Friday, September 28, 2007

Josh Boone's Game

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Being Optimistic

No one knows what to expect from this team next year. They never got on track last year and it wasn’t due to one culprit. The team found ways to lose in every game. With the losses piled up, they thought to much and took their instinct from the game. There is no denying that they tried and left all they had on the court but all that hard work never showed up on the final score.

Some rankings have the Huskies in the mid-thirty range and Rival.com has them at 21. The nation’s pollsters don’t know what to make out of this team. Here is a few reasons why this team is going to be good:

Jerome Dyson. He is a flashy, sneaky scorer and a fun player to watch. His game is nearly NBA ready. His confidence is sky high, has a great outside shot and gets to the line when his shot isn’t on. He is a rocket on the court and is one of the fastest guards to wear the Uconn uniform.

Hasheem Thabeet. He’s 7 foot 3 and is a force down low. He lead the league in blocked shots and was one of the best in the nation. He is bigger and stronger and will be anchoring the paint.

Donnell Beverly. Fans always love the back up quarterback. His game is an unknown but there is always hope. He could be a very special point guard.

Experience. This team knows that losing sucks. No one can point the finger to their lack of effort during the season. It was a nonexistent outside presence and inconsistent defense. And don’t forget the 465 turnovers. They won’t be so green behind the ear this time around and will know how tough it is to play in The Big East.

Hunger. Their stomachs were empty when the final buzzer rang. They want a taste of the Tournament.

Calhoun. In Calhoun We Trust. He is a great coach and his hunger for winning fuels his team.

A.J. Price. He will be better and he will be in game shape and ready for this year. Two years off from high school ball and thrust into the starting point at Uconn is daunting and he was overwhelmed. But not this year. He will turn his game around.

Stanley Robinson. This guy will be the most improved player next year. He needs to refine his most consistent offensive game and show up in the box score but his combination of hops and speed are an exciting combo. Having the ability to play above the rim at his position is an asset.

Defense. Calhoun will have these guys comfortable with his defense and with the presence of the big men down low it makes the guards up front aggressive with steals.

Jeff Adrien. The Captain is a blue collar player. He brings his pail to work, gives you fifteen points, 10 boards, a block and plays every minute. His game should be admired and he is not shy to take the last shot.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Meet Tyreke Evans

Tyreke Evans took an unofficial trip to Storrs this past weekend. This blue chip point/shooting guard is a big time scorer. He has tremendous ball skills, averaging 25.4 points, 5.3 assists and 3.8 steals a game at American Christian High. Louisville is on top of his list with Villanova, Uconn, Seton Hall and Texas on the radar. He is such a talented kid that it is unlikely he stays more than two years at a particular school.

His point guard skills are not as prevalent as his shooting skills and he needs to improve his court vision. He has quickness and hops to be a great finisher but his greatest skill is his outside shot which is deadly. Shots while driving toward the basket are inconsistent and he needs to mix it up with the bigs a little more then what he does now but his upside is tremendous.

The Guard situation at Uconn is muddled as it is and if Dyson doesn’t depart after this year then there is no way of luring this caliber of talent. The arrival of Evan does show the respect that the University has acquired. With the amount of talent Uconn has catapulted to the NBA is a neon sign for blue chip players. And don’t think Calhoun doesn’t know, displaying every player ever pictured with Stern on the walls.

It’s tough to lose talent but worse when it goes to a rival. For the next two years, Uconn will most likely have to deal with this kid. Whoever lands Tyreke, will be getting instant offense, a slasher and a clutch shooter and for Uconn’s struggles last year, its tough to see him in another uniform.

Tyreke Evans

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Road Less Traveled

Calhoun knows that to get this team to where he wants it to go this season, they need to get more quality wins on the road. Last year the only games that the young pups could win were against St. John’s and Rutgers, that won’t cut it this year. With away conference games at South Florida, Seton Hall, Georgetown, Cincinnati, Syracuse, Villanova, Rutgers and Providence, the young Huskies will have their plate full.

It wasn’t as if Uconn hadn’t had its chances last season when on the road. In almost every game, they were right there at half time and then they would come out of the tunnel flat. It wasn’t all on the offensive side of the ball. Uconn’s opponents scored a 27.9 in the first half and scored 34.5 in the second. There isn’t one culprit for the huge discrepancy but a lack of concentration, team work and experience.

The road schedule tests Uconn early with a January 12 meeting at Georgetown. It will be a battle of the bigs with Thabeet going against Hibbert. It will also be the most experienced team they will face. While Uconn is trying to overcome their youth, other teams are making that transition this year. Syracuse and Villanova both have a roster full of freshman, though Syracuse is in the top ten in incoming classes.

The voyage back to the top of The Big East standings will have its road blocks and we’re going to know early what meddle Uconn is made of. They know what it takes to lose these games and now they must learn how to win those close road battles. They can’t be rattled by the crowd, the biased referees or the untimely turnover. They must play through the turmoil, take their opponents best shot and not fall down. We’ll see if they have gathered the grit to make that treacherous climb to the top of standings.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Player Spotlight: Hasheem Thabeet

Hasheem Thabeet is as talented a player that has ever walked through the doors at Uconn. His size, 7-3, his weight 265 pounds, and his footwork are outstanding. Just think that this kid came into one of the hardest conferences in college basketball and lead that conference in block shots and made the All-Rookie team. That is amazing without throwing in the fact that he had only played competitive ball for a handful of years. NBA scouts are drooling.

Thabeet is already a role model for what sports athletes should be, hard working, loyal, caring, competitive and grounded. He could have left for the NBA and would have been scooped up in the later first round or early second but waited until his mother could make it through the maze of red tape of our citizenship policies and settle here. Then he did the right thing and stayed. With another year or two under his belt there is no limit to where his game will soar.

The Good: It starts with his defense. He has a natural feel for getting after the ball and playing his man straight up. His footwork comes from playing soccer and helps him keep position. How many countless shots where missed just by his presence inside? Thabeet’s 119 blocks were more than Adrien, Kelly, Edwards and Mandeldove’s combined totals, which was 92.

His natural athletic gifts gave him advantages in the rebounding department, averaging 6.4 a game. Another year under his belt of Calhoun coaching will bring that total closer to 10 a game.

One of Thabeet’s greatest attributes is his work ethic. He is an intent listener and needs only to be told once. He has a drive and thirst to be the best that he can be. He knows he has a special opportunity here and has the responsibility for his whole family riding on his shoulders.

The Bad: It’s not right to come down hard on Thabeet’s game because he is six years behind every other player out there but there are areas he needs to improve on. He seemed to get pushed out of position by stronger opponents while rebounding and at times seemed to disappear while on the court, which is hard to do for a 7-3 player. He also became foul prone, having a team high 82 personal fouls. He needs to learn how to play aggressive without committing silly fouls.

Anything offensively from Thabeet is a plus. His post game is his weakest area. Free throws come in a close second. He just doesn’t have the confidence in this part of his game and ends up throwing up awkward shots. He needs to develop a comfort level with his back to the rim and start with a jump hook. If he can get a familiarity with the ball in his hand then it will lead to other moves.

Overall: Thabeet is a raw talent but his potential is overflowing. With his work ethic and athletic ability, he will make the transition this year into a well rounded center. Who knows what this kid went through last year, with the transition of going to a new school and playing in the Big East without the stability of having family to be there for you? With his mother by his side, Thabeet will become a more focused and dominant force. Big East beware.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

There must be enough Uconn fanatics out there like me that will be glued to every game this year. So why not have all of them televised? It makes no sense to me. If there is a problem with finding the right station then why not go the woman’s route and put these games on PBS. If one has experienced last years atrocious online debacle, where hitting refresh every fifteen seconds gave you a slow motion blurry game, might as well jab needles into my eyes, then you are cautious to go that route again. Though if its my only way, I’ll be banging my head against the keyboard again.

This is Connecticut basketball. For us this is our only professional team to root for. Even summer basketball leagues and high school football are televised. Something must be done about this. As a true fan, I will be dusting off the radio and listening to the broadcast which everyone outside of the signal can get online. Thank the lord.

Uconn must know the draw they have in their product. Even though the numbers for a televised Maine game versus a Syracuse game are enormous, they should still put their product out their for the true fan. They will in turn be the ones, buying the shirts, hats and posters that help pay for Calhoun’s enormous salary.

Who truly knows what type of team will be running onto the court this year? At least let the fans see them beat up on the likes of Assumption, Bryant, Gardner-Webb and Maine. The only thing we know for certain is that they can dismantle them. It was painful at times last year, the droughts, turnovers and youthful play. We had to go through a lot. Please let us have a few guaranteed wins televised. It’s the least you could do.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Speed Kills

With Mandeldove recovering from surgery to remove bone spurs, Uconn will have two role players nursing injuries. Gavin will have his boot removed in a few more weeks. These injuries show that these kids are working extremely hard and Calhoun is making an emphasis on conditioning this time around because he noticed his team ran out of gas toward the end of the season. This could also be evident in the lack of energy in the second half of games. At this time last year the team focused on bulking up its players for the rigors of Big East competition but now Calhoun is looking for a more fast break oriented offense and is pushing his team to run more.

This stable of guards can do just that and Calhoun has plenty of them to rotate. Dyson, Price, Wiggins, Austrie and Beverly create a high octane push-the-ball-up offense and with Johnson and Robinson as big time finishers, I don’t see why this team doesn’t make use of their speed.

The one player that could lose playing time is Austrie, simply because he doesn’t have the speed of the other guards. This could be a double edged sword because it seemed that the offense flowed smoothly with Austrie at the point. Though he is one of the more consistent outside threats on the team, he could end up being fifth in line.

To get this team to resemble the Uconn teams of old, they need to focus on passing the ball up the court and not rely on dribbling. Last years team never felt comfortable with passing up the court for easy buckets and when they did they ended up becoming turnovers.

As they say, speed kills and Uconn had made its living taking the blocked shot or defensive rebound and turning it up the court and creating shots before the defense could settle. This years success falls on the shoulders of the guards and their comfort level with playing the up-tempo game.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Donnell Beverly Brings The Bling To Uconn

Donnell Beverly will be lonely this year with being the only incoming freshman for the Uconn Huskies. This California guard wasn’t highly recruited but Calhoun always finds gems in the lower power rankings. Beverly is a solid 6-4 and 180 pounds and has the ability to get into lanes and break down defenses. He doesn’t have a consistent long range shot yet and has trouble creating space but his speed and quickness will be an asset.

He has an uphill battle for playing time with a group of seasoned veteran guards already slated in front of him but if players like Austrie or Wiggins don’t improve then Beverly could steal their minutes. With Calhoun stressing pushing the ball more this year, it plays into Beverly’s game.

Not only does Donnell have game off the court but also shows a passion for the rap game. Affiliated with a group called, The Yung Bosses, he raps on a few tracks. Hopefully he brings his flare and tenacity to this team which lacked the killer instinct. I just hope he stays on the straight and narrow and doesn’t let the bright lights and fast talkers derail this talented kid. His skills on the court far outshine any bling he could put around his neck.