<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - Sports]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.png NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.com en-us Fri, 31 Oct 2014 22:48:27 -0400 Fri, 31 Oct 2014 22:48:27 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Brimah Looks to Improve on Freshman Season]]> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 17:02:49 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483303993.jpg

Sophomore center Amida Brimah was named to the American Athletic Conference preseason 2nd team earlier this week. At the AAC media day in New York City, senior point guard Ryan Boatright talked about what to expect from the big man this season.

"His game has evolved so much on the offensive end," Boatright said, via the New Haven Register. "Everybody already knows he’s a force to be reckoned with on the defensive end, but I’ve seem him put a lot of work in this summer on his offensive game. He has a knock-down, 15-footer now. He has a tremendous right-hand hook. I’m proud of the work he put in.”

Little was expected of Brimah as a freshman but his high motor and uncanny knack for getting rebounds and altering shots made him a value member of the Huskies' front court.

“I don’t think (off-season surgery) held me back this summer," Brimah said. "When my shoulder was hurt, I would do stuff with my right hand to work on my form and shooting and stuff. As soon as I couldn’t do the upper-body lifts, I was doing a lot of leg workouts and stuff like that. I made up for it. I think I have a pretty good jumper. My post moves have gotten way better.”

Earlier this month coach Kevin Ollie was asked about his expectations for Brimah.

"I expect him to be a consistent player for us," he told CBSSports.com. "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."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Calhoun Has High Expectations for Junior Season]]> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 16:55:26 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/omar-calhoun-napier.jpg

If there's one word to describe the 2014-15 Huskies two weeks before the start of the season it's "expectations." Some of the biggest expectations fall on the shoulders of junior guard Omar Calhoun, who struggled with injuries and inconsistency last season, and saw his playing time dwindle as the Huskies geared up for their title run.

A knee injury earlier this week will sideline Calhoun for several weeks, but when he returns, he plans to let his play make everyone forget about his sophomore season.

"The people closest to me know the kind of person I am, that I'm always a hard worker and I'm determined to be successful," Calhoun told TheDay.com recently. "I'm not a quitter. I'm going to keep fighting.

"People closest to me knew I was going to come back even stronger this year. Obviously, people that weren't so close to me thought about me leaving or going somewhere else. At the end of the day, my mind was focused on coming back this year and making a big impact."

Calhoun's teammates have noticed the change.

"A whole different player," senior Ryan Boatright said. "He's back being Omar. He's talking stuff, hitting shots and dunking. He's just got his confidence. He's got his whole little swagger back. I'm glad that he got it back. And he put a lot of work in this summer -- I witnessed it -- to get back to where he is now."

Coach Kevin Ollie, who has supported Calhoun all offseason, was asked at Wednesday's AAC media day about the sharpshooting guard.

“Omar’s doing great," Ollie said. "We had the MRI come back, everything was structurally sound. He does have a little sprain in his MCL, but I think he’s gonna be back, hopefully in time for the season’s start. If not, we’re gonna go with the guys that we have. But it was great results we got back from the doctor, saying there was no structural damage and he’s just gonna have to rehab.

“You saw Omar handle adversity well last year," Ollie continued. "That’s the beautiful thing about Omar.”

<![CDATA[Stewart in Walking Boot, Everything's Fine]]> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 16:51:16 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/breanna-stewart-nd-finals.png

In perhaps the least surprising news of the preseason, UConn tops the American Athletic Conference coaches poll. Makes sense after a 40-0 mark last season and back-to-back national titles. Also not surprising: junior Breanna Stewart was the unanimous preseason AAC Player of the Year a season after she brought home the 2014 AAC Player of the Year award, was a consensus first-team All-American, the Naismith Award winner, and Associated Press and United States Basketball Writers Player of the Year.

Things are going so well for the Huskies that coach Geno Auriemma said Thursday at media day that there's no reason to be alarmed by Stewart's walking boot.

“It’s probably been like a week, week and a half,” Stewart said, via SNY.com's Carl Adamec. “I’m not sure if it was practice or something just happened or just over time.

“It’s not anything serious. I’m in a boot so it takes the pressure off of walking on that part of the ball of my foot. But I’m still practicing, going about everything. It’s discomforting. I’ll be fine.”

Not only has Stewart practiced, she's expected to play in this weekend's preseason game.

"I’m in the boot because they think it’s smart,” she said. “It’s a precaution thing. And then my left shoe really doesn’t get dirty, I guess.

“It’s hard because the season’s starting so there not much you can do. I can play on it so I’m going to play. And it’s just a thing where you rehab it. You’re off it. You’re not trying to put as much pressure on it. But at the same time you’re going to go out and play in a game.”

<![CDATA[Patriots D Has Tough Job of Slowing Manning]]> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 16:19:05 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Peyton-Manning-celebration-aptopix.jpg

The problem with trying to defend Peyton Manning is that in his 16-year NFL career he's seen just about everything. Not only that, he's one of the best anticipatory passers ever. As in: He throws the ball before the wide receiver -- and certainly the defender -- knows it's coming. That's nearly impossible to stop.

So for the Patriots, the plan isn't to try to shut Manning down, but to slow him down. Which is also much more difficult than it sounds.

"I would say the chess game is pretty one-sided," Patriots safety Devin McCourty said, according to ESPN.com. "It's like being a kid going against a father in chess. He's a very smart quarterback. He knows what he wants to do.

"Most the time he knows what the defense is in, so if what he had planned isn't going to work, he's going to get the offense in something else. I think that's what you see out there on the field and I think a lot of times people talk about trying to know what's in his head and know what he's trying to do, but he's really just going off us. We end up in something at the last minute, he knows and then he goes to something else."

Perhaps most troubling for the Patriots' defense is that Manning is better this year than he was in 2014 when he threw 55 touchdowns.

"I feel like it's another year, same story going against Peyton," McCourty said. "He's getting the ball where it needs to be, either vertical or short. Whatever the defense gives him, he takes full advantage of it. There's not much you can do that he doesn't know."

The Patriots will be tasked with slowing Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas, while playing cat-and-mouse with a Hall of Fame quarterback.

"It's kind of like we talked about a little bit last week, where there's going to be times where we're just going to have to go cover the guys," McCourty said. "Same as last week, you can't double everybody. They have a lot of weapons [that] on other teams they'd be the star guy where you just double him and defend everybody else. You can go down the line with all those guys that are out there. You can't do that, even if you do choose to double one, [Manning is] going to find it and throw to somebody else.

"It's going to come down to a lot of matchups one-on-one where you've just got to try and make a play. Obviously you go by their numbers and their games -- they've made a fair share of those plays and the defense really hasn't. We're going to have to just go out there and compete. That' s the thing when you play in these type of games. It's just going to come down to competing. You go against great players, they're going to make some plays. But we've got to try to make ours, too."

Manning isn't perfect, but that's easy to forget given how well he's played this season. That said, given how well the Patriots have played this month, we like them to win Sunday.

<![CDATA[Jets-Chiefs: It's Not a (Complete) Waste of Time]]> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 11:31:41 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP356575141239.jpg

Yes, there actually are a few reasons to watch Sunday’s Jets-Chiefs game. Well… it could get you out of weekend chores, if you can somehow convince the other members of your household that it’s a meaningful game (Good luck with that one!). Plus, there are many, many worse things to do that sit in your recliner watching football -- any football -- while stuffing your face with leftover Halloween candy.

Then again, there’s also the chance to see if Michael Vick actually has anything left in the tank as a starting QB, or if he’s become as bad as his play this year has indicated, as well as an opportunity to check out the Chiefs, who two potential candidates for Jets GM John Idzik’s job have helped build into a decent team.

Idzik’s imminent departure may not be a done deal -- unlike Rex Ryan’s -- but it’s pretty hard to believe that owner Woody Johnson will bring him back for another season after the disastrous campaign that’s occurred on Idzik’s watch. Scott Pioli, who was general manager of the Chiefs for four seasons before being canned amid Andy Reid’s 2013 arrival, is thought to be a contender for the Jets GM job, as is Chris Ballard, who’s currently Kansas City’s director of player personnel after having spent a decade as a Chicago Bears scout.

Pioli is now assistant GM with the Falcons, who may face a front office shakeup of their own after wining just six of their last 24 games. His Atlanta bio boasts of his having drafted such Pro Bowl talents as Eric Berry, Justin Houston, Dontari Poe and Dexter McCluster while at the Chiefs’ helm. That is an impressive run, and to those who would question how hard it is to select good players with really high draft picks (Berry and Poe were both chosen among the top dozen picks in their respective drafts), I’d say -- and I’m sorry to sound like a broken record -- Vernon Gholston and Dewayne Robertson. And, for those yearning for the good old days, let’s throw in Lam Jones and Blair Thomas for good measure.

My biggest issue with Pioli is that he had two chances to choose head coaches with the Chiefs, and his picks -- Todd Haley and Romeo Crennel -- made uninspired look inspiring. Considering anyone who’s ever watched Haley on the sideline inevitably wants to strangle him after 30 seconds, I can only imagine what his players felt. As for Crennel, I’ll simply say that his career record is significantly worse than Rich Kotite’s. My biggest issue with Ballard is that the definitive accomplishments he can list on a resume pale in comparison with that of my 10-year-old son.

Whoever is chosen to run the Jets will likely be choosing a QB with a very high draft pick in 2015. And whichever QB is selected will probably either sit behind (at least for a short while) or be shadowed by a veteran signal caller. Might that be Vick, who’ll be a very spry 35 next season? Stranger things have happened, especially for Gang Green.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Dress Up as Contenders for Halloween]]> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 10:10:54 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/160*120/4367b3233ecc4c25b78c071bb14e426e.jpg

Washington just beat the Cowboys with Colt McCoy at quarterback, the Steelers just dropped 51 points on the Colts, and the Giants hopefully observed these developments and concluded, “Hot damn, this NFL season is wide open!”

Eli Manning and the G-Men have won two Super Bowls since 2007, and in neither instance were they considered favorites as the postseason began.

In 2007, when the Giants ended the Patriots’ bid for an undefeated season, New York was 10-6 and entered the playoffs as the No. 5 seed.

In 2011, when the Giants ended the Patriots’ bid to wash 2007 out of their mouths, New York went 9-7 and entered the playoffs as the No. 4 seed after winning the NFC East.

This year, when ending the Patriots’ season would be a hilarious hat trick, the Giants have the opportunity to finish with a better record than either of their two recent Super Bowl-winning seasons. The biggest difference? The Giants are 3-4 entering Week 9 this year, whereas they were 6—2 at the same point in 2007 and 5-2 at the same point in 2011.

People like to remember the Giants as upstart, out-of-the-blue teams in those Super Bowl-winning years, but they really weren’t. They were just wildly inconsistent, and they chose the second-half of the season (though obviously not the playoffs) to be the Hyde to their Jekyll.

This year they’ll have to flip the script.

The 2014 Giants are a team that can beat the also-rans of the league (Houston, Washington, Atlanta) but can’t play complete games against the contenders (Detroit, Arizona, Philadelphia, Dallas).

So who do they start the second half of the season playing? Four straight contenders: Indianapolis, @Seattle, San Francisco, Dallas.

“Well, those are four definite losses,” said every NFL observer when the schedule was released.

Indeed when the team assessed the schedule upon its release, this stretch of games looked like “Murderers' Row,” General Manager Jerry Reese said this week.

Time has a way of changing things.

No, these four games aren’t a Punch-and--Judy stretch (which happens to be the secret exercise routine that makes Giants punter Steve Weatherford the fittest player in the NFL), but how differently do people feel about these four teams now than, say, a week ago?

The Colts just made Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers look like the 1999 Rams.

The Seahawks are a soap opera, trading their best home-run threat (Percy Harvin) because he apparently treated teammates like WWE props, and are now deflecting questions about a supposedly malcontent star RB (Marshawn Lynch) and a quarterback who is supposedly not black enough for some teammates (Russell Wilson).

Luckily for Pete Carroll, NFL titles cannot be vacated.

The Cowboys, meanwhile, just lost to Washington at home, with quarterback Tony Romo reinjuring his back and Jerry Jones oddly injecting himself in the sideline decision of whether Romo should be reinserted into the game.

And the 49ers, well, they are good, and will soon be getting back some key contributors, with Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis set to return. I can’t convince myself the Giants can beat them – either during the season or in the postseason.

Run away, Giants, don’t go near the Niners! Just hope and pray that the Packers or Saints can knock them off in January. There’s no shame in that. What, you think the Steelers reached three recent Super Bowls by beating New England? Hell no, they gave them a WIDE berth and never played them once in those playoffs.

But the Colts and their sieve-like defense? The Seahawks and their soap opera distractions? The Cowboys and their tendency to play like the Cowboys? All winnable games. (Say it with me! Drink the Kool-Aid!)

If the Giants can go 3-1 over the next month, they’ll be 6-5 with this remaining schedule: @Jacksonville, @Tennessee, Washington, @St. Louis, Philadelphia.

Even if they only go 2-2 (because fine, winning in Seattle is unlikely), they’ll be 5-6 heading into a five-game homestretch that includes four very winnable games and a season-ending matchup against a hated rival.

Is this all a best-case scenario? Of course it is, but it's Halloween and I’m dressing the Giants up as a potential contender, if only for today.

Photo Credit: Rob]]>
<![CDATA[Jordan Attacks Obama's Golf Game]]> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 03:49:38 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/160*120/obama+golf+swing-640.jpg

Michael Jordan took a shot at President Barack Obama’s golf game in a recent interview.

When Back 9 Network’s Ahmad Rashad asked Jordan who he would want to play golf with, Jordan said he would like to play with Obama. He then changed his mind. "He’s a hack," he said. "It would be all day playing with him."

"I never said he wasn't a great politician. I'm just saying he's a s----- golfer," Jordan said in the interview.

The president has been known to take time out of his schedule for the occasional golf game. He’s even played a round of golf with Tiger Woods before.

According to Golf Digest, Jordan is a 3-handicap. Obama, on the other hand, has never revealed his handicap.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Giants World Series Victory Parade]]> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 21:57:53 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP909320410576.jpg

The San Francisco Giants World Series victory parade kicked off officially a little after noon Friday with loud cheers, confetti, marching bands and the Giants themselves, sending tens of thousands of fans lined up on Market Street into giddy fits of excitement.

Hundreds lined up in the wee hours of Friday morning, hoping to grab the best spot to catch a glimpse of MadBum, Panda and Pence.

The parade started at Steuart and Market streets, ending with a celebration at the Civic Center Plaza and City Hall.

"Yes! Yes! Yes! we did it," Mayor Ed Lee said to excited crowds in front of City Hall. "This is a story that will grow to be legendary ... Is MadBum a man or a machine? Is there anything I can do to keep Panda in San Francisco?" Handing Giants coach Bruce Bochy the keys to the city, Lee declared Oct. 31 as "San Francisco Giants Day."

"I want to tell them thanks for being warriors," Bochy said of the Giants, who went from being a wild cards to World Series champions this year.

Crowd favorite Pablo Sandoval, who inspired a giant panda floating above the enthralled PAARDE masses, is a free agent now  "I want to be here every two years," Sandoval told NBC Bay Area's Terry McSweeney earlier during the parade.

"Let's see you back here next October," said Giants CEO Larry Baer to cheering crowds at City Hall, his team's three World Series trophies next to him.

The crowd, swathed in orange, black and white, went wild when they spotted the star of the moment — Madison Bumgarner, MVP of this year's World Series, in the parade. Jockey handed out special "MadBum" underwear to fans in his honor.

"It's a team effort all the way," a humble Travis Ishikawa told NBC Bay Area's Bob Redell, who was able to catch a ride on the Giants' victory double-decker bus for a bit.

"How does it feel to be up here?" Redell asked Giants catcher Buster Posey. "Feels great," Posey replied smiling.

Giants pitcher Sergio Romo — who caused a stir during the 2012 parade for wearing a "I just look illegal" t-shirt — was spotted making a "three" sign, signifying his three World Series rings. This year, his t-shirt read "I have issues."

"Very exciting to see we made this city happy again — we love our fans so we are very very blessed to bring another ring to them," said Giants pitcher Jeremy Affeldt.

"A lot of familiar emotions — feels good to be part of another celebration," said Tim Lincecum.

Barry Bonds rolled by in a Giants-themed convertible, waving to the crowd, who chanted his name. Giants' legends Juan Marichal and Willie Mays also took part in the parade, as did Steve Perry and Metallica.

"This is unbelievable, this gives you goosebumps," said Giants player Michael Morse.

Giants' outfielder Hunter Pence and Brandon Crawford waved to the crowd from their bus. Pence, who looked like he was having a lot of fun sporting a WWE title belt, chanted his famous "Yes! Yes! Yes!" and tweeted "Best fans in the world!"

"This never gets old," one fan told NBC Bay Area.

Hearty San Franciscans — wearing Panda caps and holding Pence signs — and even guests from beyond, didn't seem to mind hoisting up their umbrellas and hunkering down in rain coats to watch their beloved baseball team bask in the glory of their third World Series win in the last five seasons.

Many fans had the same attitude as Louis Magana, one of the chauffuers driving the Giants in the parade: “It doesn’t matter. We’re driving the Giants. The Giants won. It doesn’t matter if it’s snowing, thunder. It doesn’t matter at all.”

City officials expected one million people to come out for the event.

BART and Muni added extra service for hundreds of thousands of extra riders heading into the city. BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said there were 10,000 extra morning riders Friday morning. Police are also adding extra patrols.

NBC Bay Area's Riya Bhattacharjee, Lisa Fernandez, Bob Redell, Terry McSweeney and Janelle Wang contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Remembering Jasper Howard]]> Thu, 30 Oct 2014 18:18:13 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/jasperhowardsat0999550262.jpg Former UConn football player Jasper Howard will be remembered Saturday with a statue in his honor at Rentschler Field, where he played his final game. Kevin Nathan talks to Jasper's family and former coach about what the tribute means and about Jasper's life and legacy.]]> <![CDATA[Gronkowski Looking Forward to Facing Broncos]]> Thu, 30 Oct 2014 15:32:43 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/gronkowski-cleared-to-play.jpg

The biggest storyline heading into Sunday's Broncos-Patriots game is the latest iteration of the Brady-Manning Bowl. But it will also be the first time Rob Gronkowski and T.J. Ward meet on the field since Ward's helmet-to-knee hit ended Gronkowski's 2013 season last December.

At the time, Ward was with the Browns, and the low tackle tore Gronk's ACL and MCL.

"I feel bad he got hurt, you know, but that's about it," Ward said on Wednesday, via the Boston Globe. "I'm just playing fast out there, and coincidentally, it was a bang-bang play. I think if he wouldn't have gotten hurt, then it wouldn't be an issue."

NFL rules about hitting would-be receivers high have led to defenders going low, and sometimes that has led to knee injuries.

"Gronk's a big dude. He gets hit, and he keeps going, Ward continued.

"Guys bounce off him, and he's throwing guys left and right," Ward said. "I was taught that if you can take a guy's wheels away from him, he's no longer mobile, and that's what you've got to do with big guys. I'm not going to go in there and bang heads with somebody that's 60 pounds more than me. I'm going to hurt myself."

Gronkowski, meanwhile, heaped praise on the Broncos' revamped defense.

“They have very good pass rushers, a very good secondary, and they have good linebackers, so just overall they have a very solid defense,” Gronkowski said. “They are playing very well together and they are a very good team.”

Not surprisingly, Gronk was also impressed with the Manning-led offense.

“I feel like Denver is the best team in the NFL right now,” he said. “They have a solid offense and a very, very solid defense, great rushers. A very good team. So we have to be ready. We have to be prepared. We have to bring all that we have to compete out there."

The fun starts Sunday at 4:25 pm. ET.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Boatright Ready to Defend National Title]]> Thu, 30 Oct 2014 13:58:29 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/uconn+kentucky+win+6.jpg

The Huskies are atop the preseason AAC coaches poll and senior point guard Ryan Boatright has every intention of not only living up to that, but helping UConn repeat as national champions.

And it starts with him, the de facto team leader now that Shabazz Napier has graduated.

"Ain’t no getting around that,” Boatright said at Wednesday's AAC media day, via SNY.com. “I know it and everybody else knows it, that it’s my turn to lead the team. My main thing is winning another championship and I know that it’s gonna take everybody on my team from me all the way down to the practice players to do that.”

So just how focused is Boatright and his teammates?

“All we worried about is getting back to the Final Four, winning games, winning another championship. Everything else, it doesn’t matter.”

This isn't a new mindset, either. It's been the plan pretty much since the Huskies returned home last April from their last title.

“Soon as we got back we was talking about winning another championship,” Boatright said. “We won Monday night, it started Tuesday, getting your mind mentally prepared.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ollie Talks Expectations for 2014-15]]> Thu, 30 Oct 2014 17:27:32 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483304481.jpg

With the season two weeks away, coach Kevin Ollie spent much of Wednesday's media day talking about the expectations for his team, a mix of young players and veterans, that will try to defend its national title without Shabazz Napier.

“A lot of people had a lot of doubts about our program two years ago," he said, via the New Haven Register. So, those questions are answered. But there’s gonna be other questions -- about autonomy, the (power) five conferences, about me leaving to the NBA after I sign a five-year contract. At the end of the day, I love UConn, these players love UConn, they play they great for the university. To see the men’s and women’s teams do it together, that means everybody’s on board."

The Huskies were the preseason favorites to win the AAC. Ollie was asked if that was a burden.

“It’s not a burden. It really doesn’t matter to me now, so how can it be a burden if it doesn’t matter to me? What matters to me is, hopefully we’re No. 1 in team chemistry. That’s gonna allow us to be where we need to be at in March and April. It can’t be a burden if I don’t care.

“I care about Ryan (Boatright) getting voted, because I didn’t vote for that," Ollie continued. "I think that’s a great, humbling award for him, and how much the coaches think of him. But we’re not putting extra pressure on ourselves as a team.”

Even Tulsa's coach Frank Haith had laudatory things to say about the Huskies, Daniel Hamilton and Rodney Purvis in particular.

“Rodney Purvis we recruited a little bit at Missouri,” Haith said, via the Connecticut News. “He’s very, very talented. He’s fast. He’s explosive. He’s a scorer. ...

“I coached (Daniel's) brother Gary, the oldest brother,” he continued. “I remember those kids when they were real little running around when I was at the University of Miami. Mr. Hamilton told me they were going to be better than Gary.

“I'm very familiar with both those guys (Hamilton and Purvis). Both those guys are talented and they’re not going to miss a beat (at UConn),” Haith added. “Obviously getting them to play well together and that chemistry wise is going to affect them, but the talent of those guys is off the charts.”

The Huskies' season kicks off Nov. 14 against Bryant University.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Boatright: If Ollie left, I Might Have Too]]> Thu, 30 Oct 2014 13:53:37 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP558842148611.jpg

During American Athletic Conference media day Wednesday UConn point guard Ryan Boatright spoke about the prospects of losing coach Kevin Ollie to the NBA, which was a hot topic in the offseason, shortly after the Huskies won the national title.

“Me just knowing as a person, it’s hard to turn down $12 million for a year,” Boatright said of his coach, via SNY.com. “I didn’t have to ask him about it, I knew he was thinking about it. It’s $12 million.”

Boatright added that “Honestly, if he would’ve left, I probably would’ve turned pro.” Luckily, Ollie never seriously entertained leaving Storrs and, according to Boatright, the coach told him, "I’m not even thinking about it. You know I’m UConn made.”

“Once he told me that,” Boatright said, “I knew I was coming back to school.”

Ollie's recollection of events are slightly different.

“I don’t remember it went down that way,” the coach said Wednesday. “I just remember I wasn’t talking about no Laker job, or Cleveland job or anything like that. I was recruiting," he told SNY.com.

“I remember bringing him into the office and going over all the information that I got from every general manager and the NBA does a great job [giving] back definitive information on where you’re going to get drafted at. And I gave him that information, he talked to his family…and he decided to come back. I was very pleased that he came back, I think he’s going to have a wonderful year.

“And I think he’s going to improve his draft stock. I think he’s going to improve as a basketball player, but most importantly he’s going to improve as a man.”

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[A Homecoming Fit for a King]]> Thu, 30 Oct 2014 13:52:02 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/457402746.jpg

Out in Cleveland they’re talking 70 wins and a championship for the Cavaliers.

Quick reminder I: Only one NBA team has ever won 70 games in a season, and the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls had a guy named Michael Jordan leading the way to a record 72 wins.

Quick reminder II: The Cavs are 0-for-44 in their all-time quest for an NBA championship.

But it’s easy to see why expectations are through the Quickens Loan Arena roof, just off the shores of Lake Erie: On Thursday night, LeBron James will put on a Cleveland uniform in a regular-season game for the first time since 2009-10. 

“This is my first home game,’’ he says in a new Sprite commercial, trumpeting his return to his hometown team.

The ad shows him getting a hero’s welcome as he walks into Akron’s Patterson Park, where he played as a youth. It’s as if he never left Cleveland back in July, 2010, to take “my talents to South Beach.’’ That night he became Public Enemy No. 1, with his once-adoring fans burning his wine-and gold No. 23 jersey and the Cavs’ owner, Dan Gilbert, emasculating the franchise’s all-time greatest player in a venomous email seen ‘round the world.

Now he’s back and the NBA has never seen a homecoming like this one.

The Cavs open the season Thursday at the New York Knicks at 8 p.m. He returns with a new baby in tow, having welcomed daughter Zhuri Nova with his wife last week. James also has two sons.

“They all hated him for leaving, but now it’s a great story because he’s the hero again,’’ NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal said on Monday. “Villain one day, hero the next. Now all is forgiven. That just shows you how fickle fans can be.’’

O’Neal, who played two seasons in Cleveland with James, had an idea that James would be headed back home. It’s not just that LeBron always had it in the back of his mind to return to where he first became a legend, playing for St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. Shaq also saw some basketball logic in James’ decision to leave Miami Heat as a free agent, even after leading the Heat to two titles, in 2012 and 2013, and helping the Heat become only the third franchise in league history to go to four straight Finals.

“When a guy goes to four straight Finals, like LeBron did, you figure everything is good and he’ll be staying,’’ O’Neal said. “But what nobody is talking about is what happened to the Heat.’’

In last June’s Finals the Heat’s vaunted “Big Three’’ was reduced to James trying to go one-on-five and getting obliterated in five games by the San Antonio Spurs. With one-time Finals MVP Dwyane Wade looking calcified, and their top big man Chris Bosh largely ineffective, James found himself trying to outduel the Spurs by himself.

Turns out, he had every reason to head back to Northeast Ohio. But first, he had to hear a very big “I’m sorry’’ from Gilbert, the long-time meddling owner. The two met in secret in Florida before he decided to make the move. Gilbert apologized and James proved to be one forgiving soul.

“You hash it out and move on,’’ the four-time MVP said.

James signed a two-year deal for $42.1 million, with an option to rework his contract next summer. What he went back to was a far cry from what the Cavs have now, as they prepare to take the court for their season-opener against the New York Knicks.

“I didn't envision our team being like this right off the bat," James said during pre-season. “I felt like me coming, we could hopefully add some pieces. Obviously it happened quicker than I thought."

The Cavs have the makings of a championship contender. Kyrie Irving, who was once intent on returning home to the New York area to play for his beloved Knicks, opted to stay when the Cavs gave him the $90 million maximum salary, just before James announced his return. Then the Cavs used their third No. 1 overall pick in the draft in the last four years, Kansas prodigy Andrew Wiggins, and traded him to Minnesota for the Timberwolves' disgruntled All-Star power forward, Kevin Love.

Irving and Love have zero playoff appearances between them and have never had to perform under such lofty expectations, which is probably the reason James refuses to call his new set-up “the Big Three.’’ But they’re bound to benefit from playing with James, who will be seeking his sixth trip to the Finals since 2007 and his third ring. With the King back on his throne, the Cavs had an easy time adding the necessary fill-in pieces for a strong supporting cast. Players with championship pedigree like Shawn Marion, Mike Miller and James Jones ran to play with James. They might be shaky defensively, lacking a big man to protect the rim, but the Cavs should be an offensive juggernaut.

“I don’t see anybody in the East giving them problems,’’ O’Neal said. “Chicago needs to find another scorer to help Derrick Rose. He can’t do it by himself and he’s undersized. The only concern I have about Cleveland is their coach.’’

A veteran of coaching in Russia and Israel, David Blatt, a former Princeton player under legendary coach Pete Carril, has never coached a second in the NBA, not even as an assistant. But he now has the best player on the planet, who still doesn’t turn 30 until December, meaning this is a learning curve that should be relatively easy to negotiate.

Of course, there hasn’t been a champion in Cleveland since the Browns in 1964.

“For LeBron, winning one championship in Cleveland will be the equivalent of winning five titles in Miami,’’ said O’Neal’s TNT teammate, Charles Barkley. “Even if he doesn’t win it this season, you just have to love the fact that LeBron went back home. That’s what I was rooting for and what a lot of people were rooting for.’’

Nowhere more than out in LeBron’s old stomping grounds. He might not win 70 games this season, but no one will be surprised if sometime in June he’s out in front, leading a championship parade.

Longtime New York columnist Mitch Lawrence continues to write about pro basketball, as he’s done for the last 21 years. His columns for NBCNewYork.com on the Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and the NBA, along with other major sports, will appear twice weekly. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch _ Lawrence.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Players and Fans Celebrate Giants' World Series Win]]> Thu, 30 Oct 2014 01:42:05 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP283856501206.jpg Giants fans and players celebrated their team's eighth World Series win, only two years after they last claimed the title.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Belichick Says Manning Has No Weaknesses]]> Wed, 29 Oct 2014 15:10:43 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/manning+chargers+defense.jpg

Bill Belichick isn't one for hyperbole, which is readily apparent if you've seen him in front of a microphone for more than 15 seconds. And with the latest Brady-Manning Bowl looming, the Patriots coach pretty much relayed the facts on the Pats' latest opponent, even if it sounded like he was introducing Peyton Manning at an awards show.

"He's good because he does everything good," Belichick said. "Really I don't think there are any weak points in his game. ... He's very smart. He has a great understanding of concepts and timing, game management, clock management, situational football -- third down, red area -- great utilization of the field from sideline-to-sideline and attacking the deep part of the field, very accurate, great decision-maker, quick release."

So Bill, to summarize, how would you describe Manning's game?

"It's pretty much everything really, I don't think there are any weaknesses in his game," Belichick said.

If you're fishing for a couple (of weak spots), here you go, courtesy of CBSSports.com's John Breech: "Manning is 8-11 in games where the temperature is under 40 degrees at kickoff. Manning's also 3-8 against the Patriots during the regular season."

And then there's Brady, whom Belichick has won three Super Bowls with.

"I love coaching Tom," the coach said last week. "We spend a considerable amount of time together, and I think that's important to have that relationship between the head coach and the quarterback, so at least we're on the same page with what we're trying to do.

"He has great feedback. Nobody works harder or prepares better than Tom does. He's about as good as it gets in that category, with a lot of great ideas. He's a very smart, experienced player, obviously, and does a great job executing the team game plan."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Huskies Headline AAC Preseason Awards]]> Wed, 29 Oct 2014 14:56:25 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483300509.jpg

The American Athletic Conference preseason awards are out and there are Huskies everywhere. Not only was UConn picked to win the AAC by the league's coaches, senior point guard Ryan Boatright has been named the preseason player of the year, and swingman Daniel Hamilton is the AAC's preseason rookie of the year.

SMU finished two points behind the Huskies in the voting for the top spot in the conference, followed by Memphis, Cincinnati and Tulsa.

Boatright was also named to the AAC first-team, along with SMU's Markus Kennedy and Mic Moore, Memphis' Shaq Goodwin and Autin Nichols, and Tulsa's James Woodard. Sophomore center Amida Brimah found his way onto the second team, along with USF's Anthony Collin and Chris Perry, and Temple's Will Cummings and Quenton DeCosey.

UConn begins its title defense on Nov. 14 when it hosts Bryant University.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Report: Calhoun Could Miss Week With Knee Injury]]> Wed, 29 Oct 2014 14:54:16 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/omar-calhoun-napier.jpg

This is a big season for Omar Calhoun. The junior guard struggled with injuries and inconsistency last season but now he's fully focused and has the full confidence of coach Kevin Ollie. And until yesterday, Calhoun was fully healthy. He'll be sidelined for a week or so after suffering a sprained MCL in his right knee.

"There is no immediate timetable for his return," UConn spokesman Phil Chardis said, via the Hartford Courant's Dom Amore, "as he is being monitored daily, but he will likely be out of action for at least a week or so."

Calhoun arrived in Storrs as a sharpshooting guard, something we saw regularly during his freshman season. But he was buried on the bench for the Huskies' title run last season, which he used as motivation in recent months ahead of the 2014-15 campaign.

"We want to get a tempo so all of his shots don't have to be three-point shots," Ollie said last week, via the Courant. "So he can get some layups, offensive rebounds, so some more of the movement, cutting. That allows your offensive game to open up, once you're seeing the ball going in, getting to the free throw line. That's something we saw him do exceptionally well in high school."

When Calhoun returns, he'll join a crowded backcourt that includes Ryan Boatright, Rodney Purvis, Terrance Samuel, Sam Cassell Jr. and Daniel Hamilton.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Diaco Talks Young Secondary, WRs, RBs]]> Wed, 29 Oct 2014 14:49:54 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+bob+diaco+stony+brook.jpg

It's homecoming. Typically, that means a cream puff opponent is scheduled to insure an easy win. But this isn't a typical season for the Huskies, a team in transition. So when USF comes to town Saturday, just about anything can happen.

And now, with senior Byron Jones lost for the season to a shoulder injury, we have one more area where first-year coach Bob Diaco will have to rely on young players to pick up the slack.

"What (Javon Hadley) might lack in size and overall speed, he makes up for in toughness," Diaco said Tuesday, via the team's website. "He's got some fundamental base for playing the position. We're excited about him and taking a look at him. He's in competition with John Green so we'll see who ends up claiming that spot in the game. John is a guy who just moved to that position, and the same goes for Brice McAllister. He has never played the position, it's probably at times going to look like that, but there's only one way to solve that and that's for him to play in the games.

"We don't have any other option and we don't want any other option. We believe Brice is going to be a great cornerback here. We think it's his best position, his most natural position. He was a very productive tailback throughout his life but he possesses a few traits that separate him to that next level of athleticism on the perimeter. Almost all the great corners could play tailback, but not all the great tailbacks could play corner. You have to be that much higher level of an athlete to play corner because it is all reaction. Brice possesses those traits, it's just going to be a work in progress."

On the other side of the ball, Diaco talked about the youth movement at running back and wide receiver.

"At the end of the day, Arkeel Newsome and Ron Johnson possess high-level, tangible talents that in time, their maturity of their games will catch up through game experience," he said. ...

"Their route-running is getting better, the preciseness. In Thomas Lucas' in particular, in Noel Thomas' case he's blocking better, more aggressively. I also have seen a higher level of leadership, a higher level of professionalism in how they prepare and live. We're pleased in all four, including Dhameer Bradley and Brian Lemelle."

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Michael Jordan Tweets "I'm Back!"]]> Wed, 29 Oct 2014 11:50:14 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/tlmd_michael_jordan_apuesta.JPG

Michael Jordan is trying his hand at social media, and he went all out for his first tweet Tuesday.

In the tweet, which was posted to the Charlotte Hornets official Twitter account, Jordan revived his legendary “I’m back!” announcement, which signaled he was coming out of retirement roughly 19 years ago.

“I’M BACK!” the tweet read, followed by Jordan clarifying that he's "just kidding" then “laughing out loud.”

The tweet comes on the opening day of the NBA season.

As the owner of the Hornets, Jordan, 51, posted a series of tweets with the hashtag #MJTakeover as part of a social media promotion.

A day earlier, Jordan, who faced criticism when the Hornets played one of the worst seasons in NBA history, told ESPN that being an owner is very different than playing.

“You can’t impact the game. You cannot impact the game,” he said. “I played this game for a long time and I always took criticism in a way that’s going to make me better as a basketball player and I could affect the game per se. Here, I can’t do that other than talking to my other employees or coaches or players.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Canseco Accidentally Shoots Own Finger Cleaning Gun]]> Wed, 29 Oct 2014 17:13:55 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/jose-canseco-getty.jpg

Former baseball star Jose Canseco accidentally shot himself in the finger while cleaning what authorities say is a large-caliber handgun in his Las Vegas home Monday afternoon, police told NBC News.

Canseco shot a finger on his left hand, apparently unaware that a bullet was in the chamber, Las Vegas Metro Lt. Mark Reddon said.

"It was a serious hand injury," but not a serious medical injury, Reddon told NBC News. "There was nothing suspicious. There was no alcohol involved, just a misstep with a handgun."

Canseco began his long major league career in the 1980s playing for the Oakland Athletics, before going on to play for the Rangers, Red Sox, Yankees, White Sox and other teams.

He has admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs during his MLB career and after retiring also competed in mixed martial arts and boxing.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Team CT Finishes 5th in PGA Junior Golf Championship]]> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 21:58:37 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Golf+Ball+Generic.jpg

This past weekend, Team Connecticut placed fifth at the PGA Junior League Golf Championship in Duluth, Georgia.

Eight teams from across the United States participated in the tournament, which ran from Oct. 23 to 26, including Texas, Indiana, Iowa, New Jersey, California, Tennessee and Georgia.

The Connecticut team, coached by Suzy Whaley, consisted of 10 children from across the state.

“The kids are working together as a team – good or bad, win or lose,“ said Whaley. “What we’re building here is something incredible. We’re building people, young men and women, who are going to play golf for a lifetime.”

In the championship round on Sunday, Team Connecticut beat out Team Texas 8-4, to secure a fifth place finish.

Team member Maisie Filler said that she enjoyed playing and improving alongside her teammates.

“We worked together this week and that was really cool,” said Maisie. “I like playing with other people – you can help each other and get better.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Several Yale Bulldogs Leading The Nation]]> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 16:03:33 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Several_Yale_Bulldogs_Leading_The_Nation_1200x675_349010499880.jpg ]]> <![CDATA[Redskins PR Pulls QB From Interview]]> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 19:29:30 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/165*120/457968826.jpg

Amid the euphoria of the Redskins' 20-17 overtime victory against the Cowboys on Monday, no one can blame quarterback Colt McCoy's exuberance following his exceptional performance

But when ESPN Deportes reporter John Sutcliffe attempted to interview McCoy, Washington senior vice president of communications Tony Wyllie forcibly pulled the quarterback away.

From Dan Steinberg

"No no no, we gotta go guys, we gotta go," Wyllie said, hands on his quarterback, attempting to physically move McCoy toward his destination. But there was resistance from Sutcliffe.

"No means NO!" Wyllie finally shouted, which became the seminal moment for people attempting to make late-night jokes on the internet.

The interview eventually took place.

Wyllie explained the now-infamous moment to ProFootballTalk Tuesday morning. According to Wyllie, McCoy was needed in the locker room for a postgame speech from coach Jay Gruden. Sutcliffe had not set up an on-field interview with McCoy, but still attempted to speak to him. 

Wyllie told News4 he had nothing more to add Tuesday afternoon. "We were just trying to get the player into the locker room so he could hear the post-game speech," he said.

"The guy refused to listen about getting the player in."

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Brady and Manning Meet (Again) Sunday]]> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 13:53:32 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/457377524.jpg

It's that time of year again: Brady vs. Manning. This time the Patriots host the Patriots in Foxboro at 4:25 p.m. ET this Sunday and New England's 37-year-old quarterback took time to reflect on his rivalry with his 38-year-old counterpart in Denver.

"Five, six years ago you don't think about those things," Brady said in a radio interview with WEEI in Boston, via ESPN.com. "But as you mature a little bit and realize this could always be the last one, then you do. It's pretty special.

"[Manning has] been one of the greatest players to ever play. I've been fortunate to share a field with one of the best players that has ever played the game. And every time we play a Peyton Manning-led team, it comes down to the wire. Everything is usually at stake."

Both players are first-ballot Hall of Famers, and while Brady has two more Super Bowl" rings he also knows that Manning is a once-in-a-generation player.

What can you say more about what Peyton Manning has been able to accomplish? It's been the greatest season-and-a-half stretch in the history of the NFL," Brady said. "Nobody has really matched what he has been able to do, what that offense has been able to do most importantly. When we play this weekend, we are going to have to try to match it because that is what it is going to take. They have a great team, and we are going to have to be at our best."

But this isn't about two players -- even if it's the two best players in recent memory. The Patriots are trying to extend their lead in the AFC East while the Broncos want to do the same in the AFC West.

"I think there is always room for improvement, but truthfully the guys, they make it easy for the quarterback when they play the way they did yesterday," said Brady. "It makes it easy for me -- not that playing the Bears' defense is easy because it's not -- but when the guys around you play the way they did, it makes it easy for the quarterback.

"I'm proud of the way all those guys -- Julian [Edelman], [Rob Gronkowski], Danny [Amendola], the offensive line especially, Tim Wright played great, got off to a great start in the run game. Those things all have a cumulative effect on the offense."

And if those same guys play against the Broncos like they have the last month of the season, the Patriots will be tough to beat.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Pomeroy Ratings Have UConn No. 16]]> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 13:48:45 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin-ollie-rim.jpg

Statistician Ken Pomeroy has released his preseason rankings and unlike other such endeavors, this list isn't about hunches or gut feelings, but numbers and equations. A year ago, Pomeroy had Shabazz Napier as the runner-up in his 2014 Player of the Year Rankings behind Louisville's Russ Smith, and now he has the Huskies' as the No. 16 team heading into the 2014-15 season.

UConn is the highest-rated American Athletic Conference team, followed by Memphis (No. 27), SMU (No. 36), Tulsa (No. 45), Cincinnati (No. 46) and then things fall off a cliff. Temple is 110th, USF is 158th, ECU is 183rd, UCF is 188, Houston is 202 and Tulane is 208.

Pomeroy's top 15:

1. Duke
2. Kentucky
3. Louisville
4. Kansas
5. Arizona
6. Wisconsin
7. Florida
8. Virginia
9. Villanova
10. Wichita St.
11. Syracuse
12. Michigan St.
13. UCLA
14. Ohio St.
15. Michigan

It's worth remembering that, despite the math involved, predicting real-life events with simplified models, while better than guessing, is still difficult. Put another way: a lot can change once the games begin. Coach Kevin Ollie was asked earlier this month about what the Huskies need to do to get better and it came down to the details, something that's difficult to measure with computer models.

"You can't be distracted by the crumbs, because the cake is at the end of the season," Ollie told CBSSports.com. "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."

<![CDATA[Young Players Emerging for Huskies]]> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 13:40:51 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/deshon-foxx-2013.jpg

When it comes to the Huskies' offense, there here hasn't been much to celebrate this season. At least not until last Thursday, against 18th-ranked ECU. Quarterback Chandler Whitmer finished with 303 yards in the loss -- still the team's best game of the season -- and he did it thanks to big games from senior Deshon Foxx (four receptions, 120 yards, 1 TD) and freshman Thomas Lucas (two receptions, 80 yards).

Then there was sophomore Noel Thomas (3 receptions, 57 yards, 1 TD), sophomore Dhameer Bradley (4, 21), freshman running back Josh Marriner (3, 15) and sophomore Brian Lemelle (1, 10).

The takeaway: Young skill position players are getting involved, and that's good news as the offense continues to grow.

"They are going to continue to play more and more," UConn coach Bob Diaco said, via the New Haven Register.

"They now collectively need to grow up and mature, mature with how they prepare, prepare all week, prepare on the practice field, prepare in the meetings, prepare in their volunteer time and what (time) they spend studying, we just need to take that next step. They are passionate about (football).

"Here's what you've got, you have four guys, all four of them, they love to compete, they are passionate about football. They like to play football, love to play football. You would like to say that is inherent for everyone, it is not. Those four guys definitely are that way and they are talented. Now what we have to do is hone in on the professionalism as far as what it takes to become a productive player and how to become a good to great player," he told the Register.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Byron Jones' UConn Career Is Over]]> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 13:38:18 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/byron+jones+uconn+cornerback.jpg

Senior cornerback Byron Jones came into the season as one of the few established bright spots on a Huskies team in transition. But on Thursday night in Greenville, NC, Jones played his last game in UConn's 31-21 loss to ECU. The team captain reaggravated a shoulder injury that will end his college playing days, though his NFL future remains bright.

Byron was playing through a small issue there,” coach Bob Diaco said. “That, then exacerbated himself (on Thursday) to the point that it needs to be addressed. If it doesn’t get addressed it will be something else. Right now, an isolated thing that needs to be fixed.”

As for Jones' professional future, Diaco added this: “He’s very highly thought of. Executives that are in the building think highly of him. This will help him from a time frame standpoint. He will be full speed, not good as new, better than new when he has a time to show his wears.”

Here's how Diaco described Jones this summer.

"I think he will be one of the best players in the country,” he said. “Everyone will see it eventually when they put him in those compression shorts (at combines). You will see a tall, long, lean and fast and explosive and athletic player. His numbers, with our developmental process, you are going to see at the end of the day one of the best tangibly gifted cornerback players in the country.

"Then you factor in this incredible resume socially, academically, he’s an ‘A’ student and on all the committees. At that position, he has some intangible traits that are an incredible commodity.”

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[CCSU Basketball Star Suspended After Hitting Girlfriend: Cops]]> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 14:43:20 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kyle+vinales+mug+with+roster+pic.jpg

Central Connecticut State University basketball star Kyle Vinales has been suspended indefinitely from the team after he was arrested for allegedly hitting his girlfriend.

A university spokesperson said Vinales, a senior, is "not currently participating in any men's basketball activities" and has been suspended from the team indefinitely.

According to the incident report, Vinales was in the car with his girlfriend on Oct. 23 driving home from dinner at Plan B when an argument turned physical.

His girlfriend, also a CCSU student, told police that Vinales "punched her on the forehead" and "squeezed hard, causing her pain." Police said Vinales admitted to shoving her head against the driver's side window, then getting out on Ella Grasso Boulevard to walk back to campus.

Vinales' girlfriend called police to her apartment on East Street around 11:30 that night. Officers found Vinales walking south on East Street near the intersection of Biltmore Avenue and confronted him about the incident, police said.

He told police his girlfriend was complaining about losing her job, so he asked her, "Why are you blaming everyone else?" Vinales said his girlfriend then snatched his phone because she was annoyed when he started playing music, and that he kept the music on when she gave it back to him, according to the report.

Vinales said his girlfriend then pulled the car over on Ella Grasso Boulevard and hit him in the chest and the left side of his face, telling him, "You are so disrespectful," the incident report says.

Officers, however, said they did not see any marks on Vinales' body, and his girlfriend denied hitting him, according to police. 

Vinales was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and third-degree assault. His girlfriend was not charged.

According to his bio on the CCSU basketball roster, Vinales played at the Phelps School and Farmington Hills High School in Michigan before heading to college.

In the 2012-2013 season, Vinales "became the quickest player in CCSU history to reach 1,000 career points," his bio says. He led the conference in scoring and finished seventh in the country.

Vinales was released on a promise to appear and is due back in court Dec. 5.

Photo Credit: CCSU/New Britain Police Department]]>
<![CDATA[LA Soccer Team Ceases Operations]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 22:03:51 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/lafile-chivas-usa-fans.jpg

Major League Soccer announced Monday that Chivas USA ceased operations and that a new franchise planned for Los Angeles would begin play in a new soccer-specific stadium in 2017.

The league’s Board of Governors unanimously decided to disband Chivas USA as part of a change in strategy for the Los Angeles market, MLS said in an announcement on its site.

“As part of our new strategy for Southern California -- a major hotbed of soccer participation and fan support -- we believe that engaging with a new ownership group which has the resources and local community ties, and a plan for a dedicated soccer-specific stadium, provides us with the best chance for success,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber in the statement.

The ownership group for the new team will be announced Thursday.

The league will play with 20 clubs in the 2015 season.

MLS said it will conduct a dispersal draft of the Chivas USA roster in the near future.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Pats Tom Brady Still Dominating]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 12:16:22 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/457894978.jpg

Any questions about Tom Brady and the Patriots offense seem like a distant memory, and for good reason. It's been a month since the Chiefs manhandled New England, 41-14, and in that time the Pats are 4-0, including a blowout win over a hapless Bears outfit Sunday, 51-23.

Tom Brady continues to play like he's 30 years old, which is just the latest reminder that it's silly to suggest he's over the hill. Consider this: Since that loss to the Chiefs, Brady, 37, is 100 of 144 with 14 touchdowns and zero interceptions. He's also utilizing a receiver corps he seemed uneasy with early in the season; Rob Gronkowski gets better every week as he recovers from a knee injury and offseason acquisition Brandon LaFell appears to finally be on the same page as Brady. The former had 9 catches for 149 yards and 3 touchdowns Sunday while the latter added 11 receptions for 124 yards and a score.

So what's changed for Brady and this offense?

"It's his attitude," LaFell said after the game. "Even though we weren't playing great ball the first couple games, he never came in here and was down on himself or down on anybody. He always encouraged everybody and made us work extra after practice and pulled us into meetings. He always said, 'The next game might be the one we explode, so be ready.'"

Coach Bill Belichick, who isn't one for hyperbole, was gushing in his praise of Brady after the game.

"I love coaching Tom," the coach said. "We spend a considerable amount of time together, and I think that's important to have that relationship between the head coach and the quarterback, so at least we're on the same page with what we're trying to do.

"He has great feedback. Nobody works harder or prepares better than Tom does. He's about as good as it gets in that category, with a lot of great ideas. He's a very smart, experienced player, obviously, and does a great job executing the team game plan."

Next up: It's Brady-Manning week. The two rivals -- and future first ballot Hall of Famer's square off this Sunday.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[NBA Scout: Huskies are Better Than You Think]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 11:40:08 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483304023.jpg

UConn is regularly undervalued in October when preseason polls are all we have to judge how good or bad a team might be, but once we get to February and March, the Huskies often exceed expectations. It happened during Shabazz Napier's freshman season, when junior Kemba Walker led the team to a national title.

It happened two years ago when UConn, facing sanctions that kept them out of the postseason, still won 20 games in Kevin Ollie's first season. And it certainly happened last season, when then-senior Napier reenacted Walker's march to a championship three years before and the Huskies did it again.

And now, with Napier gone, it's perfectly reasonable to expect the Huskies to be something less than they were in 2013-14. But according to on NBA scout, this team is stacked. Not just with good college players, but potential NBA players. From

ZagsBlog.com's Adam Zagoria, who got the scouting report on three Huskies:

Amida Brimah, 7-0, So., C: “Brimah has improved 100 percent, maybe 150 percent, from last year. He’s blocking shots, runs the floor. Sensational dunker. Has a beautiful shooting stroke, beautiful form which is very surprising.”

Daniel Hamilton, 6-7, Fr, G/F: “He’ll be one of the better young players in the country. Really shoots the ball well. Good handle. Floaters, runners, pull-up jump shots, shoots the 3. He’ll be one of the best freshman in that league without a doubt, one of the best freshman in the country.”

Ryan Boatright, 6-0, Sr., G: “For two-thirds of the season, he could not play against [Napier], but Kevin [Ollie] did a great job with him to convince him to play with him and not against him. He’s a two-way player. He’s a tremendous on-the-ball defender, as Kentucky’s guards found out last year. He’s the point guard, penetrates and dishes and kicks for 3’s. He’s bought into the program.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chong Looking to Break Out]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 11:35:50 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Saniya+Chong.jpg

It's not unusual for freshmen on Geno Auriemma's teams to learn by watching; the roster is stocked with All-Americans and, in general, the coach feels more comfortable with upperclassmen on the floor than wide-eyed rookies.

Saniya Chong is hoping to make the jump to more consistency and playing time as she embarks on her sophomore season. As a freshman, especially as the Huskies were making their title run, she was often relegated to mop-up duty -- those final seconds, long after the game had been decided.

“The beginning of the season was great but at the end I wasn’t getting off the bench until the end of games and it was hard,” Chong told SNY.com's Carl Adamec. “I wish I had contributed more. I wanted to help out. It would have been a great opportunity for me to get a couple more minutes in the championship game. It was great to win it, but I wanted to do more than I did.”

And that's the plan for 2014-15.

“I think I am very much more confident this year,” Chong continued. “You come in as a freshman and it’s new and the intensity is different. Even though you think you’re ready and you’re playing for the No. 1 team in the country and for Coach Auriemma, it’s a shock. But I think that since the summer I’ve stepped it up to another level and we’ll see what happens.

“I think I’m more intense and a better listener. I know what I’m doing now. It’s hard for a freshman. Now I have to be a leader to our new freshmen so I have to know what’s going on,” she told Ademec.

Chong was something of an aberration last year in that she was UConn's only recruit. She'll now be competing with four players in the 2014 freshman class -- Sadie Edwards, Courtney Ekmark, Kia Nurse, and Gabby Williams -- vying for playing time.

“Being a sophomore I should be more prepared and I should work harder,” Chong said. “Coach always says the sophomores, juniors, and seniors always should be working the hardest. So coming out here and knowing any of those four freshmen can take my spot makes me work five times harder.”

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[UConn and Georgetown to Meet in 2016]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 11:30:13 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483300299.jpg

UConn announced Friday that it would renew its rivalry with old Big East foe Georgetown. The home-and-home series begins in 2016 -- the Hoyas come to the XL Center on Jan. 23 2016 and the Huskies head to Washington D.C.'s Verizon Center on Jan. 21, 2017.

“It’s gonna be great,” coach Kevin Ollie said, via the New Haven Register's David Borges. “I know our fans want to see it, I know their fans want to see it. Hopefully, we put on a great game.”

More from Borges:

UConn and Georgetown have a long history which dates back to 1958 and includes 64 games, with Georgetown holding a 35-29 advantage. As Big East Conference opponents, Georgetown had a 32-26 edge. The two programs share the record for most Big East Conference tournament championships with seven apiece.

Georgetown won the last game played between the two teams, a 79-78 double-overtime thriller at Gampel Pavilion on Feb. 27, 2013. UConn lost its last two games against the Hoyas, but the teams split their last four. UConn’s last win against Georgetown was a 79-62 decision on March 9, 2011 during the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden.

Ollie also suggested that a Syracuse-UConn reunion could be in the works.

"Two Big East teams in the same season would be awesome,” he said. “I think we’re trying to finalize some things with Syracuse later on down the road.,” he told the Register.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Report: Big Clippers Tax Write-Off]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 02:50:26 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/tlmd_steve_ballmer_clippers_microsoft.jpg

Billionaire Steve Ballmer bought the Los Angeles Clippers in August for $2 billion, but he could write off as much as half of that amount in taxes by 2030, according to an analysis by the Financial Times.

A tax break for owners of sports franchises would let the ex-Microsoft CEO claim about $1 billion of the team's purchase price from the taxable income he makes over the next 15 years, said the report, published Sunday in the London newspaper (paywall, registration required).

Ballmer paid the Sterling family almost four times as much for the Clippers as the previous record NBA franchise purchase, $550 million for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Ballmer bought the Clippers at a tough time for fans, many of whom were distraught at apparently racist comments made by previous owner Donald Sterling on a tape recording. Those comments kicked off a long battle with the NBA that eventually led to a bidding war, which Ballmer won.

The difference between the value of the company's assets and what the purchaser paid for it is the key to the tax breaks Ballmer may be able to take, according to the Financial Times article:

"Under an exception in US law, buyers of sports franchises can use an accounting treatment known as goodwill against their other taxable income. This feature is commonly used by tax specialists to structure deals for sports teams. Goodwill is the difference between the purchase price of an asset and the actual cash and other fixed assets belonging to the team."

Most corporations can't charge for goodwill, but sports franchises are an exception, according to the Financial Times.

Representatives of the Clippers and of Ballmer didn't comment for the Financial Times report. Ballmer didn't immediately reply to an e-mail from NBC4 Sunday afternoon.