UConn is relying heavily on a group of freshman this season. Jeremy Lamb, Roscoe Smith, and Shabazz Napier are all becoming vital players for the Huskies. Marcus Lynam has more from Storrs.
Tag Archives: Roscoe Smith
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.”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).
– 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.
– 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.
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.
From the Associated Press
STORRS, Conn. — Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun says it’s been difficult to convince players to come to Connecticut when other people are telling them he’s about to retire.
The 67-year-old Hall of Famer says that’s why he issued a statement last week reiterating what he’s been saying since December — that he and the school are on the verge of signing a multiyear contract, and that he plans to continue coaching at UConn.
“The reason that we announced something that we already knew is that we were getting killed on the recruiting trails,” Calhoun said Monday. “Nothing drastically has changed. I’m just waiting to get a copy back of the signed contract.”
NIT Tournament Bracket
Following the road to the NIT championship on April 1 at Madison Square Garden. NIT Bracket
A story in New York last week cited people close to Calhoun as saying he would retire at the end of the season. Calhoun said there was no truth to it, but recruits had told him they were hearing the same tales.
“During the year kids are being told that I wasn’t going to come back, they all knew this,” Calhoun said. “I had one guy tell a kid that I told them, and I don’t even speak to the guy.”
Calhoun has won two national championships at Connecticut and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005.
Several off-the-court issues had prompted questions about Calhoun’s future last year, and questions were raised again after he took a medical leave of absence in January, missing seven games with an undisclosed condition.
Calhoun said he doesn’t talk to recruits about any other coach’s personal issues, but knows that some others don’t play by the same rules.
“Do I like it? No,” he said. “Do we do it? I hope that no one on my staff has ever done that. That’s not how we recruit.”
The Huskies (17-15) lost last Tuesday in the first round of the Big East tournament, and will play Northeastern on Tuesday night in the first round of the NIT.
Sophomore guard Kemba Walker said he doesn’t believe the rumors affected the team’s play. Still, he said he’s glad the coach has put the issue to rest.
“I knew he was coming back,” Walker said. “Having him say he was coming back was big especially for recruits. Of course, it’s good for us. That’s the guy we committed ourselves to, so yeah, it’s a good feeling to know he’s coming back.”
Walker said he will sit down with Calhoun after the season is over and discuss whether he should play another year at UConn or declare for the NBA draft.
“He’s going to let me know what the best possible choice is for me,” Walker said. “Coach Calhoun has told guys when to leave and when not to, and from guys [in the NBA], it’s turned out for the best, so I’m going to listen to him.”
UConn will lose seniors Jerome Dyson, Stanley Robinson and Gavin Edwards to graduation this season. The program has signed two players for next season — center Michael Bradley and guard Jeremy Lamb.
The Huskies have a verbal commitment from highly touted small forward Roscoe Smith.