz Napier on UConn Practices

Ray Allen's Championship Ring Ceremony

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Alumni Profile: Emeka Okafor

Looking Back:  Emeka Okafor added some much needed veteran leadership to a sinking franchise in Washington.  He did what he always has done throughout his career, put up double-doubles.  He averaged 9.7 points and 8.8 rebounds a game and helped solidify the Wizards’ front court.  His numbers did dip a little and that has to do with his age and his decreased minutes, but he still put together a good year.  He suffered a herniated disk in his neck and is most likely going to miss a couple of months.  The Wizards then traded him to the Suns for Gortat.

The Good: He has been the most consistent Alumni to come out of UConn.  You can trust Okafor to give you a double-double each and every night.  Not only does he have great consistency but he is also an excellent role model.  He preaches hard work and is the definition of a professional.  He does all the little things well like set picks, box out, battle for 50/50 balls, and play sound defense.

The Bad: He is on the downside of his career especially for a big man.  The wear and tear on his body through the rigors of the long NBA schedule have taken their toll on him.  He isn’t as quick nor physically dominate as he once was.  He has been battling back injuries throughout his career and now has to deal with a neck injury.  His role is slowly being diminished and he will soon be looking over his shoulder for the next young big man that a team with a losing record will want to evaluate.

Looking Ahead: If he can recover from this neck injury it will be another double-double season for Okafor but unfortunately it will be on a team with little to none playoff hopes.  His minutes will needed to be tempered and his hopes for that elusive championship might never come, but his leadership will hopefully change the course of this a franchise that is in rebuilding mode. 

Jeremy Lamb Highlights vs. Bulls

Hasheem Thabeet Headbutts Steimsma

Monday, October 28, 2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Alumni Profile: Andre Drummond

Looking Back:  No one knew what to expect from Andre Drummond’s rookie season.  He had all the tools to be an NBA star center, but questions about his work ethic surfaced around draft time and his status slipped.  The Pistons snagged him up and they weren’t disappointed.  He displayed a toughness on defense with a shot blocking mentality that easily transitioned from the college ranks to the NBA and he also rebounded well, which was to be expected, but it was his ability to score around the basket that opened many people’s eyes.  He soon became a work in progress to a legitimate rotation piece for Detroit and his work in the Summer League has also shown some growth to his game.

The Good: Size, length, and athleticism are all on display in Andre Drummond.  He has feel for blocking shots, finishing plays around the rim through contact, and can hold his position on defense. He runs the floor well and gets much of his points through lob dunks or put-backs. His upside is tremendous and he is just scratching the surface to what he can do.

The Bad: It starts with one of the ugliest free throw shots in the game.  That also leads into not having a jump-shot at all which relegates himself to playing either a post-up game or lobs around the hoop for his offense. Without developing a consistent free throw shot, he will be relegated to having to sit out the end of tight ball games.

Looking Ahead: It will be interesting to see how Drummond’s game progresses heading into his second season as a pro.  He’ll need to consistently rebound and play defense without fouling, but he will also have to show an ability to score on the block.  He is so young and the only thing slowing his growth as a player is his work ethic.  He is on the verge of becoming on of the top centers in the NBA and needs to continue to build on what he did the previous season.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Alumni Profile: Kemba Walker

Looking Back: Kemba Walker had an average start to the season but really turned it on after the All-Star break.  With little talent around him, he had to shoulder a lot of the offensive responsibility and with a more wide open attack, Walker flourished.  He was given the green light to attack whenever he felt and it opened up his game tremendously. His team still floundered in mediocrity though, but Walker proved that he could shoulder the point guard duties and also provide much needed points.

The Good: Walker has a fantastic handle and can dribble in and out of trouble.  He also has a great first step and change of direction.  He’s a pure scorer and finds a variety of ways to get points from his quick release, mid-range game, to putting constant pressure on the defense by attacking lanes. He is undeniably UConn’s most competitive alumni and hates losing more than anything else. 

The Bad: His size will always cause issues for him.  It is hard to see all the passing lanes when he is in traffic.  He also doesn’t have a soft shot and it tends to bounce hard off the rim which doesn’t help his 3-point shots.  While he does have good court vision, it still could improve.  He is a hybrid guard and at times he gets into a 2-guard role instead of playing the point.

Looking Ahead: The Bobcats did a great job of adding more pieces around Walker and hopefully it will pay off with more wins.  This year will be important for Kemba to see if he is just a stat stuffer on a bad team or can he lead his team with great numbers that also lead to victories.  This season will be important for him because at this point, he should be emerging from a work in progress to a consistent NBA player.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

UConn First Night

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Alumni Profile: Caron Butler

Looking Back: Last season was supposed to be Caron Butler’s breakout year.  He was finally healthy and had a full training camp on a team stocked with talent.  Heading into the prime of his career, all arrows were pointing up for him, but instead of an upward trajectory it leveled out.  At the end of another disappointing season for the Clippers, he was traded to the Suns before being traded again to his hometown of Milwaukee Wisconsin.

The Good: He has a variety of weapons in his offensive arsenal.  He can hit the 3-pointer, has a good first step, can attack the baseline, and isn’t afraid of contact.  With the nickname Tough Juice, his toughness was never in question and can play through pain.  He has the size and athleticism to create match-up problems.

The Bad: With all his talent, Butler hasn’t found a way to take his game to the next level.  Injuries have also been a concern for him, and the rigors of the NBA might be taking its toll on him. He doesn’t put the same intensity on the defensive side of the court as he does the offensive side.  For some reason when he is in the Playoff, he doesn’t step up.  His numbers are all down in the post-season across the board.

Looking Ahead:
Caron is in a great situation.  He’s a leader on a team in his hometown, but now there is more of a burden on him to produce and he hasn’t had that type of pressure before.  It will be interesting to see if this is the motivation he needs to take that next step.  These next couple of seasons will define how Butler’s career will be looked at.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Alumni Profile: Rudy Gay

Looking Back: Ever since Rudy Gay signed his max-deal he had been on the trading block with the Grizzlies.  Plus when Memphis had their best run in the Playoffs, it was without Rudy, so they felt comfortable knowing there would be life without Rudy.  Memphis finally pulled off the trade with the Raptors mid-season and he found himself on a new team without any playoff hopes.  He did end the season strong and the Raptors had plenty of positives heading into the new season, but it wasn’t the year that he probably had hoped for.

The Good: He is the most athletic of any UConn Alumni playing right now.  He has a great first step, has a smooth jumper, and can attack the rim.  His jumper has improved and he has developed a nice spot up jump shot.  He is most deadly in the open court where he can take three steps and attack.  He is so quick and athletic that he can out jump and adjust around defenders to get to the rim.

The Bad: It Starts with his defense.  He isn’t known as a tenacious defender and tends to give up too much cushion.  He isn’t the best rebounder and doesn’t like to play in the paint.  Even though his jumper is much improved, he is still a streaky shooter.  The worst is that he should’ve been wearing either eye contacts or glasses and didn’t.  He owed it to his team to play to his best ability and not wearing corrective lenses for cosmetic reasons is unacceptable.

Looking Ahead:  It is a new beginning for Rudy. With a new environment and laser surgery for his vision, he should be playing the best basketball of his life.  If he can limit his turnovers, improve on his defense, and continue to play offense at a high level, then he should have a great season.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Alumni Profile: Ray Allen

Looking Back:  UConn’s fan base are primarily Celtics fans and when Ray Allen left the Celtics to join the Heat, they were torn.  Looking back on it now, it was a stroke of genius.  Ray Allen landed on a team that best suited his skills, allowed him lesser minutes, a reduced role, and a chance at numerous championships while the Celtics unloaded their aging assets and are in rebuilding mode.  Ray Allen also had a fantastic season.  Sure his numbers are down, but when the Heat’s chances at a repeat were in doubt, Ray Allen delivered one of the most clutch shots in NBA Finals history, cementing his Hall of Fame career as the best UConn Alumni to ever wear the jersey.

The Good: The perfect stroke, the tireless work ethic, and an off the field authenticity like no other.  Ray Allen is one of a kind and is the perfect role model for what UConn stands for.  With the reduced minutes, Ray Allen still has plenty of years left.  Even in his new role, his effectiveness hasn’t changed.  It is a testament to his relentless practice.

The Bad: Age.  There is not much he can do about that.  His speed is not like it once was and he will have problems keeping up against the quick first steps of younger two guards.  He isn’t a great passer and sometimes turns the ball over carelessly. 

Looking Ahead: He’ll have another go around with a team stacked to win it all again.  There will be more of a burden on him this time around because the Heat do not have Miller, another sharp shooter, but with the two slashing threats in Lebron and Wade, Allen will have plenty of open looks. He’s on the perfect team to utilize his skills and could have an opportunity to win a third championship.