Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dougie's Done

What's been inevitable since he declared he'd be transferring to UMass a couple of months ago became official last week: Doug Wiggins is no longer a student at UConn.

Wiggins finished his last summer course in Storrs on Friday. He'll be at home in East Hartford for the rest of the summer before beginning classes up at Amherst on Sept. 2. As a transfer, Wiggins will have to sit out all of this season and will have two years of eligibility beginning in 2009-10.

"I'm going to have to be mentally tough all year and keep my goals in mind," he said on Tuesday after helping his team, Nu Skool, to an overtime win over Cambyland in a Greater Hartford Pro-Am game.

Although Jim Calhoun liked Wiggins as a sparkplug off the bench, the 6-foot-2 guard never seemed to quite win over the coach. It certainly didn't help that he failed a couple of drug tests while at UConn and was arrested for possession of alcohol as a minor in mid-January, resulting in a suspension that wound up lasting two games.

"I kind of felt like, being a sparkplug that I was, I felt like I didn't have enough times to show I could play at the next level," Wiggins said. "For two years, I worked hard enough but never got a chance to be a starter."

Wiggins also craves the opportunity to play point guard -- something he wasn't going to get at UConn, with A.J. Price still there and Kemba Walker enrolling in September.

UMass's current point guard, Chris Lowe, is a senior this season. Wiggins said incoming coach Derek Kellogg has assured him that he'll be able to play the point as a junior ans senior.

"He's going to be running a Memphis offense, an up-and-down game," Wiggins said. "That's what I need."

Of course, Wiggins may have some competition from another East Hartford native. David Gibbs, who recently graduated from the Master's School in West Simsbury, will be a freshman for the Minutemen this season.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

On A.J. and Andre Drummond

Took in some Greater Hartford Pro-Am action on Sunday for a feature story I'll be writing later in the week. Interesting scene, lots of good ball (though not lots of defense). Saw Jerome Dyson pump home 27 points and Doug Wiggins 17 for Nu Skool, caught up with A.J. Price (who, obviously, was a spectator) and also saw a young player who is very impressive and very much on the UConn radar.

"He's only 14 years old, people!" Greater Hartford Pro-Am co-founder Peter Higgins bellowed into the mic numerous times during Sunday's action.

Higgins was referring to Andre Drummond, a sophomore-to-be at Hartford's Capital Prep. It's good that Higgins reminded the crowd that Drummond was just 14, because it's hard to believe simply by seeing him and watching him play.

Drummond is 6-foot-9, 230 pounds, and he made a few jaw-dropping plays on Sunday that belie the fact that he's two years from even getting his driver's license. The most impressive: a two-handed, reverse alley-oop dunk off a pass from Nu Skool teammate (and UConn standout) Jerome Dyson.

Drummond is a Bronx native, but his family moved to Middletown a couple of years ago. Yes, the Huskies are very high on him – he's been to several UConn practices and games and will attend Jim Calhoun's Elite Camp in a few weeks in Storrs.
West Virginia, Florida, Texas, UMass, Kansas and Fordham are among Drummond's many suitors. Yes, we know he's only 14 – Peter Higgins reminded us several times – but Andre Drummond is a name to keep in mind for UConn fans.

Price had some interesting things to say. Some highlights:

** He's started jumping a little bit and hopes to be making cuts in a couple of weeks. He also believes he could be playing in pick-up games by the end of August, though he won't venture off his six-month gameplan.

** He's talked to several other players who've suffered torn ACL injuries, including the Celtics' Tony Allen (set up by Ray Allen) and Big East brethren Mike Cook of Pitt and Eric Devendorf of Syracuse.

** Cook's conversation resonated the most because the two suffered their tears on virtually the same moves. Said Price: "He said he knew it as soon as it happened to me because it was the same move, and when I looked at it, I said 'you're exactly right.' He said the first couple of days are the hardest, but once you get through that, the thing about the ACL is you feel improvement every single day, which is true."

** Price believes the addition of incoming freshman Kemba Walker, who was just named MVP of the FIBA Americas Championship, will allow him to play off the ball more this season. "I think it will suit our team best if me and Kemba get to play together a lot. I think the tempo of the game will be too much for people to contend with. Him being a point guard that knows how to play point guard. We struggled when I went out of games last year, that won't happen this year. Me being able to score the ball the way I can sliding over the two won't be a bad thing at all. I know Coach will do the right thing and find his way to pick and choose when we play together."