Monday, April 30, 2012

Miller Interested in Brown Job; Mike Bradley Likely Leaving UConn

Little bit of news out of Storrs today. As mentioned in an earlier post, Glen Miller has expressed interest in a second tour of duty as head coach at Brown. Also, Michael Bradley almost certainly will not be staying at UConn, as the staff had hoped, and will likely be taking his talents to Western Kentucky.

Miller would seem a good choice for Brown, though he could be up against some stiff competition with Al Skinner apparently also interested (and getting some support from ESPN's Andy Katz) and a surprising amount of interest nationally for the job. Seems coaches have seen what Tommy Amaker has done at Harvard, and that other schools besides Penn and Princeton can have success despite the inherent restrictions (no scholarships, etc.), and are warming up to the idea of coaching the Ivies. Plus, now that the Virginia Tech job is filled, there's just not much more out there right now.

As for Bradley, he told me by phone today that he'll wait until after his exams end on Thursday to announce his decision. But sources say he's gone, and even Bradley told me he's "probably" not returning to Storrs.

Too bad. Never got to see the kid play a second in a Husky uniform. Heck, I barely ever even saw him play in practice.

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Glen Miller Could Be Candidate for Brown Job

We've already seen five players leave the UConn program over the past couple of weeks. Could coaches soon be part of the exodus, as well?

UConn assistant coach Glen Miller is among a long list of coaches who have expressed interest in the Brown University head coaching position. According to the Providence Journal, Miller, current Brown interim coach T.J. Sorrentine (who I covered in high school), Rhode Island College coach Bob Walsh and former URI and Boston College head man Al Skinner are among those who are interested in the job. And those are just the local ties. Sources say there is a surprising level of national interest in the job.

Jesse Agel was fired in March after four seasons at the Bears' helm.

Miller is certainly an intriguing candidate. He coached the Bears from 1999 to 2006, winning more games (93) over a seven-year stretch than any previous coach in school history. He took Brown to the NIT in 2002-03 and posted a 54-44 Ivy League record during his tenure.

Of course, Miller did leave Brown to take over at Ivy League rival Penn in 2006, which may not have sat well with people at Brown at the time. Some of those people are still at the school. However, incoming AD Jack Hayes was not there. And perhaps this could work in Miller's favor: Hayes was associate AD at UConn from 2001-04 before leaving to take his current position as AD at Hofstra.

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Monday, April 23, 2012

UConn Could Use Some Stability Right Now

Greetings, back from vacation. What'd I miss over the past 10 days or so? Anything?

Yeah, apparently a few things. As we know, Alex Oriakhi is Missouri-bound, Jeremy Lamb (who's agent is Cheshire's own Jeff Schwartz) and Andre Drummond are headed to the NBA, Roscoe Smith is searching for greener pastures and Michael Bradley might be, as well. Am I forgetting anything?

UConn is in quite a situation right now, but a lot could be remedied if/when we find out what Jim Calhoun's plans are. Will he stay through the end of his contract, or even longer? Stay just another season? Or will he retire now? It's important for the program to know, because it's getting burned on the recruiting trail right now.

A little stability within the program (coach-in-waiting, anyone?) could help out a lot.

But don't take my word for it. Here's a quote from one prep school coach, who's had players recruited by UConn in the past, from the above linked article:

"If you’re asking me as someone who would advise a kid, I’d have a hard time telling him he’s gonna play for Jim Calhoun for four years. And I don’t think, unless they have a much better year next year, that he’s going to have a guarantee he’s going to be able to name a successor. Those are pretty big sticking points."

The coach added that a coach-in-waiting would help UConn because "any time you can show continuity, where the program is gonna be, that allows a kid to make a four-year decision, regardless of whether he wants to be in college for four years."

This coach also had some interesting things to say about this past year's UConn team -- namely, that the general knock around basketball was that the Huskies "didn't get along well ... at all" -- particularly the guards. At least one recruit has said he witnessed this discord first-hand while at a UConn practice.

Interesting stuff, though probably something most assumed all along.

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Michael Bradley Might Stay at UConn

Although Michael Bradley has been granted a release from his scholarship by UConn, it's still possible he'll remain with the program.

One of the main reasons Bradley is considering a transfer is to be closer to his ailing grandmother, who has cancer, in Tennessee. He has already visited Western Kentucky, and both Belmont and Tennessee-Chattanooga have inquired about the 6-foot-10 forward.

UConn has put together a plan that it hopes will help Bradley navigate his way through the upcoming year while remaining a Husky: getting him back to Tennessee every third week, mapping out his classes and workouts for the summer, etc.

Bradley is slated to meet with head coach Jim Calhoun some time today, and could have a decision within the next day or two. Certainly, with Alex Oriakhi, Andre Drummond and Roscoe Smith all gone, there will be a great opportunity for playing time for Bradley, who has yet to play a single second in his two years as a Husky (red-shirted as a freshman, injured this past season).

Meanwhile, the Huskies are obviously focusing much of their recruiting efforts on frontcourt players, with Bradley Hayes and Chris Obepka still at the top of their wish list. Hayes, a 6-foot-11 project who was seen by the UConn coaching staff in Las Vegas and by Calhoun recently in Pittsburgh, appears to be down to UConn, Texas A&M and Georgetown.

Obepka appears more of a long-shot for UConn. Cincinnati, Oregon and St. John's seem to be in the lead, with UConn a distant fourth.

The Huskies are also looking at the JUCO and/or European (German) route. But UConn -- which has 12 scholarship slots for next season (it's still docked one for NCAA violations) -- won't simply fill all the available spots for the sake of filling them. Unless the Huskies can get a marquee player or two, they'll likely save scholarships for the following season, when a bumper crop of top recruits will be available and UConn should be back to 13 available scholarships.

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Roscoe Smith Latest to Seek Transfer from UConn

Roscoe Smith is the latest to join the mass exodus from the UConn men’s basketball program.

As first reported by, Smith, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, has requested and received his release from his scholarship. Smith averaged 4.4 points 3.4 rebounds per game, down from his numbers as a freshman (6.3, 5.2, respectively). His minutes were down early in the season but improved play got him significant run as the season progressed. Smith hit double figures in three straight games (Syracuse, Providence, Pittsburgh) at one point in February.

Smith becomes the latest to leave the UConn program, which as of now is banned from postseason play next year. Alex Oriakhi has transferred to Missouri, Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond have entered the NBA draft and Michael Bradley has also received a release from his scholarship.

The Huskies have added Holy Cross transfer R.J. Evans, but it’s apparent that the postseason ban and – perhaps more importantly – Jim Calhoun’s uncertain future is causing players to leave the program while also keeping recruits away. UConn has one signee, New York City’s Omar Calhoun, slated to join the program next season.

Of course, Smith will almost certainly have to sit out next season as a transfer, anyway. It's possible that the school to which he transfers could apply for a waiver that allows him to play immediately, since UConn is (or almost certainly will be) banned from the postseason. But it would seem highly unlikely that Smith would be granted that waiver.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Chris McCullough: UConn My 'Dream School'

With a postseason ban almost certain, four players leaving and all the usual questions surrounding the program (will Jim Calhoun return, and if so for how long, etc.?), recruiting isn't the easiest thing to do for UConn's assistant coaches right now.

With that in mind, it might behoove them to look at kids whose stated ambition it is to play for the Huskies. R.J. Evans is a nice start, and Chris McCullough might be an even better one. The 6-foot-9, 210-pound forward from the Salisbury School says UConn is his "dream school," and that if the Huskies offer, he'd take it. (Curiously, he says part of the reason he likes UConn is because it has a "good graduation rate." Well, that's part of the reason UConn is in trouble in the first place, but things are getting better).

McCullough is Class of 2014, so the postseason tourney ban wouldn't affect him. Still, with all the negativity (fair or unfair) swirling around the program these days, it has to be nice for UConn to hear a talented player practically begging for a scholarship offer.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Jim Calhoun Rides Again

The sixth annual Jim Calhoun Cancer Challenge Ride and Walk will take place on June 9 in Simsbury, and this year it will be dedicated to RuthAnn Lobo, mother of Rebecca, for her courageous fight against cancer. RuthAnn died in July, 2011 at age 67 after a 17-year battle with the disease.

"RuthAnn set an example that is an inspiration to so many fighting the scourge of cancer," Calhoun said. "It is my home that everyone walking or riding on Jun 9 will carry her fighting spirit forward so that we may defeat cancer once and for all."

The dollars raised from the event go to benefit the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UConn Health Center and Coaches vs. Cancer.  To date the event has raised over $1.5 million – with more than 90% of those dollars going to the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The event starts and finishes in Simsbury, Connecticut with bike rides of 10, 25, 50 and 75 miles and a 5K walk.  While the 10, 25 and 50 mile rides are suitable for riders of all levels – the 75 mile ride is considered to be the toughest ride in Connecticut.  There will also be great food and live music as well.  The public is welcome.

To learn more or to register, please visit or call 860-674-1500.

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UConn Will Host Washington on Dec. 29

Banned from postseason tournaments? One way to spice up your schedule is to face new opponents from other power conferences (if you still want to call the PAC-12 a power conference).

UConn will host the University of Washington on Dec. 29 at either Gampel or the XL Center, then meet in a return match in the 2013-14 season out in Seattle. TV plans for the two games will be announced at a later date.

The Huskies (of Washington) are coached by Lorenzo Romar. They were this year's PAC-12 regular-season champs, though they didn't get an invite to the NCAA tourney. U-Dub wound up losing in overtime to Minnesota in the NIT semifinals, in case you weren't paying attention.

UConn is 3-0 all-time against Washington. All three games were on neutral sites: UConn's 75-74 win on March 19, 1998 in the NCAA East Regional semifinals in Greensboro, N.C. (on a Richard Hamilton buzzer-beater); a 69-48 win on Dec. 1, 1998 at the Great Eight Basketball Classic in Chicago; and a 98-92, overtime in in the Washington D.C. regional finals in at the Verizon Center on March 24, 2006.



Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Alex Oriakhi: Last Year Was A 'Step Back'

Yeah, I'm definitely still on vacation. Here's what Alex Oriakhi had to say in a recent radio interview in Kansas City, in which he admits last season was definitely a "step back for me" in his development as a player, and that his friendship with Phil Pressey (son of Paul) was definitely a strong factor in his decision to transfer to Missouri.

(OK, I love Alex, great kid, great person, real good student. But he uses the word 'definitely' as much as anyone I've ever heard).

Here's some of what he had to say:

Why did you choose Missouri?:
“At the end of the day it was just a comfort level. Having a good friend of mine, Phil Pressey, there definitely helped, but I was definitely comfortable when I got there. They were a team that had a pretty successful season in my opinion, winning 30 games, and they were able to do all that without a big man, so I definitely knew they needed a big man. … Everything just meshed and it was the perfect fit.”

What’s your relationship like with Phil?:
“Phil, I’ve known him since eighth grade. … At the time, he lived in Texas but we played AAU so he basically lived with me and my family in the summer. … Even before I transferred we always texted each other every day, talked on the phone. He’s one of my real good friends.”

Why did you decide to play another year at a different school instead of going pro?:
“I didn’t perform as well as I’m capable am to go to the NBA. It was definitely a step back for me, the season I had. … I didn’t think there was a reason for me to even go into the draft. I feel when it’s time to go to the NBA for me is when I feel I’m ready and I feel I’ve done everything I can do. I have more left to accomplish.”

Describe to people how you play:
“I know I have a lot to work on and a lot to improve on, but for the most part I feel like I’m a defensive-oriented guy. Growing up, I wasn’t always the most offensively capable big man … so I had to do other things to stay on the court. I’m definitely a defensive presence. I rebound, block shots. I am working on my offense so I can really score in the post. But for the most part, I’m a defensive guy. I feel like you can dominate a game without scoring.”

When you told Frank Haith you were transferring to Missouri, what was his reaction?:
“He was ecstatic. He was really excited, gave me a hug and said, ‘Welcome to the family.’ … He said it was like getting a Christmas present. I heard that. That’s not what he told me, but that’s what I heard. I just laughed. For a coach to say that about you, it just shows how bad he really wanted me and I’m just excited to come down there and just work my tail off and let the results follow.”

Did you know him from before?:
“No, not really, but Phil’s a real close friend, so if I had any questions, I could definitely go ask Phil. That was the best. Phil was a great resource because I knew Phil was going to keep it 100 percent with me. … He was going to be truthful with me because he wouldn’t want to put me in a situation that wouldn’t help benefit me.”

Was it important for you to come into a situation where there were plenty of new faces, including you, rather than an established lineup?:
“I definitely think it helps to go to a team that’s new because I’m going to be new, my face is going to be new to the rest of the guys and we’re all going to have to learn together and find our roles out and build team chemistry.”

And here's the audio, if you'd like to hear the full interview for yourself. Definitely.

Oh, and please give us a like on Facebook, if you can. Much appreciated.

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Andre Drummond Will Add to UConn's NBA Representation

Greetings from our nation's capital, where I'm on vacation with the family for a little sight-seeing and R&R. Bad week to go on vacation as a UConn beat writer. Or a good week, I suppose, depending on how you look at it.

Anyway, as you obviously know by now, Jeremy Lamb is NBA-bound, and Andre Drummond is apparently right on his heels.

Jim Calhoun? Looks as though he's not going anywhere, though nothing's official yet. Good piece in today's J-I by Neill Ostrout on Calhoun, who says UConn "is not going away" any time soon.

Apologize that I haven't been on top of all the UConn news the last few days. Again, on family vacation, not a whole lot I can do. Always pride myself on digging to find as much as I can on the program and getting news as timely as possible, so while I'm enjoying this time with the family, I'm regretting not being in the thick of the newsgathering process.

But enough about me. Here's a nice slide show put together by the Register showcasing past UConn players taken in the NBA draft. Hope you enjoy. Talk again soon.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Jeremy Lamb leaving UConn for NBA

In a car heading to Washington D. C. with family for vacation. To no one's surprise, Jeremy Lamb has decided to go pro. He's projected to be a lottery pick in the NBA draft this June, and NBA scouts told me last month that he is the quintessential NBA two-guard.

Here's what Lamb had to say today in a statement released by the school:

University of Connecticut sophomore guard Jeremy Lamb has decided to forego the final two seasons of his college eligibility and make himself available for the upcoming NBA Draft.

“It was a difficult decision, but after much prayer and discussion with my parents, I feel that it’s in the best interest of me and my family to declare myself eligible for the upcoming NBA Draft and pursue my dream of playing professional basketball,” Lamb said. “I have very much enjoyed my two years at UConn, especially getting to experience one of the greatest feelings that a college player can have, winning the national championship.”

The 6-5 Lamb, 19, from Norcross, Ga., started every game for the Huskies last season and led the team in scoring this season at 17.7 points per game. He also averaged 4.9 rebounds as he was selected to the All-BIG EAST First Team. He scored in double figures in 31 games, led the Huskies in scoring 17 times, scored 30 or more points in two games and 20 or more 10 times.

Last season, Lamb became just the sixth sophomore in UConn history to score 1,000 career points. His total of 1,060 points rank him No. 42 on UConn’s all-time scoring list. He is only the 11th player in UConn history to score as many as 600 points (603) in one season.

“It’s never easy to lose a great player from your program, but Jeremy has a unique opportunity that he needs to take advantage of,” UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. “He’s been a great kid to coach for the past two years … his teams have won 52 games, been to two NCAA Tournaments, and won a national championship. I look forward to him developing into a terrific player in the NBA and secondly, as he’s promised me, to come back and finish his degree.”

As a freshman, Lamb was an integral part of UConn’s run to the BIG EAST and NCAA national championships, earning NCAA Final Four All-Tournament, NCAA West Region All-Tournament, and BIG EAST All-Tournament honors. During the summer following his freshman year, Lamb competed with Team USA at the U19 FIBA World Championships, leading the team with a 16.2 scoring average and 18 steals in nine games.  

“I have learned a lot, both on and off the basketball court as well as in the classroom, and I feel as if I’m ready to take the next step in my basketball career,” Lamb said. “I intend to successfully complete the current semester academically as I get prepared for the draft.”

Lamb becomes the 14th UConn player under Calhoun to leave school early to enter the NBA Draft. All but one of the previous 13 were drafted in the first round.  

“First, I want to thank God for blessing me with the ability to play this great game,” Lamb said. “I want to thank Coach Calhoun for giving me the opportunity to play at UConn and I want to thank the entire coaching staff and all my teammates for helping me improve enough to hopefully be successful at the next level. “I am proud that I will always be part of the Connecticut basketball family.”        

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Monday, April 9, 2012

Report: Alex Oriakhi to visit Missouri, Kentucky

According to Adam Zagoria, Alex Oriakhi had some pretty heady house guests over the past several days: John Calipari, Frank Haith and Chris Mack (coaches of Kentucky, Mizzou and Xavier, respectively, in case you didn't know).

Zags also reports that Oriakhi will visit Missouri this weekend (where he can catch up with former longtime AAU teammate Phil Pressey) and Kentucky the following weekend. North Carolina and Duke aren't out of the picture yet, Oriakhi says, but Washington apparently is.

We'll see where this all ends up. Seems re-uniting with Jamal Coombs-McDaniel and Patrick Sellers at Hofstra won't happen, though they'd love it if it did.

Plenty more UConn-related news sure to come over the next week or so ...

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Thursday, April 5, 2012

NCAA: Changes to APR Timetable "Not Expected"

Here's what Chris Radford, assistant director of public and media relations for the NCAA, had to say about the rejection of UConn's appeal:

"Schools have known since 2006 that APRs below 900 could result in serious penalties including postseason restriction. The four-year APR is based on previous one-year APR scores that are comparable for every team nationally. To ensure all data are comparable for each team, there is a necessary lag time in calculating all the scores at a national level. Also, in UConn’s first waiver denial, NCAA staff noted the men’s basketball team’s overall lack of academic achievement and minimal academic progress over several years."

And as to when CAP may make a decision on possibly changing the APR score timetable:

"CAP will continue to review policy matters, including examining what years of APR scores are used to determine the multiyear APR score for all teams. While it is possible CAP or the Division I Board of Directors could amend existing policies, it is not expected that either body will make any changes that could affect UConn or any other team facing a postseason restriction next season. CAP meets again April 23-25 (and in July), and this next meeting will be dedicated largely to hearing appeals from schools facing serious penalties. "

UConn AD Warde Manuel on Appeal Rejection

Here's a little of what new UConn AD Warde Manuel had to say about the NCAA CAP's decision to reject UConn's appeal:

“What I’m frustrated with is how they’ve implemented a rule with a lack of notification to its membership. I’ve been in this industry for over 20 years, I’ve been a student-athlete, and I never remember any legislation that’s been changed and made retroactive that would have this kind of effect on our student-athletes.”

“Am I frustrated? Do I believe we’ve been punished twice? Yes."

“Given where we are now, I’m not completely confident (that the timetable might be changed). I’m hopeful that the committee will change the timing of implementation of APR scores.”

“I’ll let the committee do their work and only ask that, if they get an opportunity, that they consider what we put forward and really take a look at it – not just for us, but for all institutions."

"Obviously Jim (Calhoun) is not happy about it, about where we find ourselves with men’s basketball program. Behond that, Jim and I have not talked about any impact on his decision or my decision, or whether or not he will be here."

Much more to come ...

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UConn's Appeal Denied by NCAA CAP

Here's the statement released by UConn regarding the NCAA's denial of its appeal of its 2013 NCAA tournament ban:

The University of Connecticut has been informed by the NCAA’s Committee on Academic Performance (CAP) that it has denied the school’s final appeal of a postseason ban on its men’s basketball team for the 2012-13 season because of the team’s past cumulative Academic Performance Rate (APR) scores.

“I want to be clear that everyone at UConn is and will always be committed to academic excellence for all of our student-athletes and in particular our men’s basketball players,” said UConn Director of Athletics Warde Manuel, a past member of the NCAA’s Academic Cabinet and Academic Eligibility and Compliance Committee. “Before we even began this appeal process, the University and its Division of Athletics began to implement changes that were designed to positively impact the academic performance of our men’s basketball student-athletes. We have and will continue to make adjustments designed to help these young men succeed.”

During the season that the UConn men’s basketball team won the NCAA national championship, the squad had a nearly-perfect 978 APR score in 2010-11. During the fall 2011 semester, the team had a perfect APR score. Connecticut’s other 23 athletic teams all have four-year APR scores that are above 945.

“While we as a University and coaching staff clearly should have done a better job academically with our men’s basketball student-athletes in the past, the changes we have implemented have already had a significant impact and have helped us achieve the success we expect in the classroom,” said men’s basketball Coach Jim Calhoun. “We will continue to strive to maintain that success as we move forward.”

The postseason ban that Connecticut faces in the 2012-13 season is the result of APR scores calculated over both a four-year and two-year period. For purposes of this ruling, the NCAA used the 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 academic years. At this point, the NCAA has decided to not use scores from the current 2011-12 academic year while considering postseason bans for 2012-13.

 “When this change in legislation was adopted by the NCAA Board in October 2011 and made effective for the 2012-13 academic year, it gave the illusion that institutions had time to adjust to the legislation. Yet the data had already been submitted under a different penalty structure, one that would not have excluded our men’s basketball team from participating in the post-season,” said Manuel. “The approach to APR marks the first time in the history of the NCAA that it has ever implemented an academic rule significantly impacting current student-athletes without allowing the members time to adjust to the adoption of the legislation.

“In recent months, CAP chairperson and University of Hartford President Walter Harrison has been quoted as saying that CAP wanted to provide institutions with ‘a chance to adjust’.  In actuality, these changes were a retroactive application of the rules. It remains the belief of the University of Connecticut that CAP and the Board of Directors should consider delaying the effective date of the implementation for all institutions to 2013-14, and/or use the APR scores from the 2011-12 academic year to determine postseason eligibility for the 2012-13 year.”

 “I am very proud of our current men’s basketball student-athletes, who have worked hard in the classroom and enjoyed academic success,” said UConn President Susan Herbst. “It is disturbing that our current players must pay a penalty for the academic performance of students no longer enrolled.  As I have said repeatedly, no educator or parent purposefully punishes young people for the failings of others."

"UConn is a top 20 public research university and our current men's basketball team meets the standards we have for our students.  We will continue to support athletes the right way, and they will step up to the high level of performance demanded by our faculty."

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Alex Oriakhi Reportedly Visiting John Calipari Today

According to's Jeff Goodman, Alex Oriakhi will be meeting with John Calipari, newly-crowned national championship head coach of Kentucky, today. Goodman says he's been told that Oriakhi would be able to play at the SEC school if he chooses an area of study not offered at UConn. I was told last month that Oriakhi was majoring in sociology but was thinking of switching majors to sports communications and journalism. But then, I was also told that he had no plans of transferring anywhere.

Per Goodman, Oriakhi would be eligible to play right away, but that's only if UConn is barred from next year's NCAA tournament. The school is currently appealing its ban and is also hoping the NCAA Committee on Academic Performance changes its calendar on which APR scores it uses to impose postseason bans.

On a somewhat related note (bear with me for a moment), it was recently revealed that LSU football player scored a 4 on his NFL Wonderlic test. For me, the issue isn't whether this should or shouldn't have been leaked or what the test means for future players or how over-hyped and over-publicized the stupid NFL draft process is in the first place. The issue is this: how did Claiborne stay academically eligible at LSU if he obviously has a learning disability?

I mean, seriously, does the SEC even pretend it cares about educating its top-line athletes. I don't care that John Calipari utilizes the one-and-done system to his advantage and better than everyone else. My question is how his players leave school in "good academic standing" when it's obvious (and completely understandable) that they're worrying about their draft stock from now until June and will be busy with NBA tryouts, camps, etc.

Calipari said the other day that Kentucky has the highest APR score in the SEC. How is that possible? Or maybe it's not surprising, given the obvious lack of focus on education at LSU and elsewhere.

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Monday, April 2, 2012

Some Jim Calhoun "News" and Omar Calhoun Real News

UConn's campus paper, The Daily Campus ... er, Scampus, broke the big story Sunday:

In other Calhoun-oriented news, UConn recruit Omar Calhoun had a huge day at the second annual All-American Championship played Sunday in New Orleans. And no, unlike the above story, this isn't an April Fool's joke. Rather, it's some much-needed good news for the Huskies' program.

Finally, while we've got your attention: all you Facebook users, please feel free to check out my new UConn men's basketball Facebook page, and give it a "like" (we're begging a little bit here). We'll have UConn stories and blogs posted here just about every day, even during the off-season.

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Shabazz Napier Talks APR, UConn's Postseason Ban

Came down to Gampel today to try to get a gauge on the UConn program. A year ago -- on the first Monday of April -- UConn was on top of the world, beating Butler for its third national title at Houston's Reliant Stadium.

Now, the Huskies are program in disarray. From Houston to "we have a problem" in the span of 12 months.

Caught up with Shabazz Napier before he put up some shots inside an empty Gampel. Napier admits he doesn't necessarily have his finger on the pulse of the program. He says he's usually the last to find out about things, like Alex Oriakhi's impending transfer.

For his part, Napier says he's likely to stick it out at UConn.

"Everyone’s been telling a lot of rumors, they even got to Kemba, about me leaving," he said. "But, my heart is here, I’m always going to be loyal. (But) no one knows about the future.”

There was even some talk about Napier possibly declaring for the NBA draft.

"I don’t think I’m ready to do that," he admitted. "Unless something dramatic happens, I’ll pretty much be in a college uniform.”

Napier doesn't know about Jeremy Lamb's or Andre Drummond's plans, or who else may transfer. But when asked about the program's APR situation that may keep it out of next year's NCAA and Big East tournaments, Napier had plenty to say:

“(An NCAA tourney ban) is going to devastate a lot of people, it’s going to change the reason why we play. It’s difficult to go out there every day and want to play, other than to get the ‘W.’ I just think it’s tough with that. As a sophomore, going into my junior year, the people they’re blaming it on is the class of juniors and seniors. The way it’s been explained to me is that, even though we’re doing the right thing, my class has a GPA, it makes it seem like we’re doing something wrong. For us to be blamed for something like that, we feel it’s not cool at all.”

“If you look at our GPA’s now, they’re super-good, starting from mine to Ryan Boatright … what happened in the past happened, but the staff learned from their mistakes, they have us in study hours and doing a lot of things that they wished they did back then. It seems like, we don’t know what to do now, as sophomores and juniors, because we feel like we did the right thing and they’re saying we did the wrong thing.”

And, of course, UConn would ostensibly be punished twice for its APR failings: the program was docked scholarships back in May.

“On that behalf, losing scholarships, I can understand that, because as a staff, you have to take responsibility for that. But for a team that only has one junior, one person that was in that class – and he was doing well as a freshman – I don’t think you should dock everybody. College basketball is to help kids out like myself, who had it tough growing up, dealt with a lot of stuff. To come up here and play, thorugh the hard times and good times, and then not being able to play in the tournament that everybody wants to play growing up, it’s going to be tough. Hopefully, we get that appeal, and they understand we’re doing as best as we can.”

The young man makes a lot of sense, really. We'll soon find out if the NCAA agrees.

*** Count Niels Giffey as another who won't be abandoning ship. In fact, other than the possibility of Lamb and Drummond going pro, Giffey thinks "everybody's going to stay."

That includes little-used countryman Enosch Wolf, who seemed to be in Jim Calhoun's doghouse for much of the season but who, Giffey believes, has plenty of potential, as long as he's in shape.
”Even though some people were frustrated by the season … I think everybody’s settled down now, and gotten less emotional and more rational," Giffey said.

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