Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Ryan Boatright will don his UConn jersey one final time on Thursday night

Ryan Boatright wore his UConn jersey with pride for four years, playing hard every time he took the floor -- with the scars to prove it.

On Thursday night, he'll put that jersey on one last time.

Boatright will compete in a 3-point shooting contest, as part of Final Four week's festivities. The contest will be broadcast on ESPN at 7 p.m. on Thursday from Butler University in Indianapolis.

"He was debating on if he should do this," Boatright's mom, Tanesha, said by phone on Tuesday night. "Then he was like, 'This is my last time putting on my Husky jersey. I've gotta try to represent one more time.'"

Boatright, of course, was in street clothes for UConn's season-ending loss to Arizona State in the NIT a couple of weeks ago. He had hurt his shoulder in the Huskies' AAC championship game loss to SMU a few days before.

He's still rehabbing the shoulder, and while he wasn't prepared to play in the college all-star game this week in Indianapolis, his shoulder is good enough to shoot.

"If somebody would've asked me a year ago, I would've said he'd be in the dunk contest," Tanesha said with a laugh.

Tanesha, her parents and Ryan's brothers and sisters are planning to make the drive down from Aurora, Illinois to watch Ryan compete. (And if you're wondering how Ryan is getting there despite Gov. Malloy's travel ban to Indiana, his flight and expenses are paid for by Intersport, the event's sponsor, and not with state funds).

"He gets to put on that Husky jersey one more time," she said. "He's walking away at peace, and enjoying it more than having to watch it from the sideline. I told him, 'I know you always compete to win, but as a mom, I'll just love to see you compete with a smile.'"

After that, Ryan Boatright, who hasn't hired an agent yet, will focus on finishing up his classwork and preparing for his dream of the NBA. It'll be a tough road, and both he and his mother know it. The other night, Tanesha was on the phone with Shabazz Napier's mom, Carmen Velasquez, when Carmen put Shabazz on the phone.

"It's a process," Napier said of the NBA draft workout circuit. "People don't really understand until they get into it."

At least the Boatrights have a great "family" to go to for advice.

"I'm just thankful to have all the family -- Andre Drummond's mom, Kemba's mom Angela, Carmen, we're all like sisters -- for real," Tanesha said.



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Monday, March 30, 2015

Rakim Lubin transferring, could cost UConn APR points

Rakim Lubin is transferring from UConn, according to his mom on Twitter.




Lubin played sparingly in his one and only season with the Huskies. He missed a few games late in the season after suffering a concussion during a weight-lifting incident, and was suspended -- along with Omar Calhoun and walk-ons Dan Guest and Marcel Lewis -- for UConn's loss to West Virginia in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off championship game on Nov. 23.

But Lubin also showed some physicality and toughness that his fellow frontcourt players sometimes lacked. His best moments came in the AAC tournament, when he played a season-high 13 minutes in a win over Cincinnati and had three points and three rebounds in a loss to SMU.

Lubin wound up averaging 1.0 points and 1.2 rebounds per game.

He may also cost UConn an APR point when it's all said and done. Transfers must have at least a 2.6 grade-point average, or the school loses APR points.


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Ryan Boatright a 3-point contestant, but not an All-America honorable mention

A few quick items today:

Ryan Boatright will be competing in the 3-Point Shooting Championship out at Butler University in Indianapolis on Thursday night, during Final Four festivities. The contest will be broadcast on ESPN.

Boatright declined an invite to play in the All-Star Game as his shoulder heals. There is no structural damage to his shoulder, and it's getting better with rest, but he just didn't want to risk further injury.

*** As you likely know by now, Diamond Stone spurned UConn (and, more notably, his hometown Wisconsin) and chose to take his talents to Maryland. While UConn had seemingly been resigned to this for a while, the fact that the Milwaukee native didn't choose the Badgers but instead fellow Big Ten rival Maryland was a surprise.

UConn will still get to see him up close and personal on Dec. 8 at Madison Square Garden, when the Huskies and Terps square off in a Jimmy V Classic game.

*** The AP All-America teams were released today. No UConn player made even honorable mention. To make honorable mention, you must either have been conference player of the year or received at least two votes by AP writers.

Boatright got just one All-America vote.

First Team

Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin, 7-0, 242, senior, Lisle, Ill., 18.2 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.7 apg, 55.3 fg pct, 39.5 3-pt fg pct, 1.6 blocks (65 first-team votes, 325 total points).

Jahlil Okafor, Duke, 6-11, 270, freshman, Chicago, 17.7 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 66.9 fg pct (64, 323).

Jerian Grant, Notre Dame, 6-5, 204, senior, Bowie, Md., 16.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 6.6 apg, 1.7 steals, 36.6 minutes (53, 298).

Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky, 7-0, 240, junior, Olathe, Kan., 9.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.0 apg, 58.8 ft pct (45, 285).

D'Angelo Russell, Ohio State, 6-5, 180, freshman, Louisville, Ky., 19.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 5.1 apg, 41.5 3-pt fg pct, 1.6 steals (51, 282).<

Second Team

Delon Wright, Utah, 6-5, 190, senior, Los Angeles, 14.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 5.3 apg, 52.9 fg pct, 83.4 ft pct, 2.1 steals (15, 186).

Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky, 6-11, 250, freshman, Piscataway, N.J., 9.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 55.4 fg pct, 81.4 ft pct, 2.4 blocks (8, 139).

Seth Tuttle, Northern Iowa, 6-8, 240, senior, Sheffield, Iowa, 15.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 3.3 apg, 61.6 fg pct, (3, 139).

Bobby Portis, Arkansas, 6-11, 242, sophomore, Little Rock, Ark., 17.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 54.7 fg pct (2, 102).

Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia, 6-5, 215, junior, Atlanta, 13.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.5 apg, 87.1 ft pct (2, 98).<

Third Team

Buddy Hield, Oklahoma, 6-4, 212, junior, Freeport, Bahamas, 17.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 82.2 ft pct (3, 96).

Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga, 6-10, 240, junior, Portland, Ore., 16.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.9 apg, 53.6 fg pct, 46.6 3-pt fg pct (4, 93).

Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse, 6-9, 250, senior, Philadelphia, 17.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 55.2 fg pct, 2.5 blocks (74).

Georges Niang, Iowa State, 6-8, 230, junior, Methuen, Mass., 15.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.5 apg, 40.2 3-pt fg pct, 80.5 ft pct (1, 51).

Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga, 6-2, 182, senior, Holland Landing, Ontario, 11.5 ppg, 5.0 apg, 44.4 3-pt fg pct, 83.3 ft pct (1, 50).<

Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order)

Lawrence Alexander, North Dakota State; Justin Anderson, Virginia; Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova; Ron Baker, Wichita State; Jalen Cannon, St. Francis, Brooklyn; Karl Cochran, Wofford; Kyle Collinsworth, BYU; Quinn Cook, Duke (1 first-team vote).

Kris Dunn, Providence (1); Perry Ellis, Kansas (1); Rico Gathers, Baylor; Madarious Gibbs, Texas Southern; Anthony Gill, Virginia; Kendall Gray, Delaware State; Ty Greene, S.C.-Upstate; Olivier Hanlan, Boston College (1).

Montrezl Harrell, Louisville (1); Martez Harrison, UMKC; Tyler Harvey, Eastern Washington; Corey Hawkins, UC Davis; Tyler Haws, BYU; LaDontae Henton, Providence; Darrun Hilliard, Villanova; R.J. Hunter, Georgia State.

Stanley Johnson, Arizona (1); Tyus Jones, Duke; Tyler Kalinoski, Davidson; Tim Kempton, Lehigh; David Laury, Iona; Damon Lynn, NJIT; Derrick Marks, Boise State; Jerell Martin, LSU; T.J. McConnell, Arizona.

Mikh McKinney, Sacramento State; Nic Moore, SMU; Justin Moss, Buffalo; Saah Nimley, Charleston Southern; Cameron Payne, Murray State; Chasson Randle, Stanford; Justin Sears, Yale; Kenneth "Speedy" Smith, Louisiana Tech.

Keifer Sykes, Green Bay; Marcus Thornton, William & Mary; Melo Trimble, Maryland; Fred VanVleet, Wichita State (1); Thomas Walkup, Stephen F. Austin; Jameel Warney, Stony Brook; Dez Wells, Maryland; Joseph Young, Oregon (1).

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Bummed about UConn not being in this year's tourney? Have I got a book for you ...

Bummed out about UConn's season being over, while the NCAA tournament rages on? Well, I know of this book about last year's remarkable run to a national championship ...



You can find it at local bookstores, including Barnes & Noble, as well as online at amazon.com, and the University Press of New England's website.

Always great to talk to UConn radio analyst Wayne Norman, and had a chance to do so this morning on his WILI morning program. We talk about the book, what went into writing it, why I wrote it, etc., as well as some other nuggets from the 2013-14 season, this past season and the program's future (including conference affiliation).

Do take a listen, if you get a chance.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Daniel Hamilton's mom: "He's going back to (UConn)"

Been getting some emails (and some strange comments on the blog) about the prospects of Daniel Hamilton and Amida Brimah electing to leave UConn and take their chances at the 2015 NBA draft.

It appears UConn fans have nothing to worry about.

Brimah's legal guardian said late last week that Brimah isn't thinking at all about throwing his hat in the ring of the draft. And on Tuesday, I chatted with Daniel's mom, Karen, on the phone, and she told me that her son has no plans to enter this year's draft, either.

"He'll be going back to school," Karen said, matter-of-factly.

And yes, that means UConn, not another program.

"He's definitely happy," she continued. "He wants the opportunity to continue to get better. He wants to concentrate on his studies. Those are the types of things that we care about."

Hamilton, of course, lost his grandmother, Lucine Noble (Karen's mom), recently. It's been tough on him, especially being so far away from his Los Angeles home. It was a decline in Lucine's health a couple of years ago that precipitated Isaac, Daniel's older brother, to break his commitment from UTEP and play closer to home at UCLA.

Karen, who wasn't able to get out to a UConn game this year because of her mother's deteriorating health, has done her best to comfort Daniel from afar.

"We've been on the phone every night," Karen said. "I keep telling him, (take) one day at a time."

Karen added that Daniel wants to improve not only as a basketball player, but as a person -- something easier to do at college than playing professional basketball.

"It's the mental toughness and things you have to deal with," she said. "It's not just basketball, it's maturing. When you're in a college setting ... we're talking about the difference between going to school and being in the pros. You can do what you need to do and get better either way, but you can't get your college experience back."

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Steve Enoch honored, Amida Brimah likely staying, Richard Hamilton loving retirement (and deodorant)

A couple of things today:

*** UConn commit Steve Enoch was named the 2014-15 Gatorade Connecticut Boys Basketball Player of the Year. Enoch, from Norwalk, played this past season at St. Thomas More School.

The 6-foot-10, 235-pound senior forward averaged 15 points and 11 rebounds per game this past season, leading the Chancellors (29-9) to the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council Class AAA semifinals. The state’s No.1 recruit in the Class of 2015 as rated by the New England Recruiting Report, Enoch scored 18 points with seven rebounds in an 83-76, come-from-behind victory over Vermont Academy at the Spaulding Hoophall Classic in January.

Enoch has maintained a 3.27 GPA in the classroom. He has donated his time delivering meals and clothing to families in need and has volunteered as a tour guide for prospective students at his school.

“Steven Enoch possesses tremendous integrity and initiative,” said St. Thomas More head coach Jere Quinn. “He has had a wonderful season while playing in the strongest conference in the country. He will have a very successful career at UConn as a student and as an athlete.”

*** There apparently has been some scuttlebutt about potential UConn transfers, seemingly based on Kevin Ollie's postgame quotes on Wednesday night. While the quotes did raise a few eyebrows, especially since they started off unsolicited, I don't think there's a whole lot to them. For the most part, the "exit interviews" next week are standard operating procedure.

I spoke with Amida Brimah's legal guardian, Nana Baafi, on Friday, and he scoffed at the idea that Brimah might want to transfer.

"Nobody’s thought about anything like that at all. That stuff is not … I don’t know how that stuff got out there," he said.

What about the NBA? A veteran Eastern Conference scout told me the other day that both Brimah and Daniel Hamilton would "both, for sure, be drafted -- maybe high second-round picks. To say they're first-round guys? I wouldn't say that right now."

But Baafi doesn't think that will happen, either.

"Shoot, honestly I don’t know. I don’t think so. He just took a couple of days off, we haven't had that discussion at all. It's not on our minds. We're not even close to that at all."

Then, asked about this past season, Baafi said: "Next year will be better, I know that much for sure."

*** Had a chance to chat with Richard Hamilton on Friday. He's currently promoting the new Gillette clear gel product called Undefeated, which promises wetness protection and no odor for up to 48 hours.

"From a guy's perspective, as a dad and an athlete, you need something that's gonna last you 1-2 days," he said. "Especially out in the sun."

Here's  the story I wrote for the Register, in which he talks retirement, his greatest memory as a player, and why UConn is the "best campus in the world," and here are a few leftover quotes:


(on who he likes in the NCAA tournament)

"I think Wisconsin. The only reason why I say that, you have to be lucky to win. You have to have a great team, but also be lucky. (Kentucky is) young. They don’t have guys on the team that have been in college four years, so when there's adversity, how do you handle when stuff ain’t going right for you? Are you gonna go out on your own, or stay in team concept? But also, they've got a great coach in Coach Cal, so ..."

(would he ever get into coaching?)

"You never know. One thing I love is being an analyst, doing work with NBATV, ESPN. I'm excited about doing that.


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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Is UConn trying to build a recruiting pipeline through Vermont?

UConn has bagged a few big-time recruits since Kevin Ollie took over the head coaching reins.

Daniel Hamilton was a national Top 25 recruit, as is Jalen Adams. Amida Brimah has proven to be a bit of a diamond-in-the-rough (his late-season play notwithstanding), and Steve Enoch appears to be better than some originally thought.

Still, the Huskies haven't exactly burned up the recruiting trails since their national title. They've lost out on numerous recruits, and while they're in on many of them and obviously can't get them all, it's a bit surprising that they haven't landed more.

It appears one of UConn's new recruiting pastures sits up in southern Vermont. Three of the Huskies' top targets play for Alex Popp up at Vermont Academy: Bruce Brown, a Class of 2016 (for now) combo guard; Tyrique Jones, a Class of 2016 power forward who hails from Bloomfield; and Samuel Mathias, 6-11 1/2 center from the Class of 2017.

UConn has offered all three players -- two of them (Jones and Mathias) in the same day. In fact, Kevin Ollie extended his offer to Mathias on the same day that Mathias went up against Enoch and St. Thomas More back in January.

It'll be interesting to see if UConn and Vermont Academy can establish a recruiting relationship. Popp was recruited as a player by Glen Miller when Miller coached at Brown, and he has known Miller and Karl Hobbs for several years and got to know Ollie out on the recruiting trails while he was an assistant at Holy Cross and thinks "very highly" of the Huskies' head coach.

"The opportunity to cultivate a great relationship with Vermont Academy makes a lot of sense," Popp said of UConn. "Say they miss on two of these three, or even three of three. We're gonna have a lot of great players coming forward. You're gonna go out and get other guys that can play at that level. Both parties are hoping the relationship can grow."

Here's a look at the three current VA players that UConn is recruiting:

BRUCE BROWN

"He's a leader, a guy who doesn't take days off," Popp said. "That translates to basketball."

Popp added that Brown, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound guard, is a multi-dimensional talent.



"We try to emphasize versatility in our program. We put him on the ball, off the ball. Defensively, ini a league where every team has rosters full of Division 1 players, he would guard four different positions in the span of a game. If LeBron James doesn't have a position, why do our guys have a position. He's somebody who really thrives at that."

Popp noted that Brown is very athletic, as well.

"He's explosive, both laterally and vertically," the coach said. "Combine that with his strength. He's a football player, with a football players' mentality. A lot of people compare him to Russell Westbrook. He just kind of overpowers the opposition."

Unprompted, Popp said that Brown would make a great backcourt mate with Jalen Adams.

"He's a power guard, he really is," the coach continued. "Looking at Jalen Adams, it's hard to ignore that. Put the two of them in the same backcourt, it would be special."

Popp said that Indiana, Iowa State, Michigan, Arizona State, UMass, VCU and UConn are working the hardest on him right now. IU's Tom Crean has been the most present of all the coaches. 

Brown hails from Boston, though his mom recently moved to Georgia. There has been lots of talk that Brown will re-classify to the Class of 2015, but Popp had no comment on that and, as of now, Brown is still '16.

"The best way I could describe Bruce Brown is he's a winner," Popp summed up. "If you're a college basketball coach, that's what puts food on your table. He's a winner. He's constant with it. It's not, 'I'm gonna mail it in today, coach, because we don't play in four days.' It doesn't matter if it's a simple drill, he wants to win every single drill in practice. It's remarkable how contagious that is when you have a guy who's as talented as Bruce Brown, because everyone in your program falls in line."


TYRIQUE JONES:

Jones is a 6-8, 240-pound jumping jack from Bloomfield.

"He grew up a big-time UConn fan," said Popp, "so they have that going for them, no doubt about it. That was his squad growing up."

Popp added that noted recruiting analyst Adam Finklestein recently named Jones the best rebounder of the Class of 2016.



"I spent time as a D-1 coach," Popp said. "For me, if you're not emphasizing rebounding in your recruiting, you're doing it wrong. Rebounding not only wins games, it wins championships at this level. He's very much a target."

Popp added that Jones has a "nose for the ball. He does a great job of winning all those 50-50's. He rebounds out of his area, above the rim. He's an underrated passer."

SAMUEL JAPHET-MATHIAS

At 6-11 1/2, 290 pounds, Mathias is a raw 16-year-old who has excellent hands and feet.


"He's a little bit of a dying breed," said Popp. "You don't have a lot of those positional, back-to-the-basket guys anymore. He knows what to do with it when the ball gets on the block."

Mathias was born in Nigeria and grew up in London. Ollie and Hobbs saw him play in some preseason open gyms and offered a scholarship after he went for 16 points and nine rebounds against St. Thomas More.

"In that game, he showed off an array of skills," said Popp. "He scored the ball on the block, pick and popped, scored with both hands, got a tip dunk. It was pretty obvious he could help UConn right away."

Of course, the Huskies would have to wait a couple of years, as the big kid is Class of 2017.

Whether UConn winds up with any of these players remains to be seen. But Popp is confident that any team that could get all three would be in very good shape.'

"You get those three guys," the coach said, "you're gonna win some national championships."


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