Saturday, October 3, 2015

Sights and sounds from UConn's season-opening practice

It's that time of year, folks. UConn officially kicked off practice on Saturday with a four-hour grind that started at 10 a.m. in Guyer Gym and ended around 2 p.m. inside the Werth Family Champions Center.

Here's some of what was said, along with some video:


(on the newcomers)

“They did an amazingly good job. Sterling did a great job, Shonn was fantastic, and Enoch and Jalen did a great job. Terry played well, too. I was like, ‘Man, I wish I could have him, too.’ Just being greedy, I guess.”

“We lost a lot of games in the last few minutes, last possession, that we’d like to clean up. That’s why the execution part is so crucial going into the season.”

“Oh, we’re gonna run. Definitely gonna run. I was very disappointed in our tempo (last year). We’ve got to run, push the pace. I’ve got a lot of options. I can go big, I can go small. That’s what I like. We’ll just see how we can manipulate the defense, and see who’s not gonna give in, retreat or surrender. That’s what I kept telling the guys: it’s the UConn covenant.”

(on Jalen Adams)

“He’s gonna be a fantastic player. The one thing that he’s gotta get better at is conditioning -- which wasn’t bad, but playing at this level, you’re gonna be playing a top-notch point guard. You’re gonna be playing probably their best player on the court. So you’ve got to be able to guard defensively, then come down and have the composure to run the offense.”

“We’ve had a lot of great point guards. If he wants to be in that line of guys, he’s gonna have to do the extra stuff. It can’t just be the two hours of practice. It’s got to be the extra stuff to make him an extraordinary person to put on that jersey.”

(on how hard it is to monitor an entire program as a head coach)

“You have to have discipline. I’m not saying those other teams didn’t have it, I’m just speaking for myself. You have to have accountability, and that starts with the coach. It is what it is. We can put our arms up and say it’s not our job to do it, but that’s what we have to do. That falls on us. We have to understand that it comes with the job, with being a head coach. You’ve got to have great people around you.”

“It’s up to them to take ownership and do the right things. I think all our guys want to play. They have pride in their jersey and their university. Hopefully, our guys do the right thing. But they’re 17, 18-year-olds, they make mistakes like we all make mistakes. We’ve just got to be careful with what we’re doing. It starts with me. I can’t run away from that. We’ve got to step up. It’s like a great quarterback -- you can’t run away from pressure, because most pressure comes from outside. You’ve got to step up in the pocket. That’s what we’ve got to do -- step up in the pocket, on the court and off the court. That’s why we challenge so much. If you see your brother doing something wrong, you challenge him to be better, because he’s just gonna bring us all down. We do a lot of things off the court to try to manage them when they get in those situations, so they think about doing the right things, not the wrong things.”


“That plays a big part in being good. You have to hold everyone accountable. As a brotherhood, you can’t be scared to tell your brother that he’s doing something wrong.”

(on Adams)

“Jalen’s talented. He’s really skilled. He’s gifted, he’s tall, he’s athletic. He has all the abilities to be a star. This year, I’m just gonna try to give him some knowledge, teach him a couple of things that I’ve learned over the course of the year. And I’ll probably be able to learn a couple of things from him, as well.”

(on running)

“That’s a guard’s dream, to be able to have the freedom to get out and run, and to use the pick and roll. Just to have the freedom overall, I think that’s one of the things that he’s really stressing. He doesn’t want to come down and call a play each time down.”


“They handled it pretty well. The fifth-year (guys), and a couple of the freshmen, they played real well. I didn’t expect them to be that good. They handled it real well.”

(on Adams)

“He’s more mature than a freshman. He doesn’t play like a freshman, he plays like it’s his second or third year. That’s gonna help us huge, because he comes in and has a clue on what’s going on. He’ll come in and play right away.”

(on team's versatility)

“Last year it was kind of like, ‘Watch him do that, watch him do this.’ It’s more of a team this year. Everybody can do different stuff. People aren’t just one-dimensional.”

“It’s kind of like having toys. He can throw whatever toy or whatever car he wants to have.”


“It was tiring, but I think I did pretty well ... The whole week leading up to this, everybody’s like, ‘First practice, K.O. is cool, but when you get on the court, he’s in a different mindset.’ So, I was kind of expecting it. And I like to run.”

“We have five guys who can score the ball, four who can score off the perimeter. Everybody’s a key asset, so you have to pay attention to everybody.”

(on running)

“I love that a lot. That’s one of the main reasons I came here, just watching them play. They’re always uptempo offense. I like to get out, fast-break dunks, alley-oops. I like to have fun when I’m playing.”

“Everybody can play basketball at this level. People who are willing to put in extra time, pay attention to detail, do the little stuff.”

“Each of those three guards, I want to take stuff from. Kemba, I want to take his aggressivness and creativity. Shabazz, his pull-up jump shot and how he’s the leader. And Boatright, how he’s also a great leader and he just gets everybody involved. I like that a lot from all those guys.”

(can he lead as a frosh?)

“Definitely. I think leading is natural. In those type of situations, growing up -- even off the court with my friends, I was always, like, the head honcho. Leading is natural. If you’ve been through it, it carries on to the court.”

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Some video from the Husky Run

Your Husky Run times:

1. (overall) Jon Gill, Walllingford, 17:45


1. Daniel Hamilton, 20:31
2. Kentan Facey, 21:41
3. Omar Calhoun, 22:43
4. Steve Enoch, 23:24
5. Christian Foxen, 23:48
6. Jalen Adams, 24:59
7. Sterling Gibbs, 25:12
8. Rodney Purvis, 25:34
9. Terry Larrier, 26:15
10. Shonn Miller, 26:15
11. Phillip Nolan, 26:30
12. Nnamdi Amilo, 29:44

Daniel Hamilton addresses the crowd prior to the run:

Kevin Ollie speaks with the media:

Daniel Hamilton crosses the finish line first among his UConn teammates -- backwards -- with a time of 20:31.

Some notes 'n quotes off the run:


(on the Husky Run)

“It’s important -- spending time with the fans, seeing them run, seeing us run. It’s about starting something and finishing something. That’s kind of our motto: whatever we start, we want to finish. That hill on the back side always gets you. But you’ve got to persevere. Just like the season, there’s gonna be some ups and downs, but you’ve got to get to the finish line. It’s really not a race to win, it’s a race against yourself. You want to finish.”

(on the team's newcomers)

“They’re fitting in great. That’s one thing I really want to see early -- team chemistry. They’re doing a wonderful job coming in and bringing leadership. They’re not scared to challenge people. We don’t want them to come in and take a back seat, because they’re gonna play a pivotal role in our success.”

(on Daniel Hamilton)

“I think he always had confidence in how good he could be. It’s just putting the work in, seeing the results. I think he saw some great results last year, but he definitely wants to improve on shooting percentage, being a better decision-maker, taking better shots. But he did some wonderful things last year. Now, you’ve just got to take what you do well now and do it even better. I’ve been seeing some remarkable growth throughout this preseason.”

“He’s gonna be on everybody’s list to stop. We had Ryan Boatright, I bet you he had the big star on his name. Now, Daniel’s gonna have that star on his name. The good thing is we have a lot of players that are gonna have that star on their names. It’s not gonna just be one guy. That’s a good thing for a coach to have options, and to have a team that’s deep.”

(on SMU)

“We hate for that to happen to SMU ... I just hate for it to happen to a very dear friend of mine. I know they’re gonna get better from the situation and hopefully go forward. We’ve got to go forward as a university, as a conference. We still have some great teams that are gonna have the opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament.”

“I can’t tell you that, you’re gonna have to call Larry about that. But, knowing him, he’s been down a lot of times in his life. The good thing about being down, a week later, he’s back up and at it again. I don’t think that’s gonna change now. I think he’s gonna look at it as a learning circumstance, and I think he’ll get better. But he’s a great man, he’s been very influential in my life. I just wish him the best going forward.”

*** Amida Brimah sat out the run. He rolled his ankle in his final GHPA game in August, but should be fine for Saturday's first practice.

Sam Cassell, Jr. also sat out the Husky run. Trainer James Doran didn't want him pounding his stress fracture for 3.1 miles on blacktop. He's good to go Saturday, too.

“I said I was gonna win it a couple of weeks ago, so I had to make sure I lived up to that.”

“Definitely a different attitude. I want to win, like UConn does. I just want to come in, win and make a huge impact.”

“I’m in the best shape of my life.”

“I’m ready to come in and lead and just win, that’s the main thing. We win, everybody’s having fun and everybody looks good.”

“We’re more together. We all come to the gym at the same time, nobody’s separate from each other. We’ve got the team mindset. The new guys are fitting in real well, putting in their work at nighttime. They’re dragging me to come in the gym. That’s always a good sign.”

“I had way too many turnovers -- two turnovers a game, that’s a lot a game, and I’m not even a point guard. I’ve got to defnitely cut down on that.”

(on speculation he'll go pro after this year)

“That’s a distraction outside the locker room. I don’t want to make a distraction outside the locker room, because that could affect the way we play. I just want to come in and play our game, play the way UConn wants to play. That’s getting wins.”


“I’m feeling real good, better than I felt last year coming in. I did a lot of rehab over the summer, so I’m feeling 100-percent right now. Hopefully I can stay this way and just continue to improve.”

a lot of track work, working on mobility, flexibility, lot of strengthening core, when I was in boot, strengthen everything else

“I want to show everyone the kind of player I really am. I’ve been dealing with injuries basically every year, besides my freshman year. Hopefully, I can get the year I want my senior year. Make a big run in the tournament, that’s the plan.”

“I’ve always been a competitive person. It should be fun. Whoever’s the best is gonna be on the court at the end of the day.”


“Everything with me is off the flow of the game. I’m pretty fast, so I’ll let my speed get me out in transition to get me going. It’s a great thing to have a lot of weapons, but just because you have a lot of weapons doesn’t mean you have to take your foot off the gas. The more scoring, the more points, the more wins we’ll get.”

“He’s even surprised me how much more he’s opened up. Last year he was a freshman. When you’re a freshman, you’re kind of figuring yourself out. You’re coming to a locker room with a lot of older guys. With his summer and with that year, he’s really opened up a whole lot. He’s kind of like a differnet person. Last year, he was the quietest in the locker room. Now, he’s one of the loudest. That’s always a positive.”

“I dedicated my whole summer pushing myself and preparing myself for this moment. It’s not really good to say, but I really do feel like this is my team. I’ve got to step up and be that guy and be that coach on the floor. It’s a huge role, a huge task, but I’ve got to give my credit to Coach Ollie. He’s really working with me each and every day. I really credit him.”

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, September 28, 2015

Recruiting profile: Da'Ron Davis not likely to be a Husky

UConn was slated to make a home visit to highly-skilled big man Da'Ron Davis out in Colorado last week. But just before that was going to happen, the staff was essentially told not to bother making the long trip. It doesn't appear Davis intends to be a Husky.

With Mamadou Diarra already in the fold, Juwan Durham recently committed, Steve Enoch already enrolled and the possibility of Amida Brimah coming back for his senior season, there doesn't appear to be much room for Davis in Storrs.

According to a source close to Davis, he has pretty much narrowed his choices down to three schools: Indiana, Arizona and Mississippi State. He visited Indiana this past weekend, will visit Ben Howland at MSU in mid-October, then head to Arizona near the end of October.

Labels: , , , , ,

UConn recruiting profile: Wenyen Gabriel

Wenyen Gabriel will be making an official visit to UConn this weekend, beginning on Friday. The 6-foot-10, 210-pound forward is one of the top-rated recruits in the nation (No. 17 overall, per All you have to do is look at the schools in his top five: Duke, Kentucky, Maryland, UConn and Providence.

While Providence (and, to a much lesser degree, UConn) may appear out of its league with the other three power-five schools, there's a reason why Gabriel's list is so varied, according to Mike Mannix, his coach at Wilbraham & Monson Academy.

"UConn and PC, relative to where we are, are local schools, and both are relevant on the national scene," Mannix said. "PC was the second school in the country to offer him a scholarship. He was at UConn's Midnight Madness last year, and Maryland was here last year, talking to him and watching him. They offered a scholarship a little bit later. Duke and Kentucky, they recruit pretty much the same circle of kids. With them, they're gonna wait until a kid has pretty much proven he's top 25, or at least top 50. Once he got in that range, that's when arguably the two best programs in the country got in on him."

Gabriel visited Maryland two weeks ago and Kentucky this past weekend. After this weekend's UConn visit comes PC, then Duke. Mannix believes he'll wait until making all five of his visits before coming to a decision. He also believes Gabriel's decision is still wide-open.

"Now it's time to see where you you fit best," Mannix said. "People use 'fit' all the time, but 'fit' has a lot of factors. It’s how you see yourself jelling with the head coach and coaching staff, with players when you meet the players on your visit, how you fit in as far as what they’re doing personnel-wise. It probably wouldn’t be a great fit if someone had four or five guys coming in at 3-4 position. All the schools he's looking at right now, they're pretty balanced in their recruiting."

Mannix added that Gabriel hopes to make his decision by November, but he's not pressuring himself to make it by then.

Gabriel was born in South Sudan and moved with his family to Manchester, N.H. at age 3. He spent three years at Manchester's Trinity High before transferring to Wilbraham & Monson, where he repeated his junior year and is now a senior.

"He's now become just as much of a 3 as he is a 4," said Mannix, who's in his second year at the helm after taking over for Chris Sparks (who was a former assistant to Glen Miller at Brown). "He's really worked on improving his game out on the perimeter. From where he was a year or two ago, he's much, much more comfortable out on the perimeter now. He can shoot the NBA 3 now."

Mannix added that Gabriel boasts a 3.6 grade-point average and is taking some high-level honors courses.

And here's perhaps a little feather in UConn's cap: Gabriel's roommate and close friend is Brendan Vessichio of Berlin, a two-guard who's getting looks from schools like Brown, Dartmouth, Holy Cross and Bucknell. Perhaps he'll put in a good word or two about the Nutmeg State?

Oh, and in case you were wondering: the first school to offer a scholarship to Gabriel? The University of New Hampshire, his home state school.

*** There's another Connecticut-born player getting some interest at Wilbraham & Monson -- and he'll likely be getting even more over the next year. Brycen Harris, a 6-8, 225-pound Class of'2017 forward/center from Coventry, is getting looks from Boston University, Holy Cross, BYU and Utah State right now, and could attract some bigger schools as either an undersized, throwback center or a hefty power forward in the coming months.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A strong recruiting summer for UConn could get even stronger

Perhaps playing in the American Conference, as opposed to one of the so-called "power five" leagues, isn't hurting UConn as bad as originally thought.

The Huskies have already notched three Class of 2016 players, and they're good ones -- Mamadou Diarra, a 6-foot-8 power forward from Putnam Science Academy; Alterique Gilbert, a uniquely talented (if small) point guard out of Georgia; and, most recently, Tampa's Juwan Durham, a multi-faceted 6-10 forward who has drawn favorable comparisons to a young Donyell Marshall.

Sure, there are hundreds of players out there, and Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina can't swipe up all of them. Sure, it may have helped UConn that Durham missed much of his junior year after tearing the ACL in his right knee, though it appears most of the major programs still coveted the Tampa Prep star despite the injury.

But the fact of the matter is, the Huskies are welcoming three excellent players to the program next season -- and more top-notch talent could be on the way.

Wenyen Gabriel, one of the top-rated power forwards in the nation out of Wilbraham and Monson Academy, is slated to visit Storrs in a few weeks (Oct. 2-4). He's also highly sought-after by Kentucky, Duke, Maryland and Providence, but if the Huskies can get him to commit, it would really put their 2016 haul over the top.

Meanwhile, UConn is still very strong with a pair of top 2017 recruits: Zach Brown, a 7-footer out of Miami, and Hamadou Diallo, a shooting guard out from Putnam Science Academy who is close to current teammate Diarra.

UConn currently has one scholarship still open, which it could fill with a walk-on, as it has the past couple of seasons, or leave open in case any mid-season transfers become available. Otherwise, the Huskies will have at least four scholarships open up next season, with Sterling Gibbs, Shonn Miller, Omar Calhoun and Phil Nolan all graduating. It's certainly possible that Daniel Hamilton, Amida Brimah and/or Rodney Purvis could leave school early for the NBA after this season, as well.

With all that considered, the Huskies will likely have at least two, if not three or four more slots to fill for the 2016-17 season. A big man and a shooter top their wish list to fill out the Class of 2016 -- unless, of course, an extremely talented player at any other position suddenly becomes available. UConn could soon be getting a visit from 6-8 forward De'Ron Davis out of Colorado, who's getting a home visit from the Huskies this week.

Otherwise, the Huskies are looking at '17's and '18's, and could be getting a visit soon from Myles Powell out of South Kent School.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, September 4, 2015

Tampa Bay Prep coach Joe Fenlon talks about UConn commit Juwan Durham

Chatted by phone today Juwan Durham as well as Joe Fenlon, who coaches Durham down at Tampa Bay Prep.

Here's the story of how Durham wound up in Storrs.

Here's some of what they had to say:


“It was a really tough decision, because I’m gonna spending the next four years of my life, possibly, with thewe guys. It was really big for me and my family, we just wanted to make the best decision for me.”

“I really felt like the team was close-knit and together. I asked a lot of people about Coach Ollie, and they all told me that I could trust him and that he’s a good, wholesome guy.”

He said Sterling Gibbs and Shonn Miller were his hosts on last weekend's visit, and that Amida Brimah, Rodney Purvis and Jalen Adams were among those who sold him on Ollie.

"(The coaching staff) didn’t promise me anything. They told me I could have the opportunity to be able to start. That was enough for me, because I know you can’t promise any kid a starting position, because you never know who's going to be on the team. And I just don’t want anything given to me.”


"The plan was to try to narrow it down a little bit, but he had visited a bunch of schools unofficially, had been on campuses, and was really trying to find a place where he was really comfortable. He's also a very thought-provoking kid. He and I spoke Monday night. Tuesday he came in during study hall and said there's really no reason to narrow it down, I really feel like I'm ready for a commitment. He had thought about it very much. It was certainly not an impulsive move. UConn's always been one of his favorites, anyway. To some people, it may have come out of the blue. But on the inside, we knew UConn definitely was in the mix."

Fenlon said the Huskies actually practiced inside the Tampa Bay Prep gym during their trip to play South Florida last January. Ricky Moore led Durham's recruitment, and he came back a couple of times afterwards. In April, at the women's Final Four, Kevin Ollie came down and Durham first had a chance to talk with him.

"It was a very good conversation," Fenlon said. "Juwan’s a very level-headed kid. He has goals and aspirations, but he also knows that, eventually, the ball’s gonna stop bouncing. Not every question he asked was basketball-related."

(on Durham as a player)

"He’s got a very interesting skill set. He creates a lot of matchup problems offensively, because he can handle, pass, shoot the ball. He's a very unselfish kid, in that he doesn’t take bad shots. He’s not a volume shooter. He’s not worried about what he’s gonna get, he’s worried about quality, not quantity. He’s a kid who just wants to win. If that means giving ball up at end of the game, he will give the ball up. He doesn’t need limelight on him. The limelight's already on him."

"He's got real good control of his body. A lot of kids 6-10, 6-11, are kind of awkward. Juwan has a way of not committing fouls. He changes a lot of shots, blocks a hell of a lot of shots. But he doesn’t do it when he ends up fouling. With his length, he doesn’t need to leave floor."

"Very active on glass, defensively. He can run the floor very well, and he can push it up the floor, as well."

"He probably weighs about 210 pounds right now. He’s never gonna be Karl “The Mailman” Malone. But he’s very skilled on the block, he has a very good post game. He’s a very good free throw shooter. I like putting him inside, because people are gonna foul him. That’s like money in the bank for us. We thrive on that."

(on Durham's ACL injury)

"In the regional semifinals, he was going for a steal. He punched the ball out between two guys, tried to outrun both guys, it was a freak accident right in front of our bench."

"There was really no hesitation from the majority of schools. Not that it's run-of-the-mill, but ACL surgery now is not what it was 20 years ago. The time away from the court has been really good for Juwan. It makes him understand his passion for the game. The fact that he's not been able to compete for the last 6-7 months, it’s starting to drive him crazy. He really can’t wait to get back on the court."

"We start practice on Oct. 26. There's no reason to rush him back. He has a very bright future, we’re not gonna compromise it here. He’ll know when he’s ready. If it's sometime in November, great. If it's December, great."

Durham had a an official visit slated for Miami, and had already made unofficials to Miami, Florida, Florida State and Louisville. He was also interested in Villanova, Kansas, Notre Dame and Maryland.

(what appealed to him about the UConn campus?)

"It’s not in a city. That has an appeal to him, because there wouldn’t be as many distractions. He can just get up there, be a student, be an athlete."

Fenlon, who's entering his 33rd season coaching Tampa Bay Prep, coached Casey Sanders, a McDonald's All-American who went on to play at Duke in the early 2000's. People compare Durham to Sanders, Fenlon said, but added that whenever Sanders sees Durham play, he says, "God, he's so much better than I was."

“What Juwan really needed to learn up on were there other things outside of basketball. He loves being a student, walking the halls. Basketball is what he does, basketball doesn’t define him. Those are the kids who really have opportunities to go places. Basketball is the most important thing to him, but so is being a good friend, being a good student. His mother wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Fenlon said Durham's dad visited Storrs over the summer, and his mom accompanied him on last weekend's official visit. 

He also noted that Alterique Gilbert called Durham almost immediately after he announced his commitment via Twitter.

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Phil Nolan: 'They're gonna have to put the arc out pretty far to stop me from taking charges'

Met up with Phil Nolan today for an interview for a story that will run in a few days.

It may be easy to overlook Nolan this season, what with so many good, new players coming in (not to mention some talented returnees, as well). But he's a senior now. He's got a national championship ring. And though he's coming off a disappointing junior season, Nolan looks fit and sounds ready to make amends.

Here's a few things he had to say today:

"I gained a lot of weight last year. It wasn’t all good weight. I lost a lot of weight, but then I started gaining it back and made sure it was good weight this time.

“It makes it tougher to move around, move your feet, not as explosive. When I went back home to Milwaukee, working with my trainer, it was a lot of agility stuff on the court and working on my explosiveness.”

(what he worked on this summer and needs to do better this season)

 “I know I’m way better at finishing around the basket. I want to improve on that, just make sure I’m in the best shape possible so I’m able to run the floor and be explosive, rebound ... just all the little things that will help the team out.”

(on how he feels about newcomers like Shonn Miller and Steve Enoch, both of whom could cut into his playing time)

“Anybody that knows me -- I’m not saying that I don’t want to play -- but anybody that knows me knows that I’m all for the team. What’s best for the team. Bringing in guys like that, it’s just Coach Ollie telling us to step up our game. We’ve got to get in the gym more, work out more. At the end of the day, it’s only gonna benefit us.”

(on taking charges)

“I had no clue that I was good at it. One day, Coach Ollie was yelling at us, ‘Nobody’s taking charges!’ He was really talking to the guards, I think. I was just like, 'I’m gonna go out and try it.' I think the first game I tried it, I got, like, three. So I’m like, ‘Man, I might as well keep doing it.’ Back then, I was getting in foul trouble a lot, too. Instead of jumping and getting a foul, I might as well let someone run into me and the referee call it a charge.”

“It hurts. I wouldn’t say it’s tough, but you’ve got to be dedicated. You’ve got to be predetermined and know what you’re gonna do. As soon as you see someone coming full-speed, just stand there and let them knock you over.”

(on the NCAA's decision to extend the arc underneath the basket by a foot, from three feet to four feet, to help reduce the number of collisions)

“I don’t think that’s gonna hold me back. They’re gonna have to put the arc out pretty far to stop me from taking charges.”

Check back in a few days for a feature story, which looks at Nolan's interesting home life back in Milwaukee ... and just why he was at the NBA draft this past June.

Labels: , , ,