Wednesday, December 31, 2008


December 31, 2008

VERBAL COMMITMENT ALERT: Jamaal Trice, 6'4 SG from Mt. Zion (NC) Christian Academy via Los Angeles

Projected 2009-2010 Roster:

Seniors: Jerome Dyson (G), Jonathan Mandeldove (C), Stanley Robinson (F), Gavin Edwards (PF/C), Hasheem Thabeet (C)
Juniors: Donnell Beverly (G), Chukwuma "Charles" Okwandu (C)
Sophomores: Kemba Walker (PG), Scottie Haralson
Freshmen: Alex Oriakhi (C), Jamal Coombs (F), Jamaal Trice (SG)

The recruiting news out of Storrs has been rather quiet. With the only two players to sign with UConn in the fall, Alex Oriakhi and Jamal Cooms, being committed to the Huskies since their sophomore years, recruiting in the 2009 class has been slow. However, the Huskies have been attempting to fill a need at shooting guard and looks to have found their man as UConn Gets a Commitment from Jamaal Trice (Waterbury Rep-Am) during a recent visit.

Read More...Click Below!

Jamaal Trice finished up a high school career at powerful Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana (CA) abd headed off to do a year of prep basketball at Mt. Zion Christian Academy in Durham (NC). It looks like the move paid off as Trice is now a committed player in the class of 2009 for the Connecticut Huskies.

Trice played on an always loaded mater Dei team in 2007-2008 and averaged around 10 points a game. He will join Tilton School teammates Alex Oriakhi and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel as 2009-2010 freshmen for the Huskies.

Some of UConn's recruiting needs and priorities have been scrambled a bit since the fall as Nate Miles, a 6'7 wing, and 6'10 forward Ater Majok are not with the team. Miles was dismissed from school in his first month on the UConn campus. Majok has yet to be cleared by the NCAA eligibility clearinghouse. His saga is ongoing, he could still join the program for the later part of the 2008-2009 season. UConn begins their spring semester in three weeks, so we will know by then.

On paper, UConn has one scholarship remaining for 2009-2010. It is expected that Hasheem Thabeet would turn professional, which would open an additional scholarship. Expect UConn to be int he mix with some top players that either are, or become eligible in the spring recruiting period.


Read more!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Pre-Game Hype, High Expectations For Husky-Hoya Big East Opener

By Zach Smart

It’s been quite the wait, but the pulsating, gut-wrenching Big East action is finally here. Easily one of the biggest matchups of the season kicks off today, with No. 2 UConn hosting Georgetown at the XL Center in Hartford.

The highly-anticipated matchup between fabulous freshman Greg Monroe and UConn center Hasheem Thabeet, a 7-foot-3 behemoth and blocksmith, is likely to live up to its billing. But with the resurgence of once-exiled guard Jerome Dyson (who’s emerged into UConn’s go-to-guy and the key cog in the Huskies’ go-go, souped up offense), along with the play of Georgetown’s DuJuan Summers (14.3 ppg) and Chris Wright (13.2 ppg), the game is about as predictable as a Mike Tyson interview.

Anything can happen. It should be wild, down-to-the-wire basketball in its purist, most appreciable form that features the crowd as the sixth man and an X-factor that beat writers scribble in their notepads about all game.

Read More...Click 'Read More' Below!!!

Hype surrounding the eyeball-to-eyeball battle between the two super-sized bigs has been hanging around Hartford all afternoon. The matchup brings some added juice and is one of many of the intriguing subplots for tonight.

Thabeet, who was extremely raw and a work-in-progress his freshman year, has developed a toughness and unfaltering confidence that hasn’t relented since last year. The NBA prospect is beginning to flower, albeit UConn ate up the cupcakes of their nonconference slate in shark-size bites prior to the barometer game at Gonzaga.

Thabeet called out Notre Dame forward/center Luke Harangody for his lack of toughness during an interview with ESPN.com and was charged with a technical foul for taunting during the Huskies’ victory over Gonzaga. Trying to shoot over his towering head and longer than the nile river arms, you’re likely to get stuffed like a thanksgiving turkey.
With Monroe, however, Thabeet has apparently met his match.

Monroe registered his imprint immediately. Heading into the contest, the 6-foot-11 Monroe was averaging 12.5 points, 5.6 boards, and 2.1 blocks while staking his claim as a premier freshman in the Big East (see Samuels, Samuerdo or Theodore, Jordan or whoever else my lackadaisical self is missing for more details on that).

The aforementioned Wright, who’s blossomed into an area code shooter this year, has held his own. He has a great supplement in local product Austin Freeman (Bowie, Md.). Jessie Sapp, a Harlem native with plenty of big-game experience, provides augmented back court vigor.

The UConn guards have been just as tough, with A.J. Price netting the big three and finishing with 24 points and 10 dimes against Gonzaga. Kemba Walker has become a presence in the running game and passing lanes, while Craig Austrie has been rock-solid.
Remember, Austrie ran the show when professionals Marcus Williams, Hilton Armstrong, Josh Boone and Rudy Gay were all in uniform. He’s got that type of experience and has showed resolve and resilience throughout his career. Calhoun, a longtime Boston Red Sawx fan, refers to Austrie as the Huskies’ version of closer Jonathon Papelbon.


Read more!


December 29, 2008

The Big East regular season gets an early start this year, before the New Year, and begins with a bang with Georgetown visiting the XL Center in Hartford to battle Connecticut in a match-up of conference goliaths.

college basketball odds currently list Connecticut as 6 and a half point favorites in tonight's game.

Here are some of the pre-game stories and previews found on the internet this morning:

No. 12 Georgetown @ No. 2 UConn (Hartford Courant)
Big Challenge at the Start (Washington Times)
Huskies Host Hoyas to Start Big East Play (Norwich Bulletin)
Ready for Bog East Play (Courant)?
UConn Men's Gameday (Connecticut Post)
Ho-Hum, Here Come the Hoyas (New Haven Register)
Huskies Happy to Have Walker Back in the Mix (Norwich Bulletin)
They're Back in the High Life Again (TheDay.com)
Hoyas Set for a Big Challenge (Washington Post)

With Big East play getting underway, UConn Huskies Basketball Tickets are in demand and nothing is better than a match-up between the defending Big East regular season champion Georgetown Hoyas and the pre-season Big East favorite for this season Connecticut.

Connecticut comes into the contest undefeated with an 11-0 record. Non-conference victory highlights included wins over Miami and Wisconsin as the Huskies captured the Paradise Jam in November and a thrilling OT win over Gonzaga just nin days ago in Seattle.

Jerome Dyson leads the team in scoring with an average of 15.5 points a game, but the player separating UConn from others is 7-foot-3 center Hasheem Thabeet who averages 14.8 points, 11.1 rebounds and 3.7 blocks a game, teamming with Jeff Adrien (14.5 points, 9.5 rebounds) to form a menacing frontline.

AJ Price has been a little bit slow coming back from off-season ACL surgery (10 PPG, 37% shooting from the floor), but he showed he was still a clutch performer with 24 points and 10 assists in the win over the Zags, which included a game-tying three-pointer in the final moments of regulation.

The new-look Georgetown Hoyas made it through their pre-conference slate with a 9-1 record, highlighted by a 75-48 win over Maryland in the Old Spice Classic consolation and an overtime win over Memphis. Their lone blemish was a semifinal loss to Tennessee in the Old Spice Classic in Florida back in November.

Gone from the Hoyas back-to-back regular season championship clubs are Roy Hibbert, Jonathan Wallace, Pat Ewing Jr, Vernon Macklin and Jeremiah Rivers. The Hoyas only return four players with real Big East experience (and that includes Chris Wright who was limited as a frosh due to a broken foot), so this is a new experience for many on their roster.

Junior DaJuan Summers leads the balances Hoya attack with 14 points a game which sophomores Austin Freeman (13.7) and Wright (13.2) and highly touted freshman Greg Monroe (12.4) also average double figures in scoring. Monroe also leads the club in rebounding at 5.6/game.

The Hoyas will have five players on the floor that can handle the ball and pass away from the basket, hoping to draw Jeff Adrien and Hasheem Thabeet away from the basket and make them defend in space. That is an interesting match-up to watch and if they are successful it will cause some problems for UConn. However, if Thabeet is able to play a one-man zone inside, he could erase virtually all of the Hoyas game in the paint by himself.

UConn has the edge in depth and size and the new-look Hoyas will be put to the test from start to finish tonight. The opening of Big East play will bring some added pressures to the Huskies with a big target on their back as the conference favorite, but they will have too much firepower up and down the line-up and when teams need to go to tthe bench tonight, they have a decided edge and should come out with a win.

Georgetown tickets are always in demand, no matter where they are playing and tonight's game is no exception when the Hoyas and Huskies lock horns in what promises to be a highly watched event by college basketball fans around the league and nationally.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Connecticut 71
Georgetown 63


Read more!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Behind AJ, Huskies Pass Gonzaga Price Checkpoint

By Zach Smart

I’d say it’s about as certain as berth and death.

During one defining moment, in the aftermath of the UConn Huskies’ 2008-09 campaign—the final ride on A.J. Price’s rollercoaster collegiate career—a student-pupil meeting between Price and Jim Calhoun will extract some emotional overtone. The one-on-one meeting I’m envisioning is similar to the one between William Gates and coach Pingatore in Hoop Dreams.

Price, who Calhoun once pegged as the best player to ever pen with UConn—the NBA breeding house that actively hounded Price while his game took off at Amityville High (N.Y.)— will know that he gave a valiant effort to make up for lost time.

What type of memorable sendoff will Price give Calhoun and the Huskies? What PRICE-less words of advice will Calhoun heap on his point guard, whose individual resilience and resolve over the past five years scream “storybook ending?”

It is all about as predictable as disease, death, and Britney Spears’ next mythic meltdown.

So, there was Price on Dec. 20, rising to the occasion during UConn’s first true barometer game.

Price, whose outside shooting struggled during UConn’s first nine victories, canned a three with eighth seconds remaining in regulation, sending a dizzying game into overtime.

Read More...Click 'Read rest of Article' Below!!!


UConn ended up avenging last year’s loss with an 88-83 triumph before 16,763 in Seattle, Wash. He dropped 24 points and doled out 10 assists, toughening up during a superb second-half sword fight that featured ties and lead changes.

That’s Price making up for lost time.

Price spent his freshman season facing near-fatal darkness and his sophomore year sulking in his own boneheaded blunder.

The skeptics began to surface. The doubters said Price was done for good. Most just wondered what a kid born to two loving parents and raised well under superstar Ivy League father, Tony Price, was doing stealing laptop computers.

Price’s redshirt sophomore year was spent fending off the inevitable rust two years away from the game instigates. He tried to find his voice on a house thoroughly cleansed from the Final Four run a year before, a house featuring nine freshman and three sophomores. It never happened, and UConn labored through a trying 17-14 season. For the first time in recent memory, there was no post-season.

Then came Price’s junior season, when he restored the program’s credibility and helped catapult them back into the national picture. It ended in upsetting, dramatic fashion. Price suffered an injury that’s limited him, and the Huskies suffered a first round NCAA tournament upset.

In that 2007-08 season Price made the transition from pop tart puppy to potent pit bull. He hastened UConn’s already souped-up, hellfire offense and played with extra juice.

Maybe that was Price making up for lost time.

He was the guy leading the runways for UConn, the guy who the Huskies looked to in crunch time, the guy that was often lauded by his coach at the end of pivotal victories.

And UConn had a lot of them last year, defeating eventual Big East champion Pitt, West Virginia, and Marquette and scoring signature wins over Indiana and Georgetown.

Price made up for his spindly frame by being a cerebral player with in an insatiable thirst for victory.

He knifed through defenses, barreled his way to the bucket, and stuck pull-up jumpers. He became an area code outside shooter, played with a New York savvy, and answered the call when his teammates needed him to.

Price fell into the role of quarterback, lobbing passes that guys like Jeff Adrien, Hasheem Thabeet, and Jerome Dyson launched themselves into the sky for and slammed home.

He penetrated the gut of the defense, found the open man and snaked along the baseline. These antics, of course, increase the NCAA college basketball odds of a tournament berth.

Simply put, the kid who was once so close to the edge he was nearly balancing his Nikes on a piece of dental floss was worth the Price of admission.

He needs to bring that sense of urgency, playing every game as if it’s his last, into Big East play this season.

While the Gonzaga victory proved the Huskies are no joke, Price will need that attitude as the Big East slate begins Dec. 29 against Georgetown.

After all, if Price’s seesaw career has taught him anything, it’s that nothing is guaranteed and you never know when you’re career can come to an abrupt end.

Calhoun, Connecticut’s Hall of Fame and cancer-surviving game general, reiterated this point before. In a speech to his team, Calhoun said he still gets butterflies before playing Bryant College, who UConn trounced.

No question, a meeting between the coach-and-player will emerge before Price’s departure from Storrs. How the Huskies end the season, whether it’s hoisting a trophy or exiting early, is partly up to Price.

After health and legal issues nearly took him out the game, Price looks to make up for lost time yet again.


Read more!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


by Zach Smart

Storrs--This Christmas, UConn faithful are revved up for the return of Stanley "Sticks" Robinson along with the anticipated arrivalof Ater Majok, both top-tier players.

Robinson's reinsertion and Majok's inaugural season, which would provide a stopgap at the 3-spot and augmented interior toughness, respectively, would be an ideal gift to slide under the big Calhoun Christmas Tree.

Robinson, the ultra-athletic 6-foot-9 swingman, is a considerable NBA prospect. His game took off during certain stages last season, but his inconsistency and tendency to go Houdini during critical contests was notable.

Read Rest of Team Article...Click 'Read More' Below!!!

Majok, a 6-foot-9 brute who's rumored to have more game than a Playstation system, made noise on the Youtube circuit. In the video, Majok looks like a man amongst boys, a wunderkind that can have a major impact on this team.

Calhoun told the media that Robinson would not start tonight against Stony Brook. The freakish forward entered the game with 3:15 gone by, to a thunderous ovation.

Sticks finished with seven points and five boards, taking just four shots in 15 minutes of burn.

Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien dominated the much smaller Stony Brook frontline, dropping 18 points apiece, as the Huskies cruised to a 91-57 washout.

Checking in with seldom-used Center Jonathon Mandeldove, Sticks immediately re-registered his presence in the UConn atmosphere.

With 16:38 remaining in the first half, Sticks got free above the rim, caught an alley-oop pass from Kemba Walker, and slammed it home, wowing a hyped up Holiday crowd. He pulled down a man-size board moments later, showing the fans the manpower the Huskies salvage with his return.

Following a personal leave of absence during which he lived with his uncle in Vernon, Conn., Sticks began taking online classes and practicing with his teammates. The kid who entertained transfer/academic withdrawal thoughts over the summer was employed as a sheet metal worker at Prime Materials Incorporated in Willimantic, Conn.

Word around the wilderness, Robinson got the gig through a former Husky player who runs the joint. So, college seemed like an afterthought for the kid who's fundamentally sound in all aspects of his game and longer than the Nile River

.With Sticks, however, you never really know what the deal is. One minute he's chatting it up with Hartford Courant beat writer Mike Anthony. Next minute he's dodging the media despite (UConn men's basketball SID) Kyle Muncy's urging him to stick around and answer some questions.

"Few people understand Stanley Robinson, and I'm not one of them," Jeff Adrien said following the Huskies' defeat of Buffalo in the beginning of the 2007-08 campaign.

He's the kid who hung 32 on Maine but disappeared during an ugly loss to Providence (2 points, 1-for-6 FG). He's back as a Husky and here to stay. Any rumors that he was headed to the University of Alabama or UAB were quickly gutted.

Sticks played sparingly in the first half, logging just five minutes. While he showed no signs of rust, he wasn't involved. The game was nothing short of a laugher, with UConn grabbing an insurmountable 80-48 edge after an AJ Price trey. At 2:35, Sticks got some good run during garbage time. He hit the front end of a 1-and-1, missed the second but sky'd for his own rebound and drew another foul in the act of shooting. Robinson made both free throws this time and added a long jumper that pumped UConn's lead to 89-55.

It's nice to get into the spirit and slam down a cupcake with some eggnog. For the first half of the season (outside of the Paradise Jam Tournament), UConn has picked up a familiar habit. It's the same habit a chubby 8-year-old who sneaks into the sweets drawer after dinner needs to kick. Too many cupcakes.

As UConn's much-anticipated date with Gonzaga inches closer, Sticks is finally back in the fold. The No.5 Zags, who've been smoking, but fell to Arizona Sunday night, will be anxiously waiting the eyeball-to-eyeball matchup.

Deck the Halls in Seattle.

The Huskies (and Santa Clause) are coming to town.


Read more!

Friday, December 05, 2008


December 5, 2008

The much anticipated battle for Big East supremecy is looking like it could come down to the wire with a battle between the Pittsburgh Panthers and Connecticut Huskies. In Five Big East Questions With...Mike DeCourcy, the national college basketball writer for the Sporting News believes the league title could be decided March 7th when the two programs meet.

Wait...that is in basketball! While many around the Big East is geared up for an exciting basketball season ahead, there is still the matter of a few football games this weekend around the Big East, each with NCAA Bowl Game Implications, including when the Panthers travel to Storrs to take on the Huskies, on the football field.

Pittsburgh, after a late rally, comes into the game on the toes of a 19-15 victory over arch rival West Virginia in the Backyard Brawl. Panther star LeSean McCoy rushed for 183 yards and two touchdowns, both in the fourth quarter, to give Pitt the win.

McCoy's final TD came in the games last minute following a Pat White interception as WVU tried to ice the game with a couple first downs.

On the other side, UConn relies on their star running back, Donald Brown, to lead their attack. Brown has amassed 1,633 yards this season (compared to 1,308 of McCoy) and 16 touchdowns on the ground (compared to 20 for 'Shady'). The Huskies are 3-3 in the Big East and 7-4 overall, both putting them one game behind the Panthers in the standings and bowl pecking order.

Current NCAA Football Odds have the Huskies listed as 2 1/2 point home favorites. Neither team has been setting the world on fire with their play from under center, as both quarterbacks have struggled lately. That usually means a little trouble for the road team, and, coming off the emotional victory over their rival, a let down is certainly possible for the Panthers in this one.


Connecticut 20
Pittsburgh 16


Read more!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Thoughts Before Buffalo

By Zach Smart

Following a 30-point win over a Delaware State team (well, every player except Donald Johnson, who was smoking) that couldn’t throw the ball into the Wide Sargasso Sea and shot the rock like they were blindfolded at a strip club, the Huskies travel to the freezing-cold confines of the University of Buffalo Thursday night.

Rather than inviting Buffalo up to Gampel or the XL center for a guarantee game, the UConn will trek to the Alumni Arena, uncharted territory for the No.2 Huskies.

While college basketball odds will certainly be stacked against the Buffalo Bulls, the Huskies will not be the first highly rated Big East squad to venture into Alumni Arena. Two seasons ago, Aaron Gray and a top 5 Pitt squad made the trek and UB took the mighty Panthers to the wire in a 70-67 loss nearly two years to the day.

Last season, the Huskies faced Buffalo at Storrs, bouncing back from a lackluster 69-65 win over Morgan State by rolling to a convincing 82-57 thrashing.

Read More...Click Below!

This was during the regional round of the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic, benefitting Coaches vs. Cancer. The Huskies got 24 points from A.J Price and an exhilarating, momentum-changing performance from exiled Husky Stanley “Sticks” Robinson that night.

Robinson, who will likely be back in 2009, finished with 10 points, 13 caroms, and six swats that night.

It was certainly a redemption night for the wiry, freakishly athletic Alabama native, as Robinson re-wrote the script following a zero-point, five-turnover disaster the previous night. He was treated to a traditional, inevitable verbal whipping from Jim Calhoun following the Morgan State game and the UConn coach admittedly went from embarrassed to awestruck after his show against Buffalo. In the post-game interview, Calhoun compared Robinson’s wowing athletic ability to the likes of UConn products Scottie Burrell and Rudy Gay.

UConn posted a whopping 15 blocked shots that night, and “Sticks,” the feast-or-famine swingman, kept Buffalo out of the key.

That was then. Now is now. A lot has changed since that brisk November night in Connecticut.

-The manpower has never been in short supply at UConn. Calhoun’s penchant for getting super-sized bigs that can patrol the paint to sign with Connecticut has proved profitable. The Huskies have arguably the most formidable frontline in the country in 7-foot-3 Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien. Both players can agitate, affect, and alter the trajectory of shots.

The Huskies have some depth up front, but no oceanic, Hudson River depth. Gavin Edwards turned in a career night against Delaware State Monday, erupting for 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting. His coming out party could jack up the 6-foot-9 forward’s minutes in a non-conference game of this type. Calhoun’s other 7-foot Godzilla-sized centers, Jonathon Mandeldove and Charles Okwandu, have played sparingly. Both players are a work-in-progress and have looked greener than a weed plantation.

-Kemba Walker is rapidly ascending into a new zip code. The highly-touted freshman has established himself as one of the best point guards in the Big East and the gem of this year’s recruiting class. He’s panned out as a presence in the running game but doesn’t whip passes the way Marcus Williams did. In Calhoun’s eyes, however, he has not played to his level in the past two days. Price, on the other hand, is nowhere near the player he was last year, when he mushroomed into Player of the Year candidate. Price is averaging 8.5 points per, hitting his shots at an inadequate 18-for-51 clip (35 percent), including 11-for-29 from beyond the arc. Price has hit just 4-of-11 from the charity stripe, as the Huskies’ free throw shooting woes continue.

Buffalo jumped out to a 2-0 start on the season before suffering back-to-back losses to Evansville and geographic rival Niagara. In the heartbreaking 64-61 loss to Niagara, scoring engine Tyrone Lewis scored a game-high 23 points. Rob Garrison, the former UConn guard who transferred after being buried on the bench, added nine points. Buffalo resuscitated itself by stamping an 83-73 win on Temple. The Bulls (3-2) have well-balanced scoring, led by Rodney Harrison’s 17 points per. Harrison has displayed his full offensive repertoire this season, attacking the rim, getting the mid-range game going, and dialing in from downtown. Beyond go-to-go Harrison, guard-forward Greg Gamble is averaging 14 points and six boards per. Andy Robinson (10.5 ppg) and Calvin Betts, who dropped 18 points and pulled down seven boards in the win over Temple. The Bulls have augmented their bench depth over the years. Senior shooter Sean Smiley, who struggled in last year’s meeting at UConn (and easily became a target for the UConn fan base), can light it up off the knot.


Read more!

UConn Swallows Another Cupcake

By Zach Smart

Prior to UConn’s 79-49 dismantling of Delaware State, a team that didn’t boast a player taller than 6-foot-7 on the roster, a few thoughts crossed my mind.

-What does UConn, the no.2 ranked team in the country, get out of a game like this? How does a guarantee game of this (lack of magnitude) help them in the RPI ratings, if it does at all?

Read More...Click Below!

-For those who are unfamiliar with UConn and the pre-conference schedule, allow me to explain. Jim Calhoun employs a tactic quite similar to his buddy and fellow Hall of Famer, Jim Boeheim at Syracuse. Actually, based on Syracuse’s enhanced strength of schedule and sizzling start this season, Boeheim no longer buys into this methodology. The jury is still out on how an early-season schedule that includes Bryant, Albany, Buffalo, Stony Brook, and Fairfield (before the Huskies cross the threshold into the ultra-competitive Big East, one of the nation’s premier conferences time and time again) will benefit the Huskies. Can someone please explain it to a sloth learner like myself? Remember, I was one of those dudes that got the “No Time Limit” card for my tests in high school .

-The Huskies certainly had a free pass during the 2006-7 campaign, when a callow crew (8-9 freshmen and then first-year sophomore A.J. Price, who was setback two years due to health and legal issues) needed to develop chemistry and get a taste of the tempo of Division-I ball as well as the high-horsepower, track meet basketball that Calhoun tends to implement. That year the Huskies ate up a schedule that included Fairfield, Sacred Heart, Texas Southern, Northeastern, and Coppin St. in shark-size bites.

- UConn got their wind tested against and showed poise in a tight battle they gutted out against La Salle before dumping off a rock-solid Wisconsin team in an extremely hostile environment. Thus, the No.2 AP/No.2 ESPN-USA Huskies have been about as predictable as the chances of Plaxico Burress, Dick Chaney riding in New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s car on the way to the shooting range for target practice. With UConn, the oasis, the NBA machine (see Hamilton, Richard or Gay, Rudy for more information) that pumps life into the barren Connecticut countryside, playing a MEAC goldfish that couldn’t swim with sharks like Ohio State, West Virginia, and Kentucky, the stage seems set for another 30-point guarantee game. Delaware State, with their patented slowdown tempo, lost five straight games in which they put up exactly 42 points, so I wasn’t expecting a very considerable upset bid.

-The Hornets’ Donald Johnson, who scored a game-high 25 points and six threes, torched the nets early. The senior guard had four threes in the first half, but his teammates couldn’t supplement his dragon-slaying effort. It made for some pretty interesting algebra at halftime. Johnson was 6-for-10, his teammates a combined 1-for-21 (7-for-31, 22.6 percent). Nothing short of abysmal. The Hornets had open looks at the basket, even a couple of second chance opportunities, but they simply couldn’t capitalize. Guard Fred Bouie (a carbon copy of “Spanish” from old school, which the rowdy UConn fans quickly picked up on) got free on a fast break and coughed up a wide open layup. God I feel bad for this guy.

- UConn’s harassing full-court press was a bit of a rude awakening for the Hornets. The Huskies instigated a torrent of turnovers but once again failed to identify Hasheem Thabeet, who had 10 points and 17 rebounds, early on.

“I thought Hash was terrific,” said Calhoun. “We just didn’t get him the ball enough….And it’s good for us, because it will develop us for later games.”

-While Thabeet was quiet early, Gavin Edwards had an epiphany. He realized it’s a lot easier to shoot over 6-foot-7 players than it is to shoot over the 7-foot-3 National Defensive Player of the Year Thabeet (as he does in practice). So Edwards took advantage of every minute he had on the hardwood. An alley-oop jam by the freakish Jerome Dyson, followed by an Edwards bucket gave UConn an early 10-3 advantage they wouldn’t squander. -Edwards continued to establish himself, scoring at will and even punching one DSU player’s shot attempt down his throat in the first half.

-One game after Calhoun criticized his club’s perimeter defense, Johnson put on a show in the first half, injecting some momentum in his club by canning three after three. This is after the Huskies allowed Bryant College to shoot 11-for-25 from beyond the arc against them.

“It was a tough game to play in for our kids. I still would like to see to see them develop a little more suffocating and prideful defensive philosophy, and better ball movement. When we moved the ball well, we shot the ball exceptionally well. And when we moved it poorly and did some individual stuff, we obviously didn’t score anywhere near the way we’re capable of scoring against a team that we’re superior to. We just had let-down periods in the second half that we really shouldn’t have had,” explained Calhoun.

“We don’t govern the circumstances of how the other team plays, but we have to react to that. We certainly could have reacted better. They must have had six or seven rebounds where we were at half-court trying to start our fast break, which we didn’t need to do. It wasn’t a negative game by any stretch of the imagination.”

-UConn looked a little sluggish at times during the first half. They were up by just five with 9:25 in the first half, when Calhoun dropped his head into his hands. Craig Austrie got stuffed on his way to the hole, and was immediately yanked. The slowmotion offense wouldn’t get them in a funk for long. UConn ripped off a wowing 21-3 spurt. The Huskies broke the game open when Dyson (15 points) froze a defender in mid-air and busted out a nifty, acrobatic up-and-under layup that put UConn ahead. A Thabeet alley-oop soon followed, and the second half was over before it started.

-UConn showcased its defensive prowess in the second half, eventually fending off the one man band of Johnson. The gang that couldn’t shoot straight in the first half finally woke up, but Thabeet kept the laugher intact. Teetering around the 13-minute mark, Thabeet swatted a Kris Douse shot attempt like he was spiking a volleyball. Thabeet then repeated the act on the ensuing possession, punching Johnson’s shot attempt to the second row and pointing to the fan that caught the ball. Talk about a mean swagger.

“They have five NBA players on the floor. It’s hard to play against a team that’s so talented,” said DSU coach Greg Jackson.

“I’ve told everyone all year long that Donald Johnson can shoot the ball as well as anyone in the country. He’s just on a team that’s not as talented as these teams. Could you imagine Donald Johnson being on this (UConn) team. We have to get him the basketball more. We told him the night before at practice to look for his shot and he came out looking for his shot.”

Johnson, a first team all-MEAC selection, could be a conference Player of the Year hopeful. He’s cushioned the loss of Roy Bright, last year’s 6-foot-6 NBA prospect, for the Hornets. I hate to sound like a broken record (too late), but these are just appetizers for 7-0 UConn. The first entrée will be served Dec. 20, when they meet Gonzaga in a nationally televised game.


Read more!

Gavin’ A Party

By Zach Smart

Storrs--Easy Going Gavin rapidly morphed into Gung Ho Gavin last night, someone UConn fans have rarely seen during the reserve forward’s stay with the Huskies.

The kid from Gilbert, Az., finally got physical, played above the rim, and displayed a sense of urgency, en route to a career-high 17 points in 16 minutes on 7-of-9 shooting.

“Gavin’s one of the more talented players on the team, at least athletically talented,” said Jim Calhoun, following UConn’s latest 79-49 roasting of marshmallow MEAC native Delaware State.

“He’s got a very high basketball IQ, he makes good passes…he’s got to be more physical. I’m encouraged by what he did tonight and I’m sure he is too.”

Read More...Click Below!

For Easy Going Gavin, life isn’t always that easy. He has to go up against two physical specimens and behemoths in Jeff Adrien and Hasheem Thabeet every practice, is forced to take a backseat to the two larger-than-life bigs when game time rolls around, and is sometimes forced to play out of his nature (“I’m more of a finesse player,” Edwards admits) and play a physically intimidating brand of ball at the four-slot.

So, Easy Going Gavin’s Monday night coming out party came with much fanfare and to the delight of his teammates. Edwards established himself early, connecting on a jumper and a layup and then delivering an eye-popping block with 13:28 remaining.

The son of former NFL defensive lineman Earl Edwards, who entered the game averaging a meager 3.3 points, continued his sublime showing in the second half.

He came soaring in, finishing a catch-and-run alley-oop from Kemba Walker that pumped the then insurmountable Husky lead to 71-42. He dunked home a Jerome Dyson miss that put an exclamation point on his career night and UConn’s drubbing of another smurf-sized foe.

“I think he got something out of it tonight. I know I got something out of it. Gavin has a chance, he’s got a fight on his hands. The more he fights, the deeper we can go,” explained Calhoun.

That fight Calhoun is referring to is between 6-foot-9 swingman Stanley “Sticks” Robinson (who will soon be available) and newcomer Ater Majok, a 6-foot-10 recruit via the Sudan. Majok is undergoing the NCAA clearing process right now, but should be eligible to play soon.

On the surface, it looks like Edwards will have to wrestle for burn as the season progresses and Big East play emerges.

Following a resume building game, however, Edwards is confident he will remain a fixture off the pine.

“Coach said during the Paradise Jam, as cliché as it is, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Still, if Edwards is to continue turning in expectations-slaying performances, as he did against undersized Delaware State, he needs to get more physical.

“It’s definitely something I’m still trying to work on a lot,” said Edwards, adding that “shooting over 6-foot-7 is definitely easier than shooting over 7-foot-3, National Defensive Player of the Year (Thabeet).”

Edwards continued, “From what I hear, Ater is a very good player. I’m taking baby steps, but I’m definitely working on it.”


“I get at least one call a week from my Dad on how I need to play stronger. He gives me all the old football stories. I know I have to step it up.”


Read more!

Monday, December 01, 2008


December 1, 2008

By Zach Smart

First off, coming into the Huskies’ 88-58 drubbing of Bryant, I didn’t expect the first-year Division-I Northeast Conference squad to put up a brief fight the way they did.

I also didn’t expect them to torch the nets and ignite each other with a “never-say-die” mentality. It’s a testament to their team harmony.

The reason I hit the pillow and literally went to sleep on the kids from the 413-landscape was because of the clear mismatches the game would present.

The Huskies’ frontline features two monsters in 7-foot-3 Hasheem Thabeet (a walking double-double now that he’s posting 14.2 ppg and 10.8 ppg) and Jeff Adrien, whose guns are illegal even in Mexico (though a mid-range game and more consistency would complement his physical brand of play and hike up his pro stock).

Perusing through the Bryant roster, I saw that they had just one player over the height of 6-8.

Then I looked into the Bryant program and realized that this player, Papa Lo (any relation to Muhammed Lo, the forward on Toledo who was suspended in high school for pulling a Latrell Spreewell and choking his coach?) was a transfer via UMass. Thus, he had to sit this season out due to NCAA transfer rule.

Papa Lo.

Now this name sounds more appropriate for a funky pizza joint. It could also be the name for an under-the-radar rapper, or even a pen name for a pornographic novel writer.

Read More...Click Below!

After delving into Lo’s biography, I realized his defensive prowess is his main plus point. He swatted six shots in a game last year but the Dioburnal native scored just six total points on the season. He beat the total I registered my senior year of high school by two points! And while I may have found the bottom of the net only two times (in 4 attempts), I still scored four times as many points as Deng Deng, the cousin of Chicago Bulls star Loul Deng. Deng, a 6-foot-9 forward/center that was about as raw as sushi on 125th Ave., scored 1 point that year. I know, my penchant for storing some pretty odd, worthless statistics in my memory bank (and keeping them there for way too long) has been noted in the past.

“I thought they did a good job making threes, spreading the threes and running the floor,” said Calhoun of Bryant.

“Teams won’t play us the way Bryant played us.”

Bryant, a great team on the Division-II level, has the chance to make an immediate impact in the Northeast Conference. The NEC has lost much of its luster from last season with the departure of 2007-08 Player of the Year Tony Lee (Robert Morris) and scoring machine DeMario Anderson (Quinnipiac).

As for Delaware State:

-The Hornets are an extremely well-balanced team scoring-wise, with just one player, Donald Johnson (10.6 ppg) averaging in double figures.

-They average just 55 points per game and will try to take UConn out of its groove by playing a low-tempo brand of ball that emphasizes crisp ball movement (kind of like a motion offense). Jim Calhoun noted that this team scored 42 points in four consecutive games, a rare stat. The 1-8 Hornets did this in four straight losses to Dayton, Ohio State, Kentucky, and West Virginia.

-The Huskies’ penchant for playing down to the competition in the early going has been noted at times, and the first half of yesterday’s walloping was indicative of that. Against Bryant, they may have a free pass due to the Virgin Islands Paradise Jam hangover.

-They have yet to defeat a Division-I opponent this season, with their lone win coming at the hands of D-II and in-state foe Wilmington.

-They lost a tight one to D-II Cheyney in the championship game of the Hornet Classic, which they hosted at the start of the season. Johnson dropped 26 in that three-point upset, shooting 7-for-12 from the field.

-The Hornets, after playing perhaps the toughest out-of-conference schedule in school history, lost tight ones to Longwood and Oakland.

-D-State was projected to finish third in the MEAC, a conference that launched Coppin State to the NCAA tournament for the first time last season.

-UConn has walloped MEAC competition these last few seasons

-Will the slowdown offense that D-State runs have any affect on the Huskies?

“We play a lot of good teams in the Big East that play different styles,” said senior guard A.J. Price. “It shouldn’t be a problem.”


Read more!