Saturday, October 18, 2008

'A, B, C ... Hey, You Made the Top Three'

Jim Calhoun's season-opening practices are known to be particularly grueling, and today was no exception.

A three-hour practice that started off at Guyer Gymnasium and moved over to Gampel Pavilion featured a lot of running and took its toll on several players. In fact, it left one player injured.

Sophomore guard Donnell Beverly hurt his hip while planting his foot during a drill about 20 minutes into practice and wasn't with the team when the media was invited in to watch the continuation of practice at Gampel. Calhoun doesn’t believe the injury is serious.

There were other lesser casualties. At one point, Jonathan Mandeldove was unable to run a second consecutive suicide sprint. Jeff Adrien, who Calhoun praised as one of the best-conditioned players on the team, cramped up at one point and had difficulty running a final lap. And as for the poor freshmen …

"I never expected it to be like this," said Scottie Haralson. "It was tougher than I thought, but I made it through. I'm just trying to work hard, make myself better."

Haralson made it a bit tougher on himself during the dreaded one-on-one box-out drill. A player must grab three straight defensive rebounds before he can leave the lane. Give up one and he starts from scratch.

Haralson was in for a long time at one point, and was so drained he could barely raise his arms as one teammate after another grabbed offensive boards against him. But he finally got out.

"I give him credit," said Calhoun. "After last night, when he had a miserable performance, he did a lot of ball-faking today, tried to take good shots. He was actually much better today."

Overall, Calhoun gave his players a grade of 'C' for their first official practice of the season (which reminds us of what Rodney Dangerfield joke: "A, B, C … hey, you made the top three.")

But we digress.

"We've had first days where we've had a lot of energy," Calhoun noted. "Two years ago we had a young team that was so energetic, and we won 17 games. It was a good 'C' effort. That attitude was good, the effort was good, but we just weren't quite as good as I would like us to be."

Calhoun said freshman point guard Kemba Walker got off to a good start "but ran out of gas." Adrien was "very good," and Hasheem Thabeet was "really pretty special."

As for Craig Austrie, however: "There's something just a little off with Craig. I don't know what it is, he's just a little off."

At one point during the practice, Calhoun stopped the team during a scrimmage and yelled "Five useless (expletive) dribbles. Pass the ball ahead!!!"

The losing team in the scrimmage had to run suicides. When the team didn't finish the suicides in less than 28 seconds, the whole team had to run (except a hunched-over Mandeldove).

To end practice, players had to make 7 of 10 foul shots. They were unable to do it the first time and had to run a lap. After failing a second time, they ran a sprint.

Finally, the Huskies made four in a row to notch the 70 percent number, and practice was over.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Walker Impresses at First Night

Jerome Dyson was the slam-dunk champion, Craig Austrie and Maya Moore won the two-ball title and freshman Kemba Walker was the best player on the floor in a 10-minute scrimmage at Friday's "First Night" festivities.

Austrie and Moore topped Gavin Edwards and Caroline Doty in the two-ball finals by a score of 24-12. At one point, the Austrie-Moore duo (certainly the favorites coming in) nailed eight straight 3-pointers.

After a couple of women's players put down (and missed) a few pedestrian dunks in what was billed as the first-ever UConn women's dunk contest, the real action began as Edwards, Walker and Dyson squared off for the men's dunk title.

Edwards started off with a nifty reverse jam, but then Walker, a 6-foot-1 guard, electrified the crowd with a two-handed, reverse coming from behind the backboard.

Dyson followed with a high-flying slam in which he appeared at about eye-level with the rim.

The contestants spent the next few minutes missing on some fancy jams, but Dyson put a thunderous end to the fun when he took a pass off the side of the backboard from A.J. Price, caught the ball in mid-air and threw down a dunk to win the contest.

(For what it's worth, yours truly had predicted Dyson would win. Jim Calhoun thought Walker would win it).

The scrimmage followed, and let's just say the fellas looked a bit rusty. The Blue Team of Walker, Austrie, Dyson, Jeff Adrien, Charles Okwandu and Jonathan Mandeldove topped the White Team, 17-6.

Edwards threw home a dunk off a Price alley-oop straight off the opening tap, but it was all Blue Team after that. Walker looked particularly impressive. He took the ball in the lane, made a sweet, behind-the-back pass fake and swooped in for a layup early on, then hit a nifty fallaway jumper soon after.

Later in the game, Walker also made a nice, no-look pass to Adrien, who was fouled and made a pair of free throws.

Dyson led the Blues with five points (including a nice alley-oop dunk off an Austrie pass in the final seconds), Walker and Adrien had four each and Austrie added two.
For the White Team, Edwards had four and Donnell Beverly added two.

Hasheem Thabeet had a monster block of a Mandeldove shot. Freshman Scottie Haralson struggled mightily, missing about a half-dozen 3-point attempts. Calhoun said that Haralson has been struggling with his shot in practice lately.

First Night Visitors

Tobias Harris and his Long Island Lutheran teammate, Ashcraf Yacoubou, are expected to be here at "First Night." They're both currently stuck in traffic as we speak (blog?).

You probably know about Harris, the highly-touted 6-foot-7 forward. But Yacoubou could be a real find. A 6-4, tough, athletic sophomore guard, he's been offered by UConn and Memphis thus far.

Also here are Mike Buffalo, Mike Poole and Andre Drummond. More info to come ...

PC's Hall Out for Season

This has little bearing on Providence College's chances of reaching the NCAA Tournament, but ...

Providence College men's basketball Head Coach Keno Davis announced today that junior center Ray Hall has suffered an injury that will prevent him from continuing his collegiate athletic career. Hall plans to remain with the team and will continue to pursue his bachelor's degree at Providence College.

"This is an unfortunate injury for Ray," Davis said. "It has been determined that in interest of Ray's long-term health, that this is his best option. Ray is a fine young man, who will continue to be an integral part of our program."

Hall played in 41 games over two seasons as a Friar, averaging 2.0 points and the 1.7rebounds per game.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Calhoun on Miles

Jim Calhoun commented -- albeit briefly -- about the Nate Miles situation on Wednesday.

When asked if the Miles situation has hurt the Huskies in any way, Calhoun quickly pointed out: "There have been 143 arrests at Penn State since 2003, and they're 7-0. It didn't hurt them."

Calhoun wasn't indicating that the more convicts on your team, the better. We're pretty sure he was just trying to point out that other collegiate programs have had far more offenders and deviants than UConn does or ever has.

He continued: "Did it hurt us? The young man was the best offensive player in the program. He's a terrific kid, he's still learning. What's happened to him is more than unfortunate."

(By the way, brought this up with some fellow writers: Why aren't we naming the alleged "victim" in the Miles situation? Miles hasn't been charged with assaulting her in any way, so protecting her name wouldn't fall under any 'rape shield' law or the like. Anyway, we all just kind of shrugged and agreed we probably would continue not to use her name. Guess that's the ultra-politically correct world we live in.)

As for other news from the Husky Run:

**UConn commits Alex Oriakhi and Jamaal Coombs-McDaniel, as well as Andre Drummond (a 6-9 15-year-old from Middletown) and Tobias Harris are expected to attend Friday's "First Night" festivities.

**Calhoun said there's about a "90 percent" chance for Stanely Robinson to be back with the team by mid-December. "He's doing all the things he's supposed to do, getting up at 6:30 in the morning, getting to work on time ..."

**There's also a "very, very good chance" that Ater Majok will arrive at about the same time Robinson does, though his situation is still a little more murky because he must pass through the NCAA clearinghouse and there's some confusion with his transcripts, etc. from Australia.

**How fast is Kemba Walker? "People say I'm fast, and he's hands-down faster and quicker than me," said A.J. Price.

**Check out tomorrow's Register for a story about how Jerome Dyson has matured and is eager to put last season's disappointing season behind him.

Times for the Husky Run

Gavin Edwards and walk-on Kyle Bailey finished neck-and-neck among UConn players at the annual Husky Run. The two finished with a time of 21:21. Edwards claimed victory ("by a toe"), but Bailey begged to differ.

"Go to the tape!" Bailey said.

Here's how the UConn players finished:

Gavin Edwards, 21:21
Kyle Bailey (walk-on), 21:21
Alex Hornat (walk-on), 21:34
Jerome Dyson, 22:11Kyle Hayes (walk-on), 22:54
Kareem (walk-on), 22:56
Craig Austrie, 23:49
Jonnie Byrd (walk-on), 23:58
Hasheem Thabeet, 24:00
Kemba Walker, 24:28
Jeff Adrien, 24:38
Donnell Beverly, 24:40
A.J. Price, 25:02
Scottie Haralson, 25:08
Jonathan Mandeldove, 25:30
John Lindner (walk-on), 27:47

Perhaps the most notable finish was Dyson's. Last year, he finished dead-last among UConn scholarship players, setting the tone for what wound up being a disappointing season for the talented guard.

But Dyson wants to make up for last season, in which he was suspended at one point for nine games due to a failed drug test and never really got back in synch the rest of the way.

"I didn't want to come in last two years in a row. I just had to come out and run a little bit harder this time," Dyson said. "The way things happened last year, I felt like I just needed to start out on a good note. This was a good way to do that."

The overall winner was Dan Kim, a UConn senior from Westboro, Mass., who finished with a time of 17:22.

UConn Game Times, TV Listings Finalized

Here's the complete UConn men's schedule with all times and TV listings:


Wd 5 AIC (exhib.) [gp] 7:30
Su 9 UMass-Lowell (exhib.) [xl] 1:00
Fr 14 Western Carolina [gp] 7:30
Mo 17 Hartford [xl] 7:00 MyTV9
Fr 21 # vs. La Salle 6:00 MyTV9
22/23 # vs. Miami or Southern Miss. 6:00 ^FCS
Mo 24 # vs. to be determined ^FSN
Sa 29 Bryant [xl] 1:00 MyTV9
Mo 1 Delaware State [gp] 7:30 MyTV9
Th 4 at Buffalo 7:00 MyTV9
Mo 15 Stony Brook [xl] 7:00 MyTV9
Sa 20 % vs. Gonzaga 4:00 CBS
Fr 26 Fairfield [xl] 7:00 ESPNU
Mo 29 * Georgetown [xl] 7:00 espn2
Sa 3 *Rutgers [gp] 7:00 MyTV9
Tu 6 * at West Virginia 7:00 ESPNU
Sa 10 * at Cincinnati 4:30 MyTV9
Th 15 * at St. John's [MSG] 7:00 ESPN/espn2
Su 18 * Seton Hall [xl] 2:00 MyTV9
Wd 21 * Villanova [xl] 7:00 ESPN
Sa 24 * at Notre Dame 7:00 ESPN
Wd 28 * at DePaul 9:00 MyTV9
Sa 31 * Providence [gp] 4:00 MyTV9
Mo 2 * at Louisville 7:00 ESPN
Sa 7 Michigan [gp] 6:00 ESPN
Wd 11 * Syracuse [gp] 7:00 ESPN
Sa 14 * at Seton Hall Noon MyTV9
Mo 16 * Pittsburgh [xl] 7:00 ESPN
Sa 21 * South Florida [xl] 2:00 MyTV9
Wd 25 * at Marquette 7:00 ESPN
Sa 28 * Notre Dame [gp] 2:00 CBS
Sa 7 * at Pittsburgh Noon CBS