Tag Archives: Alex Oriakhi

What a Week in Maui: The Kemba Walker Show

courtesy of the Hartford Courant


Going into this season not to many people outside of Storrs, Conn. thought the UConn Huskies were going to be a good basketball team. Frankly, not to many people outside Jim Calhoun, his assistants, and the players, may have thought this team had potential. Oh how things can change in three short days.

Heading out to Maui for the EA Sports Maui Invitational, the Huskies had the opportunity to prove themselves on a national stage against a crop of very good teams; and boy did they ever. Behind an absolute mind-blowing performance from junior guard Kemba Walker, the Fightin’ Jim Calhouns proved to everyone that UConn is still an elite basketball program.

“We wanted to show the world we’re still UConn and that Coach Calhoun can still coach a team,” said Walker, the tournament’s MVP after scoring 90 points in three games.

After a tough opening round game against a pretty good Wichita State team, and a heavyweight fight in the semifinals against second ranked Michigan State, UConn finished up their week in paradise with a shellacking of ninth ranked Kentucky and their head coach John Calipari (Personally, and I feel I speak for most UConn fans when I say, there is no one else in college basketball I love beating more than Calipari).

Calhoun couldn’t have been more proud of his young team: “I fell in love with this team,” Calhoun said. “I know the effort is legitimate and as coaches that’s what you want all the time.”

courtesy of the Hartford Courant

Walker made quite a name for himself as well. He played on an entirely different level than the rest of the field all week. Whenever UConn needed a basket, Kemba was there. UConn knew who was going to take the big shots, the fans knew it, and even the other teams knew it…yet they couldn’t stop him. His performance has bolted him into Player of the Year consideration (granted it’s still November), and has seen his draft stock explode upwards. One NBA scout told ESPN.com, “I’m not sure he’s going to be a star [in the NBA], but I just love how he played here and how hard he’s worked on his game. If he keeps this up all season, he’s a top-10 pick.”

While Walker was the star of the tournament, he did receive help from his supporting cast. Alex Oriakhi seems to finally be living up to his potential as he averaged 15 points and 11.67 rebounds in the tournament’s three games. Other players who seemed to really step up during the tournament, include Shabazz Napier, Roscoe Smith, and Niels Giffey, all of whom are freshman. They played like experienced players, and seemed to make the right decisions in key moments. Their hustle and energy really sparked the Huskies.

UConn will now enjoy a nice flight back to campus, and then it’s time to get back to work as the team takes on New Hampshire next Tuesday night (November 30th).

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UConn News and Notes: Novemeber 18, 2010

Kemba Walker - Courtesy of the Hartford Courant

Basketball:

UConn defeated Vermont on Wednesday night, 89-73, behind a career high 42 points for junior guard Kemba Walker. Walker, who was 15-24 from the field, added 8 rebounds, 3 steals, and 3 assists. The 42 points tied Cliff Robinson’s record for a UConn game played in Hartford.

Coming into the season everyone knew Kemba Walker would be THE GUY for the Huskies, and it was uncertain who his “wingmen” might be. Through two exhibition games and the first two real games, Alex Oriakhi, Jeremy Lamb, and Roscoe Smith have all shown they could possibly fill the role of the number two go-to scorer. Oriakhi has been impressive with his improvement from last year. Through two games he is averaging 11 ppg, 12.5 rpg, and 3.5 blocks per game. Lamb, who was very impressive in the second exhibition game when he scored 17 points, has shown he is not afraid to fire up a shot…or 10. He’s a natural scorer, who will provide the Huskies with a great outside presence if he can consistently hit jump shots. Smith finally had a so-called “coming-out performance” on Wednesday night against Vermont. He finished with 15 points (including 3-3 from three-point range), 3 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots. He was the highest ranked recruit for the Huskies, and will look to live up to his unbelievable potential the rest of the season.

The Huskies will now head to Hawaii, for the annual Maui Invitational which kicks off on Monday. UConn’s first round game is against Wichita State on Monday Nov. 22. at 3pm on ESPN2. UConn could possibly match up with #2 Michigan State in the semifinal and even John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats in the Final.

 

Football:

UConn heads up to Syracuse this Saturday when they take on the Orange at 7pm on ESPNU. Syracuse (7-3, 4-2 in the Big East) is 0-2 in Big East home games this season, while UConn (5-4, 2-2 in the Big East) is 0-4 away from home this season. One team will break their streak this weekend.

Jordan Todman is currently 2nd in the nation in rushing with over 140 ypg, but was left off the Doak Walker Award, which is given to the nation’s top running back, list of 10 semi-finalists, which is ridiculous (It’s the second time in the last three seasons that the voters for this award have left a well-deserving UConn running back off the list, as they did the same to Donald Brown during the 2008 season.) Todman showed his gracious side and strong personality by saying: “It doesn’t bother me. That’s something based on everybody else’s opinion.”

UConn needs just one more win this season to become bowl eligable for the fourth straight season. The Huskies have three games left to get win number six.

UConn senior linebacker Lawrence Wilson was named the BIG EAST Conference Defensive Player of the Week on Monday for his performance in last Thursday’s victory over Pittsburgh. Wilson had 11 tackles, including a sack, to lead a Connecticut defense that forced four turnovers and had three sacks in a 30-28 win against first-place Pittsburgh. Wilson is currently leading the BIG EAST in tackles with 95. He was also the leading tackler last season.

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UConn Basketball Progam In a Free Fall?

The UConn men’s basketball program has seen brighter days. Jim Calhoun has seen better days. The Hall-of-Fame head coach, and the program he has built into a perennial college basketball powerhouse, have both fallen on hard times. Just a year-and-a-half removed from reaching the 2009 Final Four, UConn has been in a steady decline since they walked off the court in Detroit’s Ford Field.

As it was announced a few weeks ago, the NCAA, after a year-long investigation, found eight violations into the UConn basketball program. The violations, which were centered around the recruitment of Nate Miles, cost two UConn coaches their jobs, millions of dollars in legal bills, and possibly the fall of Calhoun and the UConn program he has built. While UConn will have to wait till October to find out their punishment, it is easy to see how the program has been in a steady decline.

Going into last season there was some hope and buzz surrounding the program, as they we’re ranked as high as 14th in the preseason. This ranking came after losing A.J. Price, Hasheem Thabeet, Jeff Adrien, and Craig Austrie from the 2009 Final Four team. Calhoun lost arguably his three best players, but the return of Jerome Dyson, Stanley Robinson, and Kemba Walker, along with the incoming class of Alex Oriakhi and Jamal Coombs-Mcdaniel, gave the Husky faithful hope for the 2009-2010 season. However, the team was unable to play up to expectations, as they suffered many tough losses throughout the season. The program also took a hit, when Calhoun had to take a medical leave of absence in January. The team was able to get a few marquee wins as they beat #1 Texas, #3 Villanova, and #7 West Virgina, but were unable to put a considerable winning streak together. The Huskies missed the NCAA Tournament for just the second time since 1999, and headed to the NIT, where they once again were disappointing, as they lost to Virginia Tech in the second round. UConn finished with an 18-16 record.

Since that final game to the disappointing 2009-2010 season, UConn hasn’t seen much hope. During the spring signing period, UConn missed out on a few top national recruits in Corey Joseph, Brandon Knight, and Josh Shelby, settling for just one top-tier recruit in Roscoe Smith.

The notification of violations by the NCAA kept the bad news coming, and as Calhoun and his program prepare for next season, the bad news might keep coming. Kemba Walker and Alex Oriakhi are the only two returning starters (It’s hard to even count Oriakhi as a starter for as bad as he played last season), along with Ater Majok, Jamal Coombs-Mcdaniel, and Donnell Beverely who all received decent amounts of playing time last season (none were huge contributors). Calhoun has a decent incoming class for the 2010 season, highlighted by Smith, but the Hall-of-Fame coach will have his work cut out for him next season.

Many college basketball experts, including ESPN’s Andy Katz and Dick Vitale, are not to high on the 2010-2011 UConn Huskies. Vitale recently released his Preseason Top-40 teams for next year. Want to know where UConn landed on that list? I’ll give you one guess….. Well, if you guessed NO-Where, then you are correct. That’s right, the two-time National Champion, 16-time Big East Champion, with a Hall-of-Fame coach, can’t even find itself in a preseason TOP-40 poll.

It’s a sad decline for Calhoun and his Huskies, hopefully for his sake, the players sake, and for the UConn faithful’s sake, the team is able to move on in the right direction and get this program back to where it belongs…at the top.

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UConn Looks to Rebound Against Louisville

The UConn Huskies continue to struggle this season, and are once again faced with a losing streak. After beating the number one team in the nation on January 23, UConn has lost two straight. First, the Huskies lost to unranked Providence by 14 points, then this past Saturday they were unable to overcome a slow start to Marquette and lost on a last second shot.

Problems with turnovers, inconsistent play from Kemba Walker, Jerome Dyson, and Alex Oriakhi, and no team chemistry on the court, are just a few of the issues that the team has been dealing with over the last two games.

The Huskies hope to end the losing streak at two, when they travel to Louisville on Monday to take on the Cardinals. The Huskies have yet to win a true road game, and are only 3-5 in Big East games. Head Coach Jim Calhoun will miss his fifth consecutive game due to a medical leave of absence. The Huskies are 2-2 since he left the team.

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UConn Set to Take on #1 Texas

The number one team in the nation will be playing at Gampel Pavillion on Saturday, but for the first time that team won’t be UConn. The Texas Longhorns(17-1) travel to Storrs to take on the Huskies, making them the first team to be ranked number one to play as a visitor at Gampel.

The Longhorns may be the number one team in the nation, but that will end next week…no matter what the outcome is on Saturday. Kansas State and former UConn player Curtis Kelly beat the Longhorns on Tuesday, giving Texas their first loss of the season.

The Huskies(12-6) hope to pull off a similar upset, but they are a man down, with head coach Jim Calhoun still out on a medical leave of absence. In their first game since Calhoun leaving, UConn defeated St. Johns 75-59 at the XL Center on Wednesday. Associate Head Coach George Blaney coached the team in Calhoun’s absence, which is something he’s done a few times over his nine years at the university.

Blaney is optimistic with UConn’s chances against the top ranked Longhorns. “We practiced with some great energy and some enthusiasm,” Blaney said. “They realize who is coming to town tomorrow and they’re anxious to play the game. Anytime you pick yourself up from two losses or three losses, as we’ve had, and you get a win, it makes you feel better about what you’re doing. You probably can get their attention a little better when that happens. But I think Texas gets their attention. It’s something that every kid dreams about that comes to Connecticut, to play these kind of games and to be in this kind of national spotlight.”

UConn will need great play out of Seniors Jerome Dyson, Stanley Robinson, and Gavin Edwards, if they hope to compete. Besides Edwards, UConn needs another big man to step up and play well. UConn does not get a lot of scoring out of Alex Oriakhi, Ater Majok, or Charles Okwandu, but one or more of these guys will need to step up and put some points on the board if the Huskies hope to get a win.

UConn needs to be focused on Texas, and need to play within themselves. Coach Blaney knows the Huskies have a chance to win, but its all about playing the game, and not getting caught up in the hype.

“We’ve played the best schedule in the country, so we know what playing teams like this is like. They know what it’s like and they’ll be ready to play. The outcome of the game will depend on who plays better. That’s what we keep talking about with this group. It’s today. How are you going to play today.”

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2009-2010 UConn Huskies Season Preview

uconn-west regional-champThe UConn Huskies are coming off a 31 win season, which included the program’s third final four appearance, Jim Calhoun’s 800 career victory, and two players, in Hasheem Thabeet and AJ Price, being drafted into the NBA. Last season could be considered the third most successful year in program history. This year’s team will have a different look, but overall should still be a national title contender.

Most teams wouldn’t know where to start if they lost AJ Price, Jeff Adrien, and Hasheem Thabeet, but head coach Jim Calhoun is well prepared to reload. The Huskies come into the season with a host of experienced veterans, a couple highly-touted recruits, a few solid role players, a Hall of Fame coach leading the way, and a whole lot of optimism. The team will have a lot of work to do to get back to the Final Four, but they have the talent and chemistry to get there. With the first regular season game being this Friday, November 13th, I decided it’s the perfect time to unveil my season preview with position breakdowns.

Point Guard:
Kemba Walker UConn lost their captain, leader, best shooter, and best clutch performer in AJ Price, however, the team’s best player this year may be the new starting point guard. Kemba Walker takes over for Price, and will be the floor general for the Huskies this year. Walker came off the bench as a freshman to begin last year, but after the injury to Jerome Dyson, he saw himself in the starting lineup. Down the stretch Walker was unbelievable and one of the main reasons UConn reached the Final Four. This year, the team will be in his hands, and Jim Calhoun is pretty excited about that. “Kemba is our leader, and we have full confidence in him,” said Calhoun. Jerome Dyson also likes what he sees from Walker. “I think Kemba learned a lot from A.J., from the leadership aspect and the point guard aspect,” Dyson said. “He got a lot of experience last year with me going down. He got a lot of minutes, which is going to help us this year. He’s been through a lot and he’s got a lot of game experience. The difference between those two is Kemba is a lot quicker. He’s probably the quickest guy I’ve ever played with.”

Behind Walker, the Huskies will have two players competing for time as the back-up, in junior Donnell Beverly and freshman Darius Smith. Beverly has not played a lot over his first two years, but in the time he has gotten on the floor, he has shown he is a capable ball-handler, defensive player, and even a pretty good scorer. He will look to improve his outside shot, decision making, and overall effectiveness of running the point this year. Smith, a freshman out of Chicago, has been really impressive in the pre-season. He has shown he is a very good defender and a solid offensive point guard, but is still getting use to the college game, which will come with a learning curve for him. “Darius still makes high school plays but he also makes some very good plays because he’s so quick,” Calhoun said.

OVERALL POSITION GRADE: A-, Walker is one of the nation’s best point guards, and has depth behind him, but that depth is mostly untested.

Shooting Guard:
Jerome Dyson hadn’t played in a real game since February 11 of last season when he tore his ACL, but in Sunday’s exhibition game against UMASS-Lowell, he looked as if he hadn’t missed a game. Dyson scored 32 points in the blowout win, which is a great sign for the Huskies. Dyson is the team’s best scoring threat and best perimeter defender. His aggressive play is his trademark, but his consistency on both ends of the floor could make him UConn’s most dangerous player. He can shoot, drive to the hoop, grab rebounds, run, play defense, and he brings leadership to the court. As long as he stays healthy then he could be an all Big-East selection come seasons end. Coach Calhoun is happy to have Dyson back on the floor, “It’s great to have him back. Defensively, he makes a difference. He’s healthy. This should be a nice coming out party for him in many ways because we’re trying to feature him and Stanley (Robinson). They are two guys we expect to score in the high double-figures.”Jerome Dyson

Backing up Dyson will be a combo of guards, with freshman Jamaal Trice, freshman Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, and even junior Donnell Beverly. Coombs-McDaniel is a player that the coaches have loved since he was a sophomore in high school. He’s 6-7, and might just be the best shooter on the team, which is why he has a good chance to be the first player off the bench. When asked to compare Coombs-McDaniel to Trice, Calhoun said “He’s a very good shooter. He’s probably not as good defensively as Jamaal Trice, but he’s a good shooter and probably a more willing scorer than Jamaal Trice.” Trice will compete for playing time and will rely on his defensive intensity and ability, to get himself into the rotation.

OVERALL POSITION GRADE: A, Dyson could be in the running for Big East Player of the Year, and Coombs-McDaniel could be a real spark plug for the Huskies this year.

Small Forward:
stanley_robinson_dunks_on_marquetteAt the end of the last year, Stanley Robinson may have been the best player in the nation. He became one UConn’s best scorers, rebounders, defenders, and overall players in the final few games of the year. Robinson was mostly inconsistent during his sophomore and junior years, which saw him play brilliantly in some cases, terrible in others, and for the first semester last year, not play at all (he took the semester to work at a steel plant in Connecticut to refocus and mature). The Huskies are hoping they get the Robinson that played down the stretch last year, not the inconsistent one from years past. Robinson is a freak athlete, as he stands 6 feet – 9 inches tall, can jump out of the building, and with a successful year this season could find himself in next year’s NBA Draft Lottery. Jim Calhoun said NBA scouts have already been stopping by UConn to see Robinson.

“I think (the scouts) have been surprised by how hard he works in practice,” Calhoun said. “This is the most productive he’s been. He’s been good. … He’s making shots.”

Backing up Stanley, will probably be Coombs-McDaniels, who is similar to the type of player Robinson is. Coombs-McDaniels might be a better shooter, but Robinson is a better finisher, rebounder, and defender. Robinson could be a good mentor for Commbs-McDaniels this season.

OVERALL POSITION GRADE: A-, Robinson has a lot to prove this year, but if he plays like he did at the end of last season, the Big East will need to be ware.

Power Forward:
Right now senior Gavin Edwards is starting at power forward, but once Ater Majok is cleared to play in the middle of December, that might change. Edwards has come off the bench in his three previous seasons, while seeing more playing time as each year went on. Edwards is big man who can block shots, run the floor well, and does a solid job of getting to the foul line. He is no Jeff Adrien though, as he is not a real physical or aggressive player. “(Gavin) keeps it together,” Coach Jim Calhoun said. “I would like him to be a little more aggressive, finish plays. But he’s a consistently good player.”

gavin edwards For now Edwards is starting, but Ater Majok might take that position over when is finally eligible to play after the first semester is over. We have heard a lot about Majok; however we haven’t seen him in a game situation so it’s hard to predict what kind of player he will be. One thing that is for certain is that Majok has the potential to be an unbelievably good basketball player. He stands 6feet-10inches tall, but handles the ball like a point guard. He can run up and down the court very well, and is a capable shot blocker. Majok just may be the hidden gem that propels UConn to a Big East Championship this year.

OVERALL POSITION GRADE: B-, Edwards is consistent, but he’s never started and has never been asked to play a great deal of minutes before. Majok has talent, but he’s still a question mark because we haven’t seen him in game action yet at UConn.

Center:
The loss of Hasheem Thabeet will be hard to replace this year for the Huskies. Not so much his offensive game, but his defensive presence. Thabeet was the two-time National Defensive Player of the Year. That will be hard to replace, and the man who will have the burden of filling the big hole left by Thabeet, will be freshman Alex Oriakhi, who just so happens to be wearing Thabeet’s old number 34. Oriakhi was a five-star recruit, and had been committed to UConn since his sophomore year of high school. “It’s been a long time coming,” said Oriakhi. “I’m just so happy to be here, and excited to start competing.” He’s a big player, standing 6feet-9inches tall and weighing close to 250 pounds. The strong point to his game is his rebounding ability, as he’s shown in the first two preseason games where he collected 30 total rebounds. He is a better offensive player than Thabeet already, and can really run the floor well. The Huskies will need Oriakhi to have a big year if they want to head back to the Final Four.

OVERALL POSITION GRADE: B-, Oriakhi has a lot of potential and could be a very good player in the Big East, but he’s a freshman and untested. If he improves his defense and continues his offensive consistency he could be a pivotal part to the Huskies’ success this year.

Jim Calhoun
Overall the Huskies look to be a top-15 caliber team. With Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun leading the way, the UConn basketball team looks to have another successful year. If the Huskies can stay healthy and merge the experienced players with the talented freshman, then a Big East title and even a national title could be within reach.

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Calhoun Is Already A Fan Of Freshman Alex Oriakhi: ESPNU VIDEO

Alex oriakhi

Courtesy of the Hartford Courant

Alex Oriakhi may be just a freshman, but he’s already found himself in the starting lineup for the UConn Huskies. Jim Calhoun is happy to have such a talented freshman starting for his team.

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UConn Men’s Basketball Open Season With Blowout

stanley robinson vs aic

Courtesy of Hartford Courant

The UConn men’s basketball team returned to floor tonight, for the first time since last season’s national semifinal loss to Michigan State in the Final Four. The Huskies opened up their season with an exhibition game against American International College at the XL Center in Hartford.

Behind the play of sophomore guard Kemba Walker and senior forward Stanley Robinson, the Huskies blew out AIC, 106-67. Walker finished with 28 points and 12 assists. Robinson added 25 points and 7 rebounds. Freshman forward Alex Oriakhi was also impressive in his first college game, as he recorded a double-double with 16 points and 16 rebounds.

The Huskies jumped out to a big lead early thanks to their 75% feild goal percentage in the first half. Rebounds were another key to the game for the Huskies, as they won the battle of the boards 47-19.

Jerome Dyson, Donnell Beverly, and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel all did not play in the game, as it was announced an hour before tip-off that the three are waiting the approval to play from the NCAA, pending evaluation of recently submitted paperwork pertaining to their eligibility certification.

UConn will conclude the exhibition portion of the season this Sunday, when they host UMass Lowell at Gampel Pavilion. Tip-off is set for 1pm. The Huskies first regular season game will be next friday, November 13th, when William & Mary come to Gampel.

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