Learning from Champions: A Comparison of Boatright, Napier and Walker through 5 games

Jessica Hill, AP

Jessica Hill, AP

Shabazz Napier was entrusted with the same responsibility Kemba Walker had before him- lead the UConn Huskies to a National Championship while doing, well, basically everything. By now, we know what it will take emotionally for Ryan Boatright to return us to the promised land, we witnessed it with Walker and Napier. Instead, let’s examine what it takes statistically.

Taking into consideration unpredictable variables such as team chemistry, opponent and injury/suspension, the three situations are eerily similar. Don’t believe me? Below are game logs from Kemba’s 2011, Napier’s 2014 and Boatright’s 2015. Try to guess which season belongs to which player (answer at bottom of page):

MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% TRB AST TOV STL PTS
34 6 17 35% 1 4 25% 5 6 83% 6 3 1 2 18
37 15 24 63% 4 9 44% 8 10 80% 8 3 3 1 42
23 8 16 50% 1 4 25% 14 15 93% 2 2 0 3 31
38 10 19 53% 4 11 36% 6 7 86% 3 4 4 3 30
38 10 17 59% 3 4 75% 6 6 100% 2 6 2 2 29
MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% TRB AST TOV STL PTS
33 5 12 42% 2 3 67% 6 6 100% 7 7 3 2 18
37 5 7 71% 1 1 100% 3 5 60% 11 10 1 1 14
22 3 4 75% 1 1 100% 3 4 75% 8 8 3 1 10
38 3 9 33% 2 2 100% 4 4 100% 12 6 3 2 12
38 6 17 35% 0 3 0% 8 10 80% 4 2 0 1 20
MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% TRB AST TOV STL PTS
37 7 15 47% 3 6 50% 7 7 100% 8 5 3 4 24
37 6 14 43% 1 4 25% 6 6 100% 6 5 3 0 19
36 6 12 50% 0 2 0% 8 9 89% 5 4 3 3 20
35 6 14 43% 0 4 0% 5 9 56% 5 4 3 0 17
37 8 21 38% 1 5 20% 7 8 88% 7 2 2 1 24

While all three guards undoubtedly possess their own unique strengths, they are one of the same mold- inspiring defensively, unrelenting offensively with a knack for hitting the big shot. What separated both Napier and Walker was their ability to balance top play-maker with primary scoring option. Boatright will need to strike a similar balance for his name to be hoisted at Gampel following the season. Throughout the year I will compare Boatright’s numbers, to those of Napier and Walker at similar points in their championship winning season, in hopes the statistics give an early indication on what Boatright needs to do in order to bring another National Championship to Storrs, Connecticut. Eventually, once more data is collected, we can learn from the adjustments of past champions to fill the spot next to Napier’s banner.

Averages through 5 games:

Player MP FG% 3P% FT% TRB AST TOV STL PTS WINS
Walker 34 52% 41% 88% 4.2 3.6 2.0 2.2 30.0 5
Boatright 36.4 44% 19% 86% 6.2 4.0 2.8 1.6 20.8 3
Napier 33.6 51% 73% 83% 8.4 6.6 2.0 1.4 14.8 5

Here is how Boatright, Napier and Walker shape up head-to-head-to-head on a number of different statistics:

MP FG% 3P% FTA FT% TRB AST TOV STL PTS
Boatright  36.4 Walker 52% Napier    73% Walker         8.8 Walker  88% Napier       8.4 Napier 6.6 Boatright 2.8 Walker   2.2 Walker     30
Walker      34 Napier   51% Walker    41% Boatright     7.8 Boatright 86% Boatright 6.2 Boatright 4 Napier        2 Boatright-1.6 Boatright 20.8
Napier    33.6 Boatright 44% Boatright 19% Napier          5.8 Napier     83% Walker     4.2 Walker 3.6 Walker        2 Napier    1.4 Napier   14.8

Breakdown of categories led:

  • Boatright: Minutes, Turnovers
  • Napier: 3P%, Rebounds, Assists
  • Walker: FG%, FTA, FT%, Steals, Points

Notes:

  • Kemba’s numbers are more impressive (if possible) when you consider they came against #2 Michigan State (Kalin Lucas/Korie Lucious) and #7 Kentucky (Brandon Knight).
  • To no surprise Shabazz is by far the best three point shooter
  • Though it felt Napier and Walker never rested, Boatright leads in minutes
  • All three are shooting over 80% from the foul line
  • Napier easily led in rebounds and assists

1). Walker

2). Napier

3). Boatright

STAAR Graduation: Josh Privee

20140612-191235-69155743.jpg

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!

Olliewood Boulevard

According to Yahoo Sports, Kevin Ollie has reached agreement on a $3 million annual contract extension to keep the highly regarded coach in Storrs for years to come. Terms of the deal are not yet available, but it has been rumored to be at least a 5 year deal. Currently, Ollie has 4 years left on a 5 year, $7.5 million contract, a contract that has been under discussion since UCONN’s National Championship victory. Since April, Ollie  has been tied to numerous NBA vacancies – with the Cleveland Cavaliers emerging most recently along with the Lakers/Knicks – keeping UCONN country on edge throughout the process. Ollie’s newly restructured contract, while double his previous deal, is still $10 million less than the $25 million Steve Kerr received from the Golden State Warriors. Many saw Kerr’s deal as a baseline for Ollie – as both he and Kerr are first time head coaches – with Ollie potentially procuring more money due to his recent success. As I said in an earlier post, Ollie was drawn back to Connecticut for incentives other than money, now, we have $10 million reasons as proof. Don’t be surprised if this is his last contract at UCONN, but hey, we’ve got him now and you don’t. Look for Ollie to continue his success at the college level.

The only question that remains, where will they put Olliewood Boulevard?

NBA Draft Update: Niels Giffey at the Portsmouth Invitational

From portsmouthinvitational.com

From portsmouthinvitational.com

The Portsmouth Invitational Tournament (PIT) invites 64 of the best college basketball seniors each year to play in a four day showcase in front of NBA scouts and GM’s. Former NBA greats from John Stockton to Scottie Pippen have graced the tournament’s floors on their way to NBA stardom. Niels Giffey participated in the 2014 PIT last weekend and continuing with the recurring theme of UCONN basketball, won the championship. More importantly, Giffey put forth a strong showing that should guarantee him at least a few workouts for NBA teams. Measuring in at 6-7 1/2 in shoes with a 6-10 wingspan, Giffey has the size of a NBA small forward. He also has the game to back it up. In 3 games, Giffey shot 5-8 from deep and came up with numerous big defensive plays for the eventual champions. Coming off a season in which he hit 48% of his 3-point attempts, Giffey was able to showcase other facets of his game including sneaky athleticism and high basketball IQ.

Here are his complete stats for the tournament:

Game Points FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA Rebounds Steals Blocks Minutes
First Round 9 4-12 1-4 5 4 4 31
Semis 11 4-5 3-3 4 1 1 21
Championship 5 2-2 1-1 3 2 0 31

To watch Giffey’s performance for yourself, here are the links to the games (in order):

http://new.livestream.com/accounts/4527774/events/2926233

http://new.livestream.com/accounts/4527774/events/2931102

http://new.livestream.com/accounts/4527774/events/2931208

Best of luck to Niels and stay tuned for more updates…

 

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

Road to Dallas: A Fan’s Story of March Madness

Road to Dallas

A Fan’s Story of March Madness

The phrase March Madness is typically used to describe the craziness that ensues when the 64 best teams in college basketball battle for their chance to be a part of history. After attending three Final Fours, this phrase can be extended to describe the scramble that is fan travel. Within minutes of our victory over Michigan State, I received a text from a close friend that he and his family had already booked their tickets to Dallas. Minutes later I had texts from five other friends expressing interest in Dallas. Tickets? Accommodations? Flight vs Driving? Duration of stay? By Monday night flights from Hartford to Dallas had jumped to $620, which after a weekend celebrating UCONN in Manhattan was more than I could pay. As a young alumnus, without the funds to travel as freely as I would like, it was time to get creative. This is what it takes to make the Final Four happen. I am not writing this to prove my fandom, but instead, bring to light the sacrifices young alumni/students make to support their alma mater in the hopes someone who can make this process easier in the future will make a change.

Note: 2014 Final Four accommodations were made possible by a good friend and Husky fan who moved from Storrs to Texas in high school (thank you Kevin Barry!) eliminating one of the more difficult/costly parts of trip.

2014 Final Four Objective: Get to Dallas in the cheapest way possible with time to enjoy Final Four attractions.

Monday, 3/31: Coordinating with friends from Connecticut, Rhode Island, Minneapolis and Houston we begin talking logistics. Ideally we are looking to find flights arriving in Texas on Friday and flying out Tuesday however with everyone in the Northeast looking at the same timetable, other options must be explored. With flights getting more expensive by the minute we look into driving 25 hours to Dallas. With 3 people and a car with good gas mileage, we figure it saves $200 on a flight. However, when work schedules get in the way, that plan is nixed. Next option: fly from Boston to Houston ($170) Friday night then get driven by a fellow Husky fan studying in Houston to Dallas for a 10pm Dallas arrival. Then, fly from Dallas back to Boston ($160) Wednesday morning at 6am (add in $60 for parking at Logan). OR, fly Boston to Minneapolis ($130) on Thursday and drive the 12 hours to Dallas for Friday afternoon arrival. Then, take the same Wednesday morning flight back to Boston. All of these conversations, mind you, are taking place with no ticket security and prices only rising. With student tickets only available to active students and stubhub prices skyrocketing to $320, young alumni don’t quite fit into the Final Four equation. Unable to secure a ticket the search continues…

Tuesday, 4/1: Glued to the phone/computer all day with prices continuing to rise (round trip to Dallas from Hartford up to $700, game tickets at $370) my friend from Minneapolis is told by his supervisor he can either work Final Four weekend or resign. Plans immediately shift to Houston as the cheapest option knowing I will probably need to spend close to $300 on a game ticket to the semifinal alone. But alas! Just as I’m booking my flight to Houston I am able to land a ticket. Around the same time my friend from Minneapolis calls to tell me he resigned from his job and is flying to Dallas on Wednesday (if you know of anyone hiring in the Minneapolis/ St Paul area please email jesse.jaber@gmail.com). With a ticket secured and friends en route to Dallas, my search shifts to Dallas from Houston. Frugality the objective, I used a tactic called hidden city ticketing (see below) to sift through potential routes. When this option returns few results I begin researching flights to Austin ($190), taking UT shuttle to University of Texas ($0) and MegaBus to Dallas ($20). However flights to Austin/Houston were only available from Boston which would incur the $60 parking fee (also a Thursday night on 6th street in Austin would inevitably lead to a large tab). Finally, at 7:00pm Tuesday night I find a round trip flight from Providence to Dallas Wednesday, 4/2 – Wednesday, 4/9 for only $350 and no associated parking costs (thanks mom and dad). 51 hours after UCONN beat Michigan State I had a week long trip to Dallas set for $350. Objective Complete.

Wednesday, 4/2: 63 hours removed from the Elite 8 my road to Dallas begins at TF Green Airport in Providence, RI with an 11:25am flight to Philadelphia then on to Dallas for a 5:00pm arrival. Stay tuned for more March Madness travel stories, Florida preview and updates from Dallas…

Safe travels to everyone who will be meeting me out here and GO HUSKIES!

Husky Nation stops at nothing…

Hidden City Ticketing: buying a one way flight from a small airport (Hartford) to a major airport (LA) with a layover in your destination (Dallas). Then simply get off at your destination (Dallas) while your flight continues on (LA). You can use kayak.com to search routing options by layover city. Also, Dallas/Fort Worth is an American Airlines hub so many flights will connect through there.

Caveats

  • Must book 2 separate one way tickets as your round trip ticket will be cancelled once you miss your connector
  • You must carry on bags or else you will be at the layover destination (Dallas) and luggage will arrive at final destination (LA)
  • Airlines (besides Southwest) do not encourage this tactic so it is advisable to only employ it a few times per airline per year

A Look Ahead at Madison Square Garden

Arizona v Connecticut

UCONN celebrates 2011 Elite 8 win vs Arizona

I will be heading down to the Sweet 16 this Friday at Madison Square Garden for the much anticipated matchup between UCONN and Iowa State. If the following occurs I will be attending the Elite 8 on Sunday as well:

Keys to the Game:

Control Deandre Kane

Kane is the Shabazz of Iowa State. Control Deandre Kane and you control Iowa State. He is their motor. How do you stop a player riding so much momentum? Don’t let him get the ball. To advance UCONN must keep the ball out of Kane’s hands and not let him get into the flow of the game. Though Kane played masterfully against North Carolina, he is susceptible to turnovers (7 against UNC). This bodes well for UCONN’s scrappy guards aka Napier, Boatright, Giffey and Kromah (a combined 9 steals vs Nova). UCONN will start with Napier on Kane assuming Iowa State goes with a big lineup. The loss of Iowa State star forward Georges Niang really helps us here because it will allow our center (Brimah, Nolan, Olander) to help on the drive and keep Napier out of foul trouble. When Iowa State goes small, we can counter with Giffey/Kromah on Kane. We could also rotate Bazz/Boat at select points in the game to provide full court pressure on the ball- force it out of Kane’s hands or make him exert more energy bringing the ball up against two of the quickest guards in the country. Iowa State is not deep- if we can exhaust/frustrate Kane, I like our chances Friday night.

Deandre Daniels

Deandre Daniels needs to play like a man. Assuming Iowa State goes big, Daniels will start the game on leading rebounder Dustin Hogue. Hogue played like a madman against North Carolina consistently beating Tar Heel bigs to 50/50 balls leading to extra Iowa State possessions. He also crashed the boards, leading the team with 4 offensive rebounds. In a game that could very well come down to the last possession, every rebound counts. We need Deandre Daniels to play hard and we need him to play tough.

X Factors:

Sixth Man

We are all aware of the madness surrounding tickets to the East Regional this year- Connecticut is the reason to blame. According to SeatGeek, more than 40% of traffic to event pages for the East Regional has come from Connecticut. In addition, New York/New Jersey have accounted for another 30% of traffic. While I completely agree that the price is insane and feel for students/fans who cannot attend for financial reasons, part of me is screaming FINALLY! Finally UCONN will have a formidable presence at the Garden. I have attended too many games over the years where Kentucky, Duke or even Louisville outnumbered us in our own backyard. Not this year. There is no better way to calm nerves than to step on the court into a sea of blue and white. The sixth man is real and he will be on our side Friday night.

Madison Square Garden

Comfort. Such a small concept but imperative not to overlook. UCONN is comfortable at the Garden- we know the routine, layout and locker rooms. Everyone from the managers up to the coaches. Seniors have played close to 20 games at MSG and we won the 2K Sports Classic there earlier this season. Terrence Samuel and Omar Calhoun hail from the area. There is still magic left in the building from 2011. Also, this is Iowa State’s first time playing at MSG. Not only do they lack the luxury of comfort but are prone to fall victim to the thrill of the moment. Manhattan, New York City, Madison Square Garden- this is where the stars come out. Couple that with the excitement of March Madness and that’s a lot of adrenaline pumping through your veins. If Iowa State cannot harness the added energy it could lead to playing outside of yourself and trying to do too much, which again, works in our favor.

Unnamed Role Player

Could this be the return of Omar Calhoun? Will Terrence Samuel rise to the occasion in front of friends and family? Maybe a big Brimah block? Giffey shuts down Big 12 POY Melvin Ejim? Tyler with a boost off the bench? Who knows but to win we will need one of the above.

 

Prediction: UCONN 75-67

 

 

 

A Look Back at Buffalo

photo

UCONN-St Joe’s

 

I drove up to Buffalo for the NCAA Tournament games at the First Niagara Center, home of the Sabres. Here is what I took away from the 1st and 2nd rounds:

ROLE PLAYERS EMERGENCE

 We made up a 10 point first half deficit with Shabazz on the bench in foul trouble. Down 19-9 , it would have been easy to fall apart with the undeniable leader sidelined but instead, we came together. Terrence and Niels combined for 15 points/12 rebounds Saturday and Brimah provided a game-saving AND-1 Thursday. In 2011 it was a Jeremy Lamb steal and dunk vs San Diego State, Shabazz free throws vs Kentucky and Scoe’s 4 blocks in the championship game. This is what has to happen to win championships. Role players need to make big plays. Shabazz is undoubtedly our Kemba but Kemba would be the first to say he needed a team making plays behind him. A knock on UCONN I’ve heard is we lack players outside Shabazz to make winning plays, not necessarily game winning shots but the small plays you need to make to win in March- get a big stop, snag a big rebound or finish a tough put-back in traffic- if Buffalo is any indication, our bench responded to the critics.

UCONN DEFENSE IS BACK

Nova shot only 35% for the game, 11-51 from the field and 11-31 from beyond the arc. Our guards had 10 steals led by Kromah’s 4 contributing to 16 Nova turnovers. Not only did we create turnovers but we capitalized as well outscoring Nova 20-4 in points off turnovers. Nova went 11:24 in the first half without a field goal. On Thursday, during the last St Joe’s possession of the first half active defense caused a shot clock violation giving us the last shot. The Huskies responded to a subpar beginning holding the Hawks to 25% on shots outside the paint after the first half.

ABILITY TO CLOSE OUT GAMES

The debacle that was inbounding the ball in the final minutes of the AAC tournament game against Cincinnati did not say much to our ability to close a game. Buffalo was different. Brimah came up with a huge AND-1 in the final minute against St Joe’s, the defense forced a shot clock violation and Shabazz/Niels executed a full court inbound play to near perfection before Shabazz took over in OT. Deandre put us ahead 37-36 with 14 minutes remaining against Nova and we controlled the remainder of the game never allowing the Wildcats to get closer than 5 points.

FREE THROWS

To complement my last bullet is the kryptonite to Calhoun Era teams: Free Throws.  UCONN shot 90% (18-20) vs St Joe’s and 79% (22-28) vs Nova. I hope this becomes a staple of the Ollie Era as it is certainly conducive to tournament wins. In the last 5 minutes of each game UCONN shot 90% , 15-16 in OT first round and 20-23 Saturday. Impressive given the added tournament pressure and location at a neutral site.

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

  • Not a great UCONN turnout- Buffalo is evidently not a popular spring break destination
  • Syracuse fans miss us, Requiem For The Big East must have struck a chord
  • It’s not spring in Buffalo either
  • Bars close at 2 in Boston/DC/SF but 4 in Buffalo, that will never make sense to me and it shouldn’t to you

 

CHECK BACK TOMORROW FOR A LOOK FORWARD TO THE SWEET 16 AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN