Sunday, December 14, 2008

Oh Stanley!

So myself and the rest of the UConn beat writer contingent are watching the Huskies' practice this morning at XL Center, carrying on with some light chat while the team is running a fullcourt scrimmage.

One team gets on a little 2-on-1 break, and Jerome Dyson throws up an alley-oop pass to Hasheem Thabeet. Thabeet can't stuff it home but tries to lay it up off the glass, only it rolls around and out of the rim.

Then, all of a sudden, Stanley Robinson springs up out of the blue and stuffs it home with two hands and plenty of authority.

I turn to the Republican-American's Ed Daigneault (sp?) and we give each other a look like, "Oh yeah, he can do that, can't he?"

Yes, he can. Robinson made his return to the practice floor today for the first time this season after sitting out the first semester to deal with some personal issues. Much of that will be covered in tomorrow's Register story, but here's some of the details of Sticks' first practice:

Understandably, his shot was a little off. He nearly air-balled a 15-footer, then a lane jumper after making a nice cut to the hoop. Late in practice, he air-balled a 3-pointer from the corner.

However, Robinson looked as lithe and as athletic as ever. He made a similar slash to the hoop later in practice and hit the basket, showing again just what the Huskies have missed in his absence.

"Energy, excitement, being positive, staying positive and staying consistent," Robinson said when asked what he brings to the Huskies' attack.

UConn, of course, has been pretty good (8-0) without Robinson. But there's no doubt he brings a special dimension to the team.

"He's a great athlete," said Jim Calhoun. "He jumps and dunks. He's not going to make every shot yet. Some of the stuff we've added, he doesn't know yet. But he does know how to run, block shots, rebound and defend. We don't want to break our chemistry up, we have won eight straight. But conversely, we've added a very good basketball player to our lineup, which makes us a better team."

Robinson, who ran the 3 1/2-mile Husky Run route on campus three times a week over the past couple of months, said he's in "long-distance shape. I'm not in sprint shape, I'm in Husky Run shape. Give me like two weeks, everything else will work out fine."

Calhoun said that Robinson will play both the 3 and 4. He won't start tomorrow night against Stony Brook (even though power forward Jeff Adrien is only "probable" after spraining his right ankle in practice yesterday), but the Huskies will surely ease his way back into the rotation.

"He's in good shape, that won't be the problem," said Calhoun. "I don't think he'll play 40 minutes, but he'll be in the rotation, I don't have much doubt about that."

***Calhoun said there may be a chance the Huskies starting lineup looks different tomorrow night, and it has nothing to do with Robinson. Freshman point guard Kemba Walker has had some "real good practice sessions," according to the coach, and there's a chance he could start tomorrow. It's not likely, however.

"Right now, we'll probably have the same lineup," Calhoun said.

The coach has been disappointed with A.J. Price's play for most of this season, but noted that Price had one of his best practices of the season yesterday.

Price has played tentatively this season, a result, he now admits, to not quite being able to get over the mental hurdle of returning from last March's torn ACL.

"I told you guys plenty of times that wouldn't be a problem, I'll play through it. But that's just the way it is," he said. "Mentally, to get over it, it's just difficult. You don't want to feel that pain that you felt when you tore the ACL ... I'm just not going strong when I go to the hole, probably not wanting to hurt myself. It's going to change and I'll get over it. I'll play better, eventually."

***Adrien only participated in about half of today's practice. He wasn't able to get any lift off his ankle.

***Obligatory Ater Majok Update: Nothing new, still "up in the air," according to Calhoun. The team has until mid-January, at the beginning fo the second semester, to still have a chance for Majok to play this season. Nothing new has come up, Calhoun said, it's just that Majok's past history (a refugee camp in Egypt, asylum in Australia) has made the case very difficult for the NCAA to decipher.

***Although Robinson will be a walk-on player, paying his own way through the money he saved working at a sheet metal factory the past few months as well getting some Pell grants, he will have his name on the back of his uniform, Calhoun said.

***Calhoun couldn't resist noting that the Huskies' near-miss at Buffalo a couple of weeks ago may not have been as bad as originally thought.

"Oh by the way, didn't they beat Temple by 12?" he said, not having to mention that Temple crushed No. 6 Tennessee yesterday. "I guess some of those experts aren't quite as expert as they were. Regardless, Buffalo looks a little better today."

***UConn faces 5-4 Stony Brook tomorrow night in Hartford. The Seawolves are coached by ex-Calhoun assistant Steve Pikiell. Stony Brook went 7-23 last year.

"I told him, that five-year contract made him a better coach," Calhoun joked. "A more confident coach, anyway."


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