Monday, November 27, 2006

Notes from Albany-UConn

A key component in UConn's 86-55 victory over Albany last night at Gampel Pavilion was freshman forward Gavin Edwards. He looked confident and as one of the more cerebral players on Jim Calhoun's roster, his points were earned.

He used his still-developing body.

But mostly, he used his head.

Here are some notes that only made the print edition, not the Web.

EDWARDS' MINUTES EARNED AGAINST ALBANY

By Brett Orzechowski
Register Staff

STORRS – Nothing in Gavin Edwards’ repertoire has been defined as particularly strong so far this season. His physicality is questioned. His leaping ability is not explosive. And minutes in an already jammed frontcourt have been difficult to earn through the first four games.

The University of Connecticut freshman has platooned with Curtis Kelly in a reserve capacity behind Jeff Adrien and Hasheem Thabeet. The Huskies coaching staff has been searching for some frontcourt depth to either spell the two or play alongside them in a larger lineup. Until Sunday, questions still remained.

But even as Adrien and Thabeet continue to average more than 30 minutes a game, Edwards started to make a case for more court time with his performance against the University at Albany.

In a quick nine-minute stretch during the first half, the Huskies looked for Edwards three straight times in the post and the freshman produced with two lay-ins and a conventional three-point play.

Playing against an otherwise thin Albany frontcourt, Edwards did enough to expose the Great Danes and finished the first half with 10 points and three rebounds while making few, if any, mistakes. His final numbers were career-highs: 16 points, five rebounds and 19 minutes.

Edwards’ productivity eclipsed his combined season statistics.

“For coach Calhoun to have a kid live Gavin Edwards rip off the warm-ups and have those numbers is a nice luxury,” Great Danes coach Will Brown said. “Those numbers will only improve with that kid and a work ethic like that.”

The 6-foot-9 Edwards was a late edition to the current UConn freshman class. He averaged 17.5 points and 8.5 rebounds during his senior season at Mesquite High School outside Phoenix, but slid under most Division I schools’ recruiting radars. UConn bit and may have found a consistent frontcourt role player off the bench.

“He had Curtis inching ahead of him,” Calhoun said, “but Gavin’s assertiveness really came around and it showed here.”

ROBINSON INCONSISTENT

During his discussions with the state media on Friday, Calhoun said he has tried to find a place on the floor and enough minutes for freshman forward Stanley Robinson.

Arguably the most versatile player on the UConn roster, Robinson has played both in the post and on the perimeter and shown enough shooting range for the coaching staff to give him shoot-at-will privileges.

Even with that knowledge, Robinson did not make a case for more minutes with his performance against Albany.

In just five minutes, Robinson committed two fouls, one away from the ball and one while guarding Jamar Wilson, eight inches smaller and much quicker than Robinson. His defense has been lauded, but with UConn’s defend-by-committee approach to covering Wilson, Robinson did not fit in.

He finished with zero points over five minutes - career lows during this young season.

MANDELDOVE WATCH

Jonathan Mandeldove, the 6-foot-11 freshman forward from Stone Mountain, Ga., has yet to play this season.

With Edwards improving and Kelly still an active role player off the bench, Mandeldove did not play against Albany, his fifth absence of the season.

Even though he played in both exhibitions, Mandeldove is still eligible to redshirt this season. The coaching staff said he still needs to develop physically, but with the Big East schedule beginning in a month, Calhoun said he is still weighing his options.

HIGH AND LOW

Albany forward Brent Wilson finished with 29 points in the Great Danes’ 90-71 loss to Sacred Heart on Tuesday, giving coach Will Brown some confidence that the junior would pick up the offensive slack if UConn shut down leading scorer Jamar Wilson.

But the third team America East Conference selection picked up three first-half fouls after opening the Albany scoring with a 3-pointer. He finished with six points.

Brett Orzechowski may be reached at borzechowski@nhregister.com

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