Saturday, February 24, 2007

More on Dyson

Here's a story that only ran in the Register's print edition on Friday and not the Web on UConn freshman guard Jerome Dyson.

Dyson emerging for UConn
Three-game stretch was needed for Huskies but is there any difference?

By Brett Orzechowski
Register Staff

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Jerome Dyson was not anointed when he first arrived in Storrs this summer. There have been observations from Jim Calhoun over the last four months that were misconstrued as comparisons, and with those, expectations evolved.

Except Dyson does not have Ben Gordon’s quickness or Richard Hamilton’s scoring sense or the same type of athleticism as Ray Allen. Calhoun watched these three former players grow into marquee names at the University of Connecticut. He has also mentioned them when discussing Dyson, the only perimeter player who has been efficient on offense for the Huskies the entire season.

Dyson is unique and the realization finally surfaced after UConn defeated Rutgers, 65-55, on Wednesday night to secure a spot at Madison Square Garden in two weeks for the Big East Tournament.

“He’s such a superior athlete. You’ve seen some of the catches he’s made and some of the plays that he’s made athletically and his incredible strength. There’s no weakness for any one of us to believe,” Calhoun said. “When Ray Allen first came to the program, I’m not comparing him to Ray, but athletically, he’s a different kind of athlete. He’s a power athlete. Ray was always more ballet, so beautiful. But both can do incredible things with the body.”

There are reasons why Calhoun has touted Dyson throughout the year, almost too much at times. The freshman guard has been the only player on his roster, save for Jeff Adrien, who has not changed since November. Dyson has played through injuries (elbow, ankle, thigh, losing teeth) and continues to play with a physical style (only Adrien, a forward, has stepped to the foul line more often, but just six more attempts).

Statistically, though, the only aspect of Dyson’s game that has changed is the opportunity given to him by the coaching staff to take more shots and chances, almost out of necessity (see chart).

A.J. Price, Doug Wiggins and Craig Austrie have rotated at point guard while neither Stanley Robinson nor Marcus Johnson has added much offense from the small forward position.

This leaves Dyson, but not completely by default.

Mentally, he is the only perimeter player that realizes when UConn is in a quandary, not only during a game, but during the season.

“I’ve been given an opportunity by coach to produce where they think I’m needed, and right now, I’m needed to score,” Dyson said. “It’s a role I’m still learning, but I think I understand it.”

Over the last three games, his most productive stretch this season, Dyson has picked spots to contribute. Against Seton Hall, it was in the second half. This was also after UConn turned in a lethargic effort against Georgia Tech and a stagnant first half against the Pirates.

This past weekend in Syracuse, Dyson fed off his own momentum from the tip, stretching the Orange’s zone with five first-half 3-pointers before finishing with 27 points. Against Rutgers, UConn fell behind by eight points after one of the more perplexing 15-minute stretches of the season.

Dyson scored seven of the Huskies’ next 14 points to close the half.

All three outbursts were at pivotal times. Proportionately, Dyson should be scoring more (see chart). How and when he’s doing it is more telling than any number.

After the win over Rutgers, Calhoun made his first stump speech on behalf of Dyson. When all the ballots are turned in from coaches in two weeks, the freshman guard’s name may appear on a few for Big East rookie of the year. With some objectivity, Calhoun also mentioned Scottie Reynolds of Villanova and Seton Hall’s Eugene Harvey as possible candidates and perhaps the front-runners for the award.

Calhoun also said he favors players on winning teams. Villanova is 6-7 in the Big East. Seton Hall is 3-10. Harvey has won conference rookie of the week honors three times while Reynolds, Dyson, West Virginia’s Da’Sean Butler and Luke Harangody of Notre Dame all have been honored twice. The list of comparison continues.

Still, Calhoun is more concerned about Dyson’s development than accolades. There are still flaws in his game, but he is still only a freshman.

“Somewhere between the long–range game at Syracuse that you saw and the slashing game at the rim tonight is a mid-range jump shot. He has that, but he has to work harder on that,” Calhoun said. “And he’s going to develop a game.”

And a player who arrived as an athlete may turn into a basketball player.

Like everything this season, time is still needed.

Brett Orzechowski may be reached at borzechowski@nhregister.com

ONLY OFFENSIVE PERIMETER OPTION?
Jerome Dyson over the last eight games
(UConn is 4-4 during the stretch)
OPP. FG 3-PT FT PTS
Providence 3-12 2-7 2-2 10
DePaul 4-11 0-1 8-9 16
Rutgers 2-8 0-2 9-11 13
Syracuse 1-8 1-4 7-8 10
Georgia Tech 4-14 1-6 4-4 13
------------------------------------------------
Seton Hall 7-22 4-8 4-4 22
Syracuse 8-21 6-13 5-8 27
Rutgers 4-10 0-0 9-11 17

Last eight games
Totals
FG - 33-106 (31.1 percent)
3-PT - 14-41 (34.1 percent)
FT - 48-57 (84.2 percent)
AVG - 118/14.8 ppg

Last three games
Totals
FG - 19-53 (35.8 percent)
3-PT - 10-21 (47.6 percent)
FT - 18-23 (78.3 percent)
AVG - 66/22 ppg

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