Spent a little time in Simsbury this morning for UConn coach Jim Calhoun’s annual charity bike ride and walk.
The Jim Calhoun Cancer Challenge and Ride Walk went off, despite the usual light rain, without much of a hitch Saturday.
The event this year was staged in honor of RuthAnn Lobo, the late mother of former UConn women’s basketball star Rebecca Lobo.
Some 1,000 riders and walkers helped raise in the neighborhood of $350,000 for cancer research. The event, now in its sixth year, has raised a total of almost $1.5 million.
A few words from the notables:
— “I didn’t fall. No one got hurt, which is always a good thing,” Calhoun joked after his roughly 25-mile bike ride.
The coach famously (scarily to hear my friend and colleague Mike Anthony tell the story) fell and broke six ribs in the 2009 race, then collapsed afterwards.
— Rebecca Lobo said she was pleasantly surprised to be asked for permission that the event be staged in her late mother’s honor.
She, her husband and four children participated in the walking portion of the event.
“My kids understand. They said ‘We’re doing this for Dama, right?’ They called her Dama,” Lobo said. “It’s nice.”
Lobo said she’s always been a fan of Calhoun’s.
“I had a great relationship with coach Calhoun when I was playing at the University of Connecticut,” Lobo said.
The coach echoed such thoughts.
“I always think, after Geno (Auriemma), Rebecca is the face of women’s basketball at UConn,” Calhoun said.
Calhoun wasn’t the first to contact Lobo with the idea of an event in RuthAnn’s honor but wrote her a letter shortly after and spoke to her on the phone before the event.
“She was so courageous dealing with breast cancer and such a role model for other people, we thought it would be a good thing to do,” Calhoun said of RuthAnn Lobo.
— Calhoun says G Shabazz Napier remains in Puerto Rico trying out for the Puerto Rican national team.
— Both Napier and Ryan Boatright are scheduled to attend Chris Paul’s camp this summer.
— All three of UConn’s German players, Niels Giffey, Enosch Wolf and the incoming Leon Tolksdorf are currently working out with different levels of their national program. Tolksdorf, 18, is trying out for the “main” national team though is perhaps a longshot to make it.
If Tolksdorf does arrive in Storrs a little late, Calhoun isn’t concerned.
“He’s an incredible student. That’s not going to be an issue with him. He doesn’t have to get ahead right now,” Calhoun said.
— Holy Cross transfer R.J. Evans is already on campus and taking a graduate class.
“He’s working out. He’s finding it a bit different working with Kevin Ollie than he did up there,” Calhoun said with a smile of his former point guard and current assistant coach.
— F DeAndre Daniels is among the most improved Huskies, it seems to Calhoun.
“DeAndre might have been our second-best shooter last year, he just never got a chance to…and didn’t have the confidence enough, to shoot it,” Calhoun said. “But he’s really working hard. And we’re going to need him to be a good shooter next year.”
“His problem is strength. He gets knocked off balance offensively and defensively,” Calhoun said.
— As for his potential retirement, Calhoun again was nonchalant.
“It’s a non-question,” Calhoun said.
“You guys will be the first to know,” Calhoun said before pausing. “Well, not the first but close to the first.”
All signs point to another year of Calhoun at UConn.
“I have a contract. I’m doing everything to prepare for next season,” Calhoun said.
The coach then talked about how hard he and his staff are recruiting right now, especially for the Class of 2013.
“We have at least five guys coming up on August for unofficial visits,” Calhoun said. “We’re trying to work on a couple kids for June. I’d love to have, by September, four kids committed.”
— Construction could start on the basketball practice facility soon.
“I think it’s right around the corner,” Calhoun said. “It’s not there but it’s close.”
The school has raised “in the 20’s” of million dollars so far, according to Calhoun.
“I know we’re awful close,” Calhoun said.