Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Majok Declares For Draft, Doesn't Hire Agent

April 29, 2009

by Zach Smart

He's yet to play in an NCAA game, but UConn forward Ater Majok will be testing the NBA waters this summer.

The athletic 6-foot-10 forward was supposed to be part of a formidable frontline also featuring projected top-three pick Hasheem Thabeet and muscle-bound, workhorse forward Jeff Adrien.

Majok, however, never passed NCAA clearinghouse rules and therefore relegated to the bench. According to NCAA regulations, Majok cannot suit up until December of 2009.

Perhaps the 22-year-old freshman was fed up with the fact that he had to wait again. Or the YouTube sensation jumped at the idea of getting picked up in a draft that--beyond the first 2-3 picks--is as wide as the Sargasso Sea.

Stephen Curry, the Davidson star and son of former NBA shootist Dell Curry, declared for the draft yesterday.

A five-star recruit, Majok has opted not to hire an agent.

This leaves the door open for Majok if he's not selected on the fateful evening of June 25, 2009.

"After meeting with my family, I have decided that it is in my best interest to enter the NBA Draft," said Majok in a statement released by UConn.

Read rest of Zach's Article HERE!!


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Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Andre Drummond getting attention from UConn staff and other top schools

by Zach Smart

The past few months, Andre Drummond's high major Division-I stock has shot up like his towering 6-foot-9 frame.

Drummond, an interior presence with a soft jumper and a will to win, has suddenly become a hotly pursued product on the recruiting marketplace.

The big fella from Capitol Prep in Hartford (CT) is receiving plenty of interest from Connecticut, Georgetown, Providence, Rutgers, West Virginia and the 2009 national champs, North Carolina.

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The wiry sophomore has added some pounds to his spindly 220-plus frame, but Drummond is still developing into his body.

He hasn't dug to deep into his decision yet. The uncommitted young gun who hung 26 points and tore down 18 rebounds in a game (and turned in similar titanic performances this season) appears to favor UConn.

"UConn is definitely showing me the most love right now," said Drummond, he of the will to win and ability to alter the trajectory of shots in the paint.

"But as of right now, I'm undecided."

Thus far, Drummond has taken unofficial visits to the campuses of UConn and Rutgers.

When he was playing in the Bob Gibbobs tournament last spring, he stopped by to check out the campus of UNC.

On the surface, Drummond seems like the prototype Jim Calhoun recruit.

He's a big who plays with passion and is a major presence on the defensive side of the house. He can score and has shown flashes of the aggression that coaches expect night in and night out in the Big East.

Of course, Drummond still needs to shore up some holes in his game. He needs to kick the habit of drifting away from the paint when the ball is not in his hands.

He still needs to get more physical, go stronger to the rack and develop refined post up moves.

Drummond ran with an IS8 AAU team at Saturday's HoopHall Classic at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn.

The behemoth showed his athletic enough to be a factor in a system that places strong emphasis on an uptempo, speedball brand of basketball.

While the skills of Ater Majok (who sat out this season due to NCAA clearing house rules) won't be tested until December, UConn may need to upgrade its frontline in the future.

Charles "Chuck" Okwandu's academic issues kept him off the floor for much of the Huskies run to the 2009 final four.

The 7-foot-1, 255-pound center is very much a work in progress and seemed offensivley inept at times.

Jonathan Mandeldove, a 7-foot, 240-pound center from Georgia, never progressed. He hasn't shown the promise they saw out of the skinny kid from Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy four years ago.

So, UConn will look to keep the tradition of beastly bigs (see Okafor, Emeka or Thabeet, Hasheem for more on this one) intact with their recruitment of Drummond.

Will the new kid on the blocks respect tradition and go to UConn?

I'm not for certain, but what I do know is this:

If he continues to work hard and show a Jeff Adrien-like will to win, more and more teams will compete for Drummond's services.


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Friday, April 17, 2009


April 17, 2009

What was considered a foregone conclusion became official this week when Connecticut junior center Hasheem Thabeet announced he would be entering the NBA Draft this June. So with UConn's Thabeet Entering the NBA Draft (Hartford Courant), along with point guard AJ Price, power forward Jeff Adrien and shooting guard Craig Austrie graduating, 4/5's of UConn's starting five for their Final Four match-up with Michigan State this season will not be in Storrs next year.

Despite the Losses, the Huskies Have Plenty of Tools Next Year (Norwich Bulletin) to compete in the Big East and nationally with Kemba Walker expected to ascend into the position of an elite point guard, a healthy Jerome Dyson manning the off-guard position and wing Stanley Robinson and power forward Gavin Edwards ready for their time to step forward an lead. A talented recruiting class led by Tilton School teammates Alex Oriakhi and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel will help out as well and having Ater Majok and Charles Okwandu eligible could make the Huskies formidable in the paint once again.


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Friday, April 03, 2009


April 3, 2009

With everything that has happened surrounding the UConn basketball team the last several months, including the recent allegations of recruiting improprieties, the chaos surrounding the Final Four is probably not having much of an impact on the Husky players.

"I think we're in a great mindset as a team, focused, ready to play the game," said senior guard AJ Price. "It's been a good experience to be down here. But I think we just ready to get on the court now."

Connecticut returns to the Final Four, their third trip under Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun. The Huskies won national championships in 1999 and 2004 in their two previous trips and, like this year, each time they came out of the West Regional to do so.

Now, they head to Detroit and take on Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans, who are playing less than an hour away from their campus in East Lansing. While the feel of a road game concerns coach Calhoun, he is more worried about the team his Huskies are facing.

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"We've been a very good road team this year, but we're playing a really good team," said Calhoun. "That scares me mainly because they match us. They can do things that we can do."

As usual, coach Izzo has a squad that will play tough on the boards, defend for 40 minutes and play a structured offense that will generate scoring opportunities, a style UConn players believe set MSU apart from the rest of their conference.

"They like to run and they rebound, they're very physical," UConn senior Jeff Adrien said of the Spartans. "So, you know, I think that's really why they won the Big 10 this year, with their different style."

A style that could be seen in the Big East.

Of course, UConn likes to run, rebound and defend. With 7'3 Hasheem Thabeet manning the post and the bruising Adrien controlling the back boards, it is a match-up MSU has not seen so far this season. However, even with that intimidating size, coach Izzo believes the key to beating UConn is controlling AJ Price.

"I think that is a key matchup," said Izzo. "Even though they have tremendous size up front, some very tough, good players up there, great rebounders, I still think Price is the guy who stirs the drink. He's had an incredible tournament."

Spartan defensive specialist Travis Walton will get the assignment to contain Price and the UConn floor general knows he will have to be on his game.

"[I] Know he's going to do his job, which is to be a defensive stopper," said Price. "So I know he's going to bring his A game, I just got to try to bring mine."

While you can expect Price to have his A-game, the NCAA Tournament might also be the launching pad to the next great UConn star guard as freshman Kemba Walker had a career high 23 points and added 5 rebounds and 5 assists in the 82-75 Elite 8 win over Missouri. The tempo that Missouri was looking to play was ideal for Walker's game, Michigan State will not offer that style of game very readily. Instead, while MSU can count on 10 or 11 guys to contribute to the cause, UConn will likely have just a 7-man rotation and finding the role player that steps up could be the key to victory. Against Purdue it was senior Craig Austrie and it was Walker against Mizzou. In Saturday, could it be Stanley Robinson's turn?

Michigan State will look to bring Thabeet away from the hoop as Goran Suton is a face-up threat out to the three-point line. Versatile forwards Raymar Morgan and Durrell Summers will look to find room to go inside with a clearer path to the basket. This could be a chess match between two great coaches on the level of impact Thabeet has near the basket on defense. If UConn finds a way to keep him inside and blocking and altering shots, they should be able to handle the Michigan State offensive attack. Look for them to get it done...

Looking at the basketball odds at bet USA, UConn is a 4-point favorite. While it is nearly a home game for Michigan State, look for UConn to set the tone in the paint and earn a physical win.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Connecticut 68
Michigan State 62


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April 3, 2009

According to a published report at Rivals.com, Miami-Dade CC shooting guard Rico Pickett is very interested in UConn and an official visit April 15th could seal the deal in his recruitment.

Recently, NBE Basketball Report talked with Pickett's coach at Miami-Dade, Matt Eisele.

"Enrico has a chance to be a big time player," coach Eisele said. "He is very good in transition, can finish with either hand, [he is a] big time athlete and most of all [he] can really score the basketball."

Pickett was a high school star at Decatur (AL) High School. He made an early commitment to home state Alabama and coach Mark Gottfried before the AAU travel season between his junior and senior season. However, Pickett re-opened his his recruitment at least once prior to the early signing period, but in the end, put pen to paper and signed on with the Crimson Tide.

As a freshman in the SEC, Pickett started 20 games for the Tide, averaging nearly 6 points a game and a team-high 3.3 assists a contest playing a lot of time at point guard. The season had its shares of ups and downs for the 6-foot-3 guard as he was suspended twice by coach Gottfried for 'failing to live up to academic responsibilities.' The second suspension, which was imposed last April, led Pickett to decide he wanted to transfer and led to him finding his way to Miami-Dade CC on his way back to high-major Division 1-A basketball.

The next desitnation appears it could be UConn. Pickett has also had high-level intertest this spring in Florida, Florida State and Tennessee. On the heels of an excellent season with Miami-Dade, which saw Pickett average 21.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists, Rico was the runner-up in conference player of the year voting, only trailing teammate Trevor Mbakwe for the award.

Coach Eisele feels Pickett will shine at his next chance at the 1-A level and his game sounds like a nice fit in Jim Calhoun's Husky system.

"He has a great ability to get to the basket and beat people off the dribble," said his coach. "Has the potential to be a lights out defender as well"

As for the troubles at Alabama, Eisele saw none of that in Pickett's time at Miami-Dade.

"He is a great kid that has been a real pleasure to coach," Eisele said.

We will continue to follow Pickett's recruitment, but as of now, UConn looks to be the only scheduled visit this spring.


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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Smith Bolsters Thinning Backcourt in Storrs

April 2, 2009

by Doug Ferguson

The city of Chicago is flooded with top notch Division 1-A talent and one of the most eye-catching stars of the city has found a home outside of the Midwest. Talented combo guard Darius Smith from Chicago's Marshall HS has agreed to try and fill the hole that will be left in UConn's guard corps by the departures of A.J. Price and Craig Austrie next season.

The job of starting point guard will likely be passed through its logical progression to Kemba Walker who has shined on the big stage in this year's NCAA tournament. Smith will likely battle for the backup job with Donnell Beverly. It just happens that Smith and Beverly have many of the same qualities. It was clear by this recruitment that Jim Calhoun thinks his lineup at guard needed more tending to than his frontline, despite the almost certain loss of Hasheem Thabeet to the NBA. It shows Calhoun's faith in incoming freshman Alex Oriakhi who is he invisions as his future Thabeet/Emeka Okafor type defensive difference maker at the center position.

Smith is a better point guard than a two-guard. Make no mistake though, he can definitely score. He has the athleticism and ability to drive the basketball to succeed at the high D-1 level. His ability to knock down shots off the dribble both in the mid-range game and from 3-point line make his penetration that much more lethal. He plays superb man defense with excellent ball pressure. He spearheaded Marshall's full court defense this season which was downright smothering when at its best.

UConn has shown that they are not going to be shy about recruiting despite recent reports of possible NCAA violations, afterall, it is recruiting that is the lifeblood of a program and the cornerstone of a programs college basketball odds of competing for a title. Calhoun has also shown that they can multi-task as they found time to seal the deal with Smith while preparing to try and win his third national title in a decade. It would put him on an elite list of coaching that has only two names on it: John Wooden and Mike Krzyzewski. He will face off with another coach who is building toward legend status in Tom Izzo. By the way they're recruiting it seems that despite the success that the program has had in the recent past, they will not choose to live there in the future.


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