Jeremy Lamb runs the handshake (pre)game

Jeremy Lamb’s hands have gotten some serious publicity of late… I just hope non-UConn fans realize this is not the most famous Lamb-shake (see below).

THE REAL LAMB SHAKE

Although my favorite pre-game handshake routine still belongs to Shabazz Napier and Roscoe Smith, seen here at the 3:25 mark of the 2011 Final Four intros…

UConn Basketball Social Media Week in Review: Valentine’s Day Edition

As it will lead us into Valentine’s day, this week’s UConn Basketball Social Media Week in Review is all about the love…

NBA

Just when you think no one cares…

Someone cares too much…

Westbrook should really show some of that love to Kemba…

or maybe James Ennis, not sure who needs it more…

Definitely not Ray though, he’s got em lined up.

UConn

Patriot fans mistakenly show love for Darius Butler…

Butler shows he loves to troll… (UConn football is funny off the field too?) 

Doug Gottlieb will never love UConn…

but UConn loves NOLA.

Recruits

Jalen Adams kisses his teammate off the backboard…

next year, it’s to this guy.

International

7’4 Boban Marjanovic did not expect this early gift from Marcus Williams (#9)…

the Germans still love Niels Giffey…

Jerome Dyson has always loved to score (@sliceanddice)…

…but most importantly, shows he can give too.

UConn stars return for 2014 Jim Calhoun Celebrity Classic

7,000+ crowded Mohegan Sun Arena Friday night for the 2014 Jim Calhoun Celebrity Classic. Featuring heroes of UConn past, the game is more than just a UConn All-Star game, but raises money and awareness for the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center at the UConn Health Center. According to their website, the charity is dedicated to “research on new non-invasive techniques to diagnose and treat patients at risk for heart disease and also endows a cardiology research fellowship.” Since 1999 the Celebrity Classic has raised over $6.5 million for cardiology research. You can learn more here and like the event on Facebook.

Jim Calhoun watches his charity game.

Jim Calhoun watches his charity game.

Friday’s game featured current NBA players Andre Drummond, Ray Allen, Kemba Walker, Jeff Adrien, Ben Gordon, Jeremy Lamb and Charlie Villanueva as well as former stars Taliek Brown, Khalid El-Amin and Donyell Marshall. The White Team came away with a dramatic 114-112 victory on an all-but-too-familiar game winner from ’99 Champ El-Amin. Drummond led a stacked White Team with 24 points/12 rebounds while Walker (21 points), DeAndre Daniels (18), Allen (15) and El-Amin (13) all scored in double figures. Villanueva led the Blue Team dropping 24 points with Rashad Anderson (22), Lamb (21 points/8 rebounds) providing help in the scoring department and Jeff Adrien (12/13) handling the dirty work as usual. Lamb was originally on the White Team roster but crossed sides after Rudy Gay was was deemed ineligible due to language in his contract with the Sacramento Kings. It should be noted that although Gay was unable to participate in the game, he is rumored to have dropped $80,000 on a private plane to sit on the bench and support the cause. Caron Butler and Shabazz Napier were not in attendance due to prior commitments.

Pictures below:

Ray Allen Pregame

Ray Allen Pregame

Tip Off

Tip off at the 2014 Jim Calhoun Celebrity Classic.

Andre Drummond rises for a dunk at the 2014 Jim Calhoun Charity Classic.

Andre Drummond rises for a dunk at the 2014 Jim Calhoun Celebrity Classic.

Rudy Gay poses for a selfie with Jeremy Lamb.

Rudy Gay poses for a selfie with Jeremy Lamb.

After party with Kemba Walker

After party with Kemba Walker

2014 Orlando Summer League Recap

nba.com

nba.com

The 2014 Orlando Summer League ended July 11 with the Philadelphia 76ers taking home the trophy at the expense of Memphis. The OSL featured Shabazz Napier (Miami Heat), Jeremy Lamb (OKC Thunder), Niels Giffey (Memphis Grizzlies) and Lasan Kromah (Brooklyn Nets). Orlando was not particularly kind to the former Huskies, Giffey and Kromah struggled to find minutes playing behind team investments while Lamb and Napier laid bricks. Here are complete player statistics from Orlando and a closer look at Lamb/Napier’s numbers:

Player G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG TO PPG
Lamb 3 3 31.3 .32 .174 .80 5.3 1.7 1.3 2.7 17.3
Napier 5 5 27.6 .273 .154 .80 3.0 4.6 1.8 4.8 9.2
Giffey 0 0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Kromah 1 0 7.0 .33 0.0 0.0 1.0 0.0 0.0 2.0 2.0

Jeremy-Lamb-summer-league

nba.com

Jeremy Lamb

You can’t look at Lamb’s statistics without two numbers sticking out, 32 and 17. Lamb shot a horrid 4-23 (17%) from deep in 3 games and only 32% from the field overall. With such a silky stroke, those numbers are unfathomable. On the plus side, he did fill up the box score for the Thunder while playing 31 minutes per game, good for third in the league. Lamb’s 17.3 scoring mark (6th overall) and 80% from the free throw line at least show he can get to the line and put points on the board even when his shot is off. Conditioning may also have been a factor in the poor shooting- Lamb will by nothing but net once again by the start of the year.

espn.com

espn.com

Shabazz Napier 

Similar to Lamb, Shabazz Napier struggled shooting the ball in his first summer league. Napier shot only 27% from the field and a sub-Lamb 15% from three. What could possibly be more shocking than that? 3P% was not even the most alarming statistic. It’s 4.8. That is the number of turnovers Napier averaged in 5 OSL games, including 8 in a match-up with Celtics first-round pick Marcus Smart. Though that is unusually high, I am not worried about the turnovers- Napier can handle the basketball, we all know that. It takes time to adjust to the speed of the game and that is all he needs, time. If anything, Napier’s ability to battle through the turnovers and shooting troubles and still have the confidence to make plays (4.6 apg), defend (1.8 spg) and score the basketball (9.2 ppg on 80 ft%) should serve as a positive.  

2014 Las Vegas Summer League

The Sacramento Kings, featuring newly acquired center Alex Oriahki, have won the 2014 Las Vegas Summer League. Stay tuned for a recap of all UCONN players in Vegas including Jerome Dyson, Deandre Daniels and Shabazz Napier…

UCONN in the 2014 Orlando NBA Summer League

nba.com

nba.com

A number of former UCONN players will participate in the 2014 NBA Summer League, held in Orlando (July 5-11) and Las Vegas (July 11-21). The Orlando league will feature Shabazz Napier (Miami Heat), Jeremy Lamb (OKC Thunder), Niels Giffey (Memphis Grizzlies) and Lasan Kromah (Brooklyn Nets) with all games taking place at the Amway Center, the Orlando Magic practice court. Teams will play 5 games in 7 days with a championship game held on July 11th. A point system determines the standings with 4 points awarded to the winning team and 1 point awarded to the winner of each quarter, for a total of 8 potential points per game.

Storylines

Niels Giffey flew under the radar for much of the season at UCONN despite leading the AAC in three point shooting percentage. The summer league provides a great opportunity for players to show their stuff in front of an audience that includes personnel from every NBA team. Jeremy Lin is a great example of a player who turned a strong summer league showing in a multi-million dollar contract. I believe Giffey has NBA talent, by July 11th we will know if NBA teams feel the same.

Shabazz Napier was selected by the Miami Heat with the 24th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Many believe this was directly influenced by the team’s desire to retain superstar forward LeBron James, a huge advocate of Napier. King James believed Napier should have been the first point guard taken in the draft and I completely agree. Napier will get his first chance to prove he is the top point guard in the draft class when he battles 6th overall pick Marcus Smart and the Boston Celtics tomorrow at 11am.

Jeremy Lamb is a star in the making for the OKC Thunder. With two full seasons under his belt, Lamb will transition into a third scoring option to complement the dynamic Westbrook/Durant duo. After finishing in the top three in scoring during last year’s summer league (18.8ppg), look for Lamb to take home the scoring title in 2014. Also, on a team featuring Lamb, Perry Jones III (Baylor) and Steven Adams (Pitt)- don’t be surprised if OKC runs through the competition along their inevitable path to the championship game.

Games to look forward to…

Miami Heat vs Boston Celtics, July 5th, 11AM: Key MatchupNapier vs Smart

Memphis Grizzlies vs OKC Thunder, July 5th, 5PM: Giffey vs Lamb

OKC Thunder vs Brooklyn Nets, July 7th, 7PM: Lamb vs Kromah

Miami Heat vs Detroit Pistons, July 8th, 5PM: Napier vs Peyton Siva (Louisville)

Full Schedule

Here is the complete lineup of the 2014 Orlando Summer League, courtesy of nba.com.

 

I will post recaps of all the games and video links as (or if) they are available. All games will be televised on NBA TV.

 

Bold Predictions: NBA Edition

NBA

 

Andre Drummond will be in the Hall of Fame (barring injury)

LA Clippers win 2014 NBA Title

Kemba Walker voted to first All-Star Game in 2015 

Jeremy Lamb is 2015 Sixth Man of the Year 

Andre Drummond voted to first All-Star game, wins Dunk Contest and MVP

Kevin Ollie wins NBA Title with Shabazz or Kemba as starting PG

 

 

 

 

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

Thank you

“Two Final Fours, Champions in Maui, Winning the Big East Tournament and a National Championship: Few people witness in a lifetime what we were fortunate enough to experience in two years. Thank you UCONN Basketball for four of the most memorable years of my life.”

     This was my salute to UCONN basketball after working my last game senior year of college. It all went by in a blur yet I can still remember specific plays like they happened yesterday: Jeff Adrien’s dunk over two taller Michigan State defenders in the 2008 Final Four, Jeremy Lamb’s high flying dunk vs Columbia and of course Kemba Walker’s step back sinking Gary McGhee and Pitt. Although we still have the postseason tournaments to go, tonight brings the ceremonious culmination for the remaining 2010 recruiting class of Niels Giffey, Shabazz Napier and Tyler Olander. For such an unheralded recruiting class they have certainly given fans some of the most memorable moments in UCONN history. Shabazz, up for every major award this season, deserves all the accolades he receives however it is important not to overlook the contributions of Tyler and Niels, especially during the 2011 National Championship season.

     Few remember the 14 points Giffey put up in the Maui Championship game against Kentucky to complement Kemba’s offensive attack, some probably had never heard of him until that game. Even less will remember Olander’s contribution in the 2011 Big East semifinals vs Syracuse. With Okwandu and Oriakhi in foul trouble, Olander came off the bench to provide 7 points/6 rebounds against imposing Cuse’ big man Rick Jackson. Tyler’s breakthrough performance came when UCONN needed it most and dramatically changed the course of the game for the Huskies. Add in Shabazz’ clutch free throws in the waning seconds against Kentucky in the Final Four and you have three clutch performances that embody what it means to play basketball at UCONN. Grit, perseverance, toughness and commitment. Amidst all the transfers, the uncertainties, the negative attention, the loss of a postseason- they never left. In a college basketball landscape that glorifies the one-and-done, this is what it means to be a team, to be a family. Anyone- fan, coach, player, staff- who was a part of the 2011 National Championship season knows this is the most important ingredient. To have not one but three leaders who understand this concept is a scary thought for opposing teams come tournament time.

     This night is especially gratifying for me as it marks the last Gampel home game for my childhood friend, Tyler. Growing up in Mansfield, we wandered UCONN’s campus as little kids among UCONN greats such as Rudy Gay, Emeka Okafor and RIP Hamilton. Exiting high school practices you could see Gampel looming in the distance however it felt light years away. When Tyler committed to UCONN I was excited, but didn’t grasp the importance of this connection. The first “aha” moment occurred in warm-ups of the first game in Maui. While serving drastically different capacities, we were both in Hawaii representing the program we had idolized as kids against the top teams in the country. Next came the Big East Tournament at MSG and National Championship in Houston. Old friends from DC to Texas to Florida came out to not only watch UCONN, but Tyler. It is one thing to share a National Championship with your college friends, however when you can share the experience with childhood friends and family- it makes it that much more special. Suddenly, Gampel didn’t seem so far away. Through the ups and downs, it has been a great run and I will never forget the memories. Thank you Tyler and best of luck to you, Niels and Shabazz in the future.