Went over to Gampel Pavilion this afternoon to see what’s going on up in UConn territory. Apparently, just missed Jerome Dyson, who has been cleared to participate in full-contact drills and pick-up games for the first time since tearing the lateral meniscus in his right knee in February.
Otherwise, had a good chat with associate head coach George Blaney (Jim Calhoun has only been in the office once, for about an hour, since breaking five ribs in a bike crash on June 13), as well as Ater Majok and a few other players. Here’s what we’ve got:
***All indications are that Majok will be on board for the Huskies next season. He’s been working out at Gampel pretty much every day for the past week with UConn’s other players. Perhaps more telling, he has signed up for second-session summer classes at the school that begin in late-July.
“He’s doing everything that indicates that he is (planning on playing for UConn),” Blaney noted
Added junior guard Donnell Beverly: “He said he’s staying here, that he’s going to come to school.”
Majok, however, won’t guarantee it.
“I think I’ll be playing at UConn next year,” he said with a wide grin, before adding. “I don’t know yet, but I would really like to … I need a championship, so that might motivate me to come back.”
So, who knows? Majok said his workouts for NBA teams over the past month or so was “a good experience, I learned a lot. It’s good for someone like me who hasn’t played basketball a lot, just to go and learn the game from the veterans and coaches.”
He added that working out with the rest of UConn’s players, particularly the guards, this summer is a positive, “so when I get on the court later, we have something in common, we’ve played together already.”
Majok says the coaching staff tells him he’s a “hybrid four – and that basically, I’m a nightmare for any four-man in the nation. I can shoot the 3, and not a lot of big guys can go out there and handle the ball, things like that. They look at me as a hybrid four – a three or a four who plays the four.”
***It’s June, we realize that. But if the season started tomorrow, Gavin Edwards would be the starting four and Charles Okwandu the starting five.
“Charles is strong, he can rebound, he can really defend,” said Blaney. “He’s a baby offensively, but when you have Kemba (Walker), Jerome and Stanley (Robinson), you’re not looking for a ton of scoring from that position.”
As for Edwards, it’s just a matter of him having as much confidence in himself as the coaching staff has.
“He has all the skills – passing, catching and shooting,” Blaney said. “He has basketball knowledge, he’s one of the smarter players we have, guard or forward. He’s got great speed, he’s got great jumping ability. I think he’s a little bit like Hilton (Armstrong) – he’s kind of grown into his body, he’s made himself a lot stronger.”
Said Edwards: “I think I’ve kind of come into my own now, and I’m ready to believe in myself the way everybody else on the coaching staff does. They’ve been telling me that the (No. 4) spot’s basically mine to lose and there’s no reason why I shouldn’t have the confidence to be able to go out there and start and play as well as I have in my best games here.”
***In further evidence of how social-networking affects the college sports landscape, a rumor broke out shortly after the end of last season that 7-foot enter Jonathan Mandeldove was set to transfer. It was even reported by a local news station, apparently as a result of a “tweet” on Mandeldove’s Twitter page.
In fact, Mandeldove, a senior, said transferring from UConn was never a consideration. As for the “tweet”, it was just a joke on Mandeldove’s part.
“I saw (the rumor) and I replied with another tweet, ‘Leaving campus right now,’ because I saw someone was following me and posted it up on another website,” he said. “That was a little prank.”
In fact, Mandeldove’s teammate – little-used junior guard Donnell Beverly – did give some consideration to transferring.
“I thought about it,” Beverly said. “I talked to some people at home, and we figured the best thing for me to do is just to stay here, because my chance will come, I believe that. And I’m under a great coach, anyway. Nobody would be able to get you more ready than coach Calhoun.”
***The Huskies use a VertiMax machine to help players improve their leaping ability. The machine has a harness that players tie around their waist and is connected to a platform by two cords. The players jump (as high as they can) while strapped into the harness and dunk or put in as many layups as they can over a certain amount of time. After the resistance that the machine offers, the players feel they can jump through the roof once unharnessed.
“Everybody raves about it,” said head manager Ben Wood.
Upon stepping onto the machine, making him practically eye-level with the bottom of the basket net, Majok said: “I’m so close (to the rim). Is this how Hasheem feels?”
***Edwards has won the team’s strength and conditioning award the past two years.
***Blaney said Jeff Adrien had two very good workouts over the weekend, with Utah and Charlotte. The Utah workout went particularly well, with Jazz coach (and soon-to-be Hall of Famer) Jerry Sloan in attendance.
“That would be a kind of coach that he’d really do well with,” said Blaney.
***As for Hasheem Thabeet: “All of the pro guys I’ve been talking to, it sounds to me like (he’s) No. 2.”
***Blaney on Calhoun: “He’s trying to get up and move around, get the blood flowing, not be sedentary – and you know he’s going to do more of that than he’s supposed to. Each day, he sounds better. If you catch him at the end of the day, he usually sounds a little tired.”
Labels: Ater Majok, Charles Okwandu, Donnell Beverly, Gavin Edwards, George Blaney, Hasheem Thabeet, Jim Calhoun, Jonathan Mandeldove