Saturday, December 02, 2006

UConn news and notes

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


By Brett Orzechowski
Register Staff

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.”


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

Friday, December 01, 2006

Light reading and viewing

It’s Dec. 1.

There have been upsets on the national college basketball scene.

It’s Dec. 1.

UConn sophomore forward Jeff Adrien mentioned earlier in the week that he and his teammates have taken notice.

It’s Dec. 1.

Everyone seems to have a conspiracy theory, but the closest thing I have found in my quest for an explanation is ESPN’s Pat Forde's take, who lists a number of reasons why this is happening. I agree with 80 percent of his story.

In a similar vein, check out some thoughts from the mid-majority. By the way, is the Missouri Valley Conference still considered a mid-major? This was a hot-button issue the last few years but Northern Iowa and Iowa State played a little role reversal the other night.

Pretty good read about perception.

In case you missed the New Haven Register’s feature on the Huskies’ Jerome Dyson from earlier in the week, you can check it out again.

Shameless self-promotion is now over.

Moving on to Emeka Okafor. Today is World AIDS Day. Here’s a class example of giving back. Take note. Remember, your problems are not so bad after all. And in case you get Sports Illustrated and don’t read it the same way everyone else does from back to front, check out Rick Reilly’s story on giving back.

Never has someone appeared in this space so much as former Syracuse guard and the pride of Scranton, Gerry McNamara. He has left Greece. And maybe, just maybe, he’s returning to upstate New York.

Marcus Johnson appears in Seth Davis’ story on sophomores of impact on What I like is that Davis gives an update on his class from last year, just in case people have short memories.

Finally, I was thumbing through the latest edition of GQ, through shirts and jackets that cost more than what I make in a year, through hair products that cost more than a new car, stopped on a great story on Lionel Richie and how people in the Middle East and Africa (bizarre) love his music (post Commodores. “Brickhouse” really didn’t catch on there), and found this little tidbit on Stephen (Screamin’) A. Smith.

Now, if you still don’t know whether to love or hate Smith, this clip from You Tube gives you a peek into some fans’ world. The clip is almost eight minutes, borderline irritating, but includes Cheetos and Sprite. The clip is just a taste test.

And if you’re not sure what to make of You Tube (revolutionary or major copyright lawsuits waiting to happen), I don’t know what to tell you.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Observations from UConn-Sacred Heart

First, Sacred Heart coach Dave Bike was right.

The same Pioneers team that kept pace with North Carolina on Nov. 14 was not the same team that showed up at Gampel Pavilion on Wednesday night. Against Albany, Sacred Heart looked confident, and more importantly, played confident.

Bike opts to play with a small lineup that broke down Albany not only with its perimeter performance but with its ability to penetrate. Neither one of those aspects showed up against the University of Connecticut.

The Pioneers are a much better team than what they showed to a region on television and in Gampel. They just ran into a UConn team that played on a different level. There is talent on the Sacred Heart roster and some of it is still young. The Pioneers will play a factor in the Northeast Conference this year. A strong non-conference schedule, at times, stronger than the Huskies’ docket, will only improve Bike’s team.

Bike, a North Haven resident, is one of the pure gentlemen of Northeast basketball on any level. He also is a pretty good coach.

Bike owns one less national championship than Jim Calhoun. It may have been won on the Division II level, but not too many coaches can claim they won a national title (1986) anywhere.

Moving on to UConn.

Calhoun wants his guards to play at a certain level this season, and for one night, all four components played as one. There is nothing to counter a complete and well-refined fast break. The Huskies started playing well in the backcourt against Albany, outscoring the Great Danes 21-2 on the break. Against Sacred Heart, it was much of the same.

First, let’s look at the final statistics for all four guards against the Pioneers.

All four guards finished with double figures. All four led UConn in scoring.

They ran the break well, made good decisions, and looked comfortable. All four said running the break is what they’re tailored to do.

Now, they have been given a chance to do so.

Calhoun said it was tough to dissect any one player’s game because it was the team effort he has been longing for since the season began. But now that we have time and space, let’s look at each player’s game.

3-12 FG, 0-4 3-PTS, 5-5 FT, 4 REBS, 4 ASSTS, 2 TOs, 4 STEALS, 11 POINTS

He said in his post-game comments that no one has to be the star of the team every night. He realizes UConn is that deep and that capable. With a protective sleeve on his right arm to shield an inflamed bursa sac, his 3-point shooting has not been as accurate as, say, the first few games. Dyson did not connect from the perimeter, but he did so much more. All four of his steals led to fast-break opportunities (24-15 UConn) and all four were a result of his stifling defensive style. He made good choices on the break, but his most important stat of the night came from the line, a place where he has struggled. Dyson finished 5-for-5 from the stripe.

4-7 FG, 1-4 3-PTS, 2-2 FT, 5 REBS, 3 ASSTS, 2 TO, 2 STEALS, 11 POINTS

He played 24 minutes, a shade under his average, but it was unnecessary to have him play late in the game. Since Price is capable of playing either guard spot, he has toyed with certain aspects of both positions in the early season. Sometimes his jumper falls, other times, it looks heavy. The rust, he and Calhoun both assured the state media, is coming off. Price’s mid-range jumper, though, is very refined. The shot is what made him a complete player in high school. Against Fairfield and Mississippi, it was tough to stop. His two turnovers against Sacred Heart weren’t bad decisions, and either were his three assists. For now, at this point in the season, it is Price’s customary effort.

6-10 FG, 0-3 3-PTS, 0-1 FT, 2 REBS, 5 ASSTS, 1 TO, 1 STEAL, 12 POINTS

By far the East Hartford product's most complete effort. In his post-game remarks Calhoun relayed the story of how Wiggins needed a motivational talk after playing just six minutes against Mississippi. It was one of those needed discussions with an athlete who has played almost every minute of every game he has played in his entire life. Wiggins wanted to know how he could change. Calhoun told him what he tells every player: show me. Yes, he led UConn is scoring with Austrie, but it's how he scored. He pulled up on the break. He attacked the rim and threw in a tear drop. What the UConn coaching staff should be happier with were his decisions. Wiggins plays out of control at times, much to Calhoun’s ire. Last night, he finished with five assists (penetrate and kick to the wing or penetrate and find the block). Better news. He had just one turnover.

4-6 FG, 4-6 3-PTS, 0-0 FT, 1 REBS, 1 ASST, O TO, 2 STEALS, 12 POINTS

It appears that conservative isn’t a bad thing at this point in the year. Calhoun said he needs stability on the floor. The only one he can turn to right now is Austrie. The sophomore said after the game that he never had five turnovers in one game in his life until Sunday against Albany. It was not one of his better showings. Against Sacred Heart, Austrie ran the break and did what he does best – he evaluated the floor before making any choices. He is a different type of guard than the other three and prefers safe to sorry. In turn, his play keeps younger guards from making careless mistakes. He only had one assist but no turnovers in just 16 minutes. He also knocked down four 3-pointers. His feet were set. He didn’t fade. He didn’t really have a hand in his face on any of the four, but sometimes you need to make the uncontested shots. When the defense becomes tougher, Austrie will need to make the adjustment.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

UConn-Sacred Heart key to the game

It’s not so much that UConn is searching for a consistent outside presence. It’s just that the Huskies have played to their strengths because really, they've had to early in the season.

UConn is shooting 37.7 percent from beyond the arc. As for Sacred Heart, a team with a penchant for the 3-pointer, the Pioneers are shooting 38.2 percent. Not much difference except for the fact that Sacred Heart (47-123) has hoisted twice as many attempts as the Huskies.

Let’s take a quick look at the first five UConn games and how the Huskies and their opponents have fared from beyond the arc.

Quinnipiac 5-26 (19.2)
UConn 4-14 (28.6)

Central Arkansas 6-20 (30.0)
UConn 6-15 (40.0)

Fairfield 4-16 (25.0)
UConn 7-13 (53.8)

Mississippi 8-24 (33.3)
UConn 5-10 (50.0)

Albany 6-17 (35.3)
UConn 1-9 (11.1)

Now, Jerome Dyson is the closest thing to a perimeter mainstay. Stanley Robinson, arguably one of the better outside shooters on the UConn roster, hasn’t seen the floor enough (3-for-4, 75 percent). Craig Austrie knocked down the biggest 3-pointer of the season against Quinnipiac. And even though A.J. Price accounted for UConn's lone triple against Albany, the Huskies compensated with a 21-2 advantage on the break.

Teams have survived without the use of the 3-pointer. Some coaches argue that the aspect has diluted the game. Others use it as their greatest strength.

Sacred Heart dropped 12 against North Carolina and stayed with the Tar Heels.

The Pioneers had 12 again against Albany and picked apart the Great Danes much like UConn.

When 3-pointers fall, it changes momentum, something numbers cannot measure. Sacred Heart averages twice as many as UConn.

Right now, with UConn, it’s just a matter of style.

UConn-Sacred Heart preview

In case you missed today's print edition of the Register, here's a look at tonight's UConn-Sacred Heart game.

I'll break down some numbers in a few hours from the bowels of Gampel Pavilion.

We're far enough along in the season to look at some statistics objetively.

First, some subjective odds from Vegas.
Sacred Heart will shoot at least 25 3-pointers: 2-1
Justin Timberlake's "Sexyback" will be played at Gampel: 1-1
Jerome Dyson will fall hard to the floor at least once: 1-1
Empty Gampel seats at tip-off: 1-1

See you then.


By Brett Orzechowski
Register Staff

STORRS – The early-season non-conference schedule was designed with a purpose. Jim Calhoun understands this. So do voters in the Associated Press poll. Still, some players on the University of Connecticut roster have slowly grasped the concept as some signs of immaturity exist.

The confidence level that the coaching staff implored the Huskies to reach may have found its apex after a 31-point victory over Albany. Since its opening-night scare against Quinnipiac, UConn has won its last four games convincingly against perceived lesser opponents. With such a young team, Calhoun wanted the non-conference schedule to serve not only as a morale booster but a barometer.

For tests like the Big East schedule and LSU and Indiana later in the year, there is an assessment like Sacred Heart. The collective atmosphere has been more relaxed, but maybe too laid-back heading into a game against a program which picked apart Albany in the same fashion UConn did while also maintaining pace with North Carolina two weeks ago.

“It’s (the schedule) what we wanted,” Calhoun said, “I just want them to handle it better.”

The Huskies welcome Sacred Heart to Gampel Pavilion tonight at 7:30 for the last non-conference game against an in-state school. After Sunday’s win over Albany, Calhoun seemed optimistic that his young but still callow UConn team was finally realizing that they have to piece together a string of competitive efforts in such little time.

But Tuesday, a different tone resonated. The energy and aggressiveness that surfaced in the preseason did not exist in practice. Even with the Huskies (5-0) slipping two places in the poll, primarily based on its strength of schedule or lack thereof, the group of five sophomores and eight freshmen seemed just content with their performance.

Calhoun pays little credence to polls this early in the season, but he wants his team to understand that for every Coppin State and Texas Southern on the Huskies’ schedule, there is a Syracuse and Georgetown.

In other words, UConn has played no one of Big East caliber.

In other words, UConn has accomplished little this season except develop a small identity and earn five victories in the process.

“There is a concern and a reason why we dropped two places in the poll,” Calhoun said. “Even with the level of competition, an immaturity exists with this group and it showed in practice. We had quality work in practice. That has to continue and they don’t understand that yet.”

The immediate concern is Sacred Heart (2-3), which handily defeated Albany by 19 points with the help of 12 3-pointers. Between junior forward Luke Granato, a Northwest Catholic-West Hartford graduate, and freshman Ryan Litke of Windsor off the bench, the Pioneers will be the most consistent perimeter team the Huskies have faced this season, where as Albany’s Jamar Wilson was the top individual perimeter talent.

Granato connected on eight 3-pointers in Sacred Heart’s loss to North Carolina when the Tar Heels’ Tyler Hansbrough had 29 points. Calhoun knows that if Pioneers coach Dave Bike had a significant inside presence, the outcome may have been different. As for Litke, he has started the season shooting 61.5 percent from beyond the arc.

Bike said last week after the Albany win that he has similar motives as UConn when he scheduled the perennial Top 25 team. The longtime Sacred Heart coach wants inexperienced players to develop. Such examples are 7-footer Liam Potter, who will match-up with the Huskies’ Hasheem Thabeet, and point guard Chauncey Hardy, a freshman who played at Xavier-Middletown last season and faced some current Huskies at this summer’s IS8 Tournament.

The motives run deeper. Calhoun knows Sacred Heart prefers to run and after the Huskies held a 21-2 edge on the fast break against Albany, even sophomore forward Jeff Adrien said he liked the direction UConn is heading. He also added that A.J. Price is still developing. If the other guards in the rotation have adapted, Adrien said Price eventually will.

Still, Sacred Heart gives UConn an offensive look it has not yet seen. With so many perimeter threats, the Pioneers hope to stretch the Huskies’ defense. The trend has worked so far this season as a rash of lower-level Division I schools have upended major programs.

Adrien said he and his teammates have taken notice.

“We watch. It’s crazy that there’s been so many,” Adrien said. “I do my own research on these games. I’m sure they’ve been doing research on us.”

He also added that it’s too early for a UConn letdown.

Calhoun knows at least one player understands.

NOTES: Like he has the past few games, freshman guard Jerome Dyson will continue to wear a protective support on his right elbow to protect his bursa sac. Dyson went to the hospital after falling hard against Albany on Sunday, but X-rays on the elbow proved negative. … After his 16-point performance against the Great Danes, freshman forward Gavin Edwards said he does not expect his role to change and the coaching staff has not spoken to him about increased play. Edwards said his role will continue to be based on his day-to-day performance. … Four Sacred Heart players remain from the last time the Pioneers faced UConn. Luke Granato, Jarrid Frye, Joey Henley and Drew Shubik all played in the Huskies’ 73-55 win on Dec. 28, 2004, at the Hartford Civic Center.

Brett Orzechowski may be reached at

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.


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.”


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.


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.


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