Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sam Cassell, Jr. cleared for action, anxious to get going again

UConn announced that Sam Cassell, Jr. has been cleared for basketball activities on Wednesday, completing his long road back from a stress fracture injury in his right leg back in January.

If it seems like a long time for Cassell to recover, particularly since there was hope in Husky camp that he could return for the postseason in March, remember that doctors told Cassell it would be a 3-6 month recovery.

"I knew it might be a long process," Cassell said late last week. "I was hoping (to return last March), but the doctor was telling me not to rush it. Because at the time, when the AAC tournament was going on, it was healing, but it wasn't all the way healed."

Cassell has been on campus, bonding with his new teammates, working out, trying to get his legs back under him this summer and doing everything except playing in pick-up games. Now, he can.

"I'm anxious," he said. "I've been waiting for a long time to get back out there."

Count me as one who believes Cassell will be a nice help for the Huskies this season. He shot the ball very well in some early games last season (albeit in exhibition games and/or against weaker competition). He's also a guy who averaged 18.4 points per game for a strong Chipola Junior College team the year before.

Obviously, his shot suffered a lot in the weeks before his injury, and he wound up shooting just 27.6 percent from the floor and 26.5 percent from 3-point land. But I wouldn't give up on him yet. Can you envision Cassell as a zone-breaking shooter off the Huskies' bench this season?

The stress fracture may have ultimately been a bit of a blessing in disguise.

“This injury helped me get my confidence back," he explained. "Working out, I see my shot going in much more, so it’s building my confidence back up.”

Still, last year was tough for the junior guard.

“It hurt me. It felt like me in JUCO sitting out all over again. But my health was much more important. Even though I struggled, I know sitting out hurt me even more.”




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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Kevin Ollie: 'It's a talented group. I'm not gonna lie to you guys.'

A few UConn notes to get you through your weekend:

*** Kevin Ollie has been contacted by several NBA teams regarding Ryan Boatright.

"Boat is gonna create his own chance," said Ollie. "And if they're not gonna open the door, he's gonna kick it down."

"I want him to look at what team fits him the best. That's what I want him to look at, not just the guaranteed money."

*** Ollie doesn't think it'll be a challenge meshing all the new players together this season.

"I'd have a little more trepidation if we didn't have some talented players down there and I'm trying to piece things together. This group is very, very talented."

"It's a talented group. I'm not gonna sit here and lie to you guys."

*** Shonn Miller is a "rebounding magnet ... very cerebral, able to pick up on things quickly."
UConn's new guard, Sterling Gibbs, meets the media

*** Sterling Gibbs is "just a basketball player. He plays at a pace you can't get him out of, which is something I love."

"He's not a Ricky Moore, as far as pushing the ball. But he's also a very smart player throwing the ball ahead."

*** Sam Cassell is going to see a doctor on Tuesday, hoping to get a clean bill of health and can start playing the following week. He's been doing just about everything except full-out basketball in recent weeks.

*** Amida Brimah needs to "eliminate some of those foolish mistakes that he did. Some of them were trying to take charges, or illegal screens 35 feet from the basket ... It happens, but I think it happened too much for him. Freshman, sophomore year, I'll lay off, but junior year, you've got to eliminate some of those mistakes and stay on the court. I think he's heard that a lot from me, he's aggravated from me saying that -- which is a good thing."

Brimah is up to 233 pounds now, and the Huskies would like him to get to about 235-240 by October.

He will also be one of the team's captains for a second straight year. Ollie will look for one or two more players to join him as captain.

*** Omar Calhoun is out with a toe injury. He's currently sporting a boot and hasn't been able to train with the coaching staff.

*** Ollie on Terrence Samuel, Rakim Lubin transferring: "Sooner or later, it's gonna happen. They felt they had a better situation playing a little more in another program."

"I thought Terrence played a lot of minutes. I stuck with him, but he stuck with me, too. He allowed us to win a championship. He played a pivotal role. You hate to see him go, because that team was something special to me. Not because we won the national championship, but that year prior, to stick by me in the lean times, I've got a special place in my heart for that team."

*** On AAC: "I think the only significant player that left our conference is Boat ... Everybody's back. That's why I think it's gonna be a great league."

"We've got to continue to schedule out-of-conference games. A lot of our AD's and programs in the bottom half have got to start getting some guarantee games also, so they can start getting wins. We talked about that a lot in our conference meetings. That's what they're looking for -- the strength of the whole conference, and not just the top four teams."

*** Ollie on UConn's own schedule: "Early on, we're gonna really be tested and see what this team is made out of. Which is good."

*** It's still to be determined whether Nnamdi Amilo will be back on scholarship this season.

"A 7-footer might parachute in," Ollie joked. "But if we don't have that, I'm definitely gonna put him on scholarship."

*** Ollie on Terry Larrier: "Wow. Ooooooh, he is so good. Man, he is fantastic. He's long, he's athletic, he can shoot the ball, runs the court, great person to be around. His teammates love him."

Larrier is already best friends with Daniel Hamilton. But they go at it hard on the court.

"That's a nice little competition right there," said Ollie. "That's big-time right there."

*** Ollie on recruiting: "I think we've done some good things. We're not Kentucky. People want us to be Kentucky. We're not gonna just get all the All-Americans. We have to continue to establish relationships and pick the right people ... I think we've got some nice momentum. A lot of people didn't know what we were doing, and that's a good thing. I do like to move under the radar and surprise some people. A lot of people maybe were disappointing with not getting Diamond (Stone) and not getting such-and-such, but as a coaching staff, we have to have a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, Plan D to get things done."






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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Your 2015-16 UConn roster

For you uniform numbers mavens out there ... (by the way, this really is a good-looking roster. Not sure if Nnamdi Amilo is on scholarship yet, either):


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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Jalen Adams, Sterling Gibbs, Terry Larrier, Shonn Miller, Steve Enoch meet the press

UConn's five newcomers -- freshmen Jalen Adams and Steve Enoch, and transfers Sterling Gibbs, Shonn Miller and Terry Larrier -- met with the media on Tuesday at the Huskies' practice facility.

Here's some of what they had to say:

TERRY LARRIER:

(on how things have gone in his first few weeks on campus, and why he chose UConn the second time around):



(Larrier said that Shaka Smart tried to get him to come with him from VCU to Texas)

“Shaka definitely did reach out, try to get me on a visit. But I already kind of had my mind made up with the schools I wanted. No knock to Shaka, he’s still a great coach. I’m thankful for all that he’s taught me. I wish him and Texas the best of luck. But I’m just glad to be a Husky.”

JALEN ADAMS:

(on heading to the adidas Nations camp next month as a counselor)

“I’m looking forward to it. I went there as a camper, so it’s always nice to go back at the next level.”

(on how he felt when he heard fellow point guard Sterling Gibbs was transferring to UConn):



"When I found out he was coming in here, that’s why I was excited rather than stressing about it, because I know Kemba and Shabazz Napier played together. Shabazz Napier and (Ryan) Boatright played together. You can play with two guards, it doesn’t matter. Coach Ollie, when I committed here, he told me that UConn was positionless. You don’t have an assigned position, you just go out and play hard.”

STERLING GIBBS:

(on what he hopes to gain from his one season at UConn):

“As much as possible. As much knowledge, as much wins, brotherhood. I think we have enough talent to do some big things. We’ve just got to put it all together and all buy into the system.”

(on being a possible mentor to Jalen Adams):



“When I first got to Texas, we were just learning on the fly, we didn’t really have a big brother figure to look to on the court. But I really want to just pass all that knowledge to him and have him be the best player possible.”

SHONN MILLER:



(on whether rebounding, defense will be his main roles with UConn):

“That’s obviously one of my strong points. But I feel like I can do a multitude of other things, whether it’s scoring, passing, shooting.”

(on how good UConn can be this season)

“I don’t really know how to say it. We can just be really good. I think we have all the tools at each position to be a very good team.”

STEVE ENOCH:

“I know we have a boatload of talent. I’m just excited and interested to see what it could become ... It seems like we could be a really, really good team.”

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Daniel Hamilton, Jalen Adams, Amida Brimah set for summer camps

Daniel Hamilton, Jalen Adams and Amida Brimah will be doing some camping this summer. Here's the release from UConn:

A trio of UConn men's basketball players will take their skills to summer camps in California to compete against some outstanding college talent.

Rising sophomore Daniel Hamilton (Los Angeles, Calif.) is one of just 20 college players nationally to be invited to participate in the inaugural Nike Basketball Academy to be held June 26-29 in Santa Monica. Also, rising junior Amida Brimah (Accra, Ghana) and incoming freshman Jalen Adams (Roxbury, Mass.) will serve as counselors and part of the college contingent of players at the sixth annual adidas Nations, held on July 30-Aug. 3, in Long Beach.

The Nike Basketball Academy is the result of Nike combining its three skills academies - the LeBron James Skills Academy, Kevin Durant Skills Academy, and Kyrie Irving/Anthony Davis Bigs and Points Skills Academies --- into one. The camp, to be held at the Santa Monica Airport's Barker Hanger, brings together some of the country's top high school and college players, where they will be instructed by some of Nike's top athletes, including James, Durant, Irving and Davis.

Hamilton, UConn's 6-7 swingman, was named the American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year last season after averaging 10.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 3.7 assists for the Huskies. He led the conference in rebounding at 9.1 per game in league games and was the only freshman in the country to score 300 points (380), grab 200 rebounds (267), and hand out 100 assists (128).

At the Nike Academy, Hamilton will go through a professional basketball combine, off-court workouts, drills, film sessions, and 5-on-5 competition.

Brimah, the Huskies' 7-foot center, started all 35 games for UConn and averaged 9.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.46 blocks, which ranked first in the conference and second in the country, as he earned the AAC Defensive Player of the Year Award. His 67.4 field goal percentage set a UConn single-season record.

Adams, a 6-2 guard, comes to UConn after leading Brewster Academy to a 34-1 season, the New England Prep School Athletic Council Class AAA championship and the National Prep Championship. Adams averaged 16 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game, while shooting 50.0 percent from the field. He was a first team All-NEPSAC Class AAA pick, and MVP of the NEPSAC Class AAA Tournament.

Brimah and Adams are among a group of elite college players who will help tutor the younger players at adidas Nations, while also playing against top college competition themselves.

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UConn announces its 2015-16 non-conference opponents, schedule

UConn has announced its 2015-16 non-conference opponents and game dates:

UConn 2015-16 Non-Conference Schedule
(subject to change)  

Sun., Nov. 1           Tampa (exhibition)
Sat., Nov. 7            New Haven (exhibition)
Fri., Nov. 13           Maine
Tues., Nov. 17        New Hampshire
Sat., Nov. 21          Furman
Wed., Nov. 25        at Battle 4 Atlantis*
Thurs., Nov. 26       at Battle 4 Atlantis*
Fri., Nov. 27           at Battle 4 Atlantis*
Wed., Dec. 2           Sacred Heart
Tues., Dec. 8          vs. Maryland (MSG)
Sat., Dec. 12          Ohio State
Sun., Dec. 20          UMass-Lowell
Wed., Dec. 23         Central Connecticut
Tues., Dec. 29         at Texas

Sat., Jan. 23           Georgetown

* -- Field also comprised by Syracuse, Michigan, Gonzaga, Texas, Texas A&M, Charlott adn Washington. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

NBA scouts split on whether Ryan Boatright will get drafted

Spoke to three NBA scouts over the past week, and was somewhat surprised that two of them feel Ryan Boatright will be selected in the 2015 NBA draft on Thursday.

Take them for what they're worth, sure, but none of the mock drafts have Boatright being selected. You don't hear his name mentioned much from any of the draft pundits. Certainly, general managers and other front office types might be better sources, but it's still somewhat encouraging for those hoping Boatright gets selected to hear a couple of scouts predict he'll get drafted.

Of course, getting picked in the second round doesn't guarantee you anything (just ask DeAndre Daniels). In fact, players who aren't drafted have a slight advantage in the fact that they could have a chance to pick and choose which summer camps they will go to, rather than be beholden to just one team.

Anyway, here's what the three scouts (two from the Eastern Conference, one from the Western Conference) had to say:

EASTERN CONFERENCE SCOUT:

"I think the prospects of second round are less than 50-50, but there’s a chance of him getting drafted. Even if he doesn’t, for sure he’ll be invited to summer league camps and get a strong look from multiple teams. He’ll be sought after."

"Obviously, his size works against him. But he’s tough as nails. He can come in and be a change-of-pace guy, score the ball at times."

"My gut feeling is he probably doesn’t get drafted, but I think there’s a chance."

"He’s an unbelievable money-maker in Europe, because he’s the type of guy they don’t have over there. They don’t have the super-quick guy."

WESTERN CONFERENCE SCOUT:

"I wouldn’t be shocked if he went somewhere in the second half of the second round."

"He was very good here when we worked him out. He's an undersized scorer, but he's improved other parts of his game. I don’t think you can really call him a point guard. (There have been) a number of guys like him in the league, undersized, high-energy scoring types. You put them in the game, they affect the game with their energy."

"He's a tough guy, he competes ... Good kid, works hard, got a pretty good resume."

EASTERN CONFERENCE SCOUT:

"I think he's gonna be taken in the second round. He’s a tough guy. His size is against him, but he’s got plenty of fight and aggressiveness. Anyone who’s seen him in big games, he comes to play, always competes. Tremendous competitor."

"To his credit, after a while – it took a while – he let them coach him. It took him a while, but he gave in to the coach."

"I've watched Boatright for years. I think he'll get drafted. He should, (because of) his toughness, his skill set, his competitiveness."

(on mock drafts)

"It’s good to compare on June 26 the mock drafts, see how accurate they were ,,, A number of those guys, they have other agendas in the mock draft, too. Agents, and things like that."

"He's gonna have to come in and outplay people, just like done all his life. Nothing new for him. He’s built for that."





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