Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Priceless Quotes

A.J. Price was magnificent again -- both on the court (career-high 26 points, nine assists, just one turnover) and in the postgame press room. Here's the best quotes of the night from Price and the rest of the Huskies following their stirring, 84-78 win over Notre Dame Wednesday night.

Price, on sensing that Notre Dame's Luke Harangody (career-high 32 points) was starting to take over the game in the second half.
"Once I saw him almost taking over, I definitely made a conscious effort to try to match him and get my team back in it."

Hasheem Thabeet, on what Harangody said to him when the two started jawing after Thabeet's hard foul with 32 seconds left.
"He was talking about his scoring, but I was talking about, 'Who's winning?' He kept telling me how you're soft and all that. I wasn't trying to be anything that I'm not, I'm just telling him we're winning and that's it."

Stanley Robinson, on his huge 3-pointer with the shot clock running down that gave UConn a 79-74 lead with 1:56 left.
"It's one of the biggest shots of my life. That's a key moment, and I'm going to take it with me for life."

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, on Robinson's shot.
"Robinson's shot was the game, probably. The law of averages says we'll live with a jump shot from there, but he stuck it and a lot of times that happens, especually when you're playing at home. You feel you are a better shooter than maybe the numbers say. I give him a lot of credit."

Craig Austrie, on holding Irish sharpshooter Kyle McAlarney to 4-for-14 shooting and 12 points after McAlarney had gone for a career-best 32 vs. the Huskies on Jan. 5 in South Bend.
"I feel like he embarrassed us out in South Bend," said Austrie. "I just wanted to come out and let him know that I'm here."

Jim Calhoun, on the noon start time for Saturday's game at South Florida (who, incidentally, beat Syracuse Wednesday night).
"12 o'clock for college kids means they're going to brunch, not playing basketball. It's not exactly a trip that I'm looking forward to. But right now, we'll celebrate this win."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

No Mike, No Dog tomorrow

"Aaaaaaahhhhhh goodbye, everybody!"

That's what Chris Russo might as well be saying to UConn fans who thought they'd be able to watch the Mike & the Mad Dog radio show broadcast live from Gampel Pavilion prior to tomorrow's UConn-Notre Dame game.

The show has backed out of the remote, and you can thank Roger Clemens for it. Apparently, the two will be chronicling the Clemens fiasco tomorrow, rather than coming to Storrs.

(By the way, is the Clemens thing just a tad overblown? I mean, he's not on trial here. He's not going to jail for using steroids, so what's up with all the evidence-gathering and "he said/she said" intrigue and prying Congressman? He could go to jail for lying to authorities and Congress, but does that mean we're going to start rolling out every athlete and celebrity -- Sly Stallone, etc. -- who's suspected of using steroids and force them to tell the truth before Congress? As if Clemens is the only baseball player who may have used 'roids/HGH. And don't get me started on how the NFL gets a free pass on this whole issue!!!!)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Ater Majok will visit March 1

Ater Majok, the intriguing 6-foot-10 forward out of the Sudan via Australia, will make an official recruiting visit to UConn on Saturday, March 1. Majok will watch the Huskies host West Virginia at the XL Center that day.

Ironically, West Virginia is one of the other schools Majok plans to visit, either shortly before or shortly after the UConn visit. He’ll have one other official visit left besides that, which will probably be either to Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA or possibly Memphis.

Majok has already visited Baylor and Maryland. He hopes to make his decision after making his final three visits.

“He’s looking forward to his visit to UConn,” said Jason Niblett, Majok’s coach at the Heat Basketball Academy in Virginia. “Coach Calhoun and (assistants) Andre (LaFleur) and Pat (Sellers) have given him a great impression of how it’s going to be there. Now, it’s a matter of actually seeing for himself.”

LaFleur made a home visit to Majok down in Australia about a month ago that “meant a lot to the kid,” according to Niblett.

Niblett added that UConn is attractive to Majok on “tradition alone. They’ve been a winning program over the years, they produce pros. We’ll get him in, look at the school and let the chips fall where they may.”

Majok, 20, is 6-10 with a 7-4 wingspan, according to Niblett.

“He can play face to the bucket, back to the bucket, whatever you want, you name it. I could see him being another Rudy Gay-type.”

Majok was born in the Sudan but emigrated to Australia about seven years ago to escape his home country’s turmoil. He is enrolled at the American International School in Carlingford, Australia, and is scheduled to graduate this spring.

Majok came to the United States in November while on school break to play for Niblett at the Heat Basketball Academy, which is strictly a basketball environment. The team plays against prep and postgraduate schools and even, at the start of the season, a few Division 2 collegiate programs.

Majok played for the team from November until early January, when he returned to Australia. He’ll return to the academy on Wednesday and stay for about a month to finish out the season.

Majok’s cousin, Majok Majok is a 6-8, 17-year-old, also plays for the team and is projected to be a top-notch recruit.

'The Warrior' named Player of Week

Jeff Adrien has been named the Big East's Player of the Week. Adrien averaged 21 points and 11.5 rebounds while shooting 60 percent from the field (15-of-25) as UConn extended its winning streak to seven games with two victories. He had 19 points and 12 rebounds in a 63-61 win at Syracuse and scored 23 points with 11 boards in an 80-68 win against Georgia Tech.
He is averaging 14.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game this season.

Also, Hasheem Thabeet has been named to the Big East's Honor roll after averaging 15 points, 11.5 boards and 6.5 blocks in the two wins. He shot 78.6 from the floor (11-for-14).

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Jeff Adrien: Big-Game Hunter?

(Here's a story that will appear in tomorrow's New Haven Register that focuses on Jeff Adrien and his bond with Paul Epstein, twin brother of Red Sox GM Theo Epstein. Bet you didn't know Jeff is a moose-hunter, or an avid white-water rafter. Well, at least the white-water rafter part. Read on.)

By David Borges
Register Staff

STORRS --- He’s 6-foot-7, 243 pounds of sheer muscle, one of the physically strongest players in the Big East Conference. He racks up double-doubles on a near-nightly basis, often against bigger, taller opponents. His coach, Jim Calhoun, can’t stop calling him “The Warrior” – a moniker he has proudly sported since his AAU days.

“That’s something I have to keep, that’s what makes me who I am,” UConn junior forward Jeff Adrien said. “I’ve got to keep working even harder every time he calls me a warrior.”

No one would ever question Adrien’s boldness and leadership on the basketball court. But there’s a funny story Paul Epstein loves to tell that illustrates Adrien’s courage – if not, in this case, common sense – outside of the basketball arena and in the deep woods of Maine.

Epstein – the twin brother of Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein – is a social worker at Adrien’s alma mater, Brookline High. When Adrien was a freshman at Brookline, Epstein took him and a bunch of students on an overnight camping trip to Maine, where they stayed in some cabins out in the woods.

“It was probably one of the first times Jeff had been in a rural situation,” said Epstein.

That didn’t stop him from setting out to “hunt” some big game.

“He went hunting in the woods for moose, with just a flashlight,” Epstein recalled with a chuckle. “I don’t know what he was going to do with the flashlight, but that’s all he had. He was leading a party of Brookline youth into the dangerous woods of Maine with just a flashlight.”

A smile spread across Adrien’s face when recently reminded of the story.

“There was nothing out there!” he reported. “It was just dark. We went moose-hunting and never found one. I just wanted to see one.”

Compared to hunting moose armed with nothing more than a flashlight, preying on the Bearcats, Cardinals and Wildcats of the Big East has been a cinch for Adrien, at least lately.

Following Saturday’s 23-point, 11-rebound effort against Georgia Tech, Adrien has reached double-figures scoring in 15 straight games and has notched a dozen double-doubles on the season. His powerful, one-handed dunk early in the second half on Saturday kicked off a 10-0 run that helped spearhead the Huskies’ 80-68 non-conference victory, their seventh straight.

“Jeff’s dunk got us going, got the crowd back in the game,” said Calhoun.

And yet Adrien’s overall performance was overshadowed, once again. Hasheem Thabeet notched career-highs in both scoring (24) and rebounding (15), blocked six shots and dominated the postgame headlines and highlights.

It’s nothing new for Adrien. While Thabeet, the 7-foot-3 center, and junior point guard A.J. Price have – rightfully – been garnering a lot of national attention lately, Adrien has flown a bit under the radar.

“At times he can get overlooked,” Price admitted. “But he's not overlooked by anybody on this team or anybody in this program. We know what type of competitor and warrior he is for us."

Added UConn associate head coach George Blaney: “He’s a very prideful young man. Coach (Calhoun) and the players who have come back have always talked about how, when the team does well, everybody gets noticed. I think Jeff buys into that.”

Apparently, he does.

“As long as we win, everybody’s being seen right now,” said Adrien, who is now 39 points shy of becoming the 40th UConn player to notch 1,000 career points. “It’s all good, really.”

A Brookline Bond

Paul Epstein remembers when Adrien first arrived at Brookline High as a somewhat ungainly freshman.

“He was a tall kid, and everyone associated him with basketball,” said Epstein. “By the time he got to high school, his skills set started catching up with his body. That leadership really began to blossom his junior and senior years.”

As a senior, Adrien averaged 27 points and 14 rebounds and guided the Warriors to the Class A Championship game at the Fleet Center, where they lost to Springfield-Commerce. But there was more to Jeff Adrien’s high school experience than just basketball, thanks in no small part to Epstein.

Epstein wasn’t Adrien’s social worker, but he formed a close relationship with Adrien his freshman year. Along with the overnight camping excursion, there was a white-water rafting trip in Kennebunkport, Maine.

“Jeff was so much bigger than all the other kids,” Epstein recalled. “He acted like a kid in a candy store. He insisted on sitting in the front of the boat, so he could catch the most action with the rapids on the river. There’s a picture of Jeff in the front position. He looks like a little kid.”

The trip made a lasting impression on the young Adrien.

“That was one of the greatest times. I’ve tried to make that like my golf. Some people have golf, that’s my golf – white-water rafting, ever since that trip. I loved that trip.”

Adrien and Epstein would go to several Red Sox games together, sardined into Fenway Park’s notoriously small grandstand seats (Epstein is 6-foot-4) while watching the team run by Paul’s twin brother.

Adrien got to know Theo very well, too, often times picking his brain and telling him which players to sign, even attending a New England Patriots game in the luxury suites together (this was before Adrien went to UConn; no O.J. Mayo-type situation to report here).

This past summer, Adrien and Theo Epstein were the guest speakers at an event sponsored A Foundation to be Named Later, the charity foundation run by the Epstein brothers. The foundation has been working to open a community youth center in Brookline, and hundreds of Brookline youths were invited to the Game On restaurant outside of Fenway to hear Theo and Adrien speak.

Many of the kids hailed from the High Street Public Housing development where Adrien grew up – raised by his mother, Linotte, a nurse’s aid and first-generation Haitian-American – and where he is now a huge point of community pride.

“They were pretty much waiting for Theo to get off the stage so they could hear Jeff,” Paul Epstein recalled.

Adrien was, admittedly, nervous. It was the first time he had ever been asked to speak in front of such a large group.

“Those kids, it’s like I kind of grew up with them,” he said. “For me to come up and talk to them was like, ‘Wow.’ It was really a special moment.”

But after fielding a few questions from Paul Epstein, Adrien found his groove.

“He was fantastic,” Epstein said. “He rose to the occasion.”

Jeff Adrien has been doing that a lot lately.