Boatright, Hamilton settling in


A new poster up in Gampel Pavilion adds the program’s fourth national title to the frame.

I had a chance to stop by Gampel Pavilion Wednesday and chat with a couple of Huskies who almost didn’t make it to Storrs this season. Well, one at least.

Senior guard Ryan Boatright and freshman swingman Daniel Hamilton gave a few minutes of their time. You can read the full story in today’s Journal Inquirer, but here are a few notes and quotes:

— THE PLAYERS ARE now working out in the gym at the new “UConn Basketball Champions Center” but are not using the locker rooms yet (though they are pretty much complete). The coaches’ offices and other areas aren’t ready for use yet.

— A FEW DATES to remember:

The first day the Huskies are allowed to have “full” practices is Oct. 3, though they may not start quite that early. The NCAA allows teams 30 practices over the 42 days prior to their opener.

First Night is slated for Oct. 17, though it’s not really the start of practice anymore.

The preseason opener is Nov. 4 against Southern Connecticut State.

FYI, the full scheduled should be out later today.

— AFTER NEARLY LEAVING to enter the NBA Draft, Boatright said he’s glad to be back for his senior season.

“It feels good to be back, working out with the team and getting better with the guys,” Boatright said.

“Once I made my decision, I locked in. I’m actually glad I came back. I’m happy with my decision,” Boatright said.

It’s not the same without Shabazz Napier and company around, he admits.

“It’s a little different because of the guys that we’re missing,” Boatright said. “In all of my years, I was pretty much with the same group of guys. That’s the only different part. Since my sophomore year, me and Shabazz were the leaders. I’m used to being the leader, it’s just weird not having the guys around.”

It’s tough to follow up a national title, obviously.

“Last year we were tired of everybody talking about the 2011 team. I told the guys look at like we’re tired of everybody talking about last year’s team, let’s make everybody talk about the 2015 team.”

Boatright says he’s in great shape right now.

“The only difference is this year I’m going to drive on being in better shape,” Boatright said. “I need to be in tip-top shape so I can play 40 minutes if I have to _ on both ends of the floor at a high level.”

— WE ALL KNOW the Hamilton story by now. He didn’t sign a Letter of Intent and everyone basically freaked out.

In the end, there was no need.

“I always knew I was coming. I knew I was coming here. Told coach (Kevin) Ollie I was coming and he trusted me the whole time,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton was here in the summer to take classes and begin workouts with his teammates. He says he fits in well.

“The guys love to play basketball and love to play pick-up. So that’s right up my alley, having brothers that play basketball all the time,” said Hamilton, whose older brother Jordan veteran of three NBA seasons and is currently with the Toronto Raptors. “Coming up here it’s like the same thing.”

When he spoke Wednesday, it was under the rather unseasonably warm Connecticut sun.

“I think I brought the weather out here with me,” the L.A. native said with a smile.

What will Hamilton’s role be this year?

“I’m not really sure right now. Wherever coach Ollie wants me to play, wherever I can come in and make a huge impact, really, and do whatever to help the team,” Hamilton said.


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Non-conference schedule set

With an eye toward padding a resume that could be light on heavyweights in conference play this season, the UConn men’s basketball team has decided to try and run quite the gauntlet when it steps out of conference.

The school announced the 12-game, non-conference portion of its schedule Monday, and it features a number of games against the nation’s premier programs.

UConn officially begins the defense of its 2014 national championship on Nov. 14 against Bryant University.

After that initial contest, UConn will head for San Juan and the Puerto Rico Tip-off. The Huskies begin play in that event Nov. 20 against the College of Charleston, and face either Dayton or Texas A&M the following day.

The pre-exam schedule is no picnic, with a visit from Texas Nov. 30 highlighting that portion. Not long after the semester ends, UConn will square off with Duke for the first time in five years. The Huskies and Blue Devils will meet Dec. 18 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Even after beginning their American Athletic Conference slate _ expect UConn to have a game just before or just after the new year _ the Huskies will still have a pair of challenging non-league games to go. They travel to Florida to take on the Gators Jan. 3, and travel across the country to visit Stanford Jan. 17.

The Huskies also have a pair of exhibitions scheduled against Division II opponents: Nov. 4 against Southern Connecticut State, and Nov. 9 against Assumption.

The team’s full schedule, along with the venues for each game, will be announced in the next few weeks.

Here’s the list:

2014-14 UConn Men’s Basketball Non-Conference Schedule

Date Opponent

Nov. 4 Southern Connecticut State (exhibition)

Nov. 9 Assumption College (exhibition)

Nov. 14 Bryant

Puerto Rico Tip-Off

Nov. 20 vs. College of Charleston

Nov. 21 vs. Dayton/Texas A&M

Nov. 23 vs. TBD

Nov. 30 Texas

Dec. 5 Yale

Dec. 14 Coppin State

Dec. 18 vs. Duke

Dec. 22 Columbia

Dec. 28 Central Connecticut State

Jan. 3 at Florida

Jan. 17 at Stanford


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Huskies draw Charleston

Puerto Rico Tip-off bracket

The UConn men’s basketball team’s first-ever game on the island of Puerto Rico will be against the College of Charleston.

The bracket for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, which the defending national champion Huskies will be competing in Nov. 20-23, was announced today. Among the four first round games is a Nov. 20 matchup between the Huskies and Cougars at 12:30 p.m. that will be aired on ESPNU.

The tournament, now in its eighth year, is being played at Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan. The games will be aired on ESPNU and ESPN2.

The other first round matchups are Texas A&M against Dayton, New Mexico against Boston College and George Mason against West Virginia.

UConn will play either Texas A&M or Dayton in the second round of the event Nov. 21. The championship game is Nov. 23 at 6:30 p.m.

Among the Huskies’ other non-conference games in the upcoming season at Florida (Jan. 3), at Stanford (Jan. 17), at home against Texas (Nov. 30) and against Duke (Dec. 18) in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

The team’s full schedule, including the dates for its 18 American Athletic Conference games, will be announced within the next few weeks.

Here are a few other notes on the Huskies:

— HUSKIES COACH Kevin Ollie spent much of the day Monday trying to raise money for a good cause. The Kevin Ollie Charity Golf Classic was staged at Glastonbury Hills Country Club, followed by a dinner later that night. Both events benefited Athletes with Disabilities.

Ollie, who first became interested in the group when his former teammate Steve Emt was injured in a car accident, called it a “beautiful day”. Emt, a Hebron native who was a walk-on for the Huskies in the early 1990s, was partially paralyzed in 1995. He’s now the boys basketball coach at RHAM High School.

“They are some tough, courageous people. And I like to be surrounded by those type of people,” Ollie said of athletes like Emt.

— THE COMPLETION DATE for the new basketball practice facility being built adjacent to Gampel Pavilion has been pushed back a couple of times but AD Warde Manuel said Monday that players from both the men’s and women’s basketball teams will be able to use the building when the fall semester begins.

“When school comes, the student athletes will be able to get into the facility,” said Manuel, who like Ollie played in the charity golf event Monday.

Ollie said the finishing touches on the building will be done “back to front,” with an emphasis on the needs of his players first.

“Our student athletes can get in there first. I can stay in my old office but I want to make sure they’re taken care of,” Ollie said.

Said Manuel: “We’ll do the locker rooms, training rooms, weight rooms, then we’ll get the coaches in there in September. We have more work to do but the building’s coming along great. It looks beautiful.”

The UConn Basketball Development Center, as it is being called, may have taken a bit longer than expected to be completed but it will be worth the wait according to Manuel.

“It’s going to be the best facility in the country, bar none,” Manuel said.

— ONE OF THE players that has impressed Ollie the most in the offseason is sophomore center Amida Brimah.
The 7-footer from Ghana was a part-time starter and regular contributor on UConn’s national championship team as a freshman, and Ollie believes he’s ready to play an even bigger role in the upcoming season.

“His development and how he pushes himself is like nothing I’ve ever seen,” Ollie said. “He’s remarkable when it comes to that.”

Brimah had offseason shoulder surgery but hasn’t let that slow his development, Ollie says. Nor did he let the fact that he wasn’t eating during the daylight hours for the last month.

“He recognized Ramadan last month and was on a fast but you couldn’t even tell,” Ollie said. “He was getting three workouts in a day.”

Brimah also continues to make his voice heard during pick-up games and workouts with his teammates.

“He’s a team leader. That’s rare from a guy coming into his sophomore year,” Ollie said.

— SWINGMAN Omar Calhoun’s sophomore season was so rough that he probably would have been forgiven had he decided to transfer. But the New York native has come back to Storrs for his junior season and Ollie couldn’t be happier.

“Him not giving up and staying with the team throughout all his battles of not shooting the ball well, sophomore slump, whatever you want to call it. He never gave in,” Ollie said. “He was always a great teammate. That’s what I really enjoyed. A lot of kids do give up in situations like that.”

Calhoun, who started 29 games and averaged 11.1 points as a freshman in 2012-13, saw his average dip to 3.8 points as a sophomore. Calhoun did not play in five of UConn’s final nine games, and didn’t score a single point over the team’s last 18 games.

“I think he learned a life lesson. And I think he’s going to really, really gain some confidence this year,” Ollie said.

— SEASON TICKETS FOR both the men’s and women’s basketball teams will go on sale Wednesday. Fans can visit for more information or to make a purchase.

— OLLIE HAD HIGH praise for sophomore guard Rodney Purvis, the transfer from N.C. State who will make his UConn debut this season.

“His attitude is great. His body looks fantastic,” Ollie said. “He’s healthy, no lingering effects from the shoulder injury. He’s taking contact and finishing.”

— THE TEAM’S FRESHMEN have also played well this summer, it seems.

Ollie said he was pleased with incoming freshmen Rakim Lubin, Daniel Hamilton and Sam Cassell Jr. since they arrived on campus last month.

“They look good. They’re excited,” Ollie said. “The one thing I like about them is how they react to correction. They do it very, very well.”


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Allen still undecided


Former UConn guard Ray Allen poses for pictures during a break at a clinic Saturday at East Granby High School.

Former UConn guard Ray Allen was at East Granby High Saturday morning for a youth camp.

A few of the highlights from his brief chat with the media:

— HE HASN’T MADE a decision on whether or not to return for a 19th season in the NBA.

“No. I’m not in any rush,” the 39-year-old Allen said. “I played 18 years. The way I look at my career, I’m content with everything I’ve done. I’d just like to take this summer and see how it goes coming into training camp. I don’t want to go into a situation where I don’t understand the coaching, where I don’t understand the direction of the team.”

Allen says he’s not going to “force” any decision.

“If this is it for me, I’ll be content with that,” Allen said.

“To continue, the only argument is that I can. I’m in great shape,” Allen said. “But just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to. I know many people over the last couple of weeks have lobbied for me to continue to play.”

— TWO OTHER PLAYERS, one a teammate and another a former opponent, were also at the camp working with Allen: James Jones of the Heat and former Boston College forward Danya Abrams.

— A HANDS-ON teacher, Allen seemed to have a lot of fun while at the camp.

“It’s always rewarding. I look at a lot of these kids and they weren’t even born when I played at UConn. You see a lot of the parents that bring their kids; some of them I went to school with,” Allen said.

“I’ve always had a special affinity for this place because it’s been so good to me,” Allen said.

— HE, OF COURSE, had plenty of positive reviews of his former teammate, current UConn head coach Kevin Ollie.

“I knew he would be great and he’s be successful there,” Allen said. “And I don’t measure success by the amount of wins he has or even the fact that he won a championship. We all reveled in it and we’re all so proud of him and it gives us bragging rights as a state but more importantly I’m proud of what he’s done for those young men.”

— ALLEN, LIKE MANY, was taken aback by the injury to Paul George Friday night.

He doesn’t think the injury will keep pros away from USA Basketball, however.

“It’s still is a guy’s dream, everybody’s dream to play for your country, to play for USA Basketball,” Allen said. “It’s not going to deter guys from playing. Nobody feels like that type of injury is going to happen to them. We all risk injury every time we step on the floor.

“We have to be very cautious in how we play and how we take care of our limbs,” Allen added.


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Bazz back in CT


Former UConn guard Shabazz Napier talks to one of his campers Monday.

Sorry for the delay. I went to see Shabazz Napier at the youth camp that bears his name on Monday.

The story is in today’s Journal Inquirer, but here’s the short version if you need it:

— NAPIER SAYS HIS rather rough performance in the Summer League was due to fatigue.

“The reason why I didn’t play so well in the Summer League was because my body was just tired. I made it to the last game (national championship game) and that puts a toll on your body. Then going to work out, I didn’t have a lot of time to relax,” Napier said.

Napier’s in Connecticut this week for a camp in South Windsor as well as a pair of clinics for All Pro Sports, the company run by Tim Leahy.

— AT LEAST ONE of the campers (there are 100 kids aged 8-16 at Nomad’s Adventure Quest) had a No. 13 Miami Heat jersey with Napier’s name on it.

“To see kids wearing jerseys that represent myself, be it a Miami jersey or UConn, that’s special to me,” Napier said.

— ALTHOUGH HE SORT of courted Napier to the Heat, LeBron James is of course gone to Cleveland.

James mentioned on his Twitter account how much he liked Napier’s play during the NCAA Tournament and re-iterated those thoughts on draft day via the same social medium.

Napier’s not crying foul, though. At least not publicly.

“I don’t worry about that. I just worry about me and play basketball,” Napier said.

— HIS SHOT MAY not have been falling in Orlando or Vegas but the Summer League effort was hardly a waste for Napier.

“I didn’t play good, my stats weren’t good, but it went well. I learned a lot,” Napier said.

“Great guys, great staff,” Napier continued, talking about his new employers and teammates. “I just tried to be a sponge. I’m trying to learn as much about the schemes as fast as I can. That’s what you have to do in the beginning.”

— NAPIER SAYS HE isn’t sure if he’ll be at former UConn coach Jim Calhoun’s all-star game next Friday.

“I’m not sure yet. I have a busy schedule,” Napier said.

— FOR NOW, Napier is having a whale of a time with some area youths.

“It’s super fun,” Napier said. “I was one of these kids not to long ago.”

— NAPIER ON UCONN in 2014-15:

“They’ve got some good pieces. There’s always some good pieces at UConn and they’ve got great coaches around them,” Napier said. “The sky’s the limit for them.”

Napier on Rodney Purvis: “He’s strong. He’s a tank.”

Napier on Ryan Boatright’s decision to return:

“I wouldn’t say I’m glad. Any decision he would have made, I’d be behind him 100 percent,” Napier said. “But he made the right decision for him and his family. He took some time to realize what he wanted to do.”


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A look around new facility

Associated Press reporter Pat Eaton-Robb and photographer Jessica Hill recently took a look inside UConn’s new basketball facility. Here are a few pictures from that visit.

Warde Manuel

UConn Athletic Director Warde Manuel talks about the school’s new basketball training facility. (Jessica Hill / Associated Press)

UConn Athletics Future

A look down at one of the two practice courts (one for men, one for women) inside UConn’s new basketball facility. (Jessica Hill / Associated Press)

UConn Athletics Future

A look from outside the new building, which was constructed next to Gampel Pavilion. (Jessica Hill / Associated Press)

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A few words on Jalen Adams

I didn’t get a chance to post this the other day (must have been a soccer fever) but here are a few comments from Jalen Adams and his coach at Cushing Academy.

Adams, a 6-foot-2 guard from Roxbury, Mass., committed to play for UConn this week.

— ADAMS ON THE inevitable Shabazz Napier (his fellow Roxbury-to-Storrs traveler) comparisons he’s getting.

“I definitely embrace it,” Adams said by phone Monday night. “It’s a good thing.”

Adams wouldn’t mind having a college career similar to Napier’s.

“He won that championship (in 2011) as he was learning to be a leader and then he definitely lead them to that second championship as a senior,” Adams said.

Adams was considering Kansas and Louisville before choosing UConn.

“Mostly style of play,” Adams said when asked why he picked the Huskies, “and the pro guards they’ve produced in the last few years. I feel I fit that mold.”

— UCONN’S RECENT national championship didn’t really impact Adams’s decision.

“Not really. Coach (Kevin) Ollie said they don’t really chase championships. Championships chase them,” Adams said, repeating one of Ollie’s favorite new sayings.

— CUSHING COACH Barry Connors gushed a bit when talking about Adams.

“He’s like nobody I’ve ever seen,” Connors said.

Cushing then repeated a phrase he told the esteemed Dave Borges about Adams a few months ago.

“I’m not going to tell you he’s the best player I’ve ever seen but the game does come easier to him than to anyone I’ve ever seen,” Connors said. “He has the incredible ability to make a play whenever it’s needed.”

Connors coached, and Adams played alongside, Syracuse-bound Kaleb Joseph. Even Adams’ teammates were apparently in awe at times.

“He’s got teammates that are really accomplished basketball players and even they would look at me after he makes a play and say ‘Coach, what the (heck)?’ ” Connors said. “He’s got the wow factor.”

— CONNORS ISN’T SURE there are many players better in the Class of 2015.

“His national ranking is whatever it is. He’s in the 20’s or 30’s, I think,” Connors said. “I’m a little biased but if there are 26 better players out there, holy mackerel, I’d like to see those guys.”

As for Adams’ specific position, maybe that will be settled later. He’s not a true point guard, yet.

“He’s a scoring guard. He makes plays the best with the ball in his hands,” Connors said.


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