In lieu of the 2015 National Spelling Bee, if you think I spelled “block” incorrectly above you may need a geography lesson…
Jerome Dyson and Dinamo Banco di Sardegna Sassari (Dinamo Sassari for short) enter the 2015 Lega Basket Serie A Playoffs with the #5 seed thanks to a 19-11 mark in league play. The club has already strung together an impressive year, competing in both Euroleague and EuroCup play, in addition to winning their second consecutive Italian Cup Championship in February. The Lega Basket Serie A is the first-tier level club competition league in Italy, with a home-and-away schedule comprised of 30 games followed by a playoff round featuring the top eight teams. The quarterfinals and semifinal series are conducted as best-of-five matchups leading into a best-of-seven finals. Lega Basket Serie A has become a popular destination for the stars of Big East past, with at least 16 players having suited up at some point this season- including former NBA All-Star Metta World Peace.
With that in mind, here is a look at the 2015 playoff bracket:
Dyson and Dinamo already find themselves in an 0-1 hole after losing the first game of the series to #4 Trento yesterday. Trento, led by league MVP Tony Mitchell’s (Alabama/Detroit Pistons) 16 points/11 rebounds, dominated the glass (55 to 28) en route to an 81-70 home victory. Dinamo struggled shooting the ball, finishing just 8-31 from deep and 18-41 from the field. Dinamo was led by Jerome Dyson’s 14 points and 7 steals with Edgar Sosa adding 11 points in the losing effort. Imposing center Davide Pascolo (Italy) had a monster game for Trento with 15 points and 14 rebounds. As two of the highest scoring teams in the league (Dinamo 85.0, Trento 81.3) boasting numerous high-flyers, the first game certainly did not disappoint the highlight reel (below). If you have been following my blog it should be no surprise who came in at #1…
Dyson and company hit the hardwood tomorrow for Game 2 at Trento. Here is a look at probable starters for both sides as well as season statistics:
#5 Dinamo Sassari
|PG||David Logan||USA/Poland||Indianapolis ‘05||16.5||2.8||3.0|
|SG||Jerome Dyson||USA||UConn ‘10||16.1||3.9||4.2|
|SF||Rakim Sanders||USA||BC/Fairfield ‘12||12.0||3.5||1.2|
|PF||Jeff Brooks||USA||Penn State ‘11||8.6||7.2||1.3|
|C||Shane Lawal||Nigeria||Oakland/Wayne St ‘09||10.8||9.2||1.2|
|G||Edgar Sosa||Dominican||Louisville ‘10||11.9||1.7||3.2|
|PG||Andres Forray||Argentina/Italy||Forli (Italy)||5.3||2.6||2.5|
|SG||Jamarr Sanders||USA||UAB ‘11||8.5||3.9||2.4|
|SF||Tony Mitchell||USA||Alabama ‘12||21.1||5.7||2.7|
|PF||Davide Pascolo||Italy||Udinese (Italy)||12.0||7.4||1.6|
|C||Josh Owens||USA||Stanford ‘12||13.3||6.3||1.1|
|G||Keaton Grant||USA||Purdue ‘10||7.7||2.3||1.2|
Contain Tony Mitchell
In two regular season matchups the league MVP torched Sassari for 31 and 24 points respectively. The 6’9 wing presents a matchup nightmare due to his versatility and freakish athletic ability. Game 1 was a move in the right direction for Dinamo as Mitchell was held to only 16 points on 3-12 shooting- though he did still manage to collect 11 rebounds and dish out 7 assists. For Dinamo to advance, Mitchell must be slowed down.
Rebounding is not the only worry for the undersized Sassari squad. In the two regular season matchups, Trento scored an average of 63% of their points in the paint (compared to 37% from Sassari) including an insane 65% in a matchup back in December. The closer you are to the basket, the higher percentage the shot- an idea clearly translated in the field goal percentages for both teams. Through three games (including yesterday) Trento is shooting the ball at a 60% mark while Sassari checks in at 47%. League-leading shot blocker Shane Lawal will need to keep Trento’s bigs off the glass and out of the box score.
When post scoring is limited, points must come from elsewhere- specifically the three ball. For a team that averaged 35 three’s per game and had 4 players shoot over 100 three’s on the season (compared to two for Trento), the 8-31 mark (26%) Dinamo put up in the first game won’t cut it. Between sharpshooters Dyson, David Logan and Rakim Sanders- someone needs to get hot.
Best of luck to Dinamo Sassari and be sure to stay tuned for more updates!
Washington Redskins OLB Trevardo Williams does a mean robot.
The 6’1, 237 lb Williams was drafted in the fourth round by the Houston Texans after playing college ball for the University of Connecticut. At UConn, Williams was clearly programmed to find the QB as his 30.5 sacks are still a team record.
If football doesn’t work out, there’s always the dance team…
Jalen Adams has yet to appear in a UConn uniform but he clearly has already adopted the “Hungry Huskies” mantra. Watch below as Adams feasts on Kentucky commit Isaiah Briscoe.
Luckily for Adams (and more importantly Briscoe), Shabazz Napier and the UConn Huskies have already played their part in a NCAA ruling to allow D1 programs unlimited meals for athletes.
However, upon further investigation, this beef has more sides than just the stuffing above. According to Reddit, Adams and Briscoe began their rivalry at the Ballislife All-American Game in early May, which naturally, as all great head-to-head matchups do, resulted in a social media war. The posts have since been removed but not before Twitter users grabbed these screenshots:
As high-profile players attending high-profile programs, both will be taught the ramifications for such youthful behavior. Nonetheless, it was funny. However, there can only be one winner and given the recent history of Kentucky-UConn matchups, it’s Adams.
The 2014/15 LKL season has come to a close for the Twin Towers of Olander and former UConn National Champion Alex Oriakhi. Here is a look back on the season in review including final statistics, best performance, and top play for each player:
Ryan Olander and BC Siauliai entered the LKL playoffs with the #7 seed, in a best-of-five matchup with #2 Lietuvos Rytas. The Lithuanian powerhouse proved too strong for Siauliai, knocking them out of the playoffs with three straight victories behind the play of Americans Billy Baron (UVA/URI), Mike Moser (UCLA/Oregon) and Travis Leslie (Georgia/LA Clippers).
Though a strong season overall, which included a Baltic Basketball League Championship, Olander put forth his strongest numbers when it mattered most- during EuroChallenge play. The EuroChallenge is the third-tier professional league in Europe and Olander ranked in the top three converting on 73% of his field goal attempts- drawing interest from competitors in the process.
BC Siauliai Final Record: 18-22
Best Game: November 12th, 2014: Siauliai 94 – Tsmoki-Minsk (Belarus) 91. Olander had 23 points on 11-14 shooting to go along with 4 rebounds and 1 assist in a road win over Tsmoki-Minsk.
Top Play: The chuckle from the announcer is by far the best part.
Tyler Olander played the first half of the season with BC Siauliai before he was loaned to Mazeikiai for the remainder of the year for more playing time. Since joining the 1-24 Mazeikiai in February, Olander led the club to a 5-8 record in his 13 games averaging 7 points and nearly 5 rebounds in the process.
Mazeikiai Final Record: 6-32
Best Game: February 28th, 2015: Lietuvos Rytas 76 – Mazeikiai 70. Tyler exploded for 14 points and 9 rebounds in just 20 minutes of action in a near upset of #2 Lietuvos Rytas.
Top Play: Olander appeared at #2 in the BEKO LKL Top Ten plays for Round 22 with this mid-air adjustment.
Alex Oriakhi led the Pieno Zvaigzdes “Milk Stars” to the #4 seed in the LKL playoffs, straight into a matchup with #3 Juventus. After splitting the first four games of the series, the Milk Stars fell short in Game 5 by a 69-61 margin, ending their season. Although it was a tough end to the year, Oriakhi put together a strong year numbers-wise and was elected a starter in the LKL All-Star game. With his rights still owned by the Sacramento Kings of the NBA, Oriakhi has returned stateside to compete with the Kings summer league team.
P. Zvaigzdes Final Record: 24-16
Best Game: January 31st, 2015: P. Zvaigzdes 99 – Siauliai 97. In an impressive month of January where he was named Player of the Month, Oriakhi led the Milk Stars over the Twin Towers with 17 points and 14 rebounds (8 offensive) in 20 minutes.
Top Play: Oriakhi extends for the dramatic finish off an oop from teammate Michael Dixon for #2 on the BEKO LKL Top Ten regular season plays.
Stay tuned for season reviews for all of UConn Country in Europe!
Jerome Dyson is having quite the year in Italy. In addition to leading Dinamo Sassari to the Italian Cup Championship in February, Dyson’s regular season statistics of 16.2 points, 4.3 assists and 2.0 steals per game were good for 5th, 5th and 1st in Italian league play respectively. True to his hard-nosed, attack-the-basket style of play we became accustomed to at UConn, Dyson also led the league with 5.8 fouls drawn per game.
Never one to shy away from the highlight reel, this Dyson poster featured in January was voted the top play of the ENTIRE Italian League season.
Dyson and #5 Sassari are set to battle #4 Trento in quarterfinal play beginning Monday. Updates to come…
The P. Zvaigzdes Milkstars will enter the LKL playoffs with a #4 seed thanks in large part to the play of All Star center Alex Oriakhi and his 9 points/6 rebounds per game. Watch below as Oriakhi extends for the powerful finish off an oop from former Missouri teammate Michael Dixon (#1).
Oriakhi, Dixon and the Milk Stars open LKL play against #5 Juventus this Thursday with a potential semifinal matchup with #2 Zalgiris looming.
This summer, Oriakhi, whose rights are owned by the Sacramento Kings, will compete with the team’s summer league program in the hopes of earning a coveted roster spot.
A species comprising less than 1% of the world’s population, seven footers or “footers” are a rare breed. Whether intentional or not, life at such a high altitude leaves them especially susceptible to be victimized by posterizations, leading to hanging heads and slumped shoulders- currently the largest known threat to the species. The most recent victim, 7’0 Kymantas Simonas of Tonybet, was reduced to extinction after this shame-inflicting dunk from Siauliai’s Ryan Olander, seen below at #5 in this week’s BEKO LKL’s Top Ten plays.
Since winning the Baltic Basketball League Championship earlier this month, Siauliai has gone 2-2 in their return to LKL play. With only 4 league games remaining, Siauliai is essentially locked at the #7 seed and is slated to play #2 Zalgiris when first round play begins in May. This year’s LKL playoffs will follow a best of 5 format for all three rounds of action.
More to come when official seeding is released…
Four years ago Texas Longhorn teammates Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson became the first duo of Canadians to be taken in the first round of the NBA Draft in almost 30 years. Two years later, the Cleveland Cavaliers made Anthony Bennett the first Canadian-born player to be drafted No. 1 overall. And last year, Andrew Wiggins and the Cavaliers made it two in a row. But before all of this, there was Jim Calhoun, Denham Brown and the 111 point game.
Contrary to public belief, Steve Nash is not solely responsible for the resurrection of Canadian basketball. No, that title must be shared with Toronto native Denham Brown with a little help from the foresighted recruitment efforts of Jim Calhoun and the UConn Huskies.
The above video is part of the Toronto Raptors #MyNorth marketing campaign which aims to highlight the history of the basketball scene in the Greater Toronto Area. There is no better place to start than Denham Brown. Though his 111 points came in a seemingly meaningless game (school had already been disqualified from the playoffs), the true impact was anything but meaningless for the Canadian basketball landscape. Brown was one of the first Canadian’s who followed the typical trajectory of an American recruit, frequently participating in AAU tournaments in the United States. Brown’s play caught the attention of UConn Head Coach Jim Calhoun, who chartered a plane north of the border to see the Canadian stud work out at a local Community Centre.
Jim Calhoun and the UConn Huskies were already ahead of the curve when it came to recruiting international talent. Said Calhoun in 2012, “When I first came here in 1986, we couldn’t compete (in recruiting) because we had five consecutive losing seasons. We were competing with the Villanovas, the St. Johns, the Georgetowns, the Syracuses… we needed to expand the parameters where UConn recruited.” Jim Calhoun is no dummy. He knew he was not in the running for top East Coast talent and took his search overseas. In fact, since 1999, UConn has had 12 foreign players on scholarship- from Israel to Tanzania (notable examples below). That’s more than traditional powerhouses North Carolina (2), Duke (4), UCLA (5), Michigan State (4) and Kentucky (4) according to numbers from 2012. As a competitor, Calhoun wanted the best talent- regardless of country. Little did he know one particular signing would open the door to a new wave of basketball talent for years to come.
Emergence of Canada’s other sport
Canadian players lacked exposure and Brown, largely considered the top recruit in the country, brought that exposure. His performance, though controversial in Canada, was featured in American publication SLAM Magazine, unprecedented at the time for a Canadian hoopster. Brown was one of the first true Toronto basketball success stories, a kid who was able to parlay his AAU showcases into a Division One scholarship into a National Championship. Now, it is much easier for this new wave of Canadian talent to find homes in the United States because NCAA programs are willing to look North of the border. Even Findlay Prep, a high school basketball powerhouse in Las Vegas, has taken on Canadian players such as Thompson, Bennett and Joseph in recent years. “Take a guy like Denham,” says Mike George, agent for Bennett. “He’s been playing against Americans here and there, but he doesn’t really do it on a full-time basis. Now, Anthony and Tristan Thompson and some of these guys have been playing against American high-level competition from September to September. They’ve gotten used to it…”
Roy Rana, head coach of the Canadian under-18 national team, adds: “People started investigating. People started to get more motivated to figure it out. How do I get a kid in a major school? How can I help a young man get a Division One scholarship? I think it was really the result of some people deciding to take teams of young Canadians, mostly Toronto basketball players, into the United States and explore that system, and learn and grow from that system, and use it here.” For this system to work you need a relateable success story- Denham Brown- and a program who is willing to take a chance- UConn.
According to Canada Basketball, the country’s organizing body for the sport, participation rates among children in Canada have doubled since 2005, or, one year after Brown’s National Championship with UConn. Today, over 100 Canadians play NCAA Division One basketball, including the #7 overall player in the class of 2014, Kentucky’s Trey Lyles. Says Andrew Wiggins, “They really opened doors for younger people watching, for us to grow up and believe we can do the same they have done. Tristan, Cory, Denham Brown, Phil Dixon, Steve Nash, Jamaal Magloire, guys like that, they have really paved the way for young guys like me and even younger guys who are coming.”
Pioneer of the new movement
The recent retirement of Steve Nash has drawn many to credit the probable Hall-of-Famer with the resurrection of Canadian basketball. Not to take anything away from Mr. Nash but Denham Brown stakes just as much claim to that title. First, Nash was raised outside of Vancouver, roughly 2,100 miles (or 3,392 km) from the Greater Toronto Area where much of the talent has originated (Wiggins, Bennett, Joseph, Thompson among others). Second, Nash’s journey was a remarkably different story from many of the Greater Toronto Area hoopsters. Here is an excerpt from Brian Daly’s Canada’s Other Game: Basketball from Naismith to Nash, depicting Nash’s childhood.
“It was December of 1990, and the sun had just set behind the mountains overlooking picturesque Victoria, British Columbia, leaving only a single spotlight to illuminate a hoop in the schoolyard of Hillcrest Elementary School in the town of Saanich, a north end suburb of the B.C. capital. Large and medium-sized detached homes lay nestled among an eclectic array of trees and bushes in the Gordon Head neighbourhood, with well-kept gardens displayed year-round in Canada’s only snow-free capital region. Less than a kilometre away, waterside mansions and rugged shoreline gave way to the sparkling blue waters of the Haro Strait, a great whale-watching area separating southern Vancouver Island from adjacent islands off the west coast of Washington State.”
Nash grew up on soccer, hockey and rugby and worshipped the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. When Nash initially struggled in high school his parents were able to send him to St. Michaels, a private boarding school only 30 miles from the border of the United States.
On the opposite coast, Denham Brown was raised in the Lawrence Heights neighborhood of Toronto, home to the city’s first public housing project. When his high school closed following junior year, Brown transferred to a public school in the Eastern Toronto district of Scarborough or “Scarlem” as coined by the Canadian magazine Toronto Life. Years later, Minnesota Timerbwolves forward Anthony Bennett and his family would relocate to the nearby Jane and Finch neighborhood, a community known for one of the largest concentrations of criminal gangs in all of Canada. At the same time Andrew Wiggins, Cory Joseph and Tyler Ennis (Phoenix Suns via Syracuse) were all growing up in diverse neighborhoods surrounding Greater Toronto, worshipping then-star Vince Carter and the Toronto Raptors. In an interview with USA Today, Canadian Nik Stauskas (Sacramento Kings via Michigan) comments: “There was Steve Nash, but he didn’t really have that path of going to prep school in America. We paved the way for the Canadians trying to make that move. There’s always a new guy coming up and let’s hope they take the same path.” Though Brown did not attend prep school in the United States, he put Toronto on the map, making it possible for Stauskas and others.
I could never downplay the impact Steve Nash has made on the perception of Canadian basketball but I am simply unconvinced a young Anthony Bennett relates to the story of Steve Nash more so than Denham Brown. Assuming Nash was the sole inspiration behind this new wave of Canadian basketball ignores important factors such as geography and privilege. Brown’s high school coach Marv Spencer puts it best at the end of the My North campaign video:
“He (Denham) laid the foundation for the American sports industry to understand that there is talent here. Wiggins and the young guys that are making it now, I admire them, I love what they are doing but we are talking about the pioneer of the whole new movement. Denham Brown is the pioneer of the new movement and when the young guys get a chance to see him, salute the King.”
According to slamonline.com, there are now close to 50 men and 20 women playing Division One basketball from the Greater Toronto Area. As a UConn fan, Denham Brown’s contribution to the 2004 National Championship team is remembered in points and rebounds but his contribution to his country is immeasureable. Ultimately, whether through Steve Nash or Denham Brown, the most important storyline is that Canadian players have finally gained the exposure they deserve and that is what matters most.
Jesus Shuttlesworth look at all those shoes!