UConn Sport Management Alumni SportPath: Matt Ouimette

A few weeks ago I was asked by the UConn Sport Management Program to contribute my experiences working in the industry or “SportPath” to share with current students. Though my story is sport-specific I continue to use the lessons learned on a daily basis. During my sports career I have worked over 200 NCAA basketball, NCAA football, FCS football and NFL games from Connecticut to Hawaii- and it all started with an email.

Net Cutting

2011 Big East Tournament, MSG

Alumni SportPath: Matt Ouimette

As an incoming freshman to the University of Connecticut, I knew I wanted to get involved with the athletic department. While I was still in high school I emailed a former classmate working in athletics in the hopes of obtaining a position. After a few emails back and forth I found a home in the football equipment room- not what I had hoped for but I graciously accepted. Soon thereafter I was asked to fill a vacancy as a video assistant to the men’s basketball program. What started as a simple email resulted in working over 100 UConn basketball games all over the country.

Lesson 1: Maintain and utilize connections. Be genuine.

My position as video assistant required me to work home games and the occasional practice. Instead of limiting myself to the required duties, I tried to get as involved as possible. I attended as many practices as I could, assisted team managers when needed and completed each task I was given quickly and effectively. Due to my commitment I was given more responsibilities and was fortunate enough to work events such as the 2010 Preseason NIT, 2011 Maui Invitational and the now historic 2011 Big East Tournament.

Lesson 2: Take pride in your work no matter how small the task may be. Have passion.

In the excitement following our victory over Louisville to take the Big East crown and complete “5 Games in 5 Days” I was approached by a stranger. He told me UConn had forgot to cut down the second net and the MSG staff were about to remove the basket. He provided me a ladder in exchange for a piece of net. Unbeknownst to me, the man was the CEO of the software company I had used the previous four years at UConn. He offered me an internship on the spot.

Three months later I was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on the sidelines of Heinz Field testing Still Shot equipment for NFL use. Through the course of my internship I was exposed to numerous NFL, NBA and NCAA clients, creating valuable relationships in the process. I was also able to test instant replay software that was eventually adopted for the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournament.

Lesson 3: Network! Not just a simple exchange of contact information but tell your story and detail where you want to be. You may just find yourself in the right place at the right time!   

Link to original

Oh and I still keep my lucky piece of net with me at all times…

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Lega Basket Serie A: Jerome Dyson and Dinamo Sassari advance to Semifinals

dinamobasket.it

dinamobasket.it

Jerome Dyson and #5 Dinamo Sassari have advanced to the Lega Basket Serie A semifinals upsetting #4 seed Trento 3-1. After dropping Game 1, Dyson and company rode a three game winning streak to keep their Championship hopes alive. Series MVP David Logan led the way for Dinamo, dropping 27 points in the Game 4 clincher. Dyson struggled to find his shot in the series but still found other ways to contribute, dishing out 6 assists in the final game.

As I discussed in my quarterfinal preview, Dinamo’s keys to the series included:

  1. Contain League MVP Tony Mitchell
  2. Post-production
  3. Find shooting touch

Following the Game 1 loss, let’s see how Dinamo responded to each key.

Game 1: Trento 81, Dinamo 70

Game 2: Dinamo 88, Trento 79

  1. Mitchell: 6-18, 6 TO
  2. Rebound Margin: Even
    1. Shane Lawal: 18 points, 7 rebounds, 1 block
    2. Jeff Brooks: 13 points, 9 rebounds
  3. 66% from the field
    1. Edgar Sosa: 21 points

Game 3: Dinamo 103, Trento 78

  1. Mitchell: 2-12, 9 TO
  2. Rebound Margin: -1
    1. Shane Lawal: 8 points, 7 rebounds
    2. Jeff Brooks: 18 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks
  3. 76% from the field
    1. 103 points scored
    2. Edgar Sosa: 23 points, 4-7 3P

Game 4: Dinamo 84, Trento 80

  1. Mitchell: 5-15, 6 TO
  2. Rebound Margin: -9
    1. Shane Lawal: 10 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks
    2. Jeff Brooks: 5 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks
  3. 61% from the field
    1. David Logan: 27 points, 3-5 3P

Mitchell, a player who had caused problems for Dinamo in the past, was harassed into a woeful performance- managing only 29% from the field and commiting 7 TO per game- during the final three games of the series. Dinamo received the post-production they desperately lacked in previous battles with Trento, as forward Jeff Brooks provided extra strength inside to complement center Shane Lawal. However, the most impressive statistic of the series is the 68% Dinamo shot from the field in the final three games, including a 103 point explosion in Game 3. When you shoot the ball at such a high mark, it becomes almost impossible to lose. Here is a look ahead at Dinamo’s semifinal matchup.

legabasket.it

legabasket.it

Semifinals

Dinamo has reached its third semifinals in only five years of Serie A play, drawing a matchup with #1 seeded Milan- fresh off a 3-0 sweep of #8 Granarolo. The clubs split the season series 2-2, though Dinamo came out victorious in the most important games, defeating Milan in both the Italian SuperCup at the beginning of the year as well as the Italian Cup in February. It comes as no surprise that the winner of this series is the favorite to take the Serie A crown. Below is an inside look at the Italian Cup Finals matchup in February to give some perspective on the history of these two clubs.

This star-studded matchup features numerous former NBA players on the Milano side including MarShon Brooks (LA Lakers), Linas Kleiza (Toronto Raptors), Alessandro Gentile (Minnesota Timberwolves) and Samardo Samuels (Cleveland Cavaliers). Though Milano is favored and equipped with a deep bench, Dinamo possesses both the athleticism and momentum to eliminate the #1 seed for the third time this season. Here is a look at the probable starters for each team.

#5 Dinamo Sassari

Pos Name Nationality College/Former Club PPG RPG APG
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
Notable Bench Players
G Edgar Sosa Dominican Louisville ‘10 11.9 1.7 3.2

#1 Milano

Pos Name Nationality College/Former Club PPG RPG APG
PG Joe Ragland USA/Liberia Wichita State ’12 12.1 3.2 3.4
SG MarShon Brooks USA Providence ’11 14.7 3.5 2.2
SF Alessandro Gentile Italy Timberwolves (NBA) 12.7 4.6 1.9
PF Linas Kleiza Lithuania Ulker (Turkey) 9.4 3.7 0.7
C Samardo Samuels Jamaica Louisville ‘10 13.3 5.7 1.9
Notable Bench Players
G Daniel Hackett USA/Italy USC ‘09 8.9 3.3 4.1

The series tips off tomorrow with two games in Milan before returning to Sassari on June 2nd for the final two games. Television information is unavailable at the time but the games should be available by following Lega Basket Serie A on the Twitter app Periscope. Best of luck to Sassari in their quest for a third trophy!

Olander and Oriakhi highlight LKL Top 10 Plays from Round 18

We know Lithuania is wary of Russia but if last week’s Top 10 is any indication, it’s actually the Americans flying overhead…

In any case, Lithuania has officially been introduced to lob city.

 

Jerome Dyson absolutely POSTERIZES defender (video)

This is what happens when 6’10 Italian center Tomas Ress tries to jump with Jerome Dyson:

euroleague.net

euroleague.net

Dyson has been on absolute fire the last 5 games in Italian Series A League play averaging a ridiculous 26.2 points, 6.6 assists, 6 rebounds and 2.5 steals for #2 Banco Di Sardegna. Sassari competes in both the Italian Series A League (national) as well as the EuroCup (regional). The club also competed in the Euroleague (Euro NBA, think Niels Giffey/Marcus Williams) earlier in the season but failed to reach the Top 16. They were booted into the Top 32 of the EuroCup (one level down) to play for a chance at the EuroCup crown and an automatic bid back to the Euroleague for next season. Essentially, the EuroCup (and lesser regional leagues) is a chance for clubs without the necessary accolades to qualify for Euroleague play automatically, similar to how conference tournament’s work with March Madness. European clubs rely heavily on sponsors who rely heavily on exposure, better leagues = more exposure = more money = better players.

To gauge the scope of the EuroCup, here is a map of all participating clubs (minus late additions):

Wikipedia

Wikipedia

Dyson is having a career year for Sassari with his 18.5 points per game, 4.8 assists per game and 2.3 steals per game good for 4th, 4th and 1st respectively in Series A play. On January 11th, Dyson dropped 30 points (6-10, 3P), dished out 8 assists and added 4 steals. In fact, his DEEP 3’s in the last two minutes led Sassari to the come-from-behind victory. Follow the link below for highlights (shots come at 2 minute mark):

http://video.gazzetta.it/video-embed/61232c74-9915-11e4-a044-3f0f5e5c1c1c

Sassari returns to action January 20th when they battle Buducnost (Montenegro) in EuroCup play. The matchup pits Dyson against former Big East standout Omar Cook (St. John’s). Dyson and his squad will need to finish in the top two of Group H to advance to the Final Eight – they currently sit at 3rd with a record of 1-1. Other Group H members include Buducnost, Canaria (Spain), and Banvit (Turkey).

We always knew Dyson could make plays like this…

…now he is making winning plays.

 

Twin Towers lose another heartbreaker (video)

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Gintaras Siuparys

We last checked in with the Twin Towers in mid-December after Siauliai had been eliminated from EuroChallenge contention on a half-court buzzer-beater. Not to worry, there is still much basketball to be played. This season, Siauliai competes in both the top national league, Lithuanian Basketball League (LKL), as well as the competition-based EuroChallenge (invite only).  Remember, European clubs play in multiple leagues. Some are national, others regional and select are competition-based off the previous season’s performance. Siauliai earned an invite to the EuroChallenge after a 2013-14 campaign that saw the club win its first Baltic Basketball League (regional) title. Siauliai failed to advance in EuroChallenge play but will still compete for the LKL championship in April.

The holiday’s proved a rough stretch for Siauliai as they have gone 1-3 in their past 4 games. The club dropped to #6 in the standings (9-9), after another tough home loss, this time at the hands of #4 Juventus. Siauliai jumped out to a 48-37 lead at halftime before watching Juventus pull to within 1 with :20 seconds remaining. On the inbound, Juventus’ Rashaun Broadus (BYU) shook free from his defender for the game winning lay-in. Watch below:

Ryan Olander had 9 points/5 rebounds while Tyler Olander added 5/3 in a losing effort. Broadus led Juventus with 17 points/3 assists. Here are the complete stats for the Twin Towers through 18 games:

LKL G MIN FG-FGA FG% 3PM-A 3P% REB AS PTS EFF
R. Olander 18 19.1 56-109 51% 4-12 33% 4.1 1.0 8.4 7.9
 T. Olander 18 12.6 31-51 61% 7-25 28% 2.8 1.0 5.3 5.9

With 20 games remaining, #6 Siauliai must remain #8 or higher to advance to the LKL playoffs. Siauliai is off for a few days before returning to action January 17th against #9 Tonybet.

Here is a video compilation of the Top 10 plays of 2014, posted to the club’s Facebook fan page. Ryan Olander makes two appearances in the Top 10 at 19 seconds and 1:52.

STAAR Graduation: Josh Privee

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Josh and I at Graduation

I want to congratulate my man Josh Privee on his graduation from the STAAR program (Students Transitioning to Age Appropriate Routes) this evening. I have known Josh since our days at E.O. Smith High School where he dominated the Unified Basketball court. Unfortunately, graduation ends an illustrious career that included a game winning shot (more below) and knockout win over professional basketball player- and 7 footer- Ryan Olander. I caught up with Josh back in March where we discussed playing style, favorite players and more: Note: While Josh alluded to his strong sense of humor, he wanted to keep the interview serious in nature.

Is basketball your favorite sport or are you just best at it?

Favorite

What is your favorite Unified Sports memory?

We played East Hartford in the last home game of last year. I swished a last minute buzzer beater for the win!

I heard you are an All Star floor hockey goalie, would you rather make the game winning save in a shoot out or hit a game winning three pointer?

Definitely make the game winning save in a shoot out.

Who is your favorite professional/college player?

My favorite professional player is no doubt #6 on the Miami Heat, Lebron James and my favorite college player is of course my man Tyler Olander of the UConn Huskies.

Imagine you dunked on Tyler Olander, how would you celebrate?

I would get right up in his face and say, “yo you got dunked on by a guy whose 5’9”.

What NBA player do you most closely resemble?

Lebron James. We both can knock down step back jumpers or drive to the hoop. We are also both tremendous shot blockers and can steal the ball from right in front of you.

Who is your favorite E.O. teacher to play against?

Mr. DeLoreto because he is fun to play with and always encourages me.

Who wins a three point shooting contest between you and Shaun Davis?

Shaun because he has a better three point shot. My game is more drive and mid-range.

How would you guard Josh Privee?

Get right up on me and don’t let me blow by you. Whatever you do, don’t let me get to the rim.

How far do you have UConn advancing in the NCAA Tournament?

Men: Elite Eight Women: National Champions

What are your plans after graduation?

I run track and field for the Special Olympics so I am going to stick with that and hopefully move into better compeition. I also hope to get a job.

Congratulations again to Josh on his graduation and I will see you at the MCC next week!

Deandre Daniels and Ryan Boatright NBA Draft Update

The deadline for NCAA underclassmen to declare for the 2014 NBA Draft is April 27th. For Deandre Daniels and Ryan Boatright, this means a decision will be announced in the next few days. As a Husky fan, I would love to see these two back in blue and white next season but with millions of dollars at stake there are many more contributing factors. Here is how I think it will all play out:

Ryan Boatright

Ryan Boatright would benefit from another year in school. Helter-skelter at times, another year under the tutelage of a former NBA point guard would seem to be the rational decision. However, this was not a rational year. Boat is coming off a courageous NCAA tournament performance that drove his stock to an all-time high. Critics allude to his size and decreased statistical performance as indicators he should return for his senior season. I do not understand the size argument, Boat will be the same height next year if he stays and enters the 2015 draft. He will be as undersized then as he is now. The difference is, now his stock is at its peak (barring a repeat). His size will remain the same but his stock can only drop. To address the statistics argument, Boat averaged 12.1 points/3.5 rebounds/3.4 assists this season down from 15.4 points/4.4 assists a year ago. Ok, yes, that’s a drop off of 3 points and 1 assist, but, if you take a deeper look, you will see he took 2 less shots, grabbed .5 more rebounds and committed 1 less turnover per game. Also, we won the National Championship. Boat’s production didn’t drop off, he found his place in the winning formula. Protecting the ball, crashing the glass and accepting a diminished role offensively was what we needed from Boat and that’s exactly what he gave us. He put the team over individual performance, demonstrating his maturation from freshman year. A non-basketball factor to take into account is the death of Boatright’s cousin, Arin Williams, who was shot to death in January outside Chicago. I am sure the desire to move his family to a safer location will play a role in his decision.

To Stay or Go?

Prediction: Enters NBA Draft, mid to late second round pick

 

 Deandre Daniels

Deandre Daniels is another player who could benefit from one more year under Coach Ollie. Standing at 6’9 195 lbs, another year in the weight room seems appropriate as well. On the other hand, Daniels is coming off a NCAA Tournament that saw him play his best basketball in a UCONN uniform including 27 points/10 rebounds vs Iowa State and a 20/10 game vs Florida. Daniels’ length, athleticism and skill set are all highly coveted by NBA GM’s. Does he stay or does he go? As in the case of Boatright I believe Deandre will cash in on his high stock. The opportunity is too hot to pass up. In a draft loaded with talent at the small forward position- Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Cleanthony Early-  Deandre has something none of them have, a ring, the mark of a winner. Another case to consider is that of former UCONN big man Alex Oriakhi, who played a similar role to Daniels on the 2011 National Championship team. After much deliberation Oriakhi chose to remain in Storrs, a move you cannot blame him for but ultimately led to his demise. Oriakhi picked school over stock and is now fighting his way through the D-League to get back to the promised land. Rest assured his decision will be weighing in the back of Deandre’s mind throughout the process.

To Stay or Go?

Prediction: Enters NBA Draft, late 1st round to early 2nd round pick

A Look Back At MSG

KO cuts down net

Sweet 16 Recap

I took the 2pm express train from Darien to a Grand Central Station packed with UCONN fans. As early as 4pm there was a definite buzz in the city and you could hear the chants ring out on the walk down 7th.  Inside, the Garden didn’t feel like 40% UCONN fans, not to say it didn’t get loud but Virginia orange was the dominant color in my opinion. Not say UCONN’s presence wasn’t felt- we dominated section 109 behind the Husky bench from family members in the first few rows up to the student section in 209.  As for the game, Deandre Daniels played like a man and we benefited, plain and simple. Shabazz came out and knocked down 4 early three’s but instead of focusing solely on his hot hand, was able to get Deandre into the flow of the game. Niels provided relief on the glass with 7 rebounds and knocked down a Rashad Anderson dagger with two minutes remaining for a 7 point advantage. Terrence Samuel once again stepped up with quality minutes and clutch free throws in his return to NYC.

Defensively, we were able to control Deandre Kane, forcing him into a 6-18 night. Our rotation of guards were able to tire Kane-who played the entire 40 minutes- evidenced by his 2-9 performance from the line (64% on the season, 5-7 vs UNC). Big 12 POY Melvin Ejim was also frustrated into a 3-13 night. Hogue once again played like a monster finishing with 34 points and 6 rebounds, in part perhaps to the defensive focus on Kane/Ejim. Hogue couldn’t beat us single handedly- Kane/Ejim were the players we had to shut down and we went out and shut them down. Another key to the game was UCONN’s superiority at the foul line. UCONN shot 91% (20-22) while Iowa State combined to go 40% (6-15). 5 of those 9 misses make up the difference in the game. Free throws win games and this team makes free throws. We are gaining confidence as the stage gets brighter and need this trend to continue to advance.

Elite 8 Recap

Keys

Deandre Daniels

If Shabazz is Kemba then Deandre Daniels is Alex Oriakhi. Although their styles of play are drastically different, Daniels is providing the boost Alex gave during the stretch run in 2011. Rebounds. Big Blocks. Dunks inciting the crowd. Intensity. Deandre has emerged as the big man scoring option UCONN desperately needed. When Deandre is on, pressure is off Shabazz to score and he is able to get into his own flow and facilitate the game. One of the most telling signs occurred with 12 minutes to go in the second half. With a much smaller Appling defending, Deandre posted up and went to work delivering the bucket through contact for an AND-1. He did not hover around the three point line like earlier in the season but instead saw a mismatch and worked to exploit it. He wanted the ball and delivered, the sign of a scorer finally recognizing his abilities. Watch out Florida.

Atmosphere

In 10 years of attending UCONN games at MSG, this is the first time in my life UCONN controlled the Garden. As I walked towards the Garden Sunday afternoon, UCONN chants rang out far before 34th and 7th. This was one of the best college games I have ever attended solely due to atmosphere. The Garden was electric and filled with Husky Blue. You could tell from the first possession of the game UCONN was in the building. Michigan State’s Adreian Payne could not get past Husky big Philip Nolan who ultimately forced the star forward to travel accompanied by an immediate uproar from UCONN Country. Michigan State could not get comfortable, UCONN fed off the energy and MSG was capable of willing the Huskies to victory. At times it felt like Michigan State was intimidated by the environment and it caused them to stray from their game-plan. In a game of runs, UCONN jumped out to a 12-2 lead largely due to crowd energy. Boat set the tone defensively from the start with tight on ball pressure forcing Michigan State turnovers. Niels break away dunk with 8 minutes left set the crowd into a frenzy and the noise never ceased. Nolan’s dunk to close the game was the second loudest I’ve ever heard a UCONN crowd at the Garden (Kemba’s stepback). Dallas is much farther than New York but hopefully UCONN can ride the momentum created at MSG on Sunday afternoon.

Defense

Defense wins the big games and UCONN brought it on the defensive end Sunday. Credit Philip Nolan/Amida Brimah for their efforts on MSU big man Adreian Payne. A 6’10 240 pound bruiser, UCONN was able to body Payne and keep him floating around the perimeter. As a result, Payne settled for ten 3 pointers as opposed to establishing an inside game. In fact, we held a much larger, more physical Michigan State team to only 6 points in the paint. Six points in the paint were the second fewest for any team in the past five NCAA tournaments. How did we do it? Toughness. Determination. Team Defense. UCONN wanted it more and it translated on the court. From Nolan’s inital stop to Boat/Bazz defensive pressure in the opening minutes, we brought it. Instead of answering with physical play, MSU settled for jump shots which is a testament to UCONN’s defense. Not only do our players believe no one will get by them but now opposing players are starting to believe it.

Free Throws

UCONN shot 95% (21-22) from the line.

X Factors

Role Players

Nolan came up huge. Giffey did not shoot well but crashed the boards. Boat’s defensive tenacity got the crowd involved early. Brimah gave quality minutes. Different players are stepping up when their name is called. It doesn’t matter who it comes from we just need to piece it together each game.

Confidence

Middle of the season this game would have gone much differently. Nolan would not have stopped Payne. Deandre would not call for the ball in the post. Giffey would not recover from early missed shots. Why the different outcome? CONFIDENCE. UCONN has it and it’s not going away.

Notes

To anyone feeling sorry for Michigan State having to play in UCONN’s backyard, don’t be. The 2009 Final Four against UCONN in Detroit was a home game for MSU as they packed Ford Field with green and white. Justice has been served.

A big thanks to Tyler Olander for tickets to both games making this all possible.

 

RIP BIG EAST AS WE KNOW IT

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Madison Square Garden. 33rd and 7th. New York, New York. The World’s Most Famous Arena. The Mecca. The Garden. Home to the Big East Tournament featuring perennial powers: Creighton, Butler, and Xavier. No, that is not a typo and yes, this is what it has come to. I couldn’t help feeling angry and even a little ripped off last night watching the Georgetown-DePaul first round game while UCONN waits 1,000 miles away in Memphis. Coinciding with my March 10th birthday it’s no surprise that tickets to the Big East Tournament topped my birthday list each year. Beginning in 2003 with a quarterfinals matchup against Seton Hall and ending in the magic that was “5 Games in 5 Days”, this is what nine straight years of Big East Basketball at Madison Square Garden meant to me:

You step off 7th Ave, out of the concrete jungle into a different type of jungle. In this jungle, the Husky is at the top of the food chain. You are greeted by chants of marching bands and cheerleaders leading their respective fight songs in unison. If you time it right, you walk in just as the UCONN fight song begins, making quite the entrance.
You pray your scalped ticket scans and start brainstorming backstories if it doesn’t. It scans, you’re in. Spiraling upward you take escalator after escalator passing Boston College, St. John’s and even a few Seton Hall fans- not caring who they are, just knowing you don’t like them. You catch a glimpse of orange in your peripheral and immediately cringe, hoping its a carrot. It’s not. It’s an orange. Any other time of year you like oranges. Oranges are sweet and juicy, but not March oranges. March oranges are sour. Sour from defeat you assume but you can’t be sure.
You take your seat. Rutgers scarlet to your left, Virginia Tech maroon to your right. You breathe a sigh of relief, they won’t give you much hassle. They CAN’T give you much hassle. You are UCONN, they are afraid and they should be. You briefly consider hassling them but quickly drop the notion, besides, you are with your family. The national anthem plays, the game has begun. You want to cheer as loud as possible after another turnover vs West Virginia, however, as a seasoned vet you know to save your voice for the inevitable date with Pittsburgh. Rival fans tire at another Taliek assist, Gordon three, Okafor block or Kemba step back but you do not, in fact, you could watch six overtimes worth.
The buzzer sounds. You live another day. As you take the escalator down you see fans of all colors. Losers avert your glare but tomorrows opponent meets your stare with a similar confidence. Not for long, you think. You exit the turnstiles into the City that Never Sleeps and a new challenge: waking up for tomorrows game.
On this night, the city is yours.