Monday, July 25, 2016

New ABA team in Springfield to be coached by Dr. Steve Sobel

There's a new ABA franchise starting up in Springfield, Massachusetts this season, and it will be coached by Dr. Steve Sobel, who also coaches Rodney Purvis's team in the Greater Hartford Pro-Am and who dedicated Sunday afternoon's win to the memory of Purvis's "brother, Tyrek Coger.

Here's the press release announcing the new team, which will be called the Springfield Sting:

The American Basketball Association (ABA) is bringing its first franchise to Springfield, Massachusetts during its 50th anniversary season. Coined the Springfield Sting, the organization will boast the best professional talent from the Greater Springfield area and beyond. The season commences in November 2016. The Sting will be joining the ABA’s Northeast Division for the start of the 2016-17 season, alongside teams in Boston, Providence, New York, Long Island and New Jersey.

The franchise will be owned by Zach Baru of Longmeadow, Massachusetts. Baru’s past experience in sports and entertainment includes the Springfield Spirit of the National Women's Basketball League, the Greater Springfield Pro-Am Basketball League, the Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League and the Miami Dolphins of the National Football League.

Dr. Steven Sobel has been hired as the team’s first General Manager and Head Coach. Sobel, a former Division II star at the University of Hartford, has spent over 40 years coaching collegiate and professional basketball teams and players. During the offseason, Sobel is at the helm of the Springfield Slamm of the Greater Hartford Pro-Am Basketball League. Sobel is also a nationally recognized Motivational Speaker and author of The Good Times Handbook - Your Guide to Positive Living and Exciting Life.

“We are excited to bring professional basketball back to the city of Springfield. With Dr. Sobel at the helm, and potential supporters already reaching out, the possibilities for success here in the community are endless,” said Zach Baru, Springfield Sting Founder/Owner.

Further information about the Sting is available on the team’s official website, SpringfieldSting.com.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

UConnn releases non-conference opponents

UConn released its non-conference schedule of opponents on Thursday afternoon. Here's the press release sent out by the school:

A rematch against a 2016 Final Four participant in Madison Square Garden, a holiday tournament against some of the finest basketball programs in the country, and a home game against a Power Five opponent highlight the non-conference portion of the 2016-17 UConn men’s basketball schedule, announced Thursday by the school.

The Huskies will play 12 non-conference games, plus two exhibition games, combining with 18 games in the American Athletic Conference to produce a 30-game regular-season schedule, followed by the 2017 AAC Championship, set for the XL Center in Hartford. UConn is the defending AAC champion, having won the postseason tournament last season in Orlando.

The 2016-17 Huskies will make their public debut with two exhibition games against in-state Division II opponents, facing the University of New Haven on Sunday, Oct. 30 and Southern Connecticut State University, coached by former UConn star Scott Burrell, on Saturday, Nov. 5.

The regular season will begin on Friday, Nov. 11, as the Huskies play host to Wagner, which won 23 games last season, captured the Northeast Conference regular-season championship, and reached the second round of the NIT. On Monday, Nov. 14, UConn will entertain Northeastern, out of the Colonial Athletic Association, in a renewal of longtime New England rivalry.

The Huskies will then head for Maui, Hawaii, to participate in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational, but will break up the long trip by stopping in Los Angeles to meet Loyola Marymount of the West Coast Conference on UConn, which will be participating in the Maui Invitational for the fourth time, owns an 8-1 overall record in the tournament, having won the event in its each of its last two appearances, in 2005 and 2010. The 2016 Maui Invitational, which will be held at the Lahaina Civic Center on Nov. 21-23, features one of the finest fields of any in-season tournament this year. With the bracket yet to be announced, the Huskies will play three opponents from among 2016 NCAA Championship runner-up North Carolina, Oregon, Wisconsin, Oklahoma State, Tennessee, Georgetown and Chaminade.

Following its return home, UConn will play host to Boston University, a 19-win team last season, on Wednesday, Nov. 30. The Huskies will then travel to New York City and challenge Syracuse in Madison Square Garden on Monday, Dec. 5, a rematch of last season’s meeting at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. Syracuse, out of the Atlantic Coast Conference, went on to record 23 wins and reach the Final Four last year. It will be the 93 rd meeting between the former Big East Conference rivals.

On Saturday, Dec. 10, UConn will make its first trip to Columbus, Ohio, in 33 years to complete the home-and-home series against Ohio State. The Buckeyes had 21 victories last season and are expected to battle for the Big Ten title this year.

Following an eight-day break for exams, the Huskies will return home for two games.


On Sunday, Dec. 18, they will meet North Florida, last year’s regular-season champion of the Atlantic Sun Conference which won 22 games and was an NIT participant. On Friday, Dec. 23, UConn will take on Auburn from the Southeastern Conference, only the second-ever meeting between the schools and the first since a 95-81 UConn win at the Great Alaska Shootout in November, 1989. UConn is scheduled totravel to Alabama to return the game during the 2017-18 season.

American Athletic Conference play will begin during the last week of December, but UConn will have one final non-conference game to play, traveling to Washington D.C. on Saturday, Jan. 14, to challenge Georgetown at the Verizon Center, the return game from Georgetown’s visit to Hartford last year.

The Huskies will play 18 AAC games, meeting each team twice, except Tulane (only at home) and Tulsa.

The dates of conference games, as well as game times and home venues, will be announced in the

UCONN MEN’S BASKETBALL 2016-17 NON-CONFERENCE SCHEDULE

Sun., Oct. 30 – New Haven (exhib.)

Sat., Nov. 5 – Southern Connecticut (exhib.)

Fri., Nov. 11 -- - Wagner
Mon., Nov. 14 -- - Northeastern

Thurs., Nov. 17 -- - at Loyola Marymount

Mon., Nov. 21 – at Maui Invitational

Tues., Nov. 22 -- - at Maui Invitational

Wed., Nov. 23 -- - at Maui Invitational

Wed., Nov. 30 -- - Boston University

Mon., Dec. 5 -- - vs. Syracuse (Madison Square Garden)

Sat., Dec. 10 -- - at Ohio State

Sun., Dec. 18 -- - North Florida

Fri., Dec. 23 -- - Auburn

Sat., Jan. 14 -- - at Georgetown

Monday, July 11, 2016

Jim Calhoun charity all-star game: Girls allowed in the tree for this year

As you likely already know, the Jim Calhoun Charity All-Star Game will be held on Friday, Aug. 12 at 7:30 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena. As an added twist this year, women's players will also join the fun in some co-ed competition.

Here's the press release:

Hall of Fame Coach Jim Calhoun is hosting an NBA sanctioned alumni all-star basketball game this summer – the Jim Calhoun Charity All-Star Game presented by Cigna – as part of the Mohegan Sun / Jim Calhoun Celebrity Classic.

Many of Coach Calhoun's greatest players will return for the eighth Jim Calhoun Charity All-Star Basketball Game. NEW THIS YEAR, many of Connecticut's top women players also will join us for some coed competition. It will be a special night in Connecticut basketball history when stars from our national championship teams take the floor and compete against each other. 

Ray Allen, Kemba Walker, Ben Gordon, Rip Hamilton, Caron Butler, Andre Drummond, Donyell Marshall, Khalid El-Amin, and Rudy Gay among others, have played in past charity games at Mohegan Sun. On the women's side, we have 2016 event commitments from Connecticut stars Nykesha Sales and Svetlana Abrosimova among others.

The game will be played at 7:30 p.m. at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Friday, Aug. 12. Proceeds from the game and the entire Mohegan Sun / Jim Calhoun Celebrity Classic will benefit The Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center at UConn Health.

“I'm excited about bringing many of the top men's and women's players from the Connecticut Basketball family together for this game for the first time this year. It should be a tremendous evening as we all reconnect with these stars and I know they look forward to gathering together and playing in front of their longtime fans. As important, I'm so pleased that proceeds from the game will go to fight America’s number #1 killer – heart disease,” said Calhoun.

Since 1999, the Mohegan Sun / Jim Calhoun Celebrity Classic has raised more than $8 million for cardiology research and life-saving care at The Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center at UConn Health.

Tickets are $12 to $25 and go on sale Friday, June 10th at 10:00AM. To purchase game tickets, call Ticketmaster at 800.345.7000, go to Ticketmaster.com, or visit the Mohegan Sun box office.

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Ladies and gentlemen, UConn's 'Top Five'

Been a while since I've blogged, so here's a mega-post off today's "Meet the Freshmen" at the Werth Center. This group of frosh is calling themselves "The Top Five," and they certainly could be one of the program's better classes when it's all said and done.
'The Top Five' (l. to r.), Vance Jackson, Juwan Durham, Christian Vital, Mamadou Diarra, Alterique Gilbert.

Here's some sights and sounds from this afternoon:

JUWAN DURHAM:


(on how good this freshman class can be)

“I believe that it’s the best in the country right now. We have guys that can do everything. We have scorers, decent defensive players, we have vocal leaders in Alterique and Christian, a shooter like Vance, a nice big like Mamadou, and versatility in myself, I believe. Coach K.O. told us that we have a chance to start. You know he doesn’t keep the same starting lineup, so whoever’s out there working the hardest and doing the best that they can do, they’ll be able to start.”

(on getting adjusted to life on UConn's campus)

“I like the area, because there’s not much in Storrs to do, other than play basketball and go to class. That’s what I really liked about it. I liked the campus, I liked the coaching staff and I liked the team. I knew the incoming freshmen class that we already have, with Mamadou and Alterique, I knew I’d be in good hands with those guys. We have good leaders in Kentan Facey and Jalen Adams and Rodney Purvis and Amida (Brimah).”

“I grew up in the city. Tampa, Florida … is really a fast-paced city, a lot of big buildings and stuff like that, interstates. Out here, there’s nothing but giant bugs. I saw an ant probably the size of my big toe. It’s crazy stuff that I’ve never seen before. It’s something new. I can go back and tell my family back at home. I took a video of a bee, I think it was. It was like that big (stretches fingers out). I was really confused about that.”

VANCE JACKSON:


ALTERIQUE GILBERT:


CHRISTIAN VITAL:

“You see Vance, he’s a 6-8 shooter, scorer, versatile. Alterique and I have no problem playing together – obviously he’s not playing yet, his shoulder’s still recovering, but we talk about (things like) I don’t mind if he brings up the ball, I don’t need to bring up the ball every time, he doesn’t need to bring the ball up all the time, he’s a selfless person – you see Mamadou, he’s a beast on the boards and starting to work on his mid-range shot, and Juwan, he’s still recovering, but he’s 6-11 and we were shooting around and he made, like, 10 3’s in a row. So, this class is really, really talented and versatile. I believe we’re one of the best recruiting classes in 2016. We need to prove it during the season.”

“Obviously, we want to win a national championship. That’s what everyone wants to do. We just talk about getting better as a group, pushing each other, making sure that no one person is slacking. Because if one person is slacking out of the five of us, we’re all slacking. We’re a team, we’re close with our other teammates, as well, but there’s something about that freshman group. Your class you come in with, you’re just a little bit tighter with, because you’re experiencing something new at the same time. We just talk about sticking together and keep getting each other better.”

(on whether he's a 'Kevin Ollie-type player,' as his prep coach called him)

“I think that’s one of the pictures coach K.O. was telling me when he was recruiting me, that you’re extremely hard-working. He spent 13 years in the NBA and he was never the best player on his team, he never averaged multiple points a game, he was just a hard-worker. He says I can shoot better than him, but those intangibles of working hard and wanting it more than other people, that I can achieve my dreams, too. And he can help me to that. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to play for Coach K.O.”

(on how his best friend, Steve Enoch, helped persuade him to come to UConn)

“I kind of spoke to him before it went public and told him what my five were gonna be. From then, he was texting me, ‘Listen, bro, what are you doing? Just commit now. Just commit now.’ So he definitely had an impact on me coming here.”

(on his friendship with Enoch)

“We just became such close friends (at St. Thomas More). We have the same interests off the court. We like to work out. We go to the gym at 6:30 a.m., preseason and during the season. We’d hang out in each other’s rooms, play video games when there was nothing much else to do on a prep school campus. It’s not like we could leave, so we just really bonded together. That’s my best friend.”

(on Enoch playing for Team Armenia this summer)

“I spoke to him yesterday. I was like, ‘Good luck out there, do your thing.’ I spoke to him the other night to work hard out there. You’re not there for no reason. He’s new to basketball. He wasn’t really on varsity from his freshman year like a lot of other players. So I told him, you’re out there for a reason, work hard, do your thing, and enjoy your experience out there.”


MAMADOU DIARRA:

“I think this group is gonna be really special. We’re already half the team this year, so we’re gonna all play major roles with the team. We’re with each other all day, so we’re jelling, and that’s gonna help us out a lot. Everybody brings their own uniqueness.”

(defense and rebounding)


“That’s gonna be my niche to get on the floor. And I know I’ve got to develop offensively. But I figure once I get in the gym all the time and put in that work, that’s gonna come eventually. But I’m gonna deal with my strengths at first, and then grow from there.”

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

'If he ever made it happen, it would be a movie'

Not too often I get to write a story that combines my two favorite sports, baseball and college basketball. But Tyler Olander provided me with that opportunity.

As you may know by now, Olander signed a contract with the Toronto Blue Jays and has been at the team's spring training complex in Dunedin, Florida for extended spring training the past couple of months (save for a quick jaunt back to Mansfield last weekend).

Olander has largely been rehabbing since he re-aggravated the broken foot injury that caused him to leave his Spanish pro basketball team last October, come home for surgery and embark on his latent baseball career.

Other than playing catch with Shabazz Napier so Napier could practice for his Fenway Park first pitch in April, 2014, Olander never went back to baseball during his college career. But he would often tell his four-year roommate and teammate, Niels Giffey, that he intended on trying his hand at baseball again one day.

Giffey was one of the first to congratulate him after Olander signed with the Blue Jays back in April. DeAndre Daniels offered his congratulations, as well.

We certainly wish him congratulations and good luck, as well. Will he be the next Randy Johnson? Of course not. He won't even be the next Scott Burrell. But could Olander be the next Mark Hendrickson? Hey, you never know.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

UConn will play Tulsa on the road, Tulane at home, everyone else twice

AAC opponent pairings were announced on Tuesday, and UConn will play every team twice except Tulsa and Tulane. The Huskies will face Tulsa on the road and Tulane at home.

With 11 teams in the league, every team must play two teams just once each season.

Also, it was announced officially that the AAC championship tourney will be held at the XL Center in Hartford March 9-12 (Thursday to Sunday).

The complete 2016-17 men's basketball schedule with dates and times will be announced at a later date.

American Men’s Basketball 2016-17 home and away pairings:

Play Only Home
Play Only Away
UCF
SMU
Tulane
Cincinnati
Memphis
East Carolina
UConn
Tulane
Tulsa
East Carolina
Cincinnati
Memphis
Houston
Temple
USF
Memphis
East Carolina
Cincinnati
USF
Houston
SMU
SMU
USF
UCF
Temple
Tulsa
Houston
Tulane
UCF
UConn
Tulsa
UConn
Temple

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Kevin Ollie's first "Kevin's Kourt" to open on Monday

Kevin Ollie will open his first wheelchair-accessible basketball court on Monday at the Boys & Girls Club of Hartford, as part of his "Kevin's Kourt" initiative.

Ollie, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, chairman Rodney Butler of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and others will participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony starting at 4 p.m. Instead of cutting down the nets (as Ollie did in 2014 as national champion coach) this ceremony will be about putting up nets.



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