Thursday, November 13, 2008

Carolina On My Mind

Truncated tidbits from today's practice, as the Huskies get ready to kick off their 2008-09 campaign tomorrow night against Western Carolina:

***Jim Calhoun ran practice, but George Blaney handled the media afterwards as Calhoun had to dart off to a speaking engagement up in Boston.

Blaney liked the way the team looked in practice.

"They were kind of juiced up, and that's always a good sign that they want to play somebody," he said. "Sometimes that kind of juice gets you too excited, and I think Coach tried to settle them down a little bit."

***The Huskies realize they haven't exactly been world-beaters in their season-openers the past two seasons. Two years ago, it took a key Craig Austrie 3-pointer to help get by Quinnipiac, 53-46. Last year, UConn barely got by Morgan State, 69-65.

"We haven't shown that we're really together at the start of the season as a team," Price admitted. "I think it's important to come out this year and show that we are on the same page and try to execute the game as best as possible at both ends of the floor."

Added Blaney: "It's always important to get a win first. I always think of November and December games as getting ready for the conference and getting ready for championships. It's really important to establish what you're going to be."

***Blaney on 6-9 Alex Oriakhi and 6-7 Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, each of whom sent in their letters-of-intent to UConn on Wednesday.

"Coaches that have seen (Oriakhi) all keep saying how much he's finishing now better than he did in the summer, or even last year. He looks physically ready to play, and that's a big step for any kid coming into a big program like this. Jamaal just knows how to play. He knows how to get open, to get his shot, and he just keeps getting better. They're really two good kids, and we're really happy that they're part of the Husky family."

***Charles Okwandu was sick and didn't attend practice. It's still not known whether he'll be eligible to play tomorrow as the NCAA looks into his eligibility. It's possible Okwandu may have to sit out the first few games of the season due to a transgression that doesn't appear to be serious.

***Western Carolina is led by 6-6 wing Brandon Giles, who averaged 15.3 ppg last season. Blaney said Giles reminds him of Central Florida's Jermaine Taylor, who torched the Huskies for 30 points last year. In fact, talented wing players often gave UConn trouble last season, begging the question: Who'll guard him tomorrow night? Jerome Dyson, 6-4, will undoubtedly get the call, but who backs him up? Gavin Edwards (a natural four)? Price (a point guard)? Donnell Beverly (who rarely plays at all)?

***Quote of the Day from Thabeet, on UConn's goal of playing into April this season: ""If they have games in May, we'll play 'til May. It's just exciting to get this thing going. We expect a lot of our guys. It should be a great year."

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