Thursday, November 20, 2014

Daniel Hamilton mature beyond his years; Richard Hamilton offers some sage advice

Notes, quotes and video from UConn's 65-57 win over College of Charleston in a Puerto Rico Tip-Off tourney game on Thursday.



RODNEY PURVIS:

(on hitting consecutive 3-pointers, from opposite corners, to turn a five-point UConn lead into 11 midway through the second half)

“It felt great. The whole time, the little struggles I had early on, I knew something good was gonna come out of it. I never got down on myself. I’m just thankful for my teammates and coaches for always believing in me.”

(on advice he got from Richard Hamilton after the game)

“He was just saying how it took him, like, five games to get his feet wet. He was saying how, basically, I’m like a freshman all over again. I sat out a whole year. So, I’m still getting my feet wet and things like that. He told me to stay with it and it’s all gonna come.”

(on getting advice from Hamilton and Jim Calhoun over the past week or so)

“You have those two guys pulling you aside, I think that’s a great sign of them seeing something great in you. I just take it all in, listen to those guys, because Rip, I’m trying to follow in his footsteps and get to where he got to. And Coach Calhoun, he can pull me to the side anytime. I can always hear from him.”

KEVIN OLLIE:

“I’m gonna take this win. I thought it was a good effort from my guys. I really like our rebounding ... just a couple of defensive breakdowns that we can clean up.”

“All in all, it’s a good win.”

(on 11 second-half turnovers)

“We just can’t do that, against any team.”

(on Daniel Hamilton)

“He plays with a lot of poise and a lot of maturity. He knows the game, he can play on all three levels. He can shoot from 3, which we’ve seen; he can get to the rim, he’s got great ball-fakes, great footwork. And he can pass the ball. He threw a couple of lobs to Amida (Brimah), one of them Jeff Anderson called a charge. The other was a great pass. He’s like another point guard out there for me.”

“I think he gambled a couple of times and got us out of our principles where we had the help and we got lucky on a couple of missed shots by (Canyon) Barry. It’s a learning process for him, but he’s very coachable. That’s the one thing I love: I can instruct him on something, and he’ll go out there and do it.”

(on Richard Hamilton addressing the team)

“They know Richard. Just to see another great UConn player come out and support him, I think that makes them feel better inside. That’s what our alumni do, whenever they have an opportunity. They come out and support us very, very well.”

(on Purvis's two big shots)

“The shot doesn’t go in, or does go in, we’ve still gotta play good defense. And he started playing some real good defense. That gets you energized. To see those two 3’s go in, I know it felt good for him. You could see the exuberance on his face, the energy that he had. Hopefully, we can keep finding him for 3’s, because we need to shoot better.”

(on Dayton)

“I was looking at the score (of Dayton's game against Texas A&M), I was like, ‘Man, is that just the first five minutes? And I saw it was halftime. That’s how these games are gonna be, early. They have some great players, not a traditional 7-footer or 6-10 four-man, they got 6-7, 6-8, they’re very interchangable. Lotta down screens, backdoors. They execute their offense, and we’ve got to get back in transition.”

DANIEL HAMILTON:

“I was getting in a rhythm. I’ve been shooting pretty bad preseason. At shootaround, we’ve got to take that seriously, because those are going to be game shots. I try to take as many shots as I can in shootaround, and when they came my way, I just wanted to knock it down.”

“Coming in, I can’t think of it like I was a freshman. I’ve just got to come in and be a huge impact to the team. Whatever coach wants me to do, I’ve got to come in and do it -- if it’s passing, scoring, rebounding, defending, whatever it is. I want to be out on the court and contribute as much as I can.”

RYAN BOATRIGHT:

(on UConn's propensity to start strong but let opponents back into the game)

“I think we’re just losing focus. We’re having some careless turnovers. I think we get a little winded sometimes ... We’ve got to get better at that. When we play better competition, we can’t afford those lapses.”

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Some notes, quotes and video from Puerto Rico Tip-Off

Greetings from San Juan, Puerto Rico, where UConn will be playing in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament this week, starting Thursday at 12:30 p.m. (EST) vs. College of Charleston.

A few early notes, quotes and videos from today's goings-on (we'll have many more updates later, after UConn's shootaround which ends at noon (EST):

*** This is the second season in a row Charleston will play against a defending national champion. The Cougars opened up the 2013-14 season at Louisville and were thrashed, 70-48.

“It’s always fun going out and playing some great competition like the defending national champion," said senior guard and leading scorer Anthony Stitt. "UConn has a great team, we watched some tape on them. They’re really good in transition, they’ve got some good guys. We’re looking forward to take the challenge.”

Head coach Earl Grant: “We’ve got some older guys. I’m sure they’ll look forward to the challenge. We know it’s a challenge, but that’s why you play the game -- you like to be challenged.”

*** If you remember, Grant was hired back in early September after a month-long coaching search. Also interviewed in that search? UConn assistant Karl Hobbs, who could have been coaching against UConn, not for them, on Thursday had things played out differently over the summer.

*** Along with UConn, fellow Big East expatriates West Virginia and Boston College are here. Of course, Ryan Boatright once committed to Bob Huggins at WVU, only to de-commit a short time later when he found out Jabarie Hinds had committed a day later.

Asked about the (granted, ancient history) on Wednesday, here's Huggins' classic Huggy-Bear response:



*** Charleston sophomore Canyon Barry is the son of NBA Hall of Famer Rick Barry. Like his dad, Canyon shoots free throws underhanded. He's yet to go to the foul line this season, but here's hoping he gets to the stripe on Thursday. I really want to see this, for some reason.

*** Boatright said he's got "about 16" family members and friends arriving for the tournament.

*** Boatright and Rodney Purvis talked about the tournament and what they expect on Thursday:



*** The court at the Coliseo Roberto Clemente features double-rims, but that won't be a big deal, according to Kevin Ollie.

“It’s alright. That’s what we had in the park. It’s fine. It’d be a problem if we just had to shoot on the double-rims, but everybody’s got to shoot on them.”

Ollie seemed interested that Boatright had mentioned the double-rims to reporters.

“I’ll make sure I note that with the guys tonight," Ollie said. "No excuses.”

*** Purvis noted that Jim Calhoun pulled him aside in practice last week and told him to slow down a little bit and "just be ready to make a play, just be ready to catch and shoot, things like that."

Noted Ollie: “That’s the luxury of having Coach there, because he knows so much about the game, and how to get to players. I’m just glad that he’s there if they need him. It’s just another that’s got my players’ backs, and I welcome it every day.”

*** Ollie on Calhoun's ESPN debut Tuesday night: “He did a real good job. He explained things very, very well, right to the point. It was real good.”

*** Omar Calhoun didn't practice on Wednesday and would appear to be unlikely to play against Charleston.

*** UConn will stay an extra day and take part in some team activities on Monday before flying back home Tuesday morning.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

My first AP Top 25 poll of the season

A win is a win is a win ...

Only one change from my preseason Top 25 ballot to this week's: Harvard, obviously. The Crimson, who at least one national college hoops expert picked to reach the Final Four, got popped by Holy Cross on Sunday. I was leery of the Crimson as Top 25, anyway (they lost some key players from last year's team), but had them at No. 21 preseason. No more.

In their place is Oklahoma, who I didn't have ranked in my preseason poll. A lot of other people did, however, and the Sooners really intrigue me now that Houston transfer Ta'Shawn Thomas, one of the best players in the AAC last year, has been cleared as fully eligible to play this entire season. Great news for Oklahoma. Had Thomas (and Danuel House, who's now at Texas A&M) stayed at Houston under Kelvin Sampson, the Cougars would have NCAA tournament hopes this season.

Otherwise, nothing changes, even if some ranked teams weren't overly impressive in their opening-weekend wins. Like UConn. I fully expect the Huskies to have some early-season struggles, probably lose a game or two that we didn't expect them to lose. It's Kevin Ollie's job to meld the considerable talent he has here into a cohesive unit by the time February and March roll around. Here's betting he gets the job done.

Are the Huskies the 12th-best team in the nation right now? Probably not. But no sense moving them down based solely on a relatively lackluster opening-night win over Bryant. UConn's not alone. Did you see where Kentucky trailed Buffalo at halftime on Sunday, at Rupp Arena? Did you see where Villanova struggled to get by Lehigh? Some good teams are going to struggle early. No sense shuffling things around just yet.

1. Wisconsin
2. Kentucky
3. Arizona
4. Duke
5. Kansas
6. North Carolina
7. Louisville
8. Texas
9. Wichita State
10. Iowa State
11. Villanova
12. UConn
13. Florida
14. Gonzaga
15. Virginia
16. SMU
17. San Diego State
18. Michigan State
19. Virginia Commonwealth
20. Michigan
21. Oklahoma
22. Ohio State
23. Stanford
24. Syracuse
25. Memphis


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Saturday, November 15, 2014

After stuffing stat sheet Friday night, Ryan Boatright has one thing to improve on -- body language

It's gonna take some time, folks. It's a process, as Kevin Ollie once again pointed out Friday night, following UConn's too-close-for-comfort (the Huskies were down nine points early in the second half) win over Bryant in its season-opener.

UConn struggled early, looked a bit disjointed. Sort of like a team full of newcomers that hasn't had a chance to jell as a unit yet. The Huskies played much better in the second half, when it mattered most, clamping down on defense and relying heavily on Ryan Boatright's Herculean effort (24 points, eight boards, five assists, four steals).

In short, this may have been a microcosm of UConn's upcoming season, if that makes any sense -- early struggles, probably a few unexpected losses along the way, but the talent coming together at the right time in the latter half of the season. And Boatright leading the way.

We'll see how it all shapes out, but the first part seems virtually certain -- UConn will have some struggles early. Fans need to be patient. It's a process, one that Ollie hopes his team falls in love with along the way.

A few odds and ends:

Boatright's mom, Tanesha, surprised him by flying in from Aurora, Ill., for the game.

“I didn’t know she was coming," he said. "I’m in the warm-up line, I hear somebody screaming my middle name. Nobody calls me by my middle name. I’m like, ‘it’s gotta be my mom.’ She surprised me, I’m glad she was there. She’ll be able to take the ring back home.”



Kentan Facey had a game-high, career-high 11 rebounds. Ollie on the difference between Facey this year and last year.

“He’s on the court. He wasn’t on the court last year, because we had DeAndre and Niels, who were two great players for us. His energy was great, he went after every rebound. We want Kentan to be a ball-hunter.”

I've never seen a ball-hawking defender quite like Providence's John Linehan some 15 years ago. But Boatright was a reasonable facsimile thereof on Friday night, pick-pocketing four steals, three of which led to fast-break dunks (two by him).



As well as Boatright played last night, there's still one area where Ollie wants him to improve.

“We still want to work on his body language," the coach said. "But he’s being what a leader’s supposed to be. He’s seen what Shabazz did. He’s learned. He’s gonna have some up-and-down games, like everybody, but we need him to stay connected, being a leader.”

Body language as in not showing up the refs? Not sulking when the team makes freshman mistakes? Neither of the above, according to Boatright.

“He knows that I put a lot of pressure on myself and I want to be excellent," Boatright said. "When I make bone-head mistakes, I just get down on myself, shake my head, stuff like that. Nothing extremely negative, but he just tells me I can’t get down on myself, I’ve just got to keep playing and know everything is gonna be OK.”


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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ryan Boatright: "I tell (Purvis), 'You're lucky it's only one game!"

Some notes, quotes and video from UConn's practice, prior to Friday night's season-opener vs. Bryant.

As you likely know by now, Rodney Purvis must sit out the game after having played in more than one summer league this past summer.

"He's just got to wait 40 more minutes, and he’ll be alright," said Kevin Ollie.

Ryan Boatright, who had to sit out nine games as a freshman due to eligibility issues, had perhaps the best line.

“I tell him, ‘You’re lucky it’s only one game. I sat out, like, 13.’ So, he’ll be alright," Boatright said.

Yes, nine, not 13, but still a good line.




More:

OLLIE:

“We’re playing a real good team. They have a lot of shooters on the court, they shoot a lot of 3’s, they do a lot of ball screens. We’ve got to be great on our ball pressure, we’ve got to communicate very, very well, and we’ve got to attack on offense.”

(on whether Omar Calhoun will play)

“(No), unless James (Doran) did a miracle back there. But he is progressing. I don’t think he’ll be ready to play, but you never know. He’s been shooting, he’s been looking real good ... but the way I got the word today, he probably won’t play.”

“You play with the guys that you’ve got. Those guys work hard all summer, they look at it as an opportunity to play more minutes. Hopefully, they stay hungry and they have the attitude to go out there and take care of that opportunity. We want a win, whether we play with five guys, eight or 10.”

“We’ve got a lot of guards. Take Rodney out, we’ve got another guard. You know the roster. There’s no adjustment. All our guys are interchangable. Everybody can play the 1, everybody can play the 2, play the 3, Daniel (Hamilton) can play even the four.”

“He’s here, he’ll deal with it, and he’ll be ready to play in Puerto Rico. He’s gonna come out and have a great season.

(on the purpose of the NCAA rule)

“I have no idea. Your guess is better than mine. I guess to keep guys out from playing three or four of them, but I have no idea.”

(on Terrence Samuel)

“I’ve seen some good things, and I’ve seen some things he needs to work on. He definitely needs to keep his man in front of him a little better. He’s been able to get broken down too easy. We’ve been working on that, watching a lot of film. I think he did a better job the second game. Last year, he changed the pace. He came in and got steals, defensive pressure, pushed the ball. So, we need him to play that way. He’s definitely improved on his shot, but he has to be a force out there when he gets in the game. The tempo’s got to change. Hopefully, he understands that. If he’s in the starting lineup or coming off the bench, his mentality should not ever change.”

“We’ve got eight guys, so everybody’s got more minutes. That’s what it is. You look at it as an opportunity. I think he’s going to come out there and play hard, gotta stay out of

BOATRIGHT:

“I’m probably gonna have a few more shot attempts than I normally do."

“We’ve been waiting on this day for a long time, to be able to beat up on somebody else rather than on each other. I’m excited, and I think the team is excited.”

"Winning a national championship, you’re gonna get everybody’s best shot. But just going to UConn, you’re gonna get everybody’s best shot. I think whatever school you go to, when you see UConn on the schedule, you’re like, ‘That’s UConn.’ You’re gonna get everybody’s best shot.”

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Rodney Purvis suspended for Bryant game

Redshirt sophomore Rodney Purvis will miss the University of Connecticut men's basketball season openerFriday against Bryant University while serving a one-game suspension.

Purvis participated in more than one league during summer league competition, which is not allowed under NCAA rules. He played in one Greater Hartford Pro-Am game this summer after having played in games in his hometown of Raleigh, N.C. already. Working with the NCAA, the university determined that the single game in which he played in the second league necessitated the one-game penalty.

Following the game against Bryant, Purvis will be fully eligible.

The university will have no further comment on the matter.

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You can pre-order my book on UConn's run to the 2014 national title now, if you'd like!

The excitement of a new season is upon us, as UConn kicks off its 2014-15 season on Friday at Gampel against Bryant University. Hard to know exactly what to expect from this group of Huskies, as there is plenty of talent and some championship experience, but also a lot of newcomers, a lot of youth, and no Shabazz Napier.

Either way, it should be a fun season to chronicle. But before we get too invested in this season, I want to let people know that I've written a book about UConn's run to its fourth national title, beginning with Kevin Ollie's September, 2012 hire and running right through last April's championship and the events of the ensuing summer.

The book is called Rebound!: The Incredible Story of UConn Basketball's Comeback from Defeat to Dominance, and it is available for holiday pre-orders here and here. (And yes, I get the irony that one thing the Huskies have struggled with the past two seasons has been their ability to "rebound." It's about rebounding from the NCAA tourney ban, recruiting setbacks, Jim Calhoun's retirement, etc., and responding with a title. Get it?)




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