Saturday, March 22, 2008

Rush For Judgment

If A.J. Price needs to look for inspiration that he'll be able to return from his ACL injury at full strength next season, all he has to do is observe what Brandon Rush did this season at Kansas.

Rush tore his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) last May, shortly after deciding to skip his junior season and enter the NBA draft. Fortunately for Rush, he hadn't hired an agent, so he was able to remove his name from the draft and play this season.

And Rush has played very well, averaging 13 points per game for the powerful Jayhawks and enhancing his draft status from a year ago.

Rush, a 6-foot-6 guard, had his ACL surgery on June 1 and returned to game action a bit ahead of schedule on Nov. 15 – 5 ½ months after his surgery. Price, who tore his ACL midway through the first half of UConn's eventual 70-69 overtime loss to San Diego in an NCAA tournament first-round game on Friday, is slated to have surgery at the end of next week. That would put him about two months ahead of Rush's schedule from a year ago.

UConn director of sports medicine Jeffrey Anderson said Price should be back to game action after six months of rehab, meaning Price could easily be ready to play by First Night festivities in mid-October.

Oh, and as for the possibility of a second medical redshirt ... well, there's no such thing. But Price could apply for another year of eligibility if he's unable to play next year due to his ACL injury.

Student-athletes have four years of sports eligibility to be used in a five-year window, but that can be extended to a sixth year in special circumstances. Price, a junior, has missed two full seasons in his four years at UConn – one as a result of a life-threatening bout with Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM), one after being suspended for stealing laptops.

He received a medical hardship waiver after his battle with AVM, and while there is no such thing as a second medical hardship waiver, UConn could ask the NCAA for another year of eligibility for Price due to extenuating circumstances.

"If you have somebody within their five-year window that doesn't have the opportunity to use four years of eligibility as a result of circumstances beyond their control – for instance, two season-ending injuries – that entitles them to apply to a waiver for a sixth year," said Joe D'Antonio, who's the associate commissioner in charge of compliance and governance for the Big East. "What it really does is extends the five-year window to another year, allowing them to use four seasons in a six-year period rather than a five-year period."

Price's laptop suspension wouldn't enter into the equation in applying for a sixth year, since that was a situation within his control.

After ACL surgery next week, Price is expected to be able to return to game action after about a six-month rehab process. But if he runs into any problems along the way and isn't able to play next year, he could apply for a waiver.

D'Antonio isn't aware of the specifics of Price's situation, but said: "Hypothetically, if someone is not able to rehab over the summer and be ready to play next year as a result of a medical injury, he would be a candidate – I can't tell you if he'd get it or not, there are no guarantees – for a five-year waiver."

If Price re-injures his knee next season, he could only apply for a waiver if he has played in no more than three games or 30 percent of UConn's schedule – whichever number is greater – and hasn't competed at all over the second half of the season.

If Price plays all of next season, there is virtually no chance of him getting the waiver. Just look at the situation with University of Cincinnati quarterback Ben Mauk, who was redshirted his first season at Wake Forest, transferred to Cincinnati and sat out most of another year due to a shoulder injury.

Mauk asked for a sixth year to exhaust his eligibility, arguing that he was forced to take the redshirt year as a freshman. His request was denied by the NCAA.

Trainers Talk ACL

Talked to two of the athletic trainers still here in Tampa – Western Kentucky's Mike Gaddie and San Diego's Carolyn Greer – about ACL injuries in general. Both have seen numerous ACL tears in their respective tenures – Gaddie had two basketball players suffer the injury this season (his ninth at WKU); in one of Greer's 30 years at USD, she had 11 different football players with torn ACLs.

Without knowing the exact specifics of A.J. Price's injury, both agree with UConn director of sports medicine Jeffrey Anderson's assertion that Price's rehab time to full game-action clearance will be about six months.

Here's what they had to say:

Mike Gaddie, assistant athletic trainer, Western Kentucky:

(on the typical rehab timetable for an ACL injury)
"It takes about a six-month period, and that is just a rehab-general guideline period. The advantage athletes have is that most of them are very strong, they're very healthy, and they have a great determination and a goal. Obviously, they have something they're trying to work back to. There is a medical period when the surgery has to heal, the body has to heal, and the body has to recover at its time. Typically, six months is when they're back at full-go. Some people say four months, we usually go about a six-month time period from the time of surgery.

(on how an athlete can maintain his conditioning during the rehab process)
If you're talking about basketball specifics, the No. 1 thing for us to do is try to simulate basketball because of the conditioning and cardiovascular side of that. Our guys do as much cardiovascular as we can – a lot of swimming, it's a great exercise because it works everything. You can't simulate running up and down the floor, that's one of the toughest things … Usually after about 2 ½ months, we've got them on a pretty steady weight room (regimen), balancing, jumping, all those kind of things. Not exactly like their other teammates, but they're pretty close to it.

(on the actual surgical procedure)
It's a reconstruction. Different physicians have different techniques. Some take a part of the patella tendon, which is in their own body, and they re-insert that back into the same position that the old ACL came out. Some use part of the hamstring tendon, some also use donor graphs that are harvested. That's physician preference, and also based upon the athlete and what their history is.

(on his experience with players at WKU)
Since I've been doing this at Western, knock on wood, in men's basketball specifically, I've never had a guy who's not returned and played their full season. I'm fortunate, I guess. Every kid that we've had, male and female, has always come back. I'm sure there's some cases out there where they haven't come back, I would say that those cases are probably not related to the ACL. It's just a traumatic injury, physically-wise they're going to come back. The mental side of athletics is a huge thing. Most kids are mentally tough, mentally strong, so they're able to overcome it.

(on whether he'd venture to guess that Price will be back)
In general, yes. I do not know, I don't want to specifically comment on that. I'm sure their staff is superb, and they're going to do whatever. As far as our guys, six months is the window we look at. I would think that would be reasonable, but each athlete is different … You have no reason to believe that that young man won't be back in six months. Again, that's speculation, obviously. I'm sure that's where they're heading.

Carolyn Greer, University of San Diego athletic trainer:

(on the severity of an ACL injury)
"It really depends on if there's any other pathology in the knee joint. You hope that it's just an isolated ACL tear. It sounds bad, but you hope it's just an ACL. Then the course of rehabilitation, if he also has meniscal damage, that could make the course of rehab longer and more difficult."

(on how long the rehab process normally takes)
The technology and the surgery is so much better than 15 or 20 years ago. The chances are coming back from an isolated ACL – good surgeon, good course of recovery, you've got a great athletic trainer in James Doran who'll rehabilitate him – I think you'll find six months, maybe a little longer, when he can return to play.

For more extensive coverage on Price's injury, check out tomorrow's New Haven Register


A.J. Price suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee on Friday, it was determined through testing at the USF Tower at Tampa General Hospital.

Price is expected to undergo surgery to repair the tear near the end of next week. Rehabilitation time for full game clearance, according to UConn director of sports medicinie Jeff Anderson, is expected to be six months.

That means Price could be ready to go by the time UConn officially begins practice in October.

More to come ...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Price Quotes

A.J. Price spoke to a pool reporter shortly after UConn's 70-69, overtime loss to San Diego tonight in an NCAA tourney first-round game.

On his severely-sprained left knee:
"I made a tough move to the basket and as I was pushing off to go up I just felt everything go wrong in my knee, and I took pressure off of it as fast as I could. I was thinking about giving it a go, at one point I felt like I could, but when I did some warm-up stuff in the locker room, I just didn't think I could go. I'll have an MRI tonight to see what the story is."

On watching the rest of the game from the bench:
"I was saying all week how excited I was to play in my first (NCAA) tournament, and knowing that my team needed me tonight, it was extremely difficult to watch. But all in all, I was proud of these guys coming back and getting themselves back in the game. It was very hard to see my team lose with that last shot."

On giving his team advice from the bench:
I was giving the team everything I could as far as knowledge. I told Jerome Dyson that I needed him to go back to the scorer that he was. I knew he was capable of being there."

On the conclusion of the team's season:
"It's very difficult to deal with. We had a good season, not a great season, a good season, especially after the year we had last year. We showed a lot of people that this team is good; same players, same core. We came back and put together 24 wins. To end this way is very difficult, knowing we should be moving on. I feel like we had a great chance of winning on Sunday as well, so it's very tough."

Will Thabeet Stay?

Hasheem Thabeet was asked after today's loss if he would be back next season, and as usual, he wasn't ready offer any definitive answers.

"I'm only a sophomore, who knows," he said. "We just lost today, right now I'm focusing on the team."

It was interesting to note that when asked about his team's now-completed season, he said: "Last year we had a bad year, we came back this year and showed a lot. Next year I think we have a chance to be something."

Said Jeff Adrien: "I'd love to see Hasheem stay another year, I think he could use it. But that's not my concern as far as his decision-making. I just want to be his teammate."

MRI for A.J.

A.J. Price has been taken to a local Tampa-area hospital for an MRI on his left knee. Right now, a UConn spokesman is calling it a severe sprain. But coach Jim Calhoun said the MRI is being done to determine if Price suffered any ACL damage.

Updates later ...

It's All Over

They battled back, trailing by 11 early in the second half with their best player sidelined by a sprained left knee. Other players stepped up: Jerome Dyson, who hit four huge free throws in the final 10 seconds of both regulation and overtime and finished with 14; Jeff Adrien, who played with fire all game and had a team-high 18 points and 12 rebounds; Hasheem Thabeet, who asserted himself down low in the second half and had 14 points, 6 boards and 4 blocks.

But UConn came up short.

De'Jon Jackson missed a potential game-winning shot at the end of regulation, then was whistled for a key traveling call with 1:05 left in overtime. But he redeemed himself in a big way, hitting a wing jumper with 1.2 seconds left in OT to put San Diego ahead for good in a 70-69, first-round NCAA tourney win that ended UConn's season.

To top it off, Jackson stole Jeff Adrien's ensuing inbounds pass at midcourt, sealing the Huskies' fate.

It's the first time in Jim Calhoun's 22 years at UConn that he's lost an NCAA tourney first-round game. No doubt, a huge contributing factor was the loss of All-Big East point guard A.J. Price, who sprained his left knee with 9:39 left in the first half and spent the rest of the game watching from the bench, no doubt looking at a long rehab process over the offseason.

And that offseason has now come.

More posts to come ...

Gut-Check Time

Were UConn's hopes for advancing deep into the NCAA tournament carried off the court with A.J. Price midway through the first half? We'll see.

Price sprained his left knee while driving for a layup at the 9:39 mark of the first half. He was carried off the floor by Hasheem Thabeet and walk-on John Lindner. A few minutes later, he was taken into the locker room with trainer James Doran.

Price returned to the bench with 3:17 left in the half on crutches, with a huge ice pack on his left knee. He watched the rest of the half from the end of the bench. UConn trails a San Diego team that isn't overly impressive by any stretch, 34-29.

UConn seemed to lack fire from the opening tap, even with Price in the lineup. Without him, there apear to be a lot of slumped shoulders and a lack of leadership on the floor. Jeff Adrien is playing with some heart -- 11 points, vocal leadership. Otherwise, the Huskies appear to lack energy.

It'll be interesting to see what happens in the latter half. This team has shown resiliency before, most notably when they learned the night before that they would be down two key players (Jerome Dyson and Doug Wiggins) for their game with then-No. 8 Indiana at Assembly Hall. The Huskies managed to gut out a 68-63 win as everybody stepped up. That was one of 10 straight wins for the Huskies, most of them without Dyson.

Of course, it was A.J. Price who stepped up the most during that 10-game streak.


"Party Like it's 1969." So read a sign from a Drake fan, who was hoping his Bulldogs could make its first run to a Final Four since 1969. Ty Rogers had other plans.

Rogers hit a long 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Western Kentucky and incredible, 101-99 overtime win over Drake in today's opener. Hard to top this start to today's slate of first-round games at the St. Pete Times Forum.

WKU led by 9 at halftime and by 16 midway through the latter half, but you can never count out a team that shoots 3's like the Bulldogs. Drake bounced back from 5-for-17 3-point shooting in the first half and hit 11 of 25 in the latter.

Drake tied the game at 88-88 on Jonathan Cox's 3-pointer with 30 seconds left, and that's how it remained after regulation.

A pair of Cox free throws with 5.7 seconds left gave Drake a 99-98 lead. After a timeout, Rogers inbounded the ball to Tyrone Brazelton (game-high 33 points), who took the ball up the floor and dished off to Rogers just beyond NBA 3-point distance.

With three Drake defenders draping him, Rogers canned the game-winner.

The teams combined for 30 3-pointers (on 70 attempts).

WKU is tough. Obviously, the Hilltoppers can hit the 3, but they're also very athletic. They also play mostly zone, and while it didn't prevent Drake from posting 99 points on them, zone defenses have given UConn problems this season.

If UConn is able to beat San Diego this afternoon, the Huskies are in for a tough match-up on Sunday.

Tough 'Toppers

Drake's Cinderella season is in jeopardy as it trails Western Kentucky 47-38 at halftime. The Hilltoppers look good -- they shoot the ball very well (61 percent in first half, 44 percent from Treyville) and they're athletic. They also play a 2-3 zone. Add that all up and that's a tough match-up for UConn -- assuming WKU holds on to win and the Huskies beat San Diego.

Drake is too reliant on the 3-pointer, and when they don't fall (5-for-17 so far) the Bulldogs are in trouble. Klayton Korver, Kyle's younger brother, has no conscience. He's thrown up at least three trey attempts from well past NBA distance and missed them all, often leading to transition layups for WKU. Drake is a great story, with a pair of former walk-ons (including conference player of the year Adam Emmenecker) leading the way. But it if doesn't find a way to keep the Hilltoppers from hitting open 3's, and doesn't start making some baskets of its own, Drake is in trouble.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

"I Wouldn't Be Alive If It Weren't For Basketball" ...

... Those words are literally true for USD freshman forward Rob Jones.

His father, Jim Jones, Jr., is the adopted son of Jim Jones, the infamous cult leader who led over 900 people to their deaths in a mass-suicide in Guyana 1978. In fact, Jones, Jr. was the first African-American child adopted by white parents in the state of Indiana.

He survived the "Jonestown Massacre" because he was away playing with the Peoples Temple basketball team against the Guyanese national team at the time, so Rob Jones is accurate when he says that he wouldn't be here if not for hoops.

"I developed a love for basketball on my own, but it's been so important because my dad (was) out playing basketball," he said. "That's why he's still alive today."

Jim Jones, Jr. won't be attending tomorrow's game, since his wife Erin is still on the mend from foot surgery.

At 19, Rob Jones is remarkably mature for his age. He handles questions about the "Jonestown Massacre" from the media and general public, as well as taunting from rival fans, with aplomb.

"Sometimes I've heard people make jokes," he said. "It's my history. That was a couple of years in the past before the story really got out. It's just kind of funny to me."

Opposing crowds have made some remarks, most notably fans at Gonzaga.

"Some of them are pretty funny and creative," Jones admitted. "I try to use it as a little motivation, get a little edge against them. It'll probably always be there … but I have no problem with it. It doesn't really bother me in a negative way. I'm fine with it."

A Pragmatic Jim Calhoun

The wireless situation here at the media workroom at St. Pete Times Forum is less than ideal. Those who are able to log on (for $15.95 per day) are frequently booted off. Others aren't able to log on at all, despite paying the fee.

Better get some blogging in before I get booted.

UConn just wrapped up a perfunctory 40-minute practice, during which it went through a variety of shooting drills. The team had to make five shots in a row from a variety of different spots on the court, from short bank shots to 3-pointers.

Jim Calhoun, A.J. Price and Jeff Adrien addressed the media beforehand. Some highlights:

(On UConn's stunning Elite Eight loss to George Mason two years ago, when Adrien was a freshman)
"We should have been in the Final Four, but George Mason had the better day. It still sticks with me. I thought about that the other day."

(On San Diego, tomorrow's opponent)
"I just think that we are physically better than them as far as our talents. But you know, anything could happen. I think we match up a lot better."

(On how intimidating teammate Hasheem Thabeet can be)
"He's not just a 7-foot-3 stiff, he's a 7-3 guy who is mobile, agile and can get up and down the court."

(On Gyno Pomare, San Diego's bruising 6-8 forwards)
"Pomaro, the big kid up front … there's probably not an "O" in (his name). It's Pomare, I think … I'm Irish, what do you expect. Bottom line, whether he's Pomaro or Pomare, it really is not important. He's good, and he's very effective."

(On San Diego, which beat Gonzaga to win the WCC tournament)
"They play a great deal lilke Gonzaga, except they out-Gonzagaed Gonzaga this year."

(On how it feels to be the "glamour" team in Tampa)
"I looked in the mirror and there was nothing really glamorous this morning that I saw. I was called crusty three or four times by local newspapers. I don't know, crusty and glamorous don't seem to go together."

(On what his team's mood is like coming into the tournament)
"This is a shock to some of you that I actually lied the other night to the media when a writer from New York asked me, 'It appears that you don't have a great handle on your team.' And I said, 'No, that's wrong. I have a great handle on my team.' That was a lie. So I'm not admitting that because it is Lenten season, and I think I should come up with some form of confession."

(On whether Jerome Dyson is back to where he was before his 30-day suspension)
"I think physically he is. We're making him the back-up 3-man, and at 6-3, 200 pounds, we think he can handle that. We're trying to create a little different role for him now because Dougie (Wiggins) has played well, and Craig (Austrie) has averaged 12 points a game since he's become a starter. Occasionally, we've moved Stanley (Robinso) to the 4 to get more offense into the game. That is something tough a little bit when Hasheem or Jeff has been on the bench … and Stanley is a good enough rebounder at 6-8.

(On what opponents shouldn't do against 7-3 shot-blocker Hasheem Thabeet)
"If he gets there and blocks a couple, you're going to be very careful. If you try to shoot a second one, then you're competitive. If you try to shoot the third one as (a Cincinnati) kid did, shot three in a row, then he was very stupid. I don't mind the competitive part, I don't mind the ill-advised part. It was the stupid part that probably would have bothered their coach."

More to come …

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hamiltonian Error

Did you see where the Detroit Pistons messed up Rip Hamilton's name on the back of his uniform?

Oh, and here's a link to today's story in the Register about the job of coaching that Jim Calhoun has done this season:

OT: NBC-30 is for sale

GE is selling the West Hartford-based station, in case anyone cared.

Yankees in the House

Just arrived at the media hotel, the Tampa Marriott Waterside, right across the street from the St. Pete Times Forum. Nice place. Nice enough to host the New York Yankees' Luncheon, being held right now in the hotel's ballroom and benefitting the Tampa Boys & Girls Club. Missed the Yankees' entrance and don't know which players are here, but plenty of autograph-seekers bedecked in Yankee garb are milling about the lobby.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"Joey Brackets" Goes 65-for-65

Say what you want about famous "bracketologist" Joe Lunardi -- get a life, get a new hairpiece, etc. -- you've got to give him props for picking the entire field of 65 for this year's NCAA tournament correctly.

Obviously, he had to wait until the SEC championship game was done, not long before the selection show began, because nobody would have picked Georgia otherwise. I'm assuming the ESPN web site has the time of Lunardi's final picks documented.

Lunardi is a graduate of St. Joseph's University, where he works as assistant vice president for marketing communications. He also is a radio analyst for the Hawks.

Monday, March 17, 2008

About Last Night ...

Some notes & quotes from UConn's Selection Sunday celebration:

So what do we know about the University of San Diego men's basketball team? Well ...

*They're nicknamed the Toreros.
*They've never won an NCAA tournament game in three appearances, losing all three games by single-digit margins.
*They've never faced UConn before.
*They beat Gonzaga 69-62 in the WCC championship game. Gonzaga, of course, beat UConn back on Dec. 1 at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston. Jim Calhoun stayed up late to watch USD's win over Gonzaga on March 10. "I don't know why," he said. "It wasn't a premonition."
*They're led by 6-foot point guard Brandon Johnson, who's averaging 16.9 ppg and shoots 37-percent on 3-pointers, and 6-8 forward Gyno Pomare (13.7 ppg).
*They're third-leading scorer, freshman Rob Jones (8.8 ppg) is the grandson of infamous cult leader Jim Jones.
*"They're a good, solid basketball team," said Calhoun. "They caught Gonzaga, shot the ball well. They don't score an awful lot of points, they try to keep control of the game. They're more of a defensive team. The biggest thing they did against Gonz. Is they determined the pace of the game and won the game because of that."
*The rest, we'll find out on Friday around 3 p.m.


UConn certainly doesn't mind being placed in the West Region. If the Huskies get through their first two games they'll go to Phoenix for the West Regional. UConn's national-title runs in 1999 and 2004 both went through Phoenix.

"If history repeats itself, I'll take it," said Jeff Adrien.

Also, UConn's 2004 national championship win over Georgia Tech took place in the Alamodome in San Antonio -- site of this year's Final Four, as well.

Can the Huskies win it all this year?

"You'd best believe it," Adrien said.

Added Calhoun: "The good thing is, we're not going to play over our head. George Mason had no chance (after beating UConn in the 2006 Elite Eight), in my opinion. They played a great four games and went to the Final Four and weren't going to win the national championship. We can get there and anything can happen in two games. We've already beaten some of the teams that are ranked pretty high."


This will be Calhoun's 15th trip to the Big Dance in his 22 years at UConn, and his 20th appearance overall. He is 36-11 in NCAA tournament games at UConn.

"If you win, the band's playing around you,"he said. "If you lose, all of a sudden you hear in the distance the band marching up the street and leaving you behind."

Juniors Adrien and Craig Austrie are the only two Huskies with NCAA tourney experience. But they're certainly not the only two who have watched it on TV.

"You grow up watching March Madness, this is the best time of year," said A.J. Price. "Stars can be made here, guys know that. We've got to be ready to play, and if we do what we have to do as a team, we can make history as well."


The Huskies were happy to see the Big East match its own record by getting eight teams into the Big Dance. Last year, Syracuse was curiously snubbed. This year Villanova, a bubble team, made the cut. The Wildcats lost to Big East regular-season champ Georgetown in part because of a controversial official's call with less than a second remaining.

"I think it's a direct reflection of last year, to some degree," said Calhoun. "I think they looked at it and said, 'how are you going to differentiate one-tenth of a second?' (Villanova would) be somewhat of an automatic, when you think about it, with that Georgetown win."

Added Price: "I've said all along this is the best conference, even though a lot of other conferences were getting a lot of notoriety, such as the PAC-10. There are no easy games, top to bottom -- the bottom team can beat the top team on any given night -- and it showed by getting eight teams in."

A Chilling Lineage

An interesting note on the University of San Diego men's basketball team: Rob Jones, a freshman and the Toreros' third-leading scorer at 8.8 ppg, is the grandson of Jim Jones, the infamous cult leader who led over 900 people to their deaths in Jonestown, Guyana 30 years ago.

Here's an article on Rob Jones that ran in the San Diego Union-Tribune last October:

Sunday, March 16, 2008

UConn will play around 3 p.m. on Friday

UConn's first-round NCAA tournament bout with San Diego on Friday will begin at about 3 p.m., or a half-hour after the 12:30 p.m. game between Drake and Western Kentucky is over.

The Huskies will have a practice -- open to the media and general public -- on Thursday from 2:15-2:55 p.m. at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa.