Boatright, Daniels: Should They Stay Or Should They Go?

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Should they stay or should they go?

When Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels decided to return to UConn for their junior years, they were on a mission.

“We’ve been saying since we got here, ‘we came in together, we’re going to leave together,’” Boatrght told me after a workout at Gampel in May of 2013. “We’ve been living together since we came here. I love him, but I’m still tired of him at the same time. But we came in together, we’re going to leave together. We’re going to finish strong.”

Now it’s decision time again. Boatright and Daniels must decide by Sunday whether to test the NBA Draft, or to come back to UConn for their senior seasons. The decision could come down any moment now. At the Final Four, Boatright talked about the need for patience, noting that going out too early could mean “getting stuck in Europe or the D-League.” At the parade, he mentioned that days like this make a player want to “come back and do it again.” At other times, he has hinted that he might be ready to move on and earn a living to help his family.

Daniels has said almost nothing, and did not talk to reporters at the parade. Neither Boatright, who was honored back home in Chicago last weekend, nor Daniels were at Fenway Park with the team this week.

It’s a tough call; scouts are not overly encouraging and neither is certain of being drafted and there are compelling arguments for either to stay, or leave.


The arguments for leaving:

Continue reading

For Napier, Huskies, A ‘Super-Cool’ Night At The Ballpark … Notes, Quotes, Thoughts From Fenway

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BOSTON – It was a fun night for the Huskies at Fenway Park.

Of course, if you know me, you know I believe one can’t have a bad day at a ballpark. … But this was a particularly wonderful night; Shabazz Napier, Roxbury kid, takes the mound at Fenway Park, takes the ball from the Governor of Connecticut and throws a strike to the Red Sox’s catcher as his mom smiled.

Does it get cooler than that? “It’s super cool,” Napier said.

Of course, you must take attendance at events like this. None of the coaches made the trip, they are out recruiting at this pivotal time of year. UConn’s looking for that big man.

The women’s team cancelled out Tuesday morning and no one would say why.

Also absent were Ryan Boatright, DeAndre Daniels and Omar Calhoun. It would be easy to read Continue reading

Napier, KML To Make Pitches at Fenway; Huskies Notes, Links

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Heard from the Red Sox that Shabazz Napier and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis will be throwing the ceremonial first pitches when the UConn men’s and women’s basketball teams are honored at Fenway Park on Tuesday, prior to the Yankees-Red Sox game at 7.

It should be quite a moment for Napier, a high honor for a Bostonian. MLB players follow the NCAA Tournament closely, and it’s safe to say the UConn men killed a lot of brackets in both clubhouses.

A few other UConn notes and links for you on this Easter Sunday.

Sad news: Vin Yokabaskas, one of UConn’s first stars, passed away after a long illness last week. His family has released details, which appeared in the Courant on Sunday. We will have more on Continue reading

Daniel Hamilton: ‘Coach Ollie’s An Inspiration’ … Notes, Quotes From Jordan Brand Games in Brooklyn

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NEW YORK – Got the chance to watch Daniel Hamilton play, though the conditions weren’t conducive to drawing conclusions at the Jordan Brand national game.

“Defense was out the window,” said Mike Bethea, who coached the West.

Hamilton scored 10 points in 11 minutes, and got two rebounds, as his West squad lost to the East, 158-147. The score tells you all you need to know – not much defense, as Bethea says. Hamilton was 4-for-6 from the floor, and hit a couple of threes, so we can say that for a kid his size, 6-foot-7, he’s quick and versatile, a player right up Kevin Ollie’s alley.

Hamilton and Ollie spoke again before the game, the topic, as one would expect, about when he might sign a National Letter of Intent. He has not yet pulled the trigger on that.

Some of this territory was covered when we spoke on Wednesday in Manhattan, but here are highlights of Hamilton’s interview Friday night, postgame at Barclays Center.

On the game:

“… I think I did pretty good in the minutes I got, 10 points in 11 minutes. I think I could have contributed a little more, a couple of easy layups I missed that I could have made.”

Winning a state title at John Bosco High:

“… Going home, there’s bragging rights. It’s something to talk about at the family table. It’s a blessing. We had to persevere and get through adversity.”

On DeAndre Daniels

“… I’ll just let him decide. Let him do his own thing. We’ll be able to have another chance for a run if he comes back. We’ll be able to be that much better because he’s a force playing that power forward position, a lot of power forwards can’t guard him because he can put it on the floor and he can shoot, so it’s hard to guard him. … I always played up, because of my brothers I had to play up. Even when I was in sixth and seventh grade, I was playing with DeAndre.” Continue reading

After Breakfast In Bristol, Napier, Dolson No Longer ‘Hungry Huskies’

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Shabazz Napier and Stefanie Dolson spent an interesting day at ESPN. Among other things, they were “fed” by, or we should say, with permission from NCAA president Mark Emmert.

Emmert, of course, was among the dignitaries on the court when Napier proclaimed “This is what happens when you ban us … meet the Hungry Huskies” after the UConn men won the title on April 7. Earlier in the tournament, he made waves when he said there were times he “went to bed starving” because of the NCAA’s rules governing food for athletes.

(BTW, this is an issue Napier had raised a few times before, though no one was paying attention.)

Emmert was on the ESPN campus in Bristol for interviews, and crossed paths with Napier and Dolson. Trey Wingo served them breakfast during the show “Numbers Never Lie.”


(Updated 7:35 p.m., we’re deleting a quote that was here originally because there was confusion as to who said it.)

A proposal to eliminate all restrictions on feeding athletes was passed by the NCAA’s legislative council this week. It had been in the works for months, but timing is everything – Shabazz Napier will always be connected with this positive change.

Here is what Emmert told ESPN’s Mike and Mike about it.



A Happy Homecoming For Ryan Boatright

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Ryan Boatright has always been very proud of his hometown, and has always taken the opportunity to be a role model for young people in East Aurora, Ill., very seriously.

He has never had a better opportunity than he does now to bring a positive message back home, and he will be honored at a program Saturday at the Paramount Theater.

The Aurora Beacon-News reports on it here.

Boatright told his  hometown paper:

“It means the world to me to be coming home to Aurora as a national champion. This can encourage a lot of kids to pursue their own dreams.”

Boatright, like DeAndre Daniels, is weighing his options regarding the NBA Draft. One imagines he will be discussing things with his family this weekend.

NBA? Kevin Ollie Tells Gayle King, ‘Not Now … But Never Say Never’

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Kevin Ollie was interviewed on CBS This Morning Wednesday by Gayle King. He covered a lot of territory he has already covered recently, but he did address the prospects of coaching in the NBA, appearing to close the door on it now, but not in the future. (Talks for a new deal with UConn are just beginning, or about to begin.)

Here is the transcript of Ollie’s interview, as provided by CBS News. … The video clip will be available here after the show airs.

GAYLE KING: Well, LeBron James said this about you, that Kevin Ollie has the coaching gene.  Kevin Durant said, “He taught us a mindset and professional.  And all of us wanted to be like him.

KEVIN OLLIE: Wow.  That’s– that’s pretty awesome.

KING: What’s the Kevin Ollie formula for success?

OLLIE: Oh, man, it’s just a lot of hard work.  It’s believing in yourself. It’s a pride that I gotta get better at something every time I wake up.

KING: Okay, so we’ve been on YouTube.  We’ve seen that “‘Cause I’m happy.” You even had a thing where you did a Jay-Z brush your shoulders off, too, Kevin.

OLLIE: Yeah, we have to brush the doubters off.  We always gotta brush the doubters off.

KING: Let’s talk about the doubters for a minute. ‘Cause you inherited a team that was on academic probation.  It wasn’t these particular players. But because of that, U-Conn wasn’t allowed to play last year.  What do you do to motivate that group of– that group of players? Because everybody says, “We’re going to win.”  Everybody says that.

OLLIE:  Yeah, I mean, you’re exactly right.  Everybody brings it in before the season, say, “One, two, three, championship.” I’m not chasing championships. Championships are chasing us.  I’m not doing that.  I want my players to be better people, once they leave campus. Because this is a life lesson.  This is more than basketball.  This is life lessons that we’re trying to teach.

KING:  Let’s talk about unionization.  A lot of college campuses are talking about it for athletes.  Where do you stand on that?

OLLIE: I just think they need a voice.  Whatever that voice is.  Somebody needs to be talking on their behalf. You know, NCAA can use your likeness for a lifetime.  We have to do something for our student athletes.  We have to change.

KING: Did you ever have any trepidation about stepping into the shoes of Coach Jim Calhoun?  I remember Jim Calhoun.

OLLIE: I cannot step in his shoes. Only thing I’m glad that he passed me the baton.  And I’m trying to run as fast as I can with it.  And, you know, he’s a great man. He’s a father figure to me.  But I gotta be Kevin Ollie.  He seen something inside of me before I seen it.

KING: Before you saw it in yourself?

OLLIE: Oh yeah, even when I was a 17 year old coming from Los Angeles to Connecticut.

KING: What did he see?

OLLIE: Oh, he’s seen a fighter.  You know?  He’s seen somebody that– you know, like, when I first got to campus, I’m a freshman.  I’m playing against all these great players.  And I’m like (MAKES NOISE).  And I’m– I went to the dorm after our first practice, I called my mother, said, “Mom, I’m coming home.”  I was crying.  Last thing I heard was a click.  (LAUGH) That’s all–

KING: She hung up?

OLLIE: She hung up.  And then– I was like, “All right, I gotta go back, ’cause I can’t go back home. So I just had to stick it out.  And he just always told me, “Be the hardest worker.  No matter what, just be the hardest worker.”

KING: Mom did a favor hanging up on you.

OLLIE: She did a big time favor.  She was like, “I sent you there for a reason, to get your degree and play basketball.”

KING: You played 11 different teams in 13 seasons You’ve been to a lot of different teams.

OLLIE: A lot of different teams.  And I wasn’t the most talented guy.  So I had to watch tape.  I had to– I was playing, like, ten minutes.  So I had to– I had to make sure I knew every play, not only on my team, but the opposing team.  So I had to do my homework.  And when you put the work in, great things happen.

KING: Do you think that that– what you learned as a player made you a better coach?

OLLIE: I’m so glad, when you look back at it, that I went and I was able to be around so many different players and so many coaches.  Of course, when I was in the NBA, I wanted to stay in one city and have a 20-year contract and all that.  But, It’s good to come in the locker room.  And you say, ” Ollie’s on one of those jerseys.”  So I don’t care if I’m on a ten-day contract.  I was on a make-good contract.  Make-good contracts is– every day, they can cut you. So I’ve been on all those. But that’s what made me.  And I’m so glad God took me on that journey.

KING: This was in the USA Today right before the tournament.  Did you see this?

OLLIE:  No, I didn’t.

KING: Okay, this– I thought this was really great.  “Coach’s pay, Kevin Ollie, $1.25.  Billy Donovan, $3.9.  John Calipari, $5.5.  Bo Ryan, $2.2.”  There’s a rumor that they’re gonna renegotiate your contract.  Should they just back up the truck? BEEP BEEP BEEP. What does Kevin Ollie want?

OLLIE: I just want the right conditions around my players.  I want the right condition around them.

KING: I knew you wouldn’t tell me the salary.  But you are thinking, “I could probably get a little bit more than $1.25.”

OLLIE: I mean, I imagine, because of a national championship, yeah.  I mean, just like– just rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange.  When your stock is up, yeah, I mean, it’s more.  But money don’t move me.  I played in the NBA.  That don’t make a man. We’re gonna sit down and negotiate.  But I want the best for U-Conn.

KING: So even coming in here today, somebody sees you, somebody on the street, and says, “Hey, Kevin Ollie, you going to the NBA.”  Has the NBA called?

OLLIE: No, NBA hasn’t called.  No.

KING: If the NBA called, would you answer?

OLLIE: No, not now in my life.  Like I say, I can’t never –say no–

KING: Don’t let me pick up the paper next week Kevin and it says, “Guess what? (LAUGH) So and so has called and Kevin has accepted the call.”  There’s no secret meetings?

OLLIE: No. I’m just worried– worried about my kids here at the University of Connecticut. And I got three guys– four guys is gonna graduate on time.  And I want to be there for the graduation.  That’s actually, that’s gonna be even better than the national championship. I’m never gonna say never, but I’m having so much fun.  It’s my dream job.

President On The Line For Ollie, Auriemma …

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President Barack Obama called Kevin Ollie and Geno Auriemma to congratulate them on UConn’s dual championships and invite them to the White House. Here is the official White House release of the info, dated April 15:

Today, the President called University of Connecticut Men’s Basketball Head Coach Kevin Ollie and University of Connecticut Women’s Basketball Head Coach Geno Auriemma to congratulate both teams on their respective National Championship wins in the Men’s and Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournaments.  The President commended Coach Ollie and his team on their decisive championship victory and noted that he enjoyed watching the team throughout their tournament run.  On the call with Coach Auriemma, the President expressed how impressive it’s been to see the team continue to dominate the field of Women’s NCAA Basketball and commended Coach Auriemma on yet another championship win.  The President told both Coaches that he looks forward to congratulating their teams at the White House in the coming months.


UConn Men, Women To Be Honored At Fenway Park April 22

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UConn’s two national championship basketball teams will be honored in a ceremony next Tuesday at Fenway Park, before the Red Sox-Yankees game.

Details aren’t set yet,  the Red Sox say first ball honors have not been determoned, but one imagines Shabazz Napier, as a Bostonian, will get the honor of throwing out a first pitch, as Jim Calhoun did after previous championships.

We’ll provide more details as we get them. Both the Yankees and Mets would also like to have the UConn teams come to be honored in New York the near future, but dates and details are still to be worked out. Kemba Walker, joined by teammates, threw out a first pitch at Yankee Stadium in 2011.

Obviously, the schedule is filling up and final exams are approaching.


As expected, the American Athletic Conference announced an agreement to play its men’s basketball tournament at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., in 2016 and 2017, so the XL-Hartford deal will only be for 2015. The league will announce Thursday that the women’s tournament is returning to Mohegan Sun next year.


Ray Allen’s Camp Coming To East Granby in August

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Got word today of Ray Allen’s 2014 summer basketball camp, and wanted to pass it along. … This year, the Citi Ray Allen Basketball ProCamp, presented by Sunny D., is set for Aug. 2 and 3 at East Granby High.

Allen, finishing up another season with  the Miami Heat and heading for the playoffs, will be on site, helping teach fundamental basketball skills. The camp is open to boys and girls grades 1- through 12.

You can get more information here.