<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - Dog House]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/blogs/dog-house http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.png NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.com en-us Sun, 26 Oct 2014 04:38:24 -0400 Sun, 26 Oct 2014 04:38:24 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Ollie Tries to Block Out Distraction]]> Fri, 24 Oct 2014 15:47:29 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/amida-brimah-surgery.jpg

Earlier this week, coach Kevin Ollie spoke with CBSSports.com about the 2014-15 Huskies, particularly the group of players tasked with defending UConn's national title. Gone is Shabazz Napier, but Ryan Boatright remains and NC State transfer Rodney Purvis, a former McDonald's All-American, will also be in the backcourt.

CBSSports.com's Jon Rothstein asked Ollie about what we can expect from Purvis, who has been in Storrs for over a year and is eager to get back on the floor. Specifically, can Purvis step into the lineup and be one of the great UConn guards?

"He's got to work for that," Ollie admitted. "You can't just say that. Potential is a bad word and he does have potential to be one of the more explosive players in our history here, but the guys that are in that conversation now -- they just worked and worked and kept getting better. Daniel Hamilton is the exact same way. He's got great potential, but at the end of the day, God-given talent has to change into skills, hard work and toughness -- especially mental toughness. All of those great players were mentally tough. When we got in do or die situations, they always made the right plays and hopefully the new guys that are here have that same makeup."

Ollie was also asked about sophomore Amida Brimah, who was a pleasant frontcourt surprise last season, especially on the Huskies' title run.

"The same thing, but I don't expect to see just flashes," he said. "I expect him to be a consistent player for us. People really didn't see his offense, but he's gotten so much better in that area of his game. He's got jump hooks now that he can go to over his right or left shoulder. He's doing that a lot more effectively and now we just want him to rebound. That's what I'm pushing him towards -- I want him to be a monster. He's still going to be able to block shots, but I want him to be the total package as a player and he's certainly capable of doing that."

About defending that title... So what do the Huskies need to do this season?

"We've just go to pay attention to details right now," Ollie said. "You can't be distracted by the crumbs, because the cake is at the end of the season. A lot of people are grabbing for the crumbs and get frustrated if we lose a couple of games here or there but you need to understand that we want to go after the cake. We want to be right when the time is right in March and April and we can't distracted because injuries happen or something happens where we're not playing our best basketball. We need to stay with the program. We need to stay with the process. We have to have the mindset that if we're always learning then that's when we're most successful."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lauren Cox Taking Time During Recruiting Process]]> Fri, 24 Oct 2014 15:42:56 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-pat-summitt.jpg

UConn received verbal commitments from two of the country's best high school players this week -- Crystal Dangerfield and Kyla Irwin -- and the 2016 class is already taking shape. But for Lauren Cox, another top recruit in the class, pace wins the race.

The 6-4 frontcourt player from Flower Mound, Texas will follow in the steps of '14 top recruit A'ja Wilson, who was deliberate throughout the recruiting process before deciding on South Carolina, which was near her home.

“Baylor is an hour-and-a-half away and it’s a drive,” Dennis Cox, Lauren's father, said Wednesday, according to SNY.com's Carl Adamec. “Yeah, we’ve been to football games there. We’ve visited some schools that we can drive to. Don’t read anything to it. I don’t think (distance) is a priority for her. Lauren keeps pretty much to herself so I don’t know if she’s going to go near or far, east or west, north or south, or hot or cold.”

Lauren isn't just a basketball standout. She also stars on the volleyball court, and she's being recruited in that sport too. But again, Lauren is taking her time on that front too.

“We talked late in the summer about trying to get some kind of list out of her,” Dennis Cox said. “We started out at 29 schools and 19 came to see her at her high school. We knew everyone could not make it and that was fine. We did no home visits.”

Cox, who averaged 18.9 points, 14.1 rebounds, and 4.8 blocked shots as a sophomore, has UConn among her top 20 schools, along with Notre Dame. She'll be in South Bend on Dec. 6 when the Huskies and Irish meet in the Jimmy V Classic, though there are no plans yet to visit Storrs.

“I have a calendar and I have UConn’s schedule,” Dennis Cox said. “We’re looking. But Lauren has games on Tuesdays and Fridays so we have to find an open date that they’re at home.”



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Huskies Show Life in Loss to ECU]]> Fri, 24 Oct 2014 15:41:03 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geremy-davis-ecu.jpg

We know it's not popular in big-time athletics but after the way UConn played against 18th-ranked ECU Thursday night, we're going to say it: Despite coming up short 31-21, the performance was a moral victory for first-year coach Bob Diaco and his team, and we mean this in the most laudatory sense possible.

“There are no moral victories,” Diaco said after the game. “We didn’t come here to play well, we came to a win a football game and we didn’t.”

And that's what Diaco has to say. He wasn't brought to Storrs to get the Huskies close against the best teams in the AAC. He was brought to Storrs to transform the Huskies into the best team in the AAC. But as we've written countless times, this is a process. And along the way, there will be times when a loss on the scoreboard can translate to something more than that in the locker room after the game.

Thursday's effort against an explosive ECU offense is one such example.

“We have a massive amount to build on,” Diaco said, unwavering in his assessment of the game. “Down the stretch we needed to make more plays, we didn’t. ... “Soon, we will be able to take these games at the end and not give it up."

UConn quarterback Chandler Whitmer easily had his best game of the season, completing 18 of 30 passes for 303 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception to go along with a rushing score.

Whitmer found Deshon Foxx on an 88-yard score and tossed a 32-yarder to sophomore Noel Thomas. Redshirt freshman Thomas Lucas had two catches for 80 yards, and freshman running back Ron Johnson added 45 yards on the ground, The emergence of these young players will help to lay the foundation for the future of the program.

“They are great. It’s exciting for the future for them,” Whitmer said, via SNY.com. ” It’s tough for me that I only have five more games left. We are starting to hit stride and ave a lot of young talent, it’s good for the future of the program.”

And Diaco added: “They are going to be really good players. They had their victories tonight too. They just didn’t win all the plays and (ECU's) quarterback is spectacular ... he’s on the move and throwing it on the move and doing a great job there. The wide receivers and quarterback makes for a tough matchup for young corners.”

The Huskies fall to 1-6 on the season and are still looking for their first win against an FBS school.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Defense Bright Spot for Diaco]]> Thu, 23 Oct 2014 14:35:25 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+diaco+sideline_1200.jpg

There haven't been many bright spots to the 2014 season but if first-year coach Bob Diaco has taught us anything through the first two months of the season it's perseverance. While we wait for the offense to find its way, there have been some positives. Namely: The defense, which will have its work cut Thursday against 18th-ranked ECU.

“We are always looking for more negative plays and turnovers but we are not a feast or famine outfit,” Diaco said Sunday, via SNY.com's John Silver. “You see a lot of teams play like that and you may see a lot of sacks, TFL’s and maybe a pick or a ball disruption here or there but also see a lot of points. So our objective, and we are built, because we want to keep the points down. So nothing is going to compromise that charge.”

More from Silver:

The Huskies are 1-5, but in the last five games have held all their opponents under 302 yards of offense. The defense is ranked No. 4 in the nation in first downs allowed (95), No. 17 in the nation in total offense surrendering 325 yards per game, 28th in rushing defense at 121.2 per game and 18th in the nation in third down conversion percentage defense allowing only 31 percent of conversions. The Huskies make teams move the ball and generally get off the field when given the chance.

And the defensive line, which is a young unit, has been a bright spot.

“I think that the D-Line, especially the young D-Line players, are getting better with their fundamental eye progression as it relates to foot action,” Diaco said. “The synapses firing, I think they have done a better job there. Faster, violent more heavy hands. So I’ve seen some improvements with those guys. They are moving along.”

It almost certainly won't be enough to salvage the season but that was never the point. Diaco is laying the foundation for the future.



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[AAU Coach Says UConn Right Fit for Irwin]]> Thu, 23 Oct 2014 14:32:44 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-2014-recruits.jpg

Tina Thomas is the AAU coach for the Central PA Elite AAU program. One of her players: Kyla Irwin, the latest 2016 recruit for Geno Auriemma and the Huskies. And when Thomas says that Irwin is special, she knows what she's talking about; her daughter was an All-American at Maryland and now plays in the NBA, and her son plays at Wake Forest. Thomas knows basketball.

“I think she’s played for me three years now,’’ Thomas said, via the Connecticut News' Rich Elliott. “I saw her as a freshman. She was playing at my daughter’s old high school. So I went to see her because I was looking for a big and someone told me to go watch her so I did. So I knew her mom (Bethany) because I played against her mom for a couple years and I approached her and said if she’d be interested. Her mother said, `No, she’s on an AAU team.’ And then she kind of talked it out with Kyla and Kyla really wanted to do it.

"So going into her sophomore year I played at the highest level so she was playing upcoming seniors and she was only going to be a sophomore. And she held her own. It was pretty impressive. Her mom taught her well. Her mom played at Penn State. Her mom knows the game extremely well, and she’s a coach’s kid. So I knew she’d play big. Her dream was to play at Connecticut so hat’s off to her.

“She’s just one of those kids that’s a coach’s daughter," Thomas continued. "She knows the game so well. She knows so much about it. The little things that most kids just don’t know she does know. She plays hard, 110 percent, whether we’re killing a team or it’s a very competitive game. And she’s loved by all of her teammates because she’s just one of those kids that she’s cheering whether she’s in the game or sitting on the bench. I’ve never seen a kid like her in that she gets the whole bench rallied up. It’s really a neat thing to see.’’

In addition to UConn, Irwin also had scholarship offers from DePaul, Michigan, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Providence, St. John’s and Saint Joseph’s. But Storrs is where she wanted to be and as far as Thomas is concerned, it makes the most sense.

“She’s Geno’s kind of kid in the sense that whatever he asks her to do she’s going to do it and run through a brick wall through and through,’’ Thomas said. “She’s that kind of kid. She doesn’t get down on herself. If she can’t do something she’s going to work at it until she can do it. She’s that kind of kid.’’

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<![CDATA[Report: UConn-Louisville to Play in 2016-17]]> Thu, 23 Oct 2014 14:09:50 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-PVAM.jpg

Between 2006 and 2013, Louisville and UConn played 16 times. The series is currently on hiatus -- Louisville bolted for the ACC after the '13 season -- but that will be short-lived; according to the Hartford Courant's John Altavilla, the Cardinals and Huskies will renew their rivalry in 2016-17.

UConn is 16-1 all-time against Louisville -- including a 16-game winning streak -- but as Altavilla writes, "many of their games since Jeff Walz became coach in 2007 have been among the most important UConn has played."

More via Altavilla:

Included have been two national championship games, in 2009 (UConn, 75-36) and 2013 (UConn, 93-60) and the last year’s American Athletic Conference championship game (UConn, 72-52).

Walz and Geno Auriemma get along quite well and have enjoyed kidding each around in the prelude leading up to their meetings. And there is no question now that Walz is one of the best young coaches in the country, a formidable recruiter with the luxury of a the 22,000-seat KFC Yum Center as his home arena.

It's unclear if a contract has been signed for the 2016-17 games, but Altavilla writes that the series is scheduled to begin in Dec. 2016 and continue in Louisville the following year. And because Walz and Auriemma have a good relationship, the games could continue indefinitely.

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<![CDATA[Huskies Excited About Newsome's Potential]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 11:45:03 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/arkeel+newsome+uconn+running+close.jpg

There are few bright spots in UConn's offense, but freshman running back Arkeel Newsome is one of them. And while he hasn't had the fast start to his college career that some had expected, coaches and players can't speak highly enough of him.

"He's a great guy to block for along with all the other running backs," senior offensive linemen Alex Mateas told the New Haven Register's Jim Fuller. "Arkeel has been doing really well. I completely forgot about those little parts in the game against Tulane. I love him and he has a bright future. He kind of keeps to himself but he doesn't have to say very much because he talks with his performance but I love him, he is a great kid."

Newsome lost two fumbles in the loss to Tulane but that means little to offensive lineman Gus Cruz.

"He is a young guy and he running hard," he told Fuller. "All of that is encouraging. I don't really care too much about the fumbles. I appreciate the guys running hard. One of them he was really running hard, put a hand down and next time he will probably keep both hands on (the ball). The other time it wasn't really his fault, he was down (emotionally) because he was young but I think that was a good learning experience for him early. Moving forward I don't think he is going to have those problems as far as turning the ball over. He is going to be more game savvy as far as how to run with the ball and that all comes with experience. I am encouraged to watch him run and it is exciting at the same time."

And these comments come a couple weeks after first-year coach Bob Diaco indicated that Newsome and freshman Ron Johnson would both see more playing time in the backfield.

"Arkeel is a contact-fast player," the coach said at the time. "His playing speed is as fast or even faster than his actual speed. There's a lot of players in the game that when they go in the game they play slower than they run. As contact approaches, they play even slower. Arkeel is unique in that he plays as fast as he actually and may actually play faster than he is actually is. If you timed him running a 40-yard dash on the field as opposed to lining him up in gym shorts and running on a turf field, it might even be faster. That's a unique trait, not everybody has that connection between brain and fine motor skills."

Now it's just a matter of taking what coaches and players have seen from Newsome on the practice field and putting it to use during games.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Dangerfield Is Complete Player]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 11:41:41 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-pat-summitt.jpg

Crystal Dangerfield, the first member of the Huskies' 2016 recruiting class, will arrive in Storrs like so many players before her: With countless high school accolades and honors. But the 2014 Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year is more than just a scoring machine.

“One of the things about Crystal is that she does not need to dominate the ball to be great,” Blackman High School (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) coach Chad Hibdon told SNY.com's Carl Adamec on Monday. “Last year, she averaged 14-15 points per game and still picked up a lot of Player of the Year awards that usually go to kids that average 20, 22, 25. She trusts her teammates and they have a great camaraderie on and off the court. She’s a piece of the puzzle, an important piece. One of her strengths is her leadership, particularly from the position that she plays. And she’s a great teammate.

“She is used to playing with other good players. I think that’s the kind of thing that will help her at UConn. Here, she doesn’t have to do it all in order for us to be successful and it will be the same for her at the next level,” he told Adamec.

Dangerfield, rated as the No. 3 prospect in the '16 class, according to ESPN, averaged 14.5 points, 3.6 assists, and 2.9 steals and helped Blackman High to a 34-1 record and the Tennessee Class 3A state championship. She also set single-season records for points in her first two years

"I continue to use two words when I’m asked to describe her,” Hibdon continued. “She has an unbelievable drive and determination for excellence in anything she does whether it’s as a player or a student. She wants to excel and she has very high standards. She is always looking to improve.

“A lot of her growth is just the maturation process. But she’s also done a great job of understanding the responsibility of being a point guard. She came into our program two years ago with a lot of skills and talents. But we’re a program that competes at a high level and competes for state championships. So for her to come from playing middle school basketball to us wasn’t easy. But she’s always worked hard and she’s developed and grown and understands what she has to do for our team to be successful.”

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<![CDATA[Kyla Irwin Commits to UConn]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 11:39:18 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-201314.jpg

Days after Crystal Dangerfield made a verbal commitment, Geno Auriemma and the Huskies got a second verbal commitment from Kyla Irwin. The 6-2 junior forward from State College, Penn., made the announcement after touring the campus over the weekend and meeting with academic advisers and Auriemma on Monday.

“It’s been my dream my whole life to play at UConn, and who can pass up her dream?” Irwin said Tuesday, via SNY.com's Carl Adamec. “Everything about them is everything I want. ... I don’t even remember how I was feeling (when I committed). I tried to stay under control and not start bouncing off the walls. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to say I was coming.”

Irwin, who averaged 19.6 points and 12.7 rebounds last season as a high school sophomore, is coached by her mom, Bethany Irwin.

“At the high school level, Kyla can do everything for us,” she told Adamec. “She can pass, rebound, and shoot. But one of her biggest strengths is her passion for the game. I’ve been coaching at State College for 22 years so she was born into the program and been a part of it and been on every bus ride. Basketball has been her life and she really understands the game and she’s a great communicator. I trust her instincts. She’s willing to work hard to improve and that has built her confidence.”

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<![CDATA[Kia Nurse Says Team Curious About Canada]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 11:28:03 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Kia_Nurse_Fills_in_Teammates_on_All_Things_Canada_1200x675_346266691602.jpg UConn freshman, Kia Nurse, who is from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, says her teammates have a lot of questions about her home country.]]> <![CDATA[Diaco Looking for More From Boyle]]> Tue, 21 Oct 2014 13:58:16 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Tim+Boyle_722.jpg

First-year Huskies coach Bob Diaco may often sugarcoat the message -- partly because he's frequently the bearer of bad news -- but that doesn't mean he's not giving an honest assessment of the situation.

It's a tough balancing act, but it's also necessary for a program in the midst of rebuilding after three previous uninspiring seasons. If things are going to get better, the Huskies need to find consistency at quarterback. It didn't help that Casey Cochran retired from football after just one game, or that redshirt senior Chandler Whitmer and sophomore Tim Boyle have struggled for any number of reasons.

The plan was originally to redshirt Boyle, who could have benefited by sitting out the season, but Cochran's unexpected departure nixed those plans. In fact, he's played in three of the last four games but completed just 7 of 15 passes for 40 yards, no touchdowns and two picks.

Which brings us back to Diaco, who spoke frankly about what he -- and this offense -- needs from Boyle.

"I don't mind saying it because I said it to the whole team, we'd like Tim to come in and produce and play a lot more than he does and than he has," Diaco said, via the Hartford Courant. "We're looking forward to that moment and opportunity. He has played in each of the last few games, I think he's healing up and feeling better. As that improves, his game improves, but continued ball security errors, you just can't have that."

Boyle has had a tough go of it at UConn, dating back to his freshman season when he saw action after Paul Pasqualoni was fired. He is still looking for his first career touchdown though he already has 10 picks in eight appearances.



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Dangerfield Commits to Huskies]]> Tue, 21 Oct 2014 13:54:54 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-pat-summitt.jpg

That didn't take long. Shortly after Crystal Dangerfield was on hand for UConn's First Night, the 5-5 junior point guard from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, made an oral commitment to Geno Auriemma's program. She becomes the first recruit in the Huskies' 2016 class.

“Coach Auriemma knew what I wanted in a school and UConn has it,” Dangerfield said, via SNY.com's Carl Adamec. “They want to win as much as I do.

“I wasn’t sure if I would commit when I was there. It depended on how I felt and if I figured things out and it was right. When I told the coaches we went around giving each other hugs and they were very excited. It was a great feeling. Another thing is now I can really focus on my last two high school seasons.”

Dangerfield, rated as the No. 3 prospect in the '16 class, according to ESPN, is also Auriemma's first recruit from Tennessee.

“I remember watching UConn and Tennessee play when I was seven and eight years old and I felt even then that UConn would be a great place to play,” Dangerfield said. “I had half the people saying I should go to Tennessee and the other half saying I should go to UConn.”

Dangerfield averaged 14.5 points, 3.6 assists, and 2.9 steals and helped Blackman High to a 34-1 record and the Tennessee Class 3A state championship. She set single-season records for points in her first two years and was named Gatorade Tennessee Player of the Year after her sophomore season.

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<![CDATA[Diaco Says Huskies are 'in R&D' mode]]> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:34:49 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/bob+diaco+uconn+pumped.jpg

First-year UConn coach Bob Diaco, who has overseen the team's 1-5 start, is back to the grind after a bye week. The offense has been a mess and it's not clear a fix will happen this season. Which means there will be a lot of tinkering with a lot of younger players, and the hope is that this experience pays dividends in the future.

“We are in the R&D part," Diaco said, via SNY.com's John Silver "We haven’t rolled out our product line. You are watching it in open glass. It’s like a pharmaceutical company making medicine that is going to help people. It is research and development. Eventually we are going to roll out that product.”

Next up: East Carolina, who are 5-1 and atop the American Athletic Conference.

“There’s only so much time, you have,” Diaco said of trying to fix everything. “For everything you do, you take away from something else. For every individual period we are working on fundamentals, we are not working into fitting our system into the East Carolina offense,defense and special teams. ...

“We are not quite in a calendar year. We’ve been here 10 months talking about these things," the coach continued. "We have so much work to do. Everyday there is something else that comes up that needs to be addressed. I don’t have a timetable. That’s part of our program anyway. We are a developmental program. We believe in it and the development of our players. We want to improve the players in the five specific areas of development. Everyday it will be that way.”

And hopefully, it will all come together, sooner rather than later.

“The infrastructure here is strong, puzzle pieces are here,” Diaco said. “There is no immovable force… nothing here will be preventing us from becoming a championship program.”



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Ollie Never Lost Focus After Title Win]]> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:32:21 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin-ollie-rim.jpg

Kevin Ollie is a lot of thing: young, a national champion, driven and as the Huskies embark on their title defense, extremely focused. In case that wasn't already obvious, he made it crystal clear during a Q & A with CBSSports.com's Jon Rothstein.

There are a lot of off-court distractions that comes with a championship -- mostly due to the national media attention and the subsequent commitments that come with it -- but none of that, or anything else, has kept him from properly preparing for the 2014-15 season.

"I was always doing that," Ollie said of the preparation. "Once the celebration was over with, I was thinking about whether or not Ryan Boatright was coming back to school. I was thinking about whether or not DeAndre Daniels was going to come back to school. I was thinking about how our recruits and how our freshmen were going to fit in with our team for this year. As a coach, you never stop thinking about that.

"You always want to make sure you have a contingency plan for everything and anything that happens in this game. Guys leave -- DeAndre had an awesome six-game stretch and it allowed him to be taken by the Toronto Raptors in the second round of the NBA Draft (37th overall). Now you've got to go to Plan B. I had a good situation where everybody was buying in into one system. And they're not getting drunk off success. They're not reading any press clippings. We've got a lot of guys that are stepping up in different roles which is good," he told Rothstein.

Ollie was also asked about the offseason speculation that several NBA teams were interested in his services.

"Some of it was false, some of it was true -- I just never got wrapped up in it," he said. "I wanted to be here at UConn. Of course, we were negotiating my new deal, and I knew that was going to happen -- it was just a matter of me and (UConn athletic director) Warde Manuel sitting down -- but to be honest, we went straight to the Spring recruiting period when we got back from the Final Four.

"We finished playing April 6th or 7th and the next week we were out recruiting again. There wasn't a lot of time for me to think about NBA jobs. I was thinking about what recruits could come to UConn and get us to the next level where we're going to continually be in a position to win a national championship. I kept my options open of course because you have to do that but at the same time I wanted to be here. I think I've got the best job in America. I love the University of Connecticut. I love my players. They believed in me when a lot of people didn't, so of course I'm going to stay with them and try to see if we can continue to win and not only maintain this program but also strengthen this program. I think that's what we did last year," he said to Rothstein.

Those NBA rumors seem like years ago, which is how Ollie would prefer it. Now it's all about the upcoming season, which is less than a month off.

"We've just go to pay attention to details right now," he said. "You can't be distracted by the crumbs, because the cake is at the end of the season. A lot of people are grabbing for the crumbs and get frustrated if we lose a couple of games here or there but you need to understand that we want to go after the cake. We want to be right when the time is right in March and April and we can't distracted because injuries happen or something happens where we're not playing our best basketball. We need to stay with the program. We need to stay with the process. We have to have the mindset that if we're always learning then that's when we're most successful."

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<![CDATA[Huskies Get Verbal Commit From Local Lineman]]> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:25:22 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+football_generic+shot.jpg

The 2015 commitments keep coming for coach Bob Diaco and the Huskies. The latest is New London product Bryan Cespedes, a 6-7, 260-pound offensive lineman, who is commitment No. 18 for UConn.

Cespedes is undersized by FBS standards and will have to put on weight in college, but his high school coach thinks that once Cespedes' focus is solely on football he could be "a monster."

"He reminds me of (former Waterford High lineman) Zach Hurd and he is bigger than Zach was at (as a high school senior)," New London coach Duane Maranda told the New Haven Register's Jim Fuller. "Zach had a great career there and even got to the NFL."

Cespedes becomes the Huskies' first offensive line commit, which has been one of the weak links on a suspect offense. Fuller writes that Cespedes considers UConn his dream school and he's fond of the coaching staff. Furthermore, Maranda was impressed by the staff's "thoroughness" during the recruiting process.

The Huskies now have 18 commitments for the 2015 class. In addition to Cespedes there is: WR Tyraiq Beals, NT Trey Blackwell, WR Frank Battle, QB Tyler Davis, DT Kevin Murphy, OLB Connor Freeborn, DE Phillipe Okunam, FS Marshe Terry, TE Ben Hartwick, WR Aaron McLean, TE Ian Campbell, LB Nazir Williams, DB Aaron Garland, DB John V. Robinson, TE Chris Lee, K/P Michael Tarbutt and CB Justice Pettus-Dixon.



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[USA Today Coaches Polls Has Huskies at No. 15]]> Fri, 17 Oct 2014 14:26:19 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn9.jpg

The defending national champion Huskies begin the 2014-15 season as the 15th-ranked team, according to the USA Today coaches preseason poll. Earlier this week, NBCSports.com's CollegeBasketballTalk.com had UConn 20th, of course none of this will matter in a month when the season starts in earnest, but it gives us something to talk about in the meantime.

Kentucky is ranked No. 1 in the USA Today poll, followed by Arizona, Duke, Wisconsin and Kansas. The Huskies are the highest-rated AAC team followed by SMU at No. 22. Memphis was the only other AAC school to receive votes.

Earlier this week, UConn coach Kevin Ollie sounded unconcerned about his team playing well despite the loss of emotional leader Shabazz Napier, who now plays for the Miami Heat.

"We're going to have good chemistry," Ollie said. "That's what we work on first and foremost. Have good chemistry, and everything falls into place behind that. We want to build them from the neck up, and then we'll take care of the neck down. The first thing we've got to build is mental toughness. They've got to have mental toughness, because that's what it takes to become a champion.

"We want to win championships every day. Everyone wants to think about the end goal. But I want to win championships every day and if we can do that, we'll be where we need to be at the end of the season. I have an obsession with getting better, and hopefully they have the same obsession that I do."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Morgan Tuck Glad to Be Healthy]]> Fri, 17 Oct 2014 14:23:37 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/morgan-tuck-title.jpg

There's plenty of reason for optimism for the 2014-15 Huskies and much of that has to do with the fact that they're coming off back-to-back NCAA titles and return the nation's best player, Breanna Stewart.

But the team will be without center Stefanie Dolson, who has taken her game to the WNBA, which leaves a void in the frontcourt that coach Geno Auriemma hopes Morgan Tuck can fill. Tuck, a red-shirt sophomore, played in just eight games last season because of a knee injury that eventually required surgery.

But there were no signs of the injury after she took part in the team's first practice this week.

“I was so excited when I woke up this morning to know that we had official practice,’’ Tuck said, via the Connecticut News' Rich Elliott. “I feel good. I’m on a real high right now. I finally get to be back with the team so it feels really good. ...

“It hasn’t been bothering me,’’ Tuck said of her knee. “I don’t have any issues with it. The only thing I don’t like is I have to wear the brace, but that’s just a precaution-type thing. So if that’s the only thing I have to worry about then I’m doing pretty well.’’

Auriemma, who isn't one for laying it on thick, spoke glowingly of Tuck's first day back.

“She works hard all the time,” he said. “She’s just naturally a hard-working kid whether it’s in school or whether it’s in basketball. She’s got a great way about her. She’s come along great," Auriemma told Connecticut News.  "We said this at our meeting today that one of the challenges for our team is to take the Morgan that’s always great in October and try to find a way to get her to be that same Morgan in November, December, January and February. First things first was to get healthy, and she looks great on the floor. She’s just so smooth and so versatile. She plays so many positions. She does so many good things for you that when you don’t have her … you don’t appreciate it until you don’t have her.’’

The Huskies open the season Nov. 14 against UC Davis.

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<![CDATA[In '08, Stewart Almost Didn't Play With U16 Team]]> Fri, 17 Oct 2014 13:13:07 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/breanna-stewart-mop.jpg

Junior Breanna Stewart, the best college basketball player in the country, returns to UConn fresh off a stint with Team USA and their gold-medal performance at the FIBA Championship earlier this month.

But six years ago, Stewart, then 14, was at the beginning of her national team career. In fact, when she was invited to to play for the United States' Under 16 team in 2008, her parents considered turning down the invitation.

“It wasn’t a flat out turn down, but I remember having a conversation with Brian," USA Basketball chief Carol Callan told the Hartford Courant's John Altavilla. "He just wasn’t sure what it [the U16 team] was, or whether Breanna was that good [to participate] and if, in fact, it was something she should be a part of. She was only 14 and at that point you are obviously questioning who exactly this is you are considering allowing your daughter to spend time with; and, oh by the way, you are planning to take her out of the country? All of the initial hesitation made perfect sense to me."

Eventually, the Stewarts felt comfortable enough to send Breanna to play with the U16 team and, well, the rest is history.

"Listen, they always say a person’s personality and character comes from her parents, that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree," Callan told the Courant. "Both of those things are true with Breanna; she has always been a humble person. And her parents are the same way. They are always so appreciative of the opportunities offered their daughter. They have no expectation of entitlement or that anyone deserves anything less than their daughter does. It’s largely because of where she comes from that she is the kind of person she is and why people just love having her around."

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<![CDATA[Freshman Williams Battles Back From Injury]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 16:03:02 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-201314.jpg

UConn's freshman class is stacked but that isn't unusual for a Geno Auriemma team. The 2014-15 group includes Gabby Williams, Kia Nurse, Sadie Edwards and Courtney Ekmark. And while all four made it through their first Huskies practice Wednesday, it's Williams who continues to work her way back from a second surgery to repair a torn ACL in her right knee.

She hasn't yet been fully cleared to play -- Williams doesn't participate in 5-on-5 during practice sessions -- but the hope is that she'll be ready to go soon.

“I’m coming to an end with my recovery process but I’m still going to be doing rehab, that’s on-going until January,” Williams said, according to SNY.com's Carl Adamec. “We have things to do to make sure that everything is protected and that everything is OK. That’s just precautionary. As far as getting cleared, that should happen anytime now.”

More via Adamec:

Williams’ first ACL injury on Jan. 19, 2013, ended her junior year. She had been averaging 30 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, and seven blocked shots.

She sat out the opener of her senior season before leading Reed High to 11 straight wins. In that final win against Spanish Springs on Jan. 21, however, she landed awkwardly on her knee and fell to the gym floor and was helped to the bench. But she didn’t miss a game. On Jan. 24, she scored 16 points in a loss to Reno but missed the final 3:30 after aggravating the knee injury. She played the following day and had 19 points in a win over Galena. But an MRI showed the ACL tear that ended her high school career.

Right now, Williams admits she's just happy to be playing basketball.

“The second time was harder, not necessarily the rehab process because I would say that process actually went a lot smoother this time,” Williams told Adamec. “I already knew how to get through it. It was more of trying to adapt to college life, college basketball and all the workouts while coming back from an injury all at the same time. ...

"I don’t have any fears,” she added. “It’s something that you always think about when you first have surgery … ‘Oh man, when I come back I’ll probably always have it in the back of mind.’ But the better you feel, you just go out and play and it’s like nothing ever happened.”

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<![CDATA[UConn Gets Commit From Dynamic WR]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 15:56:27 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/New+UConn+Helmet_722.jpg

Offense has been the biggest issue facing UConn this season and the 1-5 record certainly bears that out. But help could be on the way in the form of the 2015 recruiting class. The group includes seven offensive players, including a quarterback, three tight ends, and now with the latest commitment, three wide receivers.

Wide receiver Tyraiq Beals of East Orange, New Jersey, committed to the Huskies Thursday and made the announcement on Twitter. According to SNY.com's John Silver, Beals was also recruited by Rutgers, Temple and Virginia, although UConn was the first to offer him a scholarship.

Through six weeks, Beals leads the state of New Jersey in receiving with 41 catches for 622 yards and eight touchdowns -- in four games. Consider these single-game totals for Beal, courtesy of the New Haven Register's Jim Fuller:

Sept. 12 vs. Bayonne 6-130-1 TD
Sept. 19 vs. Oakcrest 10-144-3 TDs
Oct. 2 Livingstone 16-218-3 TDs
Oct. 11 Seton Hall Prep 9-130-1 TD

The Huskies now have 17 commitments for the 2015 class: NT Trey Blackwell, WR Frank Battle, QB Tyler Davis, DT Kevin Murphy, OLB Connor Freeborn, DE Phillipe Okunam, FS Marshe Terry, TE Ben Hartwick, WR Aaron McLean, TE Ian Campbell, LB Nazir Williams, DB Aaron Garland, DB John V. Robinson, TE Chris Lee, K/P Michael Tarbutt and CB Justice Pettus-Dixon.

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<![CDATA[Huskies Begin Title Defense With First Official Practice]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 15:55:15 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+first+practice_1200.jpg

The Huskies' first practice is in the books. The two-time defending national champions have begun the process of defending their title for a third straight time, a journey that officially begins when they face UC Davis on Nov. 14. First things first, though.

"How did it go?" Auriemma said of practice No. 1, via the Hartford Courant. "Well, it was a little noisy in there. But that's not a bad thing because everyone needs to listen closer to zero in on what's being said. … And it was a little warm in here, which is OK because it helps you break a sweat a little easier.

"But I told them after practice that it's like when a guy goes to New York City to have dinner and you ask him how the food was and he says, 'eh, it was OK.' It's hard to say it's great because it was just the first practice of the year."

No one expected a glowing review from Auriemma, a man with high standards who isn't one to exaggerate. But the Huskies have Morgan Tuck back after she was sidelined with a knee injury and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis spent the offseason getting stronger after she was slowed by injuries last season. Oh, and there's Breanna Stewart, the best player in the country fresh off a stint with Team USA, which won the FIBA Championship earlier this month in Turkey.

"It was an amazing experience learning about the game from the best players in the world," Stewart said. "But I was really looking forward to getting back to my team. The entire experience has given me a tremendous level of confidence."

Auriemma agreed: "Being around those guys, being at practice, seeing how people work and how they prepare, that is something that is going to help her a lot," he said. "She knows now that if I want to make the Olympic team [in 2016] that I need to make some strides and that is good for her."

Then there's the highly touted freshman class, which includes Gabby Williams, Kia Nurse, Sadie Edwards and Courtney Ekmark.

"I think everybody is excited about the freshmen, except the coaches and the upperclassmen, because all they do is screw up every drill," said Auriemma. "I would like for them to show us their competitiveness. I don't think they are going to show us that they are ready to win us a national championship because that is not feasible."

Like we said: Geno has high standards and is not one to exaggerate.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Former UConn Star Gives Back to Local Teens]]> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 23:00:33 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/UConn+andre+drummond.jpg

Former UConn basketball player Andre Drummond may have left the state of Connecticut, but his ties still run deep – and, evidently, so do his pockets.

The current Detroit Pistons center is donating $10,000 to launch a program for local teens focusing on physical and academic education.

The program will allow teens full access to YMCA facilities in Middlesex, where Drummond himself once played ball, and on-site tutoring from Wesleyan University.

Annual teen memberships at the YMCA cost $240 per person. Drummond's program will provide free one-year memberships for 42 low-income teens.

Drummond's mother will present the YMCA with his donation Friday afternoon on his behalf.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Names Horse After Shabazz Napier]]> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 19:34:15 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Shabazz+Horse+3+Edited.jpg

Miami Heat's Shabazz Napier may have graduated from UConn, but his name still "reins" supreme on campus.

And that's not just because of the Huskies' championship ride last spring.

But it was a "mane" reason the university named a colt after him housed in the barns on campus.

UC Shabazz was born on March 29 in the middle of March Madness, a day after UConn won its Sweet Sixteen game and a day before the Huskies defeated Michigan State to qualify for the Final Four, according to a UConn blog posted Tuesday.

"The choice of his name reflects the excitement that was mounting during his early days on campus, as the men’s basketball team continued their run to the NCAA Championship win on April 7," UConn said in its UConn Today blog.

The Morgan foal was born to mare Friend Charity Rose and stallion UC Doc Sanchez through the university's horse breeding program that trains horses for cavalry, according to the blog.

From court to pasture, UConn is showing Shabazz pride.

"He is tipped for a productive career at UConn in the training program, and eventually as a lesson horse," UConn's blog states.



Photo Credit: UConn ]]>
<![CDATA[Huskies' Top '16 Recruit to Be at First Night]]> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 13:37:57 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-champion.jpg

A quick recap of the Huskies' recruiting haul. The 2014-15 freshmen class includes: Gabby Williams, Kia Nurse, Sadie Edwards and Courtney Ekmark. The 2015-16 class might be even better: It includes the nation's best player in Katie Lou Samuelson, and Napheesa Collier and De’Janae Boykin are both top-10 players. There's also Georgetown transfer (and 2013-14 Big East freshman of the year) Natalie Butler.

In other words: The Huskies are -- and will remain -- stacked for quite some time. And with the next recruiting class all but sewn up, coach Geno Auriemma is looking ahead to 2016. Which brings us to Crystal Dangerfield, who will at Gampel Pavilion Friday to take in First Night and watch UConn raise its second national championship banner in as many years. Dangerfield was also in Nashville last April when the Huskies won its ninth national title.

“Crystal’s looking forward to seeing the campus and being around the players and coaches,” Dangerfield’s mother, Davonna, said, of the '16 recruit from Murfreesboro, Tennessee (via SNY.com). “We’ll go to First Night and hopefully then see them practice. It’s important that she things in action.”

According to SNY.com's Carl Adamec, the 5-5 high school junior point guard averaged 14.5 points, 3.6 assists, and 2.9 steals and helped Blackman High to a 34-1 record and the Tennessee Class 3A state championship. Dangerfield set single-season records for points in her first two years and was named Gatorade Tennessee Player of the Year after her sophomore season.

“I think Crystal’s a better player in that she’s more confident,” Davonna Dangerfield said. “She’s only 16, but she’s taking on more personal responsibility and more of that leadership role.”

Adamec writes that coach Geno Auriemma and associated coach Chris Dailey made a visit to Dangerfield's home on Sept. 13.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kevin Ollie Talks Team Chemistry]]> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 13:35:17 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483304481.jpg

Kevin Ollie is fresh off a national title. And while the goal is to always win it all, the true measure of a program is sustained success. That explains why he's a relentless recruiter, a job perhaps made easier by the Huskies' new $32 million facility, which will be in use for the first time this season.

“(The players) have been impressed just walking in, having practice there and them taking a tour," Ollie said Tuesday before a UConn Alumni Association event. "We used to have to take them over to Burton and show them the football facility and say we were going to be moving in soon to (the new building), but it’s good to have the bricks in and the walls up and have our guys even practicing there. It’s tremendous for us, definitely something we can hang our hats on.”

But shining new buildings don't win basketball games, which brings us to the current team -- one that will be without Shabazz Napier, and includes plenty of new faces.

' They’re trying to (get adjusted) into our system, you now throwing in a couple plays, but more understanding how to play at a Level Five," Ollie explained, via the Connecticut News. "That’s always hard for incoming freshmen and then with all the academics...taking care of their bodies and all the time management things that they have to make the transition with, but they are doing good. We have a lot of resources in place and hopefully they use all of them. I’m excited for them to come in and participate in the first game on the 14th (November).”

But even with Napier now gone, Ollie is confident that this team will have no trouble getting on the same page. And that starts with Napier's former backcourt partner, senior guard Ryan Boatright.

"We're going to have good chemistry," the coach said. "That's what we work on first and foremost. Have good chemistry, and everything falls into place behind that. We want to build them from the neck up, and then we'll take care of the neck down. The first thing we've got to build is mental toughness. They've got to have mental toughness, because that's what it takes to become a champion. We want to win championships every day. Everyone wants to think about the end goal. But I want to win championships every day and if we can do that, we'll be where we need to be at the end of the season. I have an obsession with getting better, and hopefully they have the same obsession that I do."

While Ollie has his own coaching style he still leans on the lessons learned for playing for Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun.

"I'm keeping the same pillars I learned from Coach Calhoun," Ollie said. "Being tough, being prepared, being able to make adjustments. And building a team that has a lot of chemistry. My job is to love the team, their job is to love each other, and if they can do that, be able to challenge each other and not take it personally, then we'll have a good team. ... There is enough talent in there."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Geno Talks About Freshmen Class]]> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 13:07:39 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-PVAM.jpg

Geno Auriemma and the Huskies officially begin their national title defense Wednesday, less than two weeks after Auriemma led Team USA to the FIBA Championship in Turkey. On Tuesday, the coach talked about the expectations for the upcoming season.

"Everyone is excited about the freshmen [Gabby Williams, Kia Nurse, Sadie Edwards and Courtney Ekmark] except the coaches," he said at a UConn Alumni Association event alongside Kevin Ollie (via the Hartford Courant). "I'd be happy if they all just showed us how competitive they are. I don't think any of them is ready to win a national championship by themselves."

One player Auriemma has no such concerns about: Junior Breanna Stewart, who was part of Team USA, and is also a perennial player-of-the-year candidate.

"She certainly got an education, let's put it that way," the coach said. "And I don't mean just in terms of playing internationally, which she has already done many times. But instead of playing up in years [age] by one or two, she was playing, in some cases, up 10 years. And that's a whole different world."

Meanwhile, senior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis spent the summer improving her physical conditioning after her junior season was sidetracked by an early injury.

"She's had a lot of experience in the past getting herself ready for the start of practice," Auriemma said. "And people's bodies change as they get older. They start to understand what they can do and what they can't do. … It was a long summer. She's put in a lot of effort and she's getting things done she struggled to do last year."

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<![CDATA[Diaco Remains Optimistic About Young Players]]> Tue, 14 Oct 2014 12:46:49 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+diaco+temple.jpg

First-year coach Bob Diaco is eternally optimistic. You have to be in this job. The Huskies have been bad going on four years now and there's no sign it'll change in the next few months. So while we wait for Diaco's recruits to make their way to Storrs, he's trying to talk up a program that has looked equal parts overwhelmed and hapless through six games.

"I watched the tape and there's so many things to correct, so that's exciting because we're nowhere close to where we're going to be," the coach said Monday, via the Hartford Courant. "I mean nowhere close when you think about the future. Not just the future of 2014 but beyond. It's very exciting. They're working hard to execute our plan. They're working hard on their fundamental work of block destruction, tackling and angles and effort to the ball."

We're not sure anyone else would call 1-5 (0-3 in the AAC) exciting but we understand why Diaco would do it -- he's trying to build something here and if he doesn't believe, his players won't believe, and we'll have plenty more discussions in coming seasons about five-win teams.

The Huskies are coming off a 12-3 loss to a Tulane team that isn't very good. As you might expect, the offense was virtually nonexistent, but Diaco attributes some of that to inexperience.

"Of course, yeah, we've got a lot of young guys in there and they've got a lot of lessons to learn and they've got a lot of strength to build," he said. "[Left tackle] Richard Levy is going to be here for three years. Andreas Knappe is just learning how to play offensive line. He's never played offensive line before in his life, but he's going to be here three more years, and then the other players rotating in there are all young guys. I thought [senior center] Alex Mateas improved his game this week. I was pleased with his response in how he played. Yes, that is part of [the offense's problem], but they're also getting better every week."

How much better? Well, that's the question.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Jefferson Could Step Into Leadership Role]]> Tue, 14 Oct 2014 12:40:39 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/moriah+jefferson_1.jpg

With Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley now in the WNBA, the Huskies are looking for a veteran leader to fill that void. Senior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and junior Breanna Stewart make sense; both have been integral in the back-to-back national championship runs. But there's also Moriah Jefferson, who could excel in the role given that, as the starting point guard, she's already the team's floor general.

“I think she will be,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said, via the New Haven Register's Jim Fuller. “I think part of it is her natural personality and you add the position that she plays, she has the ball in her hands a lot. She gained a lot confidence last year and she is very comfortable with her teammates. When you are a freshman you are not quite sure, but she is very comfortable and she is really one of those people who you root for because you want her to do well. You want her to be successful, and you know that she adds a dimension that very few teams have.”

Jefferson really blossomed as a sophomore and is expecting a bigger role in 2014-15.

Last year I kind of knew that was coming, so I kind of experienced some of that last year," she said. "Playing so many minutes really prepared me for this year. We have two great seniors, and I am going to come in and do whatever I can to help my team.”

Jefferson will have five new players to welcome into the fold, all arrive on campus with plenty of accolades: The 2014 class includes Kia Nurse (5-11), Gabby Williams (5-11, Nevada), Sadie Edwards (5-9, New Jersey) and Courtney Ekmark (6-0, Arizona).



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Huskies Rank 20th in Preseason Poll]]> Tue, 14 Oct 2014 12:37:50 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP558842148611.jpg

On Monday, we wrote that half of CBSSports.com's experts like the Huskies to finish first in the American Athletic Conference. A day later, NBCSports.com's CollegeBasketballTalk rolled out its top 25 and has UConn 20th.

Rob Dauster writes that the defending champs will be good in 2014-15 because, "UConn enters the season with one of the nation’s most talented backcourts" in Ryan Boatright and NC State transfer Rodney Purvis.

"Purvis has a chance to be one of the nation’s most improved players this season while Hamilton, the youngest brother of Gary (Miami), Jordan (Texas and now the NBA) and Isaac (UCLA), is a wing forward with a reputation for being a big-time scorer," Dauster continues. ... "Throw in sophomore Terrance Samuel, who had some big moments during UConn’s national title run, as well as Omar Calhoun and JuCo transfer Sam Cassell Jr., and the Huskies legitimately go six-deep on their perimeter."

That's certainly what coach Kevin Ollie is thinking, especially after losing power forward DeAndre Daniels, who left school to play professionally. But it's not all unicorns and rainbows. Dauster on why the Huskies could struggle:

"As good as their back court is, it will be downright impossible to replace Shabazz Napier. And I’m not just talking about his ability to score or his knack for making a big shot in a bigger moment, I’m talking about the leadership that he provided and his presence in the locker room. Napier was a coach on the floor, a guy that ran this team and commanded the respect of his teammates. Doug McDermott was the rightful National Player of the Year last season, but Napier was every bit as valuable as him."

Despite the loss of Napier, which is admittedly huge, the Huskies are in prime position to win the AAC and make another deep postseason run.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Huskies, SMU Early Favorites to Win AAC]]> Mon, 13 Oct 2014 12:55:11 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin-ollie-rim.jpg

Coach Kevin Ollie and the Huskies are less than a month away from their first game of the 2014-15 season -- and defense of a national title that no one outside of Storrs believed would happen. Last week, CBSSports.com published its American Athletic Conference preview and here's what they said about the Huskies:

Even with UConn legend Shabazz Napier gone ... UConn's still a clear preseason top 25 team and our pick to win the American. The biggest question: Will Ryan Boatright be the type of leading man in the backcourt that Napier was? Will he revert to some of his erratic ways without that mentor? Can he accept this role?

Fortunately, he'll have a troupe around him. The Huskies will have Rodney Purvis, a redshirt sophomore from N.C. State, stepping in to help. Then there's still-learning Omar Calhoun is a 6-foot-6 combo player who could be that breakout guy. And flex 3 Daniel Hamilton, a freshman, should see plenty of minutes.

Keep in mind, though, that UConn's success might depend on how big of a jump 7-foot sophomore Amida Brimah makes this season. ... The Huskies will be interesting again, but it could take them a little while to be undeniably good.

And here's what one coach told CBSSports.com about who should win the conference.

"When you look up and down, Memphis, they lost pieces," the coach said. "UConn has a couple of newcomers who could be pretty good, and the kid who sat out from N.C. State (Rodney Purvis) should play a role. Cincinnati is always a really, really tough team. Even though they last a bunch of guys, history tells you they'll be there. It's a little but of unknown everywhere. Temple had three kids stepping into prominent roles that hadn't been in them the year before."

Three of six CBSSports.com experts picked the Huskies to win the AAC. The other three had UConn finishing second behind SMU.

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<![CDATA[Huskies Add 16th Commitment for 2015]]> Mon, 13 Oct 2014 12:47:56 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/New+UConn+Helmet_722.jpg

The 2014 Huskies might not be much to look at but first-year coach Bob Diaco isn't letting the team's struggles this season hamper his recruiting efforts. On Friday, UConn landed its 16th commitment when kicker/punter Michael Tarbutt verbally committed to the program.

Tarbutt plays for Canisius High School in Buffalo, NY and is from Ontario, Canada.

More details from SNY.com's John Silver:

Tarbutt fits in nicely for the Huskies in the kicking game for the future. UConn has sophomore Bobby Puyol as the place kicker and that will give Tarbutt a chance to redshirt his freshman season and then work as an understudy before taking over the kicking duties. UConn head coach Bob Diaco is a bit of an expert on special teams and was touted to find good kickers on the recruiting trail.

Kickers are hard to come by, something UConn’s opponent this week in Tulane knows all too well. Tulane is 1 of 4 kicking this year and doesn’t attempt many field goals. The Huskies have had a string of competent kickers over the years and Puyol is 5 of 6 this year and has shown an ability to hit deep kicks.

Canisius is the top- ranked large school in The Buffalo News poll and are are ranked No. 45 in the country in the most recent USA Today High School Football Rankings.

Meanwhile, Diaco's recruiting blueprint appears to be going as planned. He has previously talked about the recruiting footprint -- from Boston to Buffalo and all the way down to Northern Virginia -- and that has certainly been the case with the team's latest commitment.

UConn's other 2015 commitments include: NT Trey Blackwell, WR Frank Battle, QB Tyler Davis, DT Kevin Murphy, OLB Connor Freeborn, DE Phillipe Okunam, FS Marshe Terry, TE Ben Hartwick, WR Aaron McLean, TE Ian Campbell, LB Nazir Williams, DB Aaron Garland, DB John V. Robinson, TE Chris Lee, CB Justice Pettus-Dixon.

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<![CDATA[Punchless Huskies' Offense Part of Problem]]> Tue, 14 Oct 2014 23:29:20 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/bob-diaco-boise-state-sept.jpg

Somewhere, former offensive coordinator George DeLeone must wonder why he was ever demoted. Oft-criticized when he was calling plays under Paul Pasqualoni, DeLeone wasn't any worse than what currently passes as an offense for UConn.

The latest: an uninspiring three-point showing against a Tulane team that was ripe for the picking. Instead, 60 minutes of futility resulted in a 12-3 victory for the Green Wave. It was some of the ugliest football you'd ever want to see.

The Huskies had eight possessions in Tulane's half of the field and the results: three punts, three turnovers, and 1 of 2 on field-goal attempts.

“I’m not surprised about anything,” first-year coach Bob Diaco said, according to SNY.com's John Silver. “We are playing so many young players and they have a maturing process. They have a cooking process that needs to happen. They have to play in the games. There’s no way to simulate it. There’s no other way to simulate the game other than to play in the game. They’re doing a fine job. They’re just creating at the point of attack some game-changing plays."

And has been the case in previous weeks, ill-timed turnovers have been a problem.

"We squandered away scoring opportunities with turnovers,” Diaco continued. ”Turning it over on (Tulane’s) 30-yard line. The 24-yard line ended up producing a safety on the back end. That was a five-point swing, maybe a nine-point swing. The game ended up 12-3, you cannot make mistakes like that.”

At 1-4, the writing appears to be on the wall for the Huskies' season but Diaco isn't interested in looking ahead. We've said it countless times but this is a process, and Diaco knows that he needs to get this group of players to buy into what he's doing UConn's going to have success in the future.

"We are sick that we lost this football game and that we lost those other games and what the record is," he said. "The guys are in there crushed because we lost the game and we’re going to mourn this loss for 24 hours and then we’re going to get better as a football team. We’re not going to let anybody splinter us apart. We’re not going to let anybody try to drive a wedge between the offense and the defense, certainly not you (spoken to me), or create a frustration between one group or the next.

“We’re going to love each other. We’re going to care about each other and we’re going to practice the plays and we’re going to get better," Diaco continued. "That’s all we’re going to do. We’re going to try hard and everybody’s trying as hard as they can and we’re going to keep getting better and better and better and eventually we’re going to stop making the game-changing, mind-altering, mind-boggling mistakes and the points will show on the scoreboard. That will absolutely happen ”

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<![CDATA[Chris Dailey Talks About Team USA Experience]]> Thu, 09 Oct 2014 13:20:22 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn-women-722-semis.jpg

Breanna Stewart, Kia Nurse and Geno Auriemma weren't the only current members of the Huskies thankful for an opportunity to compete in the FIBA Championship in Turkey last week. There's also Auriemma's longtime assistant, Chris Dailey, who served as associate head coach for the national team.

"It was great," Dailey told the New Haven Register's Jim Fuller about the experience.

"Anytime you have a chance to do something with USA Basketball and something for your country, it is a great experience and a great opportunity. For me to be able to be around our former players and being there with Stewie having her first experience at that level and I always enjoy spending time with players that we played against like Seimone (Augustus), Lindsay Whalen, Brittney Griner so it is nice to see them in a different environment.," she told the Register.

Dailey also talked about what the experience meant the freshman Nurse.

"Kia is coming to us certainly not as a typical freshman having played the level competition (with the Canadian national team)," Dailey said. "She is coming here with a lot of confidence, a lot of experience. For Stewie, I think it will help. It is eye opening to see what 10 years down the road is going to be like for her. Playing against professionals, how tough you have to be and how physical of a game it is, how skilled you have to be, I think that was great for her to learn," Dailey told the Register.

The Huskies, meanwhile, will officially begin their two-time title defense on Oct. 15 when they hold their first practice.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Nurse Hopes National Team Experience Transfers]]> Thu, 09 Oct 2014 13:15:29 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-pat-summitt.jpg

Breanna Stewart returns to Storrs with another gold medal for the trophy case after Team USA won the FIBA Championship last week in Turkey. Stewart's UConn teammate, freshman Kia Nurse, also returns to campus after a stint representing her country -- the Canadian national team -- and now she's hoping to parlay that experience into helping her adjust to big-time college basketball.

"Every single time she gets a chance to play in a game with the Senior National Team, she rises to the occasion," Canada coach Lisa Thomaidis said, via the Connecticut Post's Rich Elliott. "I'm really proud of her. She's played big minutes for us on the defensive end. She's going to a pretty good program in the states. We're happy with her choice and how she'll come back for us."

Nurse, who averaged 6.9 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.0 steals and 21.7 minutes in seven games added: "It doesn't get better than that. Some of the point guards I've had to face have been nothing but great for me and my future. ... We have great leaders on this team and they have been so helpful for me," Nurse said. "I hope to take some of the things I learned from them," she told the Connecticut Post.

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<![CDATA[Freshman Newsome to See More Work]]> Mon, 13 Oct 2014 12:55:32 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/arkeel+newsome+uconn+running+close.jpg

UConn currently has four tailbacks on the roster and first-year coach Bob Diaco is fine with that, especially since two of them are freshmen Arkeel Newsome and Ron Johnson.

According to the New Haven Register's Jim Fuller, Newsome is one of just 10 freshmen at the FBS level to have a game with at least 200 all-purpose yards, which no doubt hastened his ascension up the depth chart.

"You are going to see Arkeel Newsome and Ron Johnson a lot more," Diaco said during his weekly press conference. "I wasn't interested in pinning the team down to a release like that because the other two are more than functional and doing a great job and have great attitudes. Arkeel and Ron still don't know in great detail the protections and all the different things that come at them on any given down. There are still some issues but just some growing that needs to happen there. So we can manage that and continue to improve. Each new look, that's one in the bank," Diaco told the Register.

But both offer the Huskies a dynamic option out of the backfield, which is why they will both see more playing time.

"Arkeel is a contact-fast player," Diaco continued. "His playing speed is as fast or even faster than his actual speed. There's a lot of players in the game that when they go in the game they play slower than they run. As contact approaches, they play even slower. Arkeel is unique in that he plays as fast as he actually and may actually play faster than he is actually is. If you timed him running a 40-yard dash on the field as opposed to lining him up in gym shorts and running on a turf field, it might even be faster. That's a unique trait, not everybody has that connection between brain and fine motor skills," Diaco told the Register.

The Huskies travel to New Orleans to Tulane Saturday.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Foxx Could See Snaps at QB]]> Wed, 08 Oct 2014 13:31:32 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/deshon-foxx-2013.jpg

During the Huskies' bye last week, we mentioned that wide receiver and return specialist Deshon Foxx had been taking snaps at quarterback. On Tuesday, first-year coach Bob Diaco suggested that we could see Foxx under center as soon as Saturday, when UConn faces Tulane.

In answering a question about Tulane's defense during Tuesday's press conference, Diaco dropped Foxx's name.

"(That defense is) very aggressive, very attacking, pack-the-box, a lot of man, a lot of overloaded box structured, not necessarily pressures although they do run pressures," he said. "They have a very aggressive player in Nico Marley, very talented and I love watching him play. He's very aggressive and downhill at the point of attack. They have a very talented corner, a really talented safety and a couple really big 300-plus pounders inside. All those things create a challenge that we need to take advantage of what they're giving us when they give it to us. ...

"It's not a Foxx-package, it's the offense. Foxx can throw all the passes, he's got a strong arm. He can run our offense from the gun, he can run our offense from under center. It's not a wildcat, Foxx can run our offense. All the calls, all the plays."

This isn't much different than that Diaco said a week ago: "(Foxx) can throw too, he can throw down the field. He can throw the intermediate (routes), he can throw the ball shallow, he can move with the ball and throw on the run and we have a whole package of plays for him, runs and passes."

And Foxx said at the time of continuing to get snaps at quarterback: "If they feel like it will help the offense. I know they will do whatever for our team to win they will do whatever they have to do."

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<![CDATA[UConn Preparing for Tulane]]> Thu, 09 Oct 2014 13:20:57 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+diaco+temple.jpg

After a week off, Bob Diaco and the Huskies are back to work, this time preparing to face Tulane in New Orleans. At 1-4 (0-2 in the AAC), a win over a conference opponent would be huge, but as we said previously -- and Diaco's reminded us repeatedly -- the 2014 season isn't the end-all be-all. It's a stepping stone to bigger things, but if the wins happen to come during that process then all the better.

"We had a very productive bye week," Diaco said during Tuesday's press conference. "It was very productive, very positive. Any time that we can kind of focus and sequester ourselves to just getting better. Now we prepare for Tulane, a conference foe on the road at night. New city, exciting city to be in. Great state for football, great high school football and an area that we'd like to continue to expand. This is an exciting game for our program."

As for what the team has to do to get better, Diaco hit many of the same talking points we're heard over the last six weeks.

"Well, we need to continue to grow in the areas that right now we are getting some production and performance in. Any moment that you see of the infection of success, for example on defense, if they start the feeling like `okay we got this, we're playing well, we've got a strong, stout defense,' you can see that begin and you can see it in the lack of discipline in eyes or stance or communication in different areas. So we immediately jump all over that.

"When you're defending, you need to be completely locked, always feeling that reactionary underdog attack," he said. "Never feeling satisfied, never feeling confident in that you've got it all figured out. That edge needs to stay sharp every single second of the preparation, let alone the competitive moments."

The Green Wave are also 1-4 and coming off a 31-6 loss to Rutgers. They're only win came three weeks ago against Southeastern Louisiana.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Calhoun Preparing for Analyst Chair]]> Wed, 08 Oct 2014 13:20:38 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/jim-calhoun-be-careful.jpg

Jim Calhoun last coached for UConn during the 2011-12 season but he's never been far from the Huskies or college basketball. He pretty much hand-picked Kevin Ollie as his successor and even had an office on campus. Now, though, the 72-year-old Hall of Fame coach will spend at least part of the 2014-15 season as an analyst for ESPN.

And now, for the first time in a long time, Calhoun might have to watch what he says.

"I've started to think a great deal more about that, obviously," he admitted to the Hartford Courant's Dom Amore. "I think you can say things, be professional, without stabbing, hurting anybody. … We're in an age where people say that sells, but I plan to be careful about telling people how to do things when I don't have inside information."

Dick Vitale the former coach-turned-color commentator, who has been working for ESPN for three decades, had this advice for Calhoun.

"(Just) make believe you're talking to your friends," he said. "Just sitting around, shooting the breeze -- about basketball. People want to be entertained, as well as educated."

According to Amore, Calhoun will make his debut on Nov. 18 when Kentucky, Michigan St., Duke and Kansas take part in the State Farm Championship Classic.

"I love this game," Calhoun said. "Do I see flaws? We're going to talk about that. Do I see where the NCAA's got to give us more help? I think we need a commissioner for basketball just like football. Those are things I hope to address. I think I can still view the game without making it personal. ...

"I think my perspective is a little different," Calhoun continued. "You talk about winning -- I've been there. Rebuilding? I've been there. Losing a lot of games? I did that in high school and my first year at UConn. What I can offer is much more of a script, how the world is seen through my eyes, a coach's eyes, a player's eyes, and try to make some sense of it."

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<![CDATA[Stewart Returns From Team USA]]> Tue, 07 Oct 2014 13:00:04 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/breanna-stewart-nd-finals.png

Breanna Stewart returns to campus after spending the last few weeks abroad helping Team USA win the FIBA World Championship. And now the junior is focused on helping the Huskies win their third national title in as many seasons.

I’ve learned a lot,” Stewart said Sunday via USA Basketball (by way of SNY.com's Carl Adamec), “just the way that people prepare themselves and the fact these are people I look up to and want to be where they are in their professional careers. I’m just excited to have this opportunity to take this all home.”

Stewart was one of six people on Team USA with ties to UConn along with coach Geno Auriemma, advance scout Jennifer Rizzotti, and players Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Tina Charles, and Maya Moore.

"Obviously, when you grow and get to UConn, you realize how much your family has grown,” Stewart said. “The fact that I’m able to celebrate this with not only my coaches, but also people who have played at UConn before me, and the road that they have paved for us, I’m glad to be able to be here.”

In seven game, Stewart averaged 1.6 points, 1.6 rebounds and 5.6 minutes. But with another gold medal for mantle (it's her fifth for Team USA since 2009) it's not time to turn attention to the Huskies' upcoming season.

“I’m actually looking forward to seeing my teammates and my friends again, but I could do this for a little bit,” Stewart said.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling. Each one has its own specific memory that you’ll remember. To be able to be here and just the experience has been … No one else at the college level has received this experience that I have. So I think just taking that away from it is something that will separate me from others.”

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<![CDATA[Report: Pitt in Talks to Renew UConn Rivalry?]]> Thu, 09 Oct 2014 13:20:58 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin-ollie-2014.jpg

The University of Pittsburgh basketball team had its media day last week, and like most media days, the conversation mostly pertained to the upcoming season. But according to the the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Paul Zeise, Panthers coach Jamie Dixon suggested that the Huskies could be in the Pitt's non-conference scheduling future.

"One other nugget from #Pitt media day," Zeise tweeted, "Jamie Dixon said the Panthers are close to deals with Georgetown and UConn for future non-conf games."

All three teams were members of the Big East in its heyday but conference realignment in recent years has seen Pitt bolt for the ACC and UConn forced into the AAC, while Georgetown remains in the now-basketball-focused Big East.

More from BustingBrackets.com:

This is especially big news for fans and alumni of both Pitt and UConn, as the two schools formed what would become a very competitive rivalry in their former Big East days. The two teams last played in a regular season game in January of 2013 where Pitt prevailed 69-61. Many will remember UConn’s matchup with Pitt in the first round of the 2011 Big East Tournament when UConn guard Kemba Walker hit a step-back jumper over Pitt center Gary McGhee as time expired to earn the Huskies the 76-74 win.
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<![CDATA[Recruit Briscoe Could Make Decision Soon]]> Tue, 07 Oct 2014 12:42:25 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconnj.jpg

Last month, we mentioned high school guard Isaiah Briscoe as a player UConn has been heavily recruiting and one that could make the Huskies' already solid 2015 class among the best in the country.

Briscoe said last week that while he doesn't know when he'll actually make a decision, he suspects "it'll be soon." Briscoe thinks highly of Kevin Ollie and had only good things to say about his visit to Storrs, but the Huskies are expected to face competition from Kentucky for Briscoe's talents.

Meanwhile, UConn is also recruiting 6-10 big man Diamond Stone for the 2015 class, and, according to basketball writer Dick Weiss, Marvin Bagley III, a 6-foot-10 center from Tempe, Arizona, who has yet to play a varsity game but flashed skills at a Team USA minicamp recently, has already received offers from UConn and Arizona.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Huskies Add 15th Commitment for 2015]]> Mon, 06 Oct 2014 12:17:36 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/New+UConn+Helmet_722.jpg

Part of the process of rebuilding the UConn football program is stocking the roster with Bob Diaco's players. That will start in earnest this summer, when his first wave of recruits makes their way to Storrs. As it stands, the Huskies now have 15 commitments for the 2015 class, the latest is 6-2, 323-pound nose tackle Trey Blackwell of Egg Harbor, New Jersey.

 

SNY.com's John Silver notes that Blackwell made his official visit to Storrs a few weeks ago when the Huskies faced Boise State.
 



More from Silver:

UConn is playing with Julian Campenni, 6-0, 300-pounds and Mikal Myers, 6-0, 310-pounds at NT right now. Campenni is a junior, Myers a sophomore, so there is development time there when Blackwell gets here. Blackwell is the No. 15 commit of the 2015 class. the Huskies do have some big guys on the DL coming in. Kevin Murphy is a highly regarded recruit from Pennsylvania and figures to be on the edge in a 3-4 alignment.

UConn's other 2015 commitments include: WR Frank Battle, QB Tyler Davis, DT Kevin Murphy, OLB Connor Freeborn, DE Phillipe Okunam, FS Marshe Terry, TE Ben Hartwick, WR Aaron McLean, TE Ian Campbell, LB Nazir Williams, DB Aaron Garland, DB John V. Robinson, TE Chris Lee, CB Justice Pettus-Dixon.

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<![CDATA[Ollie, Huskies Look to Improve Fast Break]]> Tue, 07 Oct 2014 13:00:43 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP558842148611.jpg

If you thought the Huskies were pretty good in transition last year -- and with Shabazz Napier running the show that's a pretty fair assumption -- coach Kevin Ollie wants thing to work even more efficiently in 2014-15.

"We want to be a better fast-breaking team than we were last year," Ollie said, via the Hartford Courant's Dom Amore. "We want to get more easy buckets. We don't have a Shabazz that's going to bail us out with 35-footers at the end of the shot clock. … We want to run a little more, get our athletes out in space where they can create for themselves and others."

Details via Amore:

Last season, UConn (32-8) was among the better three-point shooting teams in the nation. They made 287 of 741 attempts, or 38.7 percent, ranking 27th in NCAA Division I — Creighton was first at 41.4 percent. Their 741 attempts ranked 35th, and the 287 made ranked 18th.

Much of that production, 72.6 percent of the attempts and 77 percent of the makes, came from Shabazz Napier, Niels Giffey, DeAndre Daniels, Lasan Kromah and others who have since moved on. Giffey, who made 58 of 120 three-point attempts, and Daniels (50 for 120) forced defenses to stretch.

Ollie is aware of this fact, obviously, but he prides himself on being able to get the most out of his players, and that's exactly what he'll try to do.

"We lost a lot of great shooters," Ollie said. "Everybody knows that. DeAndre, Niels and Shabazz were our best three-point shooters. Those guys are gone, so we're going to have some other people step up. They're very capable in this gym. I like my team. I like how hard they're playing. I like how they're competing."

With Napier now gone, senior Ryan Boatright will carry the load but he won't be alone. There's Rodney Purvis, the NC State transfer, Sam Cassell Jr., the juco transfer, and Omar Calhoun, who's looking to rebound from a forgettable 2013-14 campaign.

"We have a lot of different guards," said Purvis, who transferred from North Carolina State and had to sit out last season. "Guards with different dimensions to their game, so we can always switch things up. Sam is a really good shooter, me and Terrence [Samuel] are faster, quicker guards along with 'Boat.' Speeding the game up. Omar is shooting the ball really, really well. So we have a lot of options," he told the Courant.

The Huskies open the season against Bryant University on Nov. 14.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Team USA Win Gold at FIBA World Championship]]> Mon, 06 Oct 2014 12:05:02 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-2014-recruits.jpg

The FIBA World Championships were Sunday and two former Huskies had everything to do with Team USA bringing home the gold. Maya Moore scored 18 points and Diana Taurasi added eight assists and a solid defensive effort in 77-64 victory over Spain in Istanbul, Turkey.

Sue Bird, another UConn product, became the most decorated player in world championship history with her fourth gold medal.

"It was a great win for us," Bird said, via the Associated Press. "We had one goal the entire time this team's been together and that's win a gold medal. A lot of people see a lot of talent and think it's going to be easy and it's not. Whenever you can win a gold medal and it's a tough journey, everyone's happy. I'm definitely proud of this team."

Bird's coach -- both on the national team and at UConn -- Geno Auriemma had only laudatory things to say afterwards.

"She's very indicative of what USA Basketball is. She's loyal, a great leader, everyone respects her," he said. "She's been the youngest player on the team and now's the oldest player on the team. She's seen it all and done it all. I think when you talk about USA Basketball in the future on the women's side. There have been a lot of great names and her name will be mentioned very early in the names of players who play for USA."

Moore, meanwhile, earned tournament MVP honors.

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<![CDATA[Ollie on Boatright, Purvis]]> Sat, 04 Oct 2014 16:30:47 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483304023.jpg

One of the biggest changes facing the 2014-15 Huskies is that, for the first time in four years, when they take the floor they'll do so without Shabazz Napier. But Ryan Boatright remains and he will be integral in the post-Napier transition period noir only for UConn's backcourt but for the entire team.

On Thursday, Ollie talked about Boatright -- and the rest of the team -- during a speech to the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce.

“Our captain," Ollie began, via the Hartford Courant. … The boat is not going anywhere if he’s not leading it. He’s doing a wonderful job. I’ve seen his growth over the last four years. We’re going to expect a lot from him, handling the ball. He’s going to be an extension of me. During the summer, I had him involved in [moderating] a conference call with everybody. He’s a great leader, and a great leader is a great listener, he’s listening to his teammates.”

Boatright won't be alone in the backcourt. Rodney Purvis, the NC State transfer will suit up this fall and Ollie couldn't be more excited.

My Ferrari is out of the garage," the coach said. "I get to drive my red Ferrari now. I don't know how long we're going to have him – you know, our guys go to the NBA."

And Ollie went into great detail about junior Omar Calhoun, who had an injury-filled sophomore season but has high expectations this time around.

“Omar didn’t really have opportunity to play a lot the latter part of the season," Ollie said. "But one thing about Omar -- we have a picture of us holding up the trophy with all the confetti coming down and everybody’s smiling.

"Guess what? The guy with the biggest smile is Omar. I point this out when we have our presentation for our recruits. Omar played maybe two or three minutes in the NCAA Tournament but he was the one with the biggest smile. That’s the true essence of what a great person is. It’s not only about you, but can you be happy for someone else? How happy he was for his teammates in that time when he might’ve said, ‘it’s not about me, I didn’t get a lot of playing time, I’m not going to be with the team.’ He was so full of joy. Those are the type of players I want.

"I just think Omar is going to take off to another level. He averaged (10.3) points his freshman year, down last year, because he did have two hip surgeries. He’s fine, I think he’ s going to have an explosive season for us and we’re going to need it because we lost a lot of three-point shooting. We lost Shabazz, we lost Neils (Giffey), we lost DeAndre (Daniels), so we’re going to need him to get back to that form.”

The Huskies' kick off their season Nov. 14 against Bryant University.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[UConn QB Commit Continues Strong Season]]> Sat, 04 Oct 2014 16:26:28 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+football_generic+shot.jpg

Help is on the way. That's message tacitly expressed by first-year coach Bob Diaco. Help could come in the form of the current players buying into Diaco's system or players Diaco has recruited to come to Storrs and help rebuild a program that has fallen on hard times in recent years.

And that brings us to UConn commit Tyler Davis, the Mepham High (Bellmore, NY) quarterback who continues to have a solid senior season. Details via the New Haven Register's Jim Fuller:

Davis was 8 of 8 for 150 yards including touchdown passes of 9, 44 and 22 yards and ran for 40 yards including a 3-yard score as Mepham defeated New Hyde Park 54-19.

Davis is 41 of 67 passing for 561 yards with seven touchdowns and five interceptions and has run 75 times for 590 yards and nine touchdowns in the first four games.

The Huskies headed into the 2013 season with Casey Cochran and Chandler Whitmer listed first and second on the depth chart, with the plan to redshirt Tim Boyle. But Cochran has retired from football after suffering a Week 1 concussion, which leaves Whitmer and Boyle as the only scholarship quarterbacks.

Davis is listed at 6-4 and just under 200 pounds. Here's his scouting report, courtesy of SNY.com's John Silver:

Davis is 6-foot-4, 215-pounds and is an athletic prospect who can also move out of the pocket. He had an offer from Old Dominion and some local FCS schools with other high FBS interest. It’s so early in the recruiting process, the Huskies wanted to lock down their recruiting target and in Davis got the No. 1 target for 2015 at QB.

The Huskies locked down their QB before the summer and don’t have any others on the radar right now. The Huskies have a lot of youth at quarterback with Casey Cochran, Tim Boyle as sophomores and Kivon Taylor a redshirt freshman. Chandler Whitmer is a senior and Davis would replace that scholarship slot.

Davis was also recruited by Bucknell and Monmouth.



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Ollie Talks About Defending Title]]> Tue, 07 Oct 2014 13:00:43 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483304481.jpg

A new basketball season is upon us and Kevin Ollie, who led the Huskies to a national title six months ago, knows that defending that title won't be easy.

"It's hard to repeat," Ollie told the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, via the Hartford Courant. "I told the players after last season, 'Don't get drunk off success -- a lot of people get drunk off success.'"

Ollie then drew on the wise words of John Wooden, one of the best coaches in the history of the sport.

"A lot of people can do it when their back is against the wall," Ollie said. "Everybody in this room can do it with their backs against the wall because we fight -- we're all fighters. But can you do it when you're on top of the mountain? How do you stay there? You stay there with character. Talent will get you there; character will allow you to stay there. You stay there with character, you stay there with heart, you stay there with will."

Anyone who has heard Ollie talk knows he means these words, every last one of them. And more importantly, his players believe these words, every last one of them. Through two seasons, Ollie has done more than maintain what Jim Calhoun built. Now the question becomes if he can sustain it. Recent history says yes, which is what Ollie will tell you too. We'd be foolish not to believe him.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Newsome Continues to Impress]]> Sat, 04 Oct 2014 16:22:15 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/arkeel+newsome+uconn+running+close.jpg

There hasn't been much to celebrate with UConn's offense this season but first-year coach Bob Diaco knew that would be the case. The situation was made worse when Casey Cochran retired from football after suffering a Week 1 concussion, leaving just two quarterbacks -- Chandler Whitmer and Timmy Boyle -- on the roster.

The program also parted ways with running back Lyle McCombs, a former freshman All-American, but it appears another freshman, Arkeel Newsome, could be on the precipice of something special. In Saturday's loss to Temple, Newsome hauled in a Whitmer pass and took it 74 yards to pay dirt, the longest touchdown for the Huskies since Shakim Phillips had a 75-yard TD reception last season against Maryland. Newsome finished the afternoon with 107 yards of total offense.

But since true freshman apparently aren't made available to the media (as the New Haven Register's Jim Fuller found out, we have no way of knowing just how Newsome feels about all this. But Fuller did talk to some of Newsome's teammates.

"That was definitely cool,"senior receiver Deshon Foxx said. "I was very happy that he was able to get the touchdown especially as a freshman to show what he could do. He got into the open field, he made a couple people miss and he was in the end zone quick. That is another weapon we have.

"He doesn't complain, he doesn't say anything he just whatever you tell him to do he does to the best of his ability. I am proud of him and happy to have him on our team."

And redshirt freshman tailback Josh Marriner added this about both Newsome and the other true freshman running back, Ron Johnson.

"They are progressing well, they kind of got thrown into this with the running back only have two (returning players) so it is great to have them on the team, great for them to step up to the challenge and do what they need to do so it has been a great asset," he said.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Brimah Wins Husky Run]]> Sat, 04 Oct 2014 16:20:05 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/amida-brimah-surgery.jpg

The unofficial start to the basketball season begins with the Husky Run, a 3.4-mile race around UConn's campus which allows students to run alongside players before practices for the upcoming season get underway. The race was Wednedsday and the winner was Ghanian native seven-foot sophomore center Amida Brimah.

“In my country, I’m considered slow,” Brimah said, according to the Hartford Courant.

Brimah, who offered a surprising off-the-bench spark during the 2013-14 championship run, always seems to exceed expectations. The Husky Run was no different; he was just one of two players to finish ahead of coach Kevin Ollie.

Details via the New Haven Register:

Ollie wound up finishing with an impressive time of 21:25 — behind just two of his players. Amida Brimah, the 7-foot sophomore, was the top UConn hoops finisher in 20:22, and junior guard Omar Calhoun was second in 20:51. (Wallingford’s Jon Gill, a junior on the Lyman Hall cross country team, was the overall winner in 18:30).

“It definitely sets a tone,” guard Ryan Boatright said of Ollie’s performance. “When I came out of the locker room and saw him dressed, I knew he was gonna go out there and try to beat all of us. K.O. is just K.O., man. He does that type of stuff. We’ll come out to practice and he’ll be dressed, ready to practice with us. It wasn’t a surprise to us.”

Brimah also earned another honor recently: he, along with senior point guard Ryan Boatright, was named team captain.

“He embodies everything that we want in our student-athletes,” Ollie said. “(He’s) on time, dedicated and he gives himself to others. What defines a captain is maximum effort and willingness to help others. If I had a picture that embodies those two things, Amida would be right there. That’s why he’s a captain.”

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