<![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 Wed, 20 Aug 2014 02:54:40 -0400 Wed, 20 Aug 2014 02:54:40 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Whitmer Thought About Leaving UConn]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 12:35:38 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/whitmer_michigan.jpg

In many respects, Chandler Whitmer was an innocent bystander last season. He happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, and took most of the blame when Paul Pasqualoni stumbled early in his third season only to get canned before October. By the time it was over, the redshirt junior was 0-4 after throwing for 896 yards, five touchdowns, six interceptions and completing 55 percent of his passes.

He was the face of all that was wrong with the offense even though he had very little to do with the team's inability to consistently move the chains, much less score.

Whitmer was set to leave the program this offseason but a change in coaching staff, attitude and perspective kept him in Storrs and even though Casey Cocrhan was named the starter for 2014, it appears to be the right decision.

"I was out of the door," Whitmer said, according to the Hartford Courant, but after talking to new coach Bob Diaco -- who was up front and frank with the quarterback -- Whitmer decided to return.

Basically, Diaco said that if he wanted to run the scout team, signal in plays to the starting quarterback, and work his way up to something more, he'd be gladly accepted. Otherwise, it might be in his best interest to move on. Whitmer accepted.

"I wanted to come back, set the record straight and not leave UConn the way things ended last year," Whitmer said. "I wanted to change my attitude. I grew as a man. I credit to that to coach Diaco, the way he has changed the culture. He has increased the love. It's very easy for me to be a better teammate."

"Every day since, he has repaired, rebuilt and gained back the respect of his teammates," Diaco said. "He didn't have to gain back [the coaches'] respect. He got it through his actions."

Cochran, who has dropped 30 pounds since last season, has taken on a new approach to preparing for the season.

"I've transformed my body," he said. "I have a different lifestyle now and it feels amazing. The misconception is if you work as hard as you can in the weight room and running, you'll have a good body. I brought in eating aspects, diet and sleep."

And now not only is Whitmer in the good graces of those playing alongside him, but also those responsible for determining who plays and who doesn't.

"Every day since, he has repaired, rebuilt and gained back the respect of his teammates," Diaco said. "He didn't have to gain back [the coaches'] respect. He got it through his actions."

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[McCombs to Play at Rhode Island]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 12:32:57 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/lyle-mccombs-michigan.jpg

Lyle McCombs, who rushed for 1,115 yards as a freshman, left the UConn football program in June as the fourth-leading rusher in school history (2,681 yards). He also has 11 career 100-yard rushing games. New coach Bob Diaco made the decision to move on from McCombs and seems happy with the alternatives, starting with Max DeLorenzo.

Meanwhile, McCombs' college career will continue at Rhode Island.

He was one of five transfers to join the FCS program and he will be eligible to play this season.

We have brought them in to compete right away," Rhode Island Head Coach Jim Fleming said of the latest roster additions. "We think these are talented kids who will give us an opportunity to be more competitive. At the same time, we have a lot of guys who have been here who are already in position."

Back in June, Diaco offered these comments on McCombs' departure from the program: “Attending school at the University of Connecticut is a special privilege as is being a member of the UConn football team. With that privilege also come certain responsibilities and expectations. We wish Lyle only the best in his future endeavors as he moves on from UConn.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Casey Cochran Named UConn Starter]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 10:14:34 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/casey-cochran-starter-smu.jpg

As far as quarterback competitions go, it didn't come with quite the intrigue of, say, Johnny Manziel vs. Brian Hoyer but first-year UConn coach Bob Diaco named a starter Monday night and it's Casey Cochran.

Whether Diaco would admit it publicly or not, the redshirt sophomore was the frontrunner heading into preseason practice based on his performance last last season. After sitting behind Chandler Whitmer and Tim Boyle for three months, Cochran started the final three games, leading the Huskies to their only three wins on the year.

And now, after a solid spring and even better preseason, Cochran will be under center when UConn opens the season against BYU.

Whitmer has been named a "key backup" ("I'm all in," the senior said, via the Hartford Courant) and it looks like Boyle will be redshirted.

"It was a fierce battle dating all the way back to winter conditioning," Diaco said. "[The final decision] was negligible in all categories. Casey has improved his physical traits to try to catch up to the physical traits of Chandler. Chandler's still better in those areas, in terms of being a player.

"In the intangible area, leading, communicating, mobilizing energy, creating unit and team power, Casey edged out Chandler. It's an exceptional trait Casey has. Through Chandler's maturity, his growth, he has made that a negligible difference."

A season ago, Cochran threw for 1,293 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions while completing 63.4 percent of his passes. The difference between Cochran and Whitmer during preseason practice, according to Diaco: 64 percent to 63.5 percent.

"There wasn't a lot of debate among the coaching staff," Diaco said. "There were definitely a lot of pros and cons in my own head," he told the Courant.

But it sounds like both Cochran and Whitmer will see time during the season despite the old coaching cliche that any team with two starting quarterbacks doesn't even have one.

"I don't see two different voices," the coach said. "We're all talking the same language. They just do different things better than the other guy. So when we're going to do those things in the game, why wouldn't we ask them to do those things?

"Hopefully it works out. If it doesn't, you guys will chase me down the street with flaming torches and pitchforks."

The Diaco era officially starts Aug. 29 when BYU comes to town.

<![CDATA[Mo'ne Davis Wants to Play for UConn]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 16:25:54 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP35427040879.jpg

Mo'ne Davis is one of the biggest stories ahead of the 2014 Little League World Series. And this isn't about a girl playing on the sport's biggest stage. It's about a girl dominating on the sport's biggest stage.

The 13-year-old's fastball regularly reaches 70 mph, and more than that, the eighth-grader is an honor roll student at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in northwest Philadelphia. On the field, she's been integral to the success of the Taney Dragons, who are now headed to Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Davis is believed to be the first African-American girl to play in the Little League World Series, but her sports goals extend beyond baseball. One day she hopes to take the court as the point guard for Geno Auriemma's Huskies. Her favorite players are Seth Curry of the Golden St. Warriors and Maya Moore, the former UConn great who now plays for the Minnesota Lynx.

“Is it in the realm of possibility? Absolutely,” Taney Dragons catcher Steve Bandura said (via the New York Daily News) of Davis suiting up for UConn. “She’s Steve Nash on the basketball floor. She sees everything. She always has a plan.”

There's plenty of time for Davis to fulfill that dream. For now, she's focused on helping her team win the LLWS. The fun continues Wednesday when Taney faces Las Vegas. And, yes, Davis is expected to be on the mound.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[No AAC Teams in AP Top 25]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 10:14:56 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/rentschler-field-2012-umass-uconn.jpg

American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco is the AAC's biggest cheerleader and for good reason: The conference exceeded just about everybody's expectations last year. But with the football season weeks away, the AAC is on the outside looking in when it comes to the Associated Press' preseason poll.

The AAC isn't represented among the top 25 teams. More troubling, perhaps: Every one of those 25 teams are Power-5 members. SNY.com's John Silver explains exactly what this means.

What’s going to happen is that a non-power 5 school, such as UCF out of the American, is going to have to go from preseason unranked in the polls to a major bowl berth. UCF brings back nearly everyone but QB Blake Bortles, and is the highest ranked non-P5 school just out of the Top 25 as the most receiving votes at an unofficial No. 26. If UCF can knock off Penn State in Ireland, it’s a safe bet they move into the Top 25. That’s good for the American.

It does show the hurdles of a non-P5 school however. From out of the Top 25 — unless the CFB committee just ignores the polls — it’s almost impossible to see how a non-p5 school jumps into the Top 4 and into the football playoff.

In July, Aresco addressed concerns about the AAC not being a Power-5 conference and basically it came down to this: The AAC might not be a "power conference" but it doesn't matter.

"We're not going to take a back seat to anyone," the commissioner said at the time. "We see the landscape as five plus one and we're knocking on the door and we eventually will knock it down. Our goal is to be in the conversation as the sixth power conference. I believe by virtue of our performance we already are."

Easier said than done, perhaps, but UCF, which beat Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl last season, ranks just outside the top 25. The Golden Knights might be the AAC's best hope this fall to change perceptions when it comes to Power-5 vs. everyone else.

<![CDATA[Banks Transferring to Penn St.]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 10:30:28 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/brianna-banks-transfers.jpg

Back in May, UConn announced that junior guard Brianna Banks was leaving the program.

"I decided to transfer because I feel like I need a fresh start somewhere closer to home,” Banks said at the time in a statement released by the university. “I really appreciate all that my teammates, coaches, and the university have done for me and I will miss everyone at UConn dearly.”

That fresh start will take place at Penn St.

Banks announced on Twitter Friday that she's headed to University Park, Pennsylvania. Due to NCAA rules, Banks, who played high school basketball in Georgia, will have to sit out the 2014-15 season before using her final year of eligibility.

During her three years in Storrs, Banks appeared in 90 games and averaged 14 minutes, 4.4 points, 1.4 rebounds.

According to SNY.com's Carl Adamac, Banks faced Penn St. three times during her Huskies' career. Last Nov. she scored two points and added two assists; on Dec. 6, 2012, she had 10 points, and March 6, 2012 she scored two points.

The Nittany Lions are coming off a 24-8 record last season that ended in a regional semifinal loss to Stanford.

“Brianna showed great heart during her time with us, whether it was on the floor or during the rehab process,” coach Geno Auriemma said in May. “I wish Brianna nothing but the best in the future.”

<![CDATA[Former UConn Commit Chooses UCLA]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 10:25:30 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconnj.jpg

Back in June, 6-3 point guard Prince Ali announced on Twitter that he had de-committed from UConn. At the time, Ali said "I made this decision because I feel like I committed a little too early and I wanted to reopen things.”

Over the weekend, Ali told Scout.com that he has committed to UCLA.

“I think it’s the perfect fit,” Ali said of the Bruins. “They’ve been recruiting me for a while. I’m very familiar with the coaching staff. I know what they want me to do when I get there and how they are going to play. I just feel more comfortable with them.”

“Coach (Steve) Alford is a great person and he’s always been honest with me and he followed me all of July,” he added. “That’s when I knew I was priority when he followed me around all of July.”

Ali was also considering Louisville and Georgia before settling on UCLA. Meanwhile, the Huskies received a commitment last month from class-of-2015 guard Jalen Adams.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Frank Hoping to Master 2 Positions]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 13:26:10 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/New+UConn+Helmet_722.jpg

One of the biggest changes to the UConn roster doesn't involve the arrival of a highly touted recruit or the transfer of a player from a big-name program. It very well could be Reuben Frank, the 6-4, 246-pound mountain of a man who transitioned from fullback to defensive end last season, and will play both end and outside linebacker in Bob Diaco's 3-4 defense.

That means he'll spend about half the snaps on the line of scrimmage with his hand on the ground at end, and the other half standing up as a linebacker. It's a lot to put on any player but Franks seems to be making the adjustment.

"Each day you see him show up more and more," Diaco said, via the Hartford Courant. "The edges are getting set better ... people are getting set faster because he's communicating faster. He's not limited or limiting the defense in any way. It's just early in camp, and I don't know, he may tell you himself, he might have been like "holy cow,' a little bit of frustration, because of the massive amount of jobs he needs to do. But he's getting it. He's doing a nice job."

Franks acknowledged that the transition hasn't been easy but that it's all starting to come together.

"It's been challenging in some ways and fun in others," he said. "I think it makes your football intelligence better, obviously. You have to be a vocal guy, make sure everybody is where they're supposed to be, doing what they're doing. And I've got to be ready to play hard wherever I am. I have to be one of the tough guys on the field."

The Huskies host BYU on Aug. 29 in the season opener.

<![CDATA[Freshmen Pushing for Playing Time]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 13:24:07 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/rentschler-field-2012-umass-uconn.jpg

One of the silver linings to coming off a terrible season is that, this time around, there should be plenty of opportunities for young players to see playing time. And with first-year coach Bob Diaco now running the show, that likelihood increases further since he's not tied to any of the veterans partly responsible for the 3-9 record in 2013.

That brings us to Arkeel Newsome, who has been impressive through the first few weeks of practice.

"Speed, toughness, he actually has more body size than I anticipated," Diaco said, via the New Haven Register. "He is a little bit more stout and stronger than I was expecting him to be and he uses every pound of it. There are a lot of guys who play the game where their contact speed isn't as fast as they can run but he is running at full speed the whole time so that is a very positive trait that he has."

Then there's freshman running back Ron Johnson, who has also made a name for himself in recent weeks.

"Both (backs) have been great, both are big-time players - Johnson out of Florida and Newsome out of Connecticut," junior running back Max DeLorenzo told the Register. "It is great because you see them from day 1, footwork, they mess up some plays and now look at them practice 12, it is night and day and that is a good sign that they are improving every day and they have the ability to make plays."

DeLorenzo, who rushed for 367 yards and five touchdowns last season, is expected to see the brunt of the carries this season, but Diaco concedes that he won't rely on just one back.

“I see them all participating, all have different things they can run,” the coach said. “If I need to hammer a nail into a wall I get a hammer, I don’t use the back of a Phillips head screw driver….we have different jobs on offense. We are going to dial up the appropriate tool to do the job.”

In this scenario DeLorenzo is the hammer while Newsome is more of a change-of-pace back.

<![CDATA[Hope Is That Huskies Can Win Now]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 10:43:24 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/bob+diaco+uconn+introduced.jpg

Everyone's excited to see what first-year coach Bob Diaco can do with a UConn team that managed just three wins last season (after an 0-9 start) and before that went 5-7 in both 2011 and 2012. Then again, there was some excitement about the direction of the program when Paul Pasqualoni was hired, though he arrived on campus after the 2010 season amid concerns from some fans that he wasn't the right man for the job.

Turns out, those concerns were justified but that, as the old saying goes, is water under the bridge. Now the question becomes: Can Diaco turn things around quickly? (We say "quickly" because the expectation isn't that at some point in the yet-to-be determined future Diaco will field a winner, but that it will happen ... well, almost immediately.)

Athletic Director Warde Manuel, who hired Diaco, isn't willing to put a number on it, but he obviously wants to see improvement from a group that underachieved during the Pasqualoni era.

“Nobody around me says success is winning four games instead of three,” Manuel said, via the Associated Press. “I’m not going to sit here and say that to you. But I know I have the right man for the job.”

The quarterback situation is obviously critical to any program's success and Diaco has to decide between Chandler Whitmer, Casey Cochran and Tim Boyle. Cochran led the team to its only three wins last season and he looked to be the most polished of the bunch. But that was under a different regime with different expectations .

Whomever ends up under center will have the benefit of throwing to Geremy Davis, one of the most underrated wide receivers in the American Athletic Conference. But for that to happen -- no matter who's throwing the pass -- will mean that the offensive line is much improved from a season ago. Diaco, who was previously an assistant at Notre Dame, didn't try to sugarcoat this fact.

"There’s just not a whole bunch of dudes there that are going to be able to play competitive, winning football for 12 games this season,” he said, before adding that the unit is improving.

By how much is the question.

The coach also spoke about the importance of playing in front of a jam-packed stadium. Rentschler Field, which holds 40,000 people, regularly saw fewer than 31,000 show up for Huskies' games last season. And while there are no plans for permanent expansion, UConn is considering the idea because, ultimately, they'd love to make the leap to one of the Big-5 conferences, which we all found out recently, has everything to do with the success of the football program.

“I want to get to a point where we fill it up and then, yes we know some of the things are necessary for expansion and at the appropriate time we will expand if necessary,” Diaco said. “What am I going to do, add 10,000 seats and not sell out the seats we already have? That’s not good business.”

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[DeLorenzo Ready to Carry Load]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 13:26:35 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/max-delorenzo-2013.jpg

Back in June, two seasons after earning Freshman All-American honors with the Huskies, running back Lyle McCombs left the team, leaving a gaping hole on the depth chart. Except that the reality is that McCombs struggled through his sophomore and junior seasons. And while some of the blame lay with the offense -- and the offensive line, in particular -- the good news is that if first-year coach Bob Diaco can get the o-line sorted out, the running game will benefit -- no matter who is in the backfield.

As it stands, redshirt junior Max DeLorenzo is the frontrunner. Not only did he rush for 367 yards and five touchdowns last season, he's the only back on the roster to have rushed for a touchdown for the Huskies. But at 5-11, 210 pounds, DeLorenzo arrived in Storrs as a freshman without a true position or much in the way of faith from the coaching staff about what he could bring to the team.

“I always getting passed over,” DeLorenzo said Monday, according to SNY.com's John Silver. “(The coaching staff) know what type of back I am. It’s funny, I came in and I was one of eight or nine tailbacks. Now look at us? It’s hard, but you have to keep grinding put your nose into it. Flashy, not flashy, big plays or no big plays. You just get the ball and move the chains. Points. That’s productive. These coaches know what a running back does. You are going to break them sooner or later.”

And the old adage about not judging a book by its cover certainly holds here. No, DeLorenzo will never be mistaken for Adrien Peterson in terms of his physical stature or breakaway speed, but that doesn't mean he can't be a starting running back for an FBS school.

“I can be the guy, be the productive back and produce,” he said. “What I did last year, I thought I moved the chains and put points on the board. That’s what’s being productive is. You can’t stop the run, you can’t win games.”

UConn will likely feature a running backs-by-committee approach which means that, along with DeLorenzo, Josh Marriner, Arkeel Newsome, Ron Johnson and even Jazmarr Claxx could see carries.

“I see them all participating, all have different things they can run,” Diaco said. “If I need to hammer a nail into a wall I get a hammer, I don’t use the back of a Phillips head screw driver….we have different jobs offense. We are going to dial up the appropriate tool to do the job.”

<![CDATA[Foxx to Help in Return Game]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 15:13:54 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/deshon-foxx-2013.jpg

First-year coach Bob Diaco has made it clear that he hopes that speedy senior Deshon Foxx can be a down-field threat in the passing game, but he'd love for Foxx to also cause problems for opponents in the return game.

"We have a nice collection of return specialists that will be things that opponents will have to contend with. Deshon Foxx has got really good hands, he is the fastest player on our team and one of the quickest," Diaco said, via The New Haven Register's Jim Fuller. "He is aggressive and courageous and has high football intelligence so he should be a nice decision maker for us on kicks and punts.

"(Foxx) can catch, he is not out there dropping the ball. He has soft hands and he has real focus. He works at the game,it is important to him and he will be a weapon. He is a hard guy to tackle, I am looking forward to him playing the games."

Just how bad was the return game last season? Fuller explains: "there were 123 teams playing at the Football Bowl Subdivision level and only Nebraska, Georgia and California averaged fewer than the 3.1 yard per punt return that the Huskies managed." Kickoff returns weren't much better; UConn ranked 106th with 18.7 yards per return.

Foxx didn't return punts in 2013; Lyle McCombs handled most of those duties but he is no longer with the team.

"I am very excited," Foxx said. "I am glad that the coaches chose me to go back there and try to help the team out with momentum. Sometimes if we have a bad game and it is a close game, one punt return can change it up and change the whole momentum of the game. I keep working every day to try to perfect the punt catching and the kickoff catching and just try to make sure I will be a benefit to the team," he told the Register.

<![CDATA[UConn Men Unveil Non-Conference Schedule]]> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 13:50:36 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin-ollie-rim.jpg

The UConn men's basketball team announced its 2014-15 non-conference schedule Monday and it by matchups against ACC powerhouse Duke and a rematch with Florida.

The schedule includes six home games, two road games, and four games at neutral sites.

Nov. 4: The first of two exhibition games, this one against Division II Southern Connecticut State University.

Nov. 9: Assumption, another Division II school, comes to town for the second exhibition game.

Nov. 14: Regular-season opener at home vs. Bryant University.

Nov. 20-23: For the first time, the Huskies will take part in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. Their first opponent: College of Charleston. On Nov. 21, UConn will either face Dayton or Texas A&M. Two days later, their opponent could be George Mason, West Virginia, New Mexico, or Boston College. The tournament will be televised on ESPN.

Nov. 30: The Huskies host the University of Texas.

Dec. 5: Yale visits UConn.

Dec. 14: A post-exams matchup with Coppin St.

Dec. 18: Duke and UConn meet at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, NJ.

Dec. 22: Columbia comes to UConn

Dec. 28:
Next up: Central Connecticut

Jan. 3: UConn travels to Gainesville to face Florida, whom they beat twice last season, including a Final Four matchup

Jan. 17: It's off to Palo Alto, Calif., for a matchup with Stanford.

<![CDATA[UConn WRs a Strength Heading into Season]]> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 13:48:43 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geremy-davis-catch.jpg

While the quarterback situation remains up in the air, whomever ends up under center when the Huskies face BYU in the opener, they'll have plenty of pass-catching options to choose from.

There's senior Geremy Davis, whom first-year coach Bob Diaco thinks can be a difference-maker.

“He may not run the very fastest time, but he doesn’t use that for separation or ability to get open,” Diaco said last month. “He has unique traits, he reminds me of Michael Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald of Pitt, not at that level, but that body. He’s hard to cover.

“He’s more physical than the defensive backs who will try to cover him and faster than the linebackers. He catches everything in his catch radius.”

Diaco continued with the praise this week.

"He's got some very unique traits," the coach said of Davis. "He reminds me of Michael Floyd (the former Notre Dame star now with theArizona Cardinals) or (Larry) Fitzgerald at Pitt, that kind of guy. He's hard to cover. He wins a lot of individual match-ups. He's more physical than the defensive backs that are going to try and defend him and he's faster and quicker than the linebackers that will try and cover him."

But there's also junior Deshon Foxx, a burner who should help in the downfield passing game, not to mention redshirt freshman John Green and junior Kamal Abrams.

"I think that we're going to be a great wide receiver group," Foxx said Monday, according to the Connecticut Post'sChris Elsberry. "I think that everyone comes to work every day and they work as hard as they possibly can. They work on technique, they work on hand-eye coordination and they work on getting out of their (route) breaks. We all try to coach each other and vice versa. I feel like the experience that we had last year, we all know each other and we know what everyone can do. We all know that each person can make the catch that's thrown to them."

Foxx continued: "We've got competition and, of course, competition is going to bring out the best in you. I love the competition, I love how everyone is competing for a spot."

<![CDATA[Diaco Not Ready to Name Starting QB]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 15:13:54 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/casey-cochran-starter-smu.jpg

With the season opener 17 days away, the clock is ticking on who will end up under center when the Huskies face BYU. As it stands, two weeks of practice hasn't done much to separate redshirt senior Chandler Whitmer, redshirt sophomore Casey Cochran and sophomore Tim Boyle.

"All but a few rep differences, they're basically about the same in participation and blend," first-year coach Bob Diaco said, adding that the next few days will be critical in determining a favorite heading into the regular season.

"We need to continue to add to the overall evaluation so that we can find some kind of separator to make this decision," the coach continued. "If we had to make [the decision] today, it would be very hard to make. No one player at this point had clearly separated. Each one has had their particular moments of things that are very, very positive, and things that are very negative. We're pleased with all three. The quarterback position won't be a position that prevents us from winning."

Whomever ends up under center this much is certain: Interceptions are a non-starter, both literally and figuratively. Diaco made that clear earlier this summer when talking about the position.

"I'll hand it to the back 55 times, seriously, then we'll have a chance," he said at the time. "If you turn the ball over you have no chance."

<![CDATA[UConn Women Unveil Non-Conference Schedule]]> Mon, 11 Aug 2014 14:13:54 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/breanna-stewart-nd-finals.png

The UConn women's basketball team unveiled their 2014-15 non-conference schedule Friday. It includes 12 games, highlighted by matchups with long-time rivals Stanford and Notre Dame.

Of the 12 games, four are at home, three on the road and five at a neutral site.

After two exhibition games against Division II teams -- Nov. 1 vs. West Chester University (coach Geno Auriemma's alma mater) and Nov. 9 vs. Post University -- the Huskies will face UC Davis in its preseason opener on Nov. 14.

Then, three days later, it's on to Stanford in a rematch of last year's Final Four game, which UConn won going away, 75-56, on its way to its ninth national title. The Cardinals finished last season ranked No. 6 in the country.

The home opener is set for Nov. 23 when Creighton comes to town. Then it's down to Florida over Thanksgiving to take part in the Gulf Coast Showcase. UConn opens the event against the College of Charleston on Nov. 28.

On Dec. 6, the Huskies are off to South Bend to face one of the few teams that has consistently given them trouble in recent years. Former Big East member Notre Dame will be their opponent in the Jimmy V Classic in a game that will be televised on ESPN.

Two weeks later, on Dec. 21, the Huskies face UCLA at the Mohegan Sun Arena as part of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Women's Holiday Showcase. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

Eight days later, UConn hosts Duke, who finished last season ranked ninth in the country.

Other games include DePaul (Dec. 19), St. John's (Jan. 4), and South Carolina (Feb. 9).

<![CDATA[Kevin Ollie Has Recruiting Edge]]> Mon, 11 Aug 2014 14:09:08 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483304481.jpg

One of the many benefits to winning a national title is that it gives you instant cred in the recruiting game. Not that coach Kevin Ollie needed any; by all accounts, he's a tireless worker on the recruiting trail, but in the competitive business of finding good young basketball players, every advantage help.

And high school players are taking notice.

"[Ollie] is different because he's up front with you," says 6-6 Dwayne Bacon, whom the Huskies have shown a lot of interest in (via the Hartford Courant). "He'll tell you what plans he has for you coming in, and this is coming from a national championship coach."

Another UConn target, Carlton Bragg, a 6-6 forward from Cleveland, added: "The way they develop players, they just came from a national championship ... how they all came together when it was hard. ... "[Ollie] plays open, brings players into the family," Bragg said. "I love his coaching style."

Also not overlooked: How well the program develops guards. Tremont Waters, a 5-10 point guard told the Courant: "All the point guards they produce are doing well, doing bigger things," he said, "and Shabazz Napier graduated, which is very important to me. ... [Ollie] is an open guy. He forces you to get comfortable and [doesn't] make it seem like it's only basketball; he wants you to be part of the family."

UConn may not land all -- or any -- of these players but the message is clear: Ollie is well-respected not just for his ability to coach, but to connect with the kids and their families. It's a huge advantage in a very competitive business. And, right, flashing that national championship ring doesn't hurt either.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Commit Collier Wins US Gold]]> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 13:50:59 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-pat-summitt.jpg

It's not unusual for members of Geno Auriemma's UConn team to represent their country during the summer. It's also not unusual for future Huskies to don the red, white and blue, which is exactly what 2015 commit Napheesa Collier did over the weekend when she helped the United States U-18 national team defeat Candada 104-74 to win the gold medal in the FIBA Americas tournament.

Collier had 18 points and six rebounds in the route of our neighbors to the north.“I feel awesome. It feels awesome to play and win for the USA,” she said, according to SNY.com.

Meanwhile, teammate A'ja Wilson, considered one of the best players in the 2015 class and future South Carolina Gamecock, added 25 points and 11 rebounds and earned Most Outstanding Player honors.

“All my teammates deserve MVP,” Wilson said. ” They are great girls on and off the court. To be chosen is a great feeling, and I’m blessed to be in this position.”

The U.S. went 5-0 in the tournament, winning their games by an average of 44.8 points. The gold medal was the team's seventh straight in U-18 play -- and eighth overall -- and the U.S. is 48-2 in FIBA Americas championship play dating back to 1988.

<![CDATA[Auriemma Talks Team USA, FIBA championships]]> Fri, 08 Aug 2014 14:51:14 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-201314.jpg

In a familiar summer role, Geno Auriemma is heading up a U.S. national team. This time, Team USA is participating in the FIBA world championships next month, and as preparation, they will play several exhibitions both in the States and abroad before heading to Turkey.

And according to USA Basketball (via SNY.com's Carl Adamec), two of those exhibitions -- Team USA’s Red-White intrasquad game on Sept. 11 and the Sept. 15 get-together with Canada -- will be televised on ESPN2.

This is going to be an excellent kick-off to our training, especially the Red-White game in Delaware,” Auriemma said in a statement. “The USA Basketball women’s national team pool is extremely deep and anyone not playing in the WNBA Finals will be fighting for a spot on the USA world championship team. That is going to make for an incredibly competitive game. You know, most of our players say that USA national team practices are oftentimes more competitive than any game they play and this is going to be a great opportunity for our fans to see just how hard these guys play every single day.

"Plus," the coach continued, "there’s a lot at stake in terms of a roster spot, so even though it’s an intrasquad game, it’s going to be fun to watch. For fans who are unable to get to the east coast for these two games, they will still be able to see the team in action (on ESPN2).

“All of these games -- from the Red-White exhibition in Delaware to the final exhibition in Prague -- are going to help us get ready to defend gold in Istanbul.”

<![CDATA[AAC Commish Weighs in on Big-5 Autonomy]]> Fri, 08 Aug 2014 14:32:09 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AAC-logo.jpg

American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco has high hopes for the AAC, but he knows it won't be easy. On Thursday, the NCAA voted to give the Big 5 conferences -- the SEC, ACC, Pac-12, Big Ten and Big 12 -- more autonomy, meaning the power to make their own rules on several issues facing its athletes and competition.

The AAC is not a Big-5 conference, which means they're again on the outside looking in. It's familiar territory for Aresco, but as he's done in the past, the commissioner continues to champion the AAC, comparing it to the bigger, richer conferences. On Thursday, he issued a statement on the conference's future in light of the Big-5 news.

"We are pleased that the NCAA Governance Redesign Model was adopted today by the NCAA Board of Directors. We extend our congratulations to Dr. Nathan Hatch and to the NCAA Steering Committee for its excellent work in designing a model that we believe will enjoy broad acceptance. We also appreciate the exemplary efforts of our NCAA Board representative, Dr. John Hitt of UCF, and our Conference Board chair, Dr. Gerald Turner of SMU, who were deeply engaged in this process.

"Our conference membership supports the new governance model and the opportunities it will present to enhance the student-athlete experience and student-athlete welfare. Our presidents and athletic directors are steadfast in their commitment to these ideals and also to providing our student-athletes with the ability to compete at the highest level of collegiate athletics."

Last month, Aresco "scoffed at the team 'non-power conference' applied to' the AAC, adding: "As I look at our journey, I'm reminded of something St. Francis of Assisi said, 'You should start by doing what is necessary, then doing what is possible, then suddenly you are doing the impossible,'" Aresco said philosophically, before adding: "Michelangelo once said, 'The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.'"

<![CDATA[Drummond Calls Playing for Calhoun 'A Blessing']]> Mon, 11 Aug 2014 14:15:35 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/jim-calhoun-be-careful.jpg

It's almost like a homecoming. The seventh annual Jim Calhoun's Charity All-Star Classic at Mohegan Sun takes place Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET and the Hall of Fame coach is looking forward to seeing those faces that helped the program to four national titles -- all for a great cause.

"Once again, I'm excited about bringing the Connecticut Basketball family back together for this game," Calhoun said, via the Hartford Courant. "It is a great way for me to reconnect with many of my former players, and I know they look forward to gathering together and playing in front of their longtime fans. As important, I'm so pleased that proceeds from the game will go to fight America's No. 1 killer – heart disease."

One of the names who will be in attendance: Ray Allen, who played in Storrs in the mid-1990s and is contemplating on whether to return for a 19th NBA season.

"[Connecticut] has been good to me," Allen said last weekend. "Any time I go up to UConn, it has changed so much, but I like to have a presence here, to impact kids here as much as I can," Allen told the Courant.

Then there's Andre Drummond, the 20-year-old who is growing into his game with the Pistons.

“Playing for Jim Calhoun,” Drummond told the Connecticut News, “not many people can even say they got a chance to speak to him. Just to be able to have him coach me was a blessing and really beneficial.”

All proceeds from the game will go to the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center at UConn Health. The event has raised more than $6.5 million for cardiology research and life-saving care.

<![CDATA[9 Basketball Players Named to AAC All-Academic Team]]> Thu, 07 Aug 2014 13:55:01 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Kevin+Ollie+and+Geno+Auriemma.jpg

The University of Connecticut placed 180 student-athletes on the American Athletic Conference All-Academic team, the AAC announced Wednesday.

The list includes five members of Geno Auriemma's national championship squad: Bria Hartley, Tierney Lawlor, Briana Pulido, Breanna Stewart and Kiah Stokes.

And four members of Kevin Ollie's national championship team were also recognized: Nnamdi Amilo, Omar Calhoun, Pat Lenehan and Leon Tolksdorf.

Details on the nomination process, via the news release:

"To be eligible for the honor, a nominee must have competed in an American Athletic Conference-sponsored sport, attained a minimum grade-point average of 3.00 for the preceding academic year, and completed a minimum of two consecutive semesters or three consecutive quarters of academic work, with a total of 18 semester or 27 quarter credits, not including remedial courses."

Women's rowing led all UConn teams with 31 members named to the AAC All-Academic squad.

<![CDATA[Stewart Ready to Prove He's AAC's Best LB]]> Fri, 08 Aug 2014 14:51:56 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/New+UConn+Helmet_722.jpg

Connecticut native Graham Stewart transferred from the University of Florida to UConn before the 2012 season, but never saw the field that fall after suffering a torn pectoral muscle. Last year, he missed four games with an injury but now the redshirt junior is healthy and ready to contribute.

Stewart, listed at 6-1 and 227 pounds, is currently atop the depth chart at outside linebacker.

"The past is the past, but everywhere I've been, everything I've done has made me the man I am today and I don't care what anybody says," Stewart said, via the Hartford Courant. "You carry things from the past with you and you feed off that, but at the end of the day it has to be an inner, deeper desire to be better and there's not one thing that has happened or a decision I've made that I regret at all. Everywhere I've been and everything I've done I've learned something and also accomplished something."

Coach Bob Diaco, in his first year on the job, has been impressed with Stewart through offseason workouts and the first week of preseason practice.

"What he's shown me that I'm excited about mostly is his ability to be coached," Diaco told the Courant. "Right now his receptors are wide open. All he wants to be is as good as he can be. All is he wants to do is serve the team. He's not a me-me-me guy; he's interjecting at the appropriate times. I'm really pleased with the professionalism that he's approaching each day with. That's his greatest asset."

Meanwhile Stewart, who played mostly special teams at Florida, doesn't lack for confidence.

"I go out there every day trying to be the best Graham Stewart I can be," he said to the Courant. "I feel like I can be one of the best linebackers in this conference and in the country as long as I do the things the coaches want me to do and play the way I know I can. That's it. At the end of the day, got to buckle the chinstrap, go out there and play ball. And me, Graham, I'm a ballplayer. I play ball."

<![CDATA[Ollie Expects Big Things From Calhoun]]> Wed, 06 Aug 2014 15:20:26 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/omar-calhoun-napier.jpg

Omar Calhoun averaged 32 minutes and 11.1 points a game as a freshman, but a sophomore slump saw his playing time -- and production -- slip to 13 minutes and 3.8 points. It was a tough six months for the shooting guard, even as the Huskies were on their way to winning a second national title in three years.

But coach Kevin Ollie has complete faith in Calhoun, who was also recovering from surgery on both hips heading into the 2013-14 season.

“He’s healthy, springy, even more explosive,” Ollie said, via the Hartford Courant. “He’s shooting the ball great, in workouts he is leading, working hard. I expect some great things for him this season. Him not giving up, staying with the team throughout his battles, not shooting the ball well, he never gave in, he was always a great teammate. That’s what I really, really enjoyed seeing because a lot of kids give up in certain situations like that, when it gets tough. It shows me that he‘s got a mind-set that he’s going to be a team player and he’s going to get better from that.”

Back in the spring, while Calhoun was buried on the bench, there was talk that he might transfer. But Calhoun quickly dismissed the idea.

 "Yeah, yeah, definitely," Calhoun said at the time of his intentions to remain in Storrs. "Coach (Kevin) Ollie’s a great guy, he definitely knows what kind of player I am. He’s going to keep working with me. Offseason, I’m definitely going to put a lot of work in and build in to be the kind of player I’m supposed to be.”

And so far, that plan appears to be on course.

<![CDATA[Calhoun's Charity Event to Include Former Greats]]> Thu, 07 Aug 2014 15:45:19 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/jim-calhoun-be-careful.jpg

Jim Calhoun's seventh annual Charity All-Star Game takes place Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena and will include a star-studded group of former UConn greats.

Expected to appear: Ray Allen, Kemba Walker, Andre Drummond, Ben Gordon and Rudy Gay, along with Richard Hamilton, Caron Butler, DeAndre Daniels, Khalid El-Amin, Donyell Marshall, Donny Marshall, Charlie Villanueva, Scott Burrell, Taliek Brown, A.J. Price, Jerome Dyson, Stanley Robinson, John Gwynn, Lyman DePriest and Rod Sellers.

According to the New Haven Register's David Borges, Shabazz Napier is "hopeful" he'll be able to make it.

More via Borges:

Howie Dickenman will coach one team and Tom Moore will coach the other. Kevin Ollie won't play, but instead will help assist Dickenman's team. Jim Calhoun, of course, will be there, as well (provided he doesn't take any bike rides earlier in the day). Typically, he floats around to both benches during the game.

Players on all four of UConn's national championship teams will be represented. Also in the house will be the four national championship trophies, on display up on the concourse.

Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $12-$25 and can be purchased at Ticketmaster. All proceeds will go to the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center at UConn Health. The event has raised more than $6.5 million for cardiology research and life-saving care.

<![CDATA[UConn to Face Charleston in Puerto Rico Tip-Off]]> Thu, 07 Aug 2014 15:45:19 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin-ollie-2014.jpg

UConn will face Charleston in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tip-off, on Thursday, Nov. 20 at 12:30 p.m. ET, the school announced Tuesday. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

The eighth annual event will take place from Nov. 20-23. Other schools taking part in the tournament include: Boston College, Dayton, George Mason, New Mexico, Texas A&M and West Virginia. The final two games -- including the championship, will air on ESPN2.

More details about the participating programs, via UConnHuskies.com:

In addition to NCAA Champion Connecticut (American Athletic), Elite 8 participant Dayton (Atlantic 10) and Mountain West postseason champion New Mexico played in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Other schools competing in the 2014 postseason were Texas A&M (Southeastern, CBI) and West Virginia (Big 12, NIT). Boston College (Atlantic Coast), College of Charleston (Colonial) and George Mason (Atlantic 10) participated in their respective conference tournaments.

College of Charleston (2007), Dayton (2009), George Mason (2009) and West Virginia (2010) will be appearing in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off for the second-time. West Virginia advanced to the 2010 Puerto Rico Tip-Off championship game before losing 74-70 to Minnesota.

Charlotte captured the 2013 Puerto Rico Tip-Off as the 49ers upset nationally-ranked Michigan 63-61 in the finals. In addition to Minnesota, other winners of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off include Miami (Fla., 2007); Xavier (2008); Villanova (2009); Alabama (2011) and Oklahoma State (2012).

UConn is 2-0 lifetime against Charleston, defeating the Cougars 68-52 on Nov. 24, 1990, and 77-60 on Dec. 27, 1995.

<![CDATA[Report: UConn Not in Running for Asia Durr]]> Tue, 05 Aug 2014 12:05:23 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-201314.jpg

We've written previously about Geno Auriemma's recruiting successes, particularly with the incoming and 2015 classes. And while the current class is an unbelievably talented bunch, next year's group is (on paper, anyway) even better.

It includes the nation's best player -- Katie Lou Samuelson -- as well as two others in the top 10 players: Napheesa Collier and De’Janae Boykin. There's also Kia Nurse, a member of the Canadian national team, and Georgetown transfer (and 2013-14 Big East freshman of the year) Natalie Butler.

An impressive haul, for sure, but UConn would gladly add Asia Durr, considered the second-best player in the '15 class. In fact, Bob McCormick, the managing partner and publisher of the recruiting website All-Star Girls Report, said back in May that Durr remained on the radar.

“I think [UConn's] all set. I think all they really to need right now is to find out if they can also get Asia Durr [the highly touted 5-10 guard from Atlanta]. If they get her, too, man, I don’t know what else you can say about it? There is no one else UConn really needs to take.”

But according to SNY.com's Carl Adamec, the Huskies didn't make Durr's list of final five schools, which includes: Baylor, Duke, Louisville, Maryland, and Notre Dame.

Dropped from the running: UConn, Florida State, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Rutgers, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

So Auriemma and the Huskies will have to find a way to get by with highly touted five-person 2015 class. We're guessing they'll manage.

<![CDATA[Ollie Impressed With Brimah's Work Ethic]]> Wed, 06 Aug 2014 11:39:53 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483303993.jpg

Amida Brimah was a pleasant surprise last season. Not many people outside the program expected much from the 7-foot freshman who was a relative newcomer to basketball. But he proved to be invaluable, especially as the Huskies made their late season run to a second national title in three years.

On Monday, coach Kevin Ollie, speaking from his golf tournament, which raises money for athletes with disabilities, spoke glowingly about Brimah's rookie year and how he's preparing for the upcoming season..

"His development, and how he pushes himself, is something I've never seen," Ollie said, via the Hartford Courant.

And despite April surgery on a torn labrum, or fasting during Ramadan in late June, Brimah continues to work hard.

"The kid is just working," Ollie continued. "He recognized Ramadan last month and was on a fast and you couldn't even tell. He was getting three workouts in a day. He was working out with [strength coach Travis Illian], doing the individuals, coming back and workout out on his own -- not eating the whole day," he told the Courant.

"He doesn't make any excuses and say 'I'm fasting' or 'my shoulder,'" the coach said. "No. It's, 'What can I do while I'm doing this that can make myself better?' That's the great attribute that the kid has, and it's going to make his learning curve that much shorter and it's going to get our program on another level."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Report: DeAndre Daniels Headed to Europe]]> Tue, 05 Aug 2014 11:51:27 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483304153.jpg

Months after DeAndre Daniels played some of the best basketball of his college career and helped lead the Huskies to a national title, the small forward was drafted in the second round by the NBA's Toronto Raptors. Last month, we mentioned that Daniels could be headed overseas to play in 2014-15 and now, after the Raptors signed center Lucas Nogueira, Daniels' immediate professional fate could indeed be in Europe.

Details via NBC Sports' Dan Feldman:

Because Nogueira signed within three years of being drafted, he’ll receive a rookie-scale contract for the No. 16 pick in 2014 (the year he’s signed, not drafted).

He gives Toronto 15 players, not including No. 37 pick DeAndre Daniels. The Raptors have until Sept. 6 to offer Daniels a required tender -- a contract, guaranteed or unguaranteed, worth at least the league minimum -- or he becomes a free agent.

Often, in these situations, a team volunteers to use its connections to secure the player an overseas contract. In exchange, the player agrees to decline the required tender, allowing the team to keep his rights.

There has never been any question about Daniels' athleticism or potential, but he struggled with consistency for much of his college career. But a good showing in Europe this season could mean a place on the Raptors roster in 2015 -- or sooner.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Diaco, Huskies Have Strong First Practice]]> Tue, 05 Aug 2014 12:06:08 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/rentschler-field-2012-umass-uconn.jpg

And so it begins. First-year football coach Bob Diaco and the UConn Huskies had their first official preseason practice session Saturday. After an offseason spent instilling a new mindset in his players, Diaco was impressed with what he saw Saturday.

"It shows the amount of investment made during spring and specifically post-spring to come back to the summer conditioning program and be ready to move forward," the coach said, via the Hartford Courant. "I remember saying at the time the next challenge is going to be let's see how they come back after three weeks away ... and they came back ready to move forward from a training standpoint. Everybody participated [Saturday]. Everybody on the team was ready to go."

But one good day of practice doesn't make for a successful season. There's a lot to do between now and Aug. 29, when the Huskies host BYU in the season opener.

"We have a lot of little things to learn," Diaco told the Courant. "We have a lot of small details that obviously it's fun to create as many small details that you can possibly think of during camp because that's a lesson in itself."

Chief among them: Naming a starting quarterback. But even more important than personnel is making sure that whomever's on the field limits silly mistakes that can become the hallmark of underachieving program.

"We wanted to see the things that cause losing eliminated or starting to be eliminated -- 12 men on the field, 10 men on the field, ball security errors, penalties, offsides, things that lack discipline, lining up offsides, not getting aligned, not being in the stance before the ball is snapped," Diaco continued. "Those were all things we wanted not to see at practice."

All in all, though, it was a great start. At this stage of the proceedings -- and based on what we've seen in recent years -- that's all you can ask for.

"Every way, they came to work excited because they were excited and they absolutely a baseline expectation and work is not going to be able to begin any other way," Diaco told the Courant.

<![CDATA[Huskies Hoops Recruit Excited About International Experience]]> Mon, 04 Aug 2014 12:33:55 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-PVAM.jpg

If you think Geno Auriemma's freshman class is ridiculously talented, just wait a year.

In 2015, the group includes the nation's best player -- Katie Lou Samuelson -- as well as two others in the top 10 players: Napheesa Collier and De’Janae Boykin. There's also Kia Nurse, a member of the Canadian national team, and Georgetown transfer (and 2013-14 Big East freshman of the year) Natalie Butler.

But there's a lot of basketball to be played between then and now, and for Collier, that means joining Samuelson and Boykin at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games later in August, almost a month after Samuelson and Boykin helped lead the U.S. FIBA-U17 squad to the gold medal at the world championships in the Czech Republic.

“I got to catch some of (the U-17 tournament) on the USA Basketball website and I kept getting updates,” Collier told snyucon.com's Carl Adamec on Thursday. “Katie Lou was raining threes and De’Janae was doing all the little things that she always does.

“I was just so proud of them and the whole USA team. They played great and now I’m hoping that we can do the same,” she told snyuconn.com.

But before the Youth Olympic Games, Collier will take part in the FIBA U-18 Americas tournament, which starts Wednesday in Colorado Springs, Colorado. After the gold medal game on Aug. 10, Collier will remain in Colorado Springs at the U.S. Olympic Training Facility and join Samuelson and Boykin as they prepare for the Youth Olympic Games, which take place in Nanjing, China from Aug. 16-28.

“We spend two days together here before we go to China and I’m so excited,” Collier told sny.com “It’s so cool to think that the three of us will all get to play together before we get to UConn.”

<![CDATA[Napier Still Excited to Be With Heat]]> Mon, 04 Aug 2014 12:22:17 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/063014+shabazz+napier.jpg

ESPN caught up with Shabazz Napier, the former UConn standout who was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in June before being shipped to the Miami Heat. At the time, it was unclear whether LeBron James would remain in Miami or take his ball and go elsewhere (he ended up returning to Cleveland). Napier spoke about both topics Sunday.

Thoughts on being picked by Charlotte and traded to Miami

"I still feel blessed," Napier told ESPN." I just think that this is a perfect situation for me with this great organization."

Thoughts while James was making his decision about where to play next season

"Honestly, I wasn't thinking anything. I was just trying to learn and adjust (to the NBA game) as quickly as I can. It's definitely different from college," he told ESPN. 

Thoughts about playing for the Heat after James left for the Cavs

""Still the same. I felt like this organization was driven on winning championships and great tradition and that's what I came from. I'm still excited," Napier told ESPN.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[UConn to Face UCLA in Holiday Showcase]]> Mon, 04 Aug 2014 12:38:52 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/breanna-stewart-mop.jpg

The defending national champion Huskies will face UCLA as part of the Hall of Fame Women’s Holiday Showcase, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced Friday. The event will take place on Sunday, December 21 at 5:00 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., and will be televised on ESPN2.

“It is very exciting to announce the first Basketball Hall of Fame Women’s Holiday Showcase at Mohegan Sun Arena,” said John L. Doleva, President and CEO of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, said in a press release. “We are honored to bring two well-respected women’s basketball programs to compete and appreciate the continued support and partnership of Mohegan Sun.”

More details:

The Huskies hold a 2-0 in the all-time series between these two squads. UConn defeated the Bruins, 113-102, on November 17, 1998 in Los Angeles and by a 106-64 score on December 23, 1999 in Connecticut. The 102 points scored by UCLA in the first meeting is tied for the highest point total the Huskies have ever surrendered to an opponent.

“It is an honor to be a part of the Basketball Hall of Fame Women’s Holiday Showcase,” UCLA Head Coach Cori Close said. “To be able to play the reigning national champions in Connecticut will be a huge challenge but also a great opportunity. You couldn’t pick a better arena and the state of Connecticut is very passionate about its basketball, so we are very excited to be in this event.”

And UConn coach Geno Auriemma, who has led the program to nine national titles, added: “I am thrilled to be competing in an event sponsored by the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame for a second-straight season. UCLA is going to be much improved this season and this matchup promises to be an exciting one. Mohegan Sun Arena is a fun place to play and I am happy that our fans in Southeastern Connecticut have this opportunity to come watch us play in their backyard.”

On Thursday, it was announced that the Huskies will face St. John's in the annual Maggie Dixon Classic, at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 4.

<![CDATA[UConn to Face St. John's at MSG]]> Fri, 01 Aug 2014 19:16:17 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-champion.jpg

Coach Geno Auriemma and the two-time defending national champion UConn Huskies will face St. John's in the annual Maggie Dixon Classic, MSG Sports and the Dixon family announced Thursday, via the University of Connecticut.

The game will take place Jan. 4 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Details via the news release: "UConn, who has captured nine NCAA Championships, will be making their fourth trip (2008, 2010, 2013) to New York City to compete in the Maggie Dixon Classic while the Red Storm of St. John’s will be making their fourth consecutive appearance in the annual event."

Auriemma said last month that he always looks forward to playing at MSG.

“It’s the Garden,” he said, via SNY.com. “If we could play a game at the Garden every year it would be unbelievable. It’s New York. The kids love it. The fans love it. It’s a win-win for everyone. I’ve loved it at the Garden since the first time I set foot in the building.”

More via the release: "The Maggie Dixon Classic is held annually in memory of the former Army Black Knights women’s basketball coach. On April 6, 2006, 29 year old Maggie Dixon died from an undiagnosed heart condition. Over the course of her six months as head coach at the United States Military Academy she led the program to unprecedented heights; the Black Knights played in their first Patriot League Championship and Dixon led her team to their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.

"Over 325,000 Americans die every year from sudden cardiac arrest and Madison Square Garden will again team with the Dixon family to host a Heart Health Fair during the game."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Football Adds 13th Commit for 2015]]> Thu, 31 Jul 2014 11:26:34 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/New+UConn+Helmet_722.jpg

The Huskies have yet to have their first official training camp practice under Bob Diaco, but the first-year coach and his staff have been busy beating the bushes on the recruiting trail. The latest addition: cornerback Justice Pettus-Dixon (Baltimore, MD), verbally committed to UConn Wednesday.

Considered a top recruit out of St. Frances, Pettus-Dixon also had offers from N.C. State, Boston College, Cincinnati, New Mexico, Oregon St. and Marshall, according to SNY.com's John Silver.

Pettus-Dixon makes 13 UConn commits for 2015. The expectation is that Diaco will look for roughly 20 players in the '15 class. Pettus-Dixon now joins a Huskies group that includes LB Nazir Williams, DB Aaron Garland, DB John V. Robinson, TE Chris Lee, TE Ian Campbell, TE Aaron McLean, QB Tyler Davis, DT Kevin Murphy, OLB Connor Freeborn, DE Phillipe Okunam, S Marshe Terry and TE Ben Hartwick.


<![CDATA[UConn, Florida to Meet on Jan. 3]]> Fri, 01 Aug 2014 13:13:32 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/deandre-daniels-dunk-UF.jpg

College basketball is all about rivalries, both old and new. And for the Florida Gators, it doesn't get much fresher than a rematch with the Huskies, the team that beat them twice last season, including in the Final Four on their way to a second title in three years.

On Wednesday, Florida released its non-conference schedule and it will travel to Connecticut to face the Huskies on Jan. 3, 2015.

The teams first met last season on Dec. 2. A last-second Shabazz Napier shot proved to be the difference in that game. In the months before the Final Four rematch, the Gators reeled off 30 straight wins while the Huskies struggled early in conference play before finding their groove down the stretch and into the postseason.

In the Final Four get-together -- in front of 70,000 fans -- DeAndre Daniels scored 20 points, pulled down 10 rebounds and led the Huskies to a 63-53 victory.

Everybody was at a Level 5 and that was the most important thing," Ollie said after the win. "Whoever I put in the game was positive and they were productive ... and everybody had 10 toes in. I told you, they're fighters. So (even) if we get down, we keep fighting, keep believing in each other. DeAndre was huge for us, he stepped up and rebounded, it's all about touches with him. When he plays with energy like this, he's unstoppable."

The Huskies will look a lot different when the face the Gators early in 2015; Napier, Daniels and Niels Giffey are playing professionally and Rodney Purvis, who redshirted last season, will be an integral part of the backcourt along with senior Ryan Boatright.

In addition to facing the Huskies, the Gators will also have regular-season match ups against Miami, Kansas, Wake Forest and Florida State. And much like the Huskies a season ago, the hope is that Florida comes out the other side battle-tested.

"This difficult schedule will not only prepare our team for league and postseason play, it delivers a terrific lineup of marquee games for our fans," said Mike Hill, UF's executive associate athletic director for external affairs, via USAToday.com. "From hosting the defending national champions, to renewing the Miami rivalry, to playing in perhaps the toughest tournament ever assembled, this schedule has it all for the Gators."

<![CDATA[Tuck Granted Medical Hardship Waiver]]> Thu, 31 Jul 2014 11:07:52 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/morgan-tuck-title.jpg

After a frustrating season on the court for Morgan Tuck -- one that included just eight games during the Huskies' championship run -- the would-be junior has been granted a medical hardship waiver for the 2013-14 season, the school announced Wednesday.

That means she'll have three years of eligibility remaining when she returns to action, which should be in time for the 2014-15 season. Tuck underwent two medical procedures on her right knee last season.

“I always wish the process could go faster," Tuck told the Hartford Courant's John Altavilla in June. "Anyone who is hurt always does. I am happy with where I am. Rosie [Ragle, UConn’s athletic trainer] tells me I am right where I need to be. So now the next step for me will be to sprint and do the full conditioning workout aside from the treadmill. I can’t tell the difference between the knees when I run. But I do get tired because I am not in shape. My knee feels better than it has in a very long time.”

With Stefanie Dolson now in the WNBA, Tuck, who averaged 7.5 points and 2.4 rebounds per game last season, will be a key cog in the Huskies' frontcourt success.

When Tuck returns to the court she'll be joined by a formidable recruiting class that includes the nation's best player -- Katie Lou Samuelson -- as well as two others in the top 10: Napheesa Collier and De’Janae Boykin. There's also Kia Nurse, a member of the Canadian national team, and Georgetown transfer (and 2013-14 Big East freshman of the year) Natalie Butler.

<![CDATA[Diaco Excited to Start Practice]]> Wed, 30 Jul 2014 10:53:32 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/bob+diaco+uconn+introduced.jpg

Bob Diaco has a plan, one that he's been putting in place since December, when the University of Connecticut hired him to be its football coach. He's tasked with turning around a program that went 3-9 last season and 5-7 in the two seasons before that.  Now he's days away from the start of his first training camp, and for anybody even half-paying attention, he's fired up.

But there's more to winning than enthusiasm. Diaco has spent part of the off-season instilling in his players what it means to be successful, despite the recent lack of it not to mention the constant reminders. For example, on Tuesday, the Huskies ranked 9th out of 11 teams in the AAC's preseason standings.

"I'm not going to say [the players] aren't thinking about it because that's a development piece that I still need to have a teaching moment with them," Diaco said from AAC media day. "So if you ask them the question, they might give a different answer than I'm giving. It has no bearing. It will not be brought up. It's of no weight or a concern to our team for 2014. I'm not going to say we're not going to read it; I'm not going to say they're not going to talk about it; I'm not going to say they're not going to talk about it in the locker room – but it can't be an energy for us.

"We need to be very guarded and careful with what we use to take and walk down our path. The energy necessary to do the things necessary to create a successful team is what we're talking about and that's not one of them."

As for how Diaco plans to keep everyone focused it starts with stairs. Confused? The coach explained Tuesday.

"If you've ever been to the backside of the Burton Family Football Complex, I've never walked those stairs with the players to go to practice," he said, via the Hartford Courant. "If I look down the road until the end of August or September or October or November, I am going trip over one of those stairs. ...

"I'm definitely going to need to focus on those stairs," Diaco continued. "I know it's just imagery with humor in it, but it's a fact. Camp is going to intensely focus on a task with a collection of people that are there to intensely focus on a task. That's what we do and that's a big reason I can't wait to sequester ourselves with the coaches and the team for the duration of the time."

Translation: Don't get caught up on the hype -- preseason polls, individual honors or anything else -- and focus on what's right in front of you.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[UConn QB Battle Begins in Earnest]]> Thu, 31 Jul 2014 11:27:03 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Casey+Cochran+1200.jpg

The biggest issue facing Bob Diaco as he begins his first training camp is who will be the team's starting quarterback. Casey Cochran led the team to three straight wins -- their only wins, in fact -- down the stretch, but Timmy Boyle got some much-needed experience during a handful of midseason starts, and veteran Chandler Whitmer was the team's primary starter in 2012.

Not surprisingly, all three are in the mix for snaps with the first team, Diaco said from AAC Media Day Tuesday but there won't be a decision on who will start until two weeks or so before the season opener.

Whomever ends up under center this much is certain: Interceptions are a non-starter, both literally and figuratively.

"I'll hand it to the back 55 times, seriously, then we'll have a chance," Diaco said. "If you turn the ball over you have no chance."

And like his predecessor, Paul Pasqualoni, it sounds like more than one quarterback will see action.

"We're going to have a starting quarterback, but we're going to have more than one quarterback playing the games," he said.

As for what the quarterbacks can expect in the coming weeks, Diaco gave a glimpse of the preparation process back in May.

"We try to put our quarterbacks in high-stress situations during practice and being sure we evaluate their decision-making process," he said at the time. "When challenges arise, we want our quarterback to be accountable, responsible and protective of teammates and not looking for an excuse."

While we sort out the QB depth chart this much is certain: senior wideout Geremy Davis will be the primary target for whomever's throwing passes for the Huskies.

“He may not run the very fastest time, but he doesn’t use that for separation or ability to get open,” Diaco said. “He has unique traits, he reminds me of Michael Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald of Pitt, not at that level, but that body. He’s hard to cover.

“He’s more physical than the defensive backs who will try to cover him and faster than the linebackers. He catches everything in his catch radius.”

Fun officially starts Saturday when training camp opens.

<![CDATA[Aresco Expects Big Things From AAC]]> Wed, 30 Jul 2014 10:31:52 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP144808893745.jpg

If nothing else, you have to respect the unbridled optimism American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco puts out there, even when it's a seemingly impossible task.

The AAC enters the 2014 football season on the outside looking in, at least in the sense that they're not part of one of the five power conferences. But as far as Aresco's concerned, those are only words and mostly meaningless.

"I scoff at the term 'non power conference' applied to us," said at AAC football media day, via the Hartford Courant.

"As I look at our journey, I'm reminded of something St. Francis of Assisi said, 'You should start by doing what is necessary, then doing what is possible, then suddenly you are doing the impossible,'" Aresco said philosophically, before adding: "Michelangelo once said, 'The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.'"

Put another way: The AAC might not be a "power conference" but it doesn't matter, as far as Aresco is concerned.

"We're not going to take a back seat to anyone," the commissioner said. "We see the landscape as five plus one and we're knocking on the door and we eventually will knock it down. Our goal is to be in the conversation as the sixth power conference. I believe by virtue of our performance we already are."

Two years ago, Aresco might have been laughed out of the room. Now, not so much. UCF outlasted Baylor and its high-powered offense in the Fiesta Bowl last season and UConn won both the men's and women's national championship in April. Aresco also noted that AAC teams have beaten 37 of 64 of the power schools -- and Notre Dame -- in the last five years.

"We pretty much did the impossible," Aresco said. "The exception, of course, is the UConn women. They do the impossible routinely.

"We hear that the new NCAA governance system, which allows autonomy in limited areas, will cause us somehow to be left behind, that resources of those conferences are simply too great. I don't buy that for a minute and what we did this year proves it."

And the process starts again this weekend when the Huskies begin training camp ahead of the 2014 football season.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Shabazz on the NBA Learning Curve]]> Wed, 30 Jul 2014 10:54:27 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/216*120/shabazz072914.jpg UConn legend Shabazz Napier was back in the state to coach at a summer basketball camp and talked about his struggles in the NBA summer league, Lebron James and the chip on his shoulder.]]> <![CDATA[Huskies Picked 9th in Preseason Poll]]> Wed, 30 Jul 2014 10:54:27 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/casey-cochran-starter-smu.jpg

By now, we're used to it. Doesn't mean we have to accept it, but the reality is that the Huskies football team hasn't been very good in recent years and that's been reflected in the conference subsequent preseason polls. And this time around is no different.

UConn was picked to finish ninth in the preseason American Athletic Conference poll, which was released Tuesday morning (via SNY.com).

UConn finished 3-9 last year -- including a nine-game losing streak to start the season -- and went 5-7 in the two previous years under Paul Pasqualoni. Bob Diaco, hired in December, will coach his first game for UConn next month.

Here's the full AAC preseason poll:

1. Cincinnati (17)
2. UCF (7)
3. Houston (6)
4. East Carolina
5. SMU
6. USF
7. Memphis
8. Temple
9. UConn
9. Tulane
11. Tulsa

If nothing else, all the talk of preseason polls brings us to the point we make every offseason, where it seems fitting to end with a quote from former Huskies coach Randy Edsall. In 2010 after the Huskies were picked fourth in the Big East, Edsall had this to say: “My reaction is the same as it was last year. Who cares? We don’t get excited about preseason polls. It’s all about what you do on the field.”

<![CDATA[Napier Working Camps, Ready for Heat]]> Tue, 29 Jul 2014 11:26:42 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483308981.jpg

Shabazz Napier is now a member of the Miami Heat but he's on a short break between the summer league schedule and the start of the season. In the meantime, he's returned to Connecticut, where he spent the last four years helping the Huskies win two national titles.

This week, he's working camps for All Pro Sports.

"I was one of those kids growing up, inspired by Antoine Walker at his camp and a lot of other camps I went to, so for me to be in the position now -- it's something that I'm grateful for," Napier told the Hartford Courant's Dom Amore. "I appreciate it. Those kids that inspire me because I inspire them. That's just something beautiful to know.

"At their age I didn't know better. You just try to give them the basics and just let them enjoy the basketball, because at this stage the sport is supposed to be enjoyed. When you get older, you realize that it's more business. You just try to enjoy as much basketball as you can at this age."

Napier found out about the business side of the game almost immediately after he was drafted. Originally selected by the Hornets, he was traded to the Heat where the hope was that the addition of a top-flight point guard would entice LeBron James to stay in Miami. It didn't work and now the Heat have gone from perennial playoff team to finding themselves smack dab in the middle of a the rebuilding process.

As for what Napier needs to do to get better, the answer's pretty simple.

"Everything," he said. "I don't pick on one thing. Everything -- my decision-making, my shot selection, everything about it. Going into a new offense, a new organization, there's new schemes you've got to learn. Some of the schemes we did at UConn, they're not teaching in Miami. So I'm trying to understand and adjust to that organization, their rules and their schemes. It's something you've got to learn and it's not going to come quickly. It's going to come in time."

The sooner the better, as far as the Heat are concerned. But if college is any guide, it won't take Napier long to be a difference maker.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[New UConn Practice Gym Close to Finished]]> Tue, 29 Jul 2014 11:32:11 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/new-uconn-bball-facility.jpg

One of the best basketball programs in the country -- in the men's and women's game -- deserves a practice facility to reflect that. For the Huskies, that dream will soon be reality; the UConn Basketball Champions Center is nearing completion, the school announced Saturday.

Details, via the news release:

"The new 78,000 square foot facility features practice gyms for the men’s and women’s basketball programs, along with locker rooms, coaches’ offices, and area for academic support, video analysis, sports medicine and strength training.

"The facility allows basketball student athletes to practice, train, study and dine in one location.

"The two practice gyms are near completion and many other areas of the building are also in the final stages of construction."

(Image via UConn's Twitter feed)

<![CDATA[Daniels Could Be Headed to Europe]]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 10:31:07 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483283511.jpg

We mentioned it briefly Thursday but DeAndre Daniels, the Raptors' second-round pick in last month's NBA Draft, almost certainly won't be on the bench for the big club this season. Instead, as often happens with young players who need more experience, he'll be shipped to a lower league to get playing time all while gaining confidence and getting physically stronger.

According to the Toronto Sun, Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri "has indicated Daniels will be stashed in Europe for a year to get some much-needed playing time."

If you're new to "stashing" -- and we were until recently -- here's a quick primer, courtesy of SheridanHoops.com:

Since second-round picks usually are not guaranteed to make NBA rosters, teams can use Europe (or Australia, Asia and South America) as a viable option to develop their draft picks on someone else’s dime while still retaining the rights to the player down the road.

Typically, European players took this route to continue their development on their home continent, delaying their arrival stateside until they expanded their skills or had a more relaxed escape clause in their contract.

However, the D-League ‘s spartan rookie pay scale has made playing overseas a viable option even for American rookies, who despite being drafted may not want to risk getting cut in training camp and being forced to play for pennies in the minors.

There has never been any question about Daniels' athleticism or potential, but he struggled with consistency for much of his college career. That said, Daniels got hot late in the season and was a vital cog in the Huskies' championship run. A good showing in Europe this season could mean a place on the Raptors roster in 2015 -- or sooner.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[KML Looking Forward to Senior Season]]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 10:25:22 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP116320717091%281%29.jpg

It's hard to believe that Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis is entering her senior season. It seems like it was three months -- not three years -- that the former high school player of the year was making her way to Storrs for the first time.

And yet here we are: two national championships later, one of the best pure shooters in college basketball is gearing up for her last go round. Along with Kiah Stokes, Mosqueda-Lewis is the only senior on the roster.

“There is definitely a lot more pressure, and a lot more responsibility,” she told SNY.com's Carl Adamec recently. “But the people on this team, they take care of themselves.”

That pressure is lessened considerably playing alongside rising junior Breanna Stewart, who also happens to be the best player in the country. Then there's point guard Moriah Jefferson, not to mention the highly touted incoming freshmen: Sadie Edwards, Courtney Ekmark, Kia Nurse, and Gabby Williams.

But like the seniors that preceded her -- Kelly Faris, Bria Hartley and Stefanie Dolson, for example -- Mosqueda-Lewis will be counted on to provide veteran leadership.

“I’m excited for this year,” she said. “It’s a new year, we have a great team, and I’m excited to play with the freshmen. Yeah, we lost Stef and Bria, but I’m really excited about what this year is going to bring.”

Earlier this summer, coach Geno Auriemma admitted that he wanted Mosqueda-Lewis in better shape after an injury-plagued 2013-14 season. And Mosqueda-Lewis is doing just that.

“Personally what I am working on right now is just getting in the best shape that I can,” she said. “I would like to go back to trying to get to the basket more, get fouled more. I didn’t really go to the basket as much and get fouled last year.”

And as Adamec notes, there's also another reason: a big senior season will in all likelihood translate into a high-round pick in the WNBA Draft.

“There is still a lot of work I have to do," Mosqueda-Lewis conceded, "and Coach will probably be the first person to tell you that.”

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Giffey Signs With German Team]]> Mon, 28 Jul 2014 10:25:26 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP269919261435.jpg

Niels Giffey went undrafted last month, but joined the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies summer league team before moving onto the Utah Jazz. And now he's headed back to Germany after signing a three-year deal with with Alba Berlin, his hometown EuroLeague team, the club's website reported.

The Connecticut Post's Kevin Duffy caught up with Giffey to talk about everything from the Huskies' championship run in the spring, to the Germans winning the World Cup last week, to Giffey's professional basketball travels over the last month or so.

"It's going to be different for me than for other players because I'm actually going back home, and a lot of people with the staff there already know me," Giffey said of returning to Germany, "but at the end of the day it's a little more business than college basketball."

On his brief NBA summer league experience. "There really was no chance for me because they had a couple of guys they drafted this year and in previous years that they wanted to see," Giffey said of his time in Memphis. "They pretty much just benched me. As I saw that happening, I knew there was interest from Utah, so I went out to Utah and started practicing with them."

Giffey went 3-for-14 from the floor -- including 1-for-5 from behind the arc -- during his Las Vegas summer league games.

On the Huskies' run to its second title in three years. "There was never the moment when we came into the gym and thought we were unbeatable," he said. "You really had to take each game at a time, but when we came to the Sweet 16 and started stopping these big-bodied guys -- that was always one of our weaknesses -- like Michigan State and Adreian Payne, when we did that, there was no doubt in my mind that we could win it."

And now Giffey returns to where his basketball dreams all started: home in Germany.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Cochran Nominated for Good Works Team]]> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 10:56:37 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/casey-cochran-starter-smu.jpg

On the same day teammate Geremy Davis found his way onto the Biletnikoff Watch List, quarterback Casey Cochran was nominated for the 2014 Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team.

Details via the AFCA release:

The team recognizes players whose charitable involvement and community service contributions stand out among others. Since its establishment in 1992, the award has existed to pay tribute to the good in college football that extends beyond the wins and the losses. The final roster of 22 award recipients will be unveiled in September.

Cochran is a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee at UConn, which oversees community service projects for the entire University and also serves as a voice between student-athletes and the athletic department.

He has regularly spoken to students at the Stafford Springs (Conn.) Elementary School about athletics and academics. Cochran has also been part of a group of football student-athletes that visit elementary schools in East Hartford and Manchester, Conn.

Cochran has volunteered at the New London (Conn.) Community Meal Center helping prepare and serve food and as an Athlete-Reader at the New London Elementary Schools.

Cochran, who is in good position to win the starting job as the Huskies' quarterback in 2014, was named to the American Athletic Conference All-Academic team last season. In eight games -- including four starts -- Cochran led UConn to its only three wins, all while setting the school's single-game passing record (461 yards) against Memphis.

<![CDATA[Stewart, Moore Honored at ESPYs]]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 10:31:24 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/breanna-stewart-nd-finals.png

Breanna Stewart and Maya Moore never played together at UConn but two of the best players to come through Geno Auriemma's program in recent years were both honored Wednesday night at the annual ESPYs.

Stewart, a rising junior, won Best Female College Athlete, and Moore, now with the Minnesota Lynx,was named the Best WNBA Player.

More details via the press release:

UConn has had a total of 16 ESPY winners since 1993, with seven coming since 2010.

Stewart, who averaged 19.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in 2013-14 , becomes the first Husky to win the accolade since Moore won three straight from 2009-11. The 6-4 forward was tabbed as the AP, USBWA, and espnW Player of the Year following UConn's perfect 40-0 season.

The Syracuse, N.Y. native led UConn in scoring in 22 contests, scoring a total of 777 points in her sophomore year. The 2013-14 American Athletic Conference Player of the Year, Stewart joined Diana Taurasi as the only Huskies to earn Final Four Most Outstanding Player in two years after earning the honor in both 2013 and 2014.

Moore was recognized after leading the Minnesota Lynx to the 2013 WNBA title, earning the Finals MVP award. As a student-athlete, she led UConn to a 150-4 record over her four-year career, which included four Final Four appearances and two National Championships. She finished her career as the fourth-leading scorer in NCAA history with 3,036 points and was honored as the Capital One University Division Academic All-American of the Year and BIG EAST Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2010 and 2011.

The Huskies had a total eight ESPY nominations: Auriemma and Kevin Ollie were up for best coach; Shabazz Napier was nominated for Best Championship Performance; and Stewart and Moore also received nominations for Best Female Athlete.

<![CDATA[Daniels Talks About NBA]]> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 10:54:25 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483304153.jpg

DeAndre Daniels was a second-round pick of the Raptors last month, and like most other rookies, he's taking part in the NBA Summer League. The former UConn standout spoke recently about transitioning to the professional game.

On moving from power forward in college to small forward in the NBA. "That's what I've been working on since I was in high school," Daniels said, and I played (small forward) in college some a little bit ... but I'm just a basketball player. Whatever the coaching staff tells me to do I'm going to do it."

Lessons of facing much better competition from one game to the next. "It's definitely a learning experience, just learning how to play the game that's different from college -- different spacing and just trying to learn all the defensive techniques, guys helping and rotating. I feel like that's what we need to focus on more."

You can watch the entire interview below:

Last weekend, Daniels and the Raptors played in Las Vegas and in three games Daniels scored 7, 12 and 16 points. According to SB Nation's UConn Blog, Daniels could be shipped off to Europe to gain some much needed experience.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>