UConn's Past, Present ... and Future
And make no mistake, it promises to get emotional. Jeff Adrien said he was emotional as a freshman watching Denham Brown, Rashad Anderson and Hilton Armstrong partake in their Senior Day three years ago, so you can imagine how tomorrow might go. A.J. Price, who's been through more than most over the past five years, figures he'll be plenty emotional tomorrow but is betting that Craig Austrie is the first to cry. Even walk-on John Lindner has hinted that he won't be able to keep a dry eye.
Adrien, Price and Austrie – along with walk-ons Lindner, Johnnie Bird and Jim Veronick and managers Kyle Lyddy, Niele Marshall, Larib Omara-Otunnu and head manager Ben Wood – will be feted in a pregame ceremony starting at 1:40 p.m. tomorrow.
"It's going to be a tough one for me, to some degree," said coach Jim Calhoun, "because this particular group has bounced back from their sophomore year to their senior year."
Here's some tidbits from today's practice on the three graduating scholarship seniors.
(on his best accomplishment at the school)
"Growing up as a man. Without college, I don't think any of that would be possible. Given everything I went through, for me to still be where I am, I think it shows a lot of character and shows how I've developed."
Calhoun on Price:
"It's been a journey. This year, in particular, we've developed a particular bond … It's why you coach, it's why you do what you do. He really, really is a great tribute to someone who's overcome something none of us wanted. I will never get over sititng in the hospital that night when the nurse came in and said things don't look good. And then when I got a phone call about him with some self-induced misery, that was difficult, because he's a very loveable and likeable kid … very open, accessible, very articulate and very bright."
"It's been the greatest four years of my life, I'm sure it'll be an emotional day … I never complained, I just wanted to go out and do what I can … When I stepped out on the court, I wanted to project myself as a winner … It went by extremely quick. I remember those guys – Rudy, Marcus – like it was yesterday."
Calhoun on Austrie:
"He never asked one single thing in the sense of, 'Coach, you've got to give me more playing time, more opportunity.' He never uttered those words. He's a remarkable young man. Craig Austrie's got a bright future ahead of him, be it basketball or otherwise."
(On whether he'll be emotional tomorrow)
"My freshman year, I kind of got emotional with those seniors. I knew them for about a year … it was very, very emotional for me, just a freshman. I could just brush it off and keep it moving, or I could be as emotional as I was as a freshman."
Calhoun on Adrien:
"His numbers speak for themselves, but I think his growth as a human being speaks even higher (of him). He came to us as a kid who learned that if you work exceptionally hard, do the right things, you'll be successful. Jeff took that verbatim. He worked hard and did the right things, then had a very difficult time sharing them. He gave it to the team all the time, but he couldn't share it. Now he's learned how to share it, how to help lead others – a lot of times by example … There will be greater names that we've had here, but his accomplishments are just marvelous."
Funny to think that Andrew Bynum could have been celebrating Senior Day tomorrow, too.
***Also expect a rather large banner commemorating Calhoun's 800th win to be unfurled on the Gampel Pavilion wall. It was covered up yesterday, but it seems logical that's what it will be. The real question is, who hands the commerotive ball to Calhoun during the ceremony?
***Calhoun was asked about the never-ending controversy surrounding his postgame tirade last Saturday and the recent comments from a couple of state legislators that he should be reprimanded for them.
"People like Sen. Lieberman and all those other phone calls I've got throughout the country – the head of the NCAA and all the various people that have called me – that's all I've really needed. Quite frankly, all I've really needed is to go home and see Pat and my kids, look at these guys (his players) – that's all I really need. All I need is them. There have been other difficulties – much more difficult than this, trust me. Especially when someone tells you that you have a particular disease, that's a tough thing. Some of these other things that have gone on, I have no control over that – after the fact, certainly."
He did make one other ominous statement (though I wouldn't read too much into it): "This has been a real fun year coaching my basketball team, which is what I do and what I want to continue to do, wherever it may be."
***Remember when Hasheem Thabeet's comments about Luke Harangody were the controversy du jour? Not even a topic today. In fact, very little about the game itself was broached during today's availability.
***Despite what Big East officials said during a conference call yesterday, UConn has not yet clinched one of the top four spots in the Big East – and with that, a double-bye for the tournament. If the Huskies lose their final two games, it's possible they could finish in a three-way tie for second at 14-4 with Pittsburgh and Villanova (and behind both Louisville and Marquette). If that's the case, a "mini-conference" between the three teams – their records against each other – would determine who gets the final two spots for the double-bye. Pitt would have gone 2-1 against UConn and 'Nova, and Villanova is 1-1 vs. UConn and Pitt. UConn would be 1-2 against Pitt and 'Nova, so they would fall to fifth place in the league standings.
***UConn had three recruits from Sagemont Upper School in Weston, Fla at practice today: Fabricio de Melo, a 7-foot center who played on Brazil's Under-18 national team last summer; Richard Peters, a 6-10, 220-pound center; and Rod Days, a 6-6 small forward. De Melo is a senior, but he need a year of prep school to improve his academics. Peters and Days are both Class of 2011.