UConn news and notes
UCONN LOOKING FOR ADRIEN'S EXPLOSIVENESS
By Brett Orzechowski
STORRS – As much as the composition of the University of Connecticut men's basketball team remains new to Jeff Adrien, so is the sophomore forward’s role each night for the Huskies.
Three weeks ago, a minor hip injury limited Adrien’s mobility. Coaches questioned his explosiveness while Adrien improved in every statistical category since last year when he earned Big East All-Rookie honors. Still, both UConn head coach Jim Calhoun and his assistant George Blaney said they have yet to see shades of the player Adrien was a season ago.
Meantime, Adrien maintains that everything is fine, from his health to his head.
Over the first six games, Adrien has averaged a team-high 31 minutes with 12.8 points and 10.7 rebounds. He has done so while facing countless double- and triple-teams in the post. Opponents have lagged off center Hasheem Thabeet because he is still developing offensively, pushing the focus on Adrien.
He continues to score in a variety of ways – small hook shots, up-and-under moves, 12-foot jumpers. But both Calhoun and Blaney said at this time last year, Adrien would finish with dunks, authoritative ones for that matter. Instead, Adrien has opted to lay in a number of shots over smaller defenders.
By the time the Big East schedule arrives, Calhoun would like Adrien’s physical presence to resurface. Even with double knee braces, the sophomore said it never left.
“I think I’m just dealing with a different year. Last season, I didn’t see double teams. This year I’m sometimes seeing triple teams. If it’s a matter of adapting, I think I am already,” Adrien said. “Physically, I’m fine. There are no concerns.”
Adrien has doubled his production in every category from last year and has improved from the foul line, something that was asked of him during the off-season. He is shooting 76 percent this year while finishing off a number of conventional three-point plays.
But this is Calhoun’s concern. Adrien and UConn have yet to face a program with a quality strong or small forward to push Adrien. Until Thabeet develops in the post, the offensive deficiency has to be picked up by Adrien. For now, and the rest of the non-conference schedule, Adrien will face much of the same.
The first six games have given very few hints of what UConn’s lineup beyond the starting five will look like by the end of January.
Gavin Edwards and Curtis Kelly still push for minutes in a reserve capacity in the post and Jonathan Mandeldove, who Calhoun has yet to play as the coach weighs the freshman’s redshirt possibility, may still be an option when the Big East schedule arrives later this month. Even the guard rotation has been productive and everything seems sound there.
The unknown factor remains Stanley Robinson. With his size and athleticism, the 6-foot-9 freshman is caught between talent and positions. Calhoun used him in the post against Sacred Heart and on the wing at various times during the Hispanic College Fund Classic weekend.
Of any player on the UConn roster, Robinson’s situation is the most precarious.
“It’s easier to get Stanley in than say Gavin or Curtis,” Calhoun said. “But in these situations, the season has a way of working things out.”
McCLAIN TO VISIT
Anthony McClain, the 7-foot high school senior from National Christian Academy in Fort Washington , Md. , will visit Storrs on Sunday for the Huskies’ game against Texas Southern.
The center appears to be the logical successor to Thabeet if the freshman opts to declare for the NBA draft in the spring and McClain commits to UConn. He is the Huskies’ top, and in many ways, only senior recruit.
So far, Georgetown , Pitt and Maryland have offered McClain with the Hoyas showing considerable interest in the center. Georgetown is in a similar situation as UConn with junior center Roy Hibbert, who may declare for the NBA in the spring.
Brett Orzechowski may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org