Archive for Andre Drummond

Kemba back in NYC, ya dig?

Kemba back in NYC, ya dig?

Twelve UConn alums are playing in the NBA this season. Two others, Emeka Okafor and Rip Hamilton, haven’t hit the court yet. Okafor is sidelined with a neck injury and Rip Hamilton is a free agent, presumably spending his time swimming in a giant pool full of money.

Continuing a tradition we began last year, we thought it would be interesting to delve into ESPN’s NBA Trade Machine and see if we could take all of those former Huskies and trade them onto our quasi-local teams.

We ran into a few small problems. Hamilton is obviously not tradable because he isn’t playing. Use your imagination and place on whatever team you like. Okafor also isn’t listed due to his injury. He is making a hefty $14.5 million this season — which presents its difficulties in trade scenarios — but his contract expires after the year, making him somewhat desirable. We’re leaving him out of this exercise, but think we could fit him onto either team with a little maneuvering.

Additionally, neither AJ Price nor Hilton Armstrong are able to be traded yet because they were late to sign with their respective teams. Price can be traded on December 30th. Armstrong must wait until March. NBA rules state that a free agent can’t be traded within 30 days of signing his contract.

Lastly, unlike last year, we’ve eliminated the Brooklyn Nets from this contest. While their games are shown locally in most of Connecticut on the YES Network, they are generally too shitty to get any UConn players this year.

Onward!

New York Knicks:

Screen Shot 2013-12-24 at 12.05.33 PM

The number one priority here was to get Kemba Walker into Madison Square Garden. The number two priority was to rid the Knicks’ roster of any other former Big East players, as they don’t deserve that arena. The biggest victim is former Syracuse employee (we’re being honest here, right?) Carmelo Anthony. Also gone are Louisville’s Chris Smith and resident St. John’s madman World Ron Metta Arpeace. Making the trip north with Walker are Ben Gordon (who has his own claim to the Garden throne) and Jeff Adrien. Rudy Gay will continue his hot streak of getting traded. This time from Sacramento — hopefully his bags are still packed. And the dean of the group, veteran Caron Butler will leave his home in Milwaukee to join the new Knicks. Now if they could just find a coach who isn’t actually an ice sculpture, they’ll be all set.

Boston Celtics:

Screen Shot 2013-12-24 at 12.13.19 PM

Ray Allen will return to the home of his past glory in Boston. Since Kevin Garnett is rotting in Brooklyn and we’ve effectively replaced Danny Ainge in this scenario, all should go smoothly. Joining him are two sets of teammates. Future All-Star Andre Drummond and his sidekick, Charlie Villanueva, will leave the affluent confines of Detroit. Meanwhile, young gun Jeremy Lamb and his brodie (I don’t know either), Hasheem Thabeet, will arrive via Oklahoma City. The kicker in this trade is the Celtics will be atoning for a past mistake by sending Rajon Rondo to Detroit. In 2006, Boston took Rondo over UConn point guard Marcus Williams in the NBA Draft. Sure, Rondo turned out to be an All-Star caliber player while Williams struggled and eventually flamed out of the league. But you always take the UConn guy. Always.

***

What are your thoughts? Who wins, new Knicks or new Celtics? Think any UConn players will actually get traded this season? Where will Rip Hamilton end up? Take it to the comments!

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Caron Butler vs. Andre Drummond

#2 Caron Butler – (2000-2002)
by Meghan Bard

Caron Butler only spent two years at UConn, but in that time he accomplished an incredible amount. He joined the 1,000 club, scoring 1,136 in just two seasons. Butler led the team in scoring and rebounding as a freshman. In his sophomore year, Butler averaged just over 20 points per game, and led UConn to both Big East regular season and tournament championships. The 2002 team went to the Elite Eight, losing to eventual champion Maryland, despite Butler’s 32 points. He was named to the First Big East Team in his sophomore year, and was a lottery pick in the NBA draft in 2002.

Career Points: 1136

Career Rebounds: 477

Career Assists: 190

Career Steals: 134

Career Blocks: 22

_____

1st Team Big East 2001-2002
3rd Team Big East 2000-2001
1,000 point club
NBA Lottery pick
Left UConn after sophomore season

  #15 Andre Drummond – (2011-2012)
by Tyler Wilkinson

When the news broke that Andre Drummond would attend UConn, the state celebrated. The big man, playing high school ball in Middletown, was expected to play an additional year of prep ball before heading to the NBA. Instead, he arrived in Storrs with incredible expectations. In his lone season on campus, Drummond put up 340 points while leading the team in rebounds and blocks per game. His team underwhelmed due in large part to an uneasy coexistence between Drummond and junior big man Alex Oriakhi. After the season, faced with a looming tournament ban for UConn, Drummond fled for the NBA Draft where he was selected 9th overall by the Detroit Pistons.

Career Points: 340

Career Rebounds: 257

Career Assists: 15

Career Steals: 28

Career Blocks: 92

_____

NBA Lottery Pick

Left UConn after freshman season


XL Center Region - Round 1 (2/15)

  • #2 Caron Butler (96%, 253 Votes)
  • #15 Andre Drummond (4%, 11 Votes)

Total Voters: 264

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Kent Smith | Getty

Kent Smith | Getty

Connecticut is a divided land. Yankees fans and Red Sox fans delicately commingle - teetering on the edge, always one bad game away from coming to blows. The Patriots and the Giants keep family rivalries burning into the winter. Three NBA teams drift in and out of the populace’s attention span. This is the reason that UConn fandom is so unique. In a state lacking a single professional sports team, Nutmeggers have chosen the Huskies as their sports representative.

With this in mind, I’ve never cheered for an NBA team. I only rooted for former UConn players. When Ray Allen was on the Celtics, I rooted for the Celtics. Now? Go Heat. The big problem with this plan? There is not a single UConn alum on any of the three teams featured in my area – the Celtics, Knicks, and Nets.

That’s unacceptable. The people of Connecticut deserve the opportunity to watch their favorite sons as they continue their careers, and strive for future championships.

So, without further adieu, I have simultaneously transformed the Celtics, Knicks and Nets from evening distractions to must-watch TV. Here’s how:

KNICKS:

knickstrade

Celtics:

CelticsTrade

Nets:

NetsTrade

Yes. That’s right. The above three trades put every UConn player in the league* onto the three regional teams. You can click each image to visit the trade on ESPN’s Trade Machine. I highly suggest that you heavily lobby all NBA front office personell and make this dream a reality.

*The one exception is Jeff Adrien who is not yet eligible to be traded because it has been less than three months since he signed his contract with the Charlotte Bobcats.

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Jeff Hanisch, US Presswire

Jeff Hanisch, US Presswire

In this – the season of process over results – it’s important to find the positives in defeat. For forty-five minutes last night, UConn played with energy and effort against a Big East opponent. Shabazz Napier dazzled. Ryan Boatright showed flashes of dominance. Omar Calhoun and DeAndre Daniels each hit clutch shots. The Huskies never relented – even while facing a double-digit deficit in the second half. On national television – in theory with potential recruits watching from their living rooms – UConn showed enough to dim the echoes of chaos that have plagued the University’s athletics department for much of 2012.

They also lost.

Marquette’s Junior Cadougan abused the Huskies for 18 points – including a game-tying three at the second half buzzer to send the game to overtime. Davante Gardner added 18 points off the bench for the Golden Eagles – going 10-10 from the free throw line certainly helped. Marquette also outrebounded UConn (surprise!) by a 41-31 margin.

Napier was the star for the Huskies. When few things were going right for UConn, Napier took matters into his own hands, finishing with a career-high 29 points to accompany his 4 assists and team-leading 8 rebounds. Boatright added 16 points and 6 assists as the backcourt mates showed why they may be the best guard tandem in the conference.

Despite all of the above, this game will be remembered solely for an officiating error. After Cadougan’s heroic buzzer-beater, the two teams took the court to begin overtime. As they did so, they faced the wrong baskets. UConn won the tip. Boatright dropped a bounce pass to Napier on a beautiful backdoor cut.  Napier floated a layup off the glass. Goaltending was called. No points were allotted. Marquette was given the ball.

The reaction of Husky Nation: “What the hell just happened?”

After Napier’s floater was taken off the rim, the referees realized their initial error of lining the teams up wrong, and compounded it by ignoring the rule book (Rule 5, Sect. 1, Art. 3) which clearly states that UConn’s points should have counted, the teams should have turned and faced the correct direction, and Marquette should be granted the ball as if the original play happened correctly. It’s worth noting that Marquette was given the ball under their own hoop – instead of the opposite baseline – and immediately scored.

The play may not have had an impact on the end result of the game, but it certainly swung momentum. It also is another sad chapter in a lifetime of poor Big East officiating – but that’s a longer conversation for another day.

Notes:

  • Once again, Tyler Olander played poorly. He finished with 3 rebounds and 3 points – and seemed to be the lightning rod for a UConn fanbase eager to assign blame for the team’s rebounding woes.
  • Niels Giffey played with a lot of energy off the bench. He finished with 5 points and 7 rebounds before fouling out in the waning moments of the game.
  • DeAndre Daniels finished in double-digits again with 11 points but only mustered 1 rebound. He was sidelined for a significant amount of the second half after taking a blow to the chin that seemed to open the stitches he earned in the Washington game on Saturday.
  • We asked prior to the game if Olander and Enosch Wolf could best the 7 combined rebounds Alex Oriakhi and Andre Drummond pulled down against Marquette a year ago. Wolf pulled down 7 all by himself – rendering a sorry performance by last year’s squad even more pathetic in hindsight.
  • Via UConn: “Shabazz Napier scored 11 straight points for UConn to knot the score at 57 with 7:26 remaining in the half.”

Next Up:

  • UConn will face off with DePaul on Tuesday, January 8th at Gampel. Tip is just after 7pm and will be shown on SNY.
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Jan
01

Buzz Goes to Prison

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Poor Buzz Williams

Poor Buzz Williams

Happy New Year! UConn will celebrate the first day of 2013 in the tropical locale of Milwaukee as they open conference play against Marquette. The Huskies are riding an emotional high after an inspired victory over Washington on the same day head coach Kevin Ollie agreed to a 5-year contract extension.

Marquette has won their last two games – over LSU and North Carolina Central – after an embarrassing defeat against Green Bay. The Golden Eagles were also on the wrong end of smackdown at then-7th ranked Florida in November. Marquette is led by 1970′s porn star Vander Blue – the 6’4″ guard is averaging just over 13 points per game.

Marquette will be without their head coach Buzz Williams who will be serving a self-imposed suspension resulting from recruiting violations. Williams was a vocal supporter of Kevin Ollie when he was fighting for his contract. It’s too bad he won’t be able to be on the sidelines against him this evening.

Notes:

  • Tyler Olander remains in the starting lineup this evening. Enosch Wolf will, again, come in off the bench.
  • Shabazz Napier has had some recent success against Marquette. He had 11 points and 8 assists the last time the two teams met.
  • Want a fun over/under for tonight? The last time UConn and Marquette met, Alex Oriakhi and Andre Drummond combined for a mere 7 rebounds in a UConn loss. Think Olander and Wolf can top that tonight?
  • Prediction: big game from Omar Calhoun tonight. Be prepared for this bullet to be deleted if I’m wrong.

Tip off is just after 8pm and the game will be televised on ESPNU.

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Dec
29

Who is the Superior Husky?

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There is a lot of excitement in UConn territory following today’s announcement of a 5 year contract extension for head coach Kevin Ollie. The team won’t have much time to celebrate, however, as they will face the Huskies of Washington tonight at the XL Center.

Washington comes into tonight’s matchup on a four game winning streak. They are 8-4 overall this season. The fake Huskies are led by junior guard C.J. Wilcox, a sharpshooting swingman who averages 19.6 points per game and is shooting over 40% from three. His size (6’5”) makes him a tough matchup for UConn’s starting backcourt of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright.

While Wilcox presents a matchup problem, so does the rest of Washington’s starting five. UConn will be severely undersized in this game – a dangerous position to find yourself in when you can’t rebound. Center Aziz N’Diaye is seven feet tall and averaging close to a double-double on the season. Tyler Olander will bear the bulk of the responsibility in keeping him off the boards, but if UConn is going to hold their own on the glass, it will have to be a collective effort.

The real Huskies of UConn haven’t played since before Christmas when they stormed off to a gigantic first half lead, and then nearly squandering it against an outmatched Fordham squad. Ryan Boatright was the star – scoring 26 points and adding 9 assists – and his backcourt mates, Napier and freshman Omar Calhoun, pitched in with ferocious defense that helped UConn escape with a win.

To be successful tonight, UConn will have to continue to maximize their speed advantage on both ends of the court. They are at such a size disadvantage, it would not be surprising to see UConn abandon match-ups and employ a four guard lineup – forcing Washington to play small.

Notes:

  • Tyler Olander is expected to return to the starting lineup tonight, replacing Enosch Wolf who has been struggling lately.
  • The game will be on ESPN2. UConn is 147-89 all time in games on the worldwide leader.
  • UConn now has four players averaging double-figure scoring: Napier, Boatright, Calhoun and DeAndre Daniels.
  • Calhoun was named the Big East Rookie of the Week this past week after averaging 19.5 points per game.
  • Cool stat from UConn, in the last 10 minutes of games plus overtime, the Huskies are shooting 87.9% from the free throw line. Somewhere, Andre Drummond weeps.

Tip-off will be just after 7:30pm and you can see the game on ESPN2 or the Watch ESPN app.

 

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Dec
01

UConn in the NBA

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Rudy Gay like to dunk. | (AP Photo/Jim Weber)

The collegiate Huskies are seven games into a season with no championship opportunities. While the youngsters fight their way through the last great season of the Big East, they do so with the same aspirations as all other NCAA player – to play in the NBA one day. Today being the first of December, it seems an appropriate time to check in some former Huskies who are living that dream and see how their seasons are progressing. Let’s start with the good news.

The Surprise: AJ Price – Washington Wizards

After leading UConn to a surprise Final Four in his senior year, AJ Price joined the Indiana Pacers. Price had a few nice seasons as a backup point guard before struggling during the 2011-2012 season. He saw his productivity and his minutes drop.

This offseason, Price signed with the Washington Wizards and has been their starting point guard in every game so far this year with star guard John Wall out with an injury. Despite the Wizards’ unthinkably bad record (1-13), Price has been a bright spot on the roster and finally seems to have found a home where he’s appreciated.

Stats: 8.9 ppg | 3.2 rbd | 5.2 ast

The Star: Rudy Gay – Memphis Grizzlies

Rudy Gay has had the type of career that many imagined he would when he arrived in Storrs. After suffering through a few seasons on bad Grizzlies teams, Gay has now found himself as the best player on a playoff caliber team. As icing on the cake, Gay is playing under a lucrative contract that will net him over $19 million this season.

Stats: 19.2 ppg | 5.7 rbd | 2.3 ast | 1.4 stl

The Veteran: Ray Allen – Miami Heat

After a five year run with the Boston Celtics that resulted in a championship, UConn legend Ray Allen took his talents to South Beach this summer in the wake of a fraying relationship between teammates and the Celtics brass that tried to trade him last season.

Allen seems to be enjoying playing with the defending champion Heat. With MVP LeBron James and All-Star Dwayne Wade carrying the offensive load, Allen’s main job is to hang out on the wing and shoot when he gets open. As a result, Allen’s point totals have decreased but his shot efficiency is sky-high. Ray is shooting 50% from the floor and 52% (!) from deep.

Stats: 13.4 ppg | 4.2 rbd | 2.1 ast | 1.1 stl

The Next in Line: Kemba Walker – Charlotte Bobcats


Kemba Walker went from a national championship at UConn directly to the worst team in NBA history – a pathetic Bobcats team that finished 7-59 in a strike-shortened disaster. This season, with Walker leading the way, the Bobcats have already matched last year’s win total only 15 games into the young season.

Meanwhile, Walker has developed into a very solid point guard and even demonstrated the clutch heroics that made him a legend at UConn.

Stats: 16.3 ppg | 3.8 rbd | 5.9 ast | 2.1 stl

The Old Guys: Rip Hamilton – Bulls & Caron Butler – Clippers

NBA veterans Rip Hamilton and Caron Butler are nearing the end of their pro careers but are still key pieces on playoff teams. Hamilton’s Bulls are awaiting the return of Derrick Rose, their superstar point guard, and are all but assured to be a top 4 seed in the East – barring a disaster.

Butler really seems to enjoy playing alongside Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in Los Angeles. Caron is the calming veteran influence on a relatively young team that loves to run and can jump right out of the gym. The Clippers are enjoying their first taste of success in a long time and Butler figures to be a big factor in their postseason run.

Stats: Hamilton: 13.8 ppg | 2.3 rbd | 2.4 ast  –  Butler: 9.9 ppg | 2.6 rbd | 1.0 ast

The Broken Mirror: Emeka Okafor – Washington Wizards

Poor Emeka Okafor. After leading UConn to their second national championship in 2004, he became the first ever draft pick of the Charlotte Bobcats where he toiled away in mediocrity for 5 painful seasons. Okafor was then traded to the New Orleans Hornets just in time for them to dismantle the team around him. Finally, this season, Okafor wound up in Washington playing for the same dismal Wizards team as AJ Pice.

Okafor averaged a double-double in each of his five seasons in Charlotte but his production has steadily decreased since then. Okafor’s entire career has been full of bad luck and poor timing. Hopefully he gets a chance to play for a title contender before his career ends.

Stats: 7.2 ppg | 5.9 rbd | 0.9 ast | 1.6 blk

The Microwave: Ben Gordon – Charlotte Bobcats

Ben Gordon, Okafor’s collegiate teammate, has joined forces with another UConn great in Kemba Walker. Gordon is continuing the role of sixth man that brought him so much success in Chicago and Detroit. Gordon’s talents were wasted on a bad Pistons team the past three seasons. A Gordon/Walker playoff run would be really fun to watch.

Stats: 13.9 ppg | 2.2 rbd | 4.1 asst

The Bench-Warmer: Charlie Villanueva – Detroit Pistons

Charlie Villanueva makes over $8 million a year, so it’s hard to feel too bad for him. However, Chuck has been glued to the bench of a terrible Pistons teams that values him so little but wont release or trade him because of his contract. Villanueva has been on the bench for all but 7 of Detroit’s 17 games and has only played 10 or more minutes in 4 of them – the last 4 games they’ve played.

Given minutes, Villanueva can still produce – averaging almost 14 points per game over the last four games – but it’s clear that Chuck needs a change of scenery.

Stats: 8.3 ppg | 2.9 rbd | 0.9 ast

The Reclamation: Hasheem Thabeet – Oklahoma City Thunder

Insert your Hasheem Thabeet joke here. The giant former Husky has been the subject of a lot of ridicule throughout his incredibly disappointing career. He is (rightfully) considered one of the worst draft pick failures in history. This season, however, Thabeet seems to have finally settled into a role he can fill. Coming off the bench for the defending Western Conference champion Thunder, Thabeet is contributing despite limited minutes. Earlier this week, he had the first double-double of his career.

Stats: 3.6 ppg | 3.7 rbd | 0.1 ast | 0.8 blk

The Youngster: Andre Drummond – Detroit Pistons


Andre Drummond is the youngest former Husky in the NBA and is continuing the proud tradition of playing on terrible Pistons teams. The 19 year old is only playing 17 minutes per night but has had some success when he’s on the court.

Stats: 6.1 ppg | 6.0 rbd | 0.4 ast | 0.8 stl | 1.2 blk

The Banished: Jeremy Lamb – Oklahoma City Thunder | Tulsa 66ers

The good news: Jeremy Lamb scored 33 points last night. The bad news: it was for the Tulsa 66ers of the NBA’s Developmental League. Lamb was banished from Oklahoma City’s roster following the trade that sent him to the Thunder from the Rockets this offseason. The demotion will probably help Lamb who needs development time on the court and clearly wasn’t going to find it immediately in OKC.

Stats: 2.1 ppg | 0.4 rbd | 0.3 ast

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Mar
27

The Case for UConn

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"I thought F was the good one, Coach." | (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The statewide panic over UConn’s APR and subsequent potential NCAA Tournament ban is coming to a head. According to ESPN’s Andy Katz, the NCAA’s Committee on Academic Performance will announce UConn’s fate in the next week or so.

The industry consensus seems to be that the hammer is going to be dropped on UConn. The uncooperative ogre that is Jim Calhoun let his team flounder in the classroom and now the NCAA is going to make an example out of him, imposing the harshest of penalties for the first time on a major conference school.

But should they?

The NCAA is an oddly moralistic bunch. They have no problem presuming the guilt of 18-year-old kids, despite reaping monetary benefits when they return to the court. They extol the virtues of the student athlete in deference to “one-and-done” players, despite putting them on the cover of NCAA licensed video games the following year. They punish students and universities, but rarely coaches in any meaningful fashion.

It’s easy to look at the recent history of NCAA decisions, including one against UConn, and read the writing on the wall, but consider the effects of a tournament ban:

Who is Getting Punished?

Let’s take a run down the list. Susan Herbst, University President for a whopping 10 months, would be left leading an academically disgraced university despite ardent efforts to emphasize the importance of academics for student athletes. Included in that effort is the hiring of new Athletics Director Warde Manuel, another historically strong advocate for academic achievement off the court. Manuel would be immediately put at a disadvantage in terms of fundraising for the new practice facility, and university-wide, as the perception of UConn is tarnished.

Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond would almost certainly flee Storrs for the millions of the NBA. Without a championship to play for, it would be hard to fault them. Recently, NCAA president Mark Emmert told the Kansas City Star that he dislikes the “one-and-done” rule for college freshman because it sullies the true meaning of student-athlete. Explain that to Drummond, whose grades are high enough to stay on the court and keep UConn’s APR rating in good favor, but who would be severely punished by the failures of players long gone.

Junior forward Alex Oriakhi has already announced his intentions to leave UConn this offseason and transfer to a school that is tournament-eligible. Granted, there are other factors that surely led to that decision (like his maniacal father, perhaps) but the fact remains; the players are scared for their future as it pertains to UConn.

Thus begins the downward spiral. If players leave, fan interest wanes. Talk about overt cruelty, punishing ticket holders because Jerome Dyson slept through Linguistics. When fan interest wanes, revenues fall. When there’s less money coming in, there’s less money for that new practice facility, hindering recruiting.

There is also the very real possibility that Jim Calhoun retires. UConn would be left as a lame duck school in a dying conference, devoid of talent, with a first-year coach trying to recruit players into a hemorrhaging program. If that scenario unfolds, not one person – on the court or off – would have been at UConn when the original academic infractions occurred. That is both cruel and indicative of the backwards nature in which the NCAA operates.

People are right to assume that a tournament ban could have significant and lasting impacts for UConn basketball. But the NCAA would be wrong to let that happen

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Mar
13

An Issue of Defense

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Emeka Okafor | Hasheem Thabeet

Defense isn’t sexy, as evidenced by the nation-wide bitching over last year’s UConn v. Butler National Championship game.  But there’s that old saying, right? Defense wins championships. During coach Jim Calhoun’s tenure at UConn, a strong and aggressive defense has been his calling card, and it certainly did win championships. Three of them to be exact. However, looking back at Husky history, one notices a change of philosophy on defense a decade ago that may be handicapping this year’s team as they head into the NCAA Tournament.

For years in the 1990s, the trademark for Jim Calhoun’s teams were strong, aggressive guards and swingmen. Guys like Rudy Johnson and Ricky Moore provided the defense pressure and UConn used their speed and tenacity to press, trap and generally upset the opponent into taking poor shots or turning the ball over. Then, in walked a tall freshman from Houston and everything changed.

Emeka Okafor had flown under the radar for most of his high school career and arrived at UConn in 2001 without much fanfare. His defensive ability and otherworldly instincts quickly made him a favorite of Calhoun. A change started to occur in defensive game planning. The guards that had been counted on to provide tough on-ball defense were now able to be even more aggressive, going for steals more often, flying into passing lanes. They were granted the privilege because of the giant eraser in the paint. In Okafor’s rookie season he set the UConn record for blocks in a season (138). The next season he broke that record (156), leading the nation in the process. In 2003-2004, UConn captured its second National Championship. Emeka Okafor was the Big East Player of the Year. He had 147 blocks.

The 2003-2004 Huskies, as a team, had 315 blocks. Okafor had garnered help from youngsters like Charlie Villanueva, Hilton Armstrong and Josh Boone. When Okafor departed for the NBA, the others picked up the slack. The 2004-2005 UConn team blocked 280 shots, ranking 5th in team history. The next year, 298 blocks was good enough for 2nd place. Hasheem Thabeet’s arrival in 2006 continued Calhoun’s emphasis of the block as a defensive hallmark.

Blocks in UConn History:
Blocks Name Season
156* Emeka Okafor 2002-2003
152 Hasheem Thabeet 2008-2009
147 Hasheem Thabeet 2007-2008
147* Emeka Okafor 2003-2004
138 Emeka Okafor 2001-2002
118 Hasheem Thabeet 2006-2007
111 Donyell Marshall 1993-1994
107 Hilton Armstrong 2005-2006

*NCAA Nation Leader (source: UConn Athletic Dept.)

Blocks Season
315* 2003-2004
298* 2005-2006
285* 2007-2008
280* 2008-2009
275* 2004-2005
264* 2006-2007
260 2009-2010
253* 2002-2003

* NCAA Nation Leader (source: UConn Athletic Dept.)

Thabeet and Okafor together own the 6 highest single-season block totals in UConn history. Think about that for a second because it truly is crazy. Each player played only 3 seasons. Each of those 3 seasons was one of the best ever.

Which brings us to this year’s team. When you watch them on the court, they play a lot like the Thabeet teams of 2006-2009. Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright are insanely aggressive on defense, often lunging for steals and letting their man get by them in the process. In the past, someone like Thabeet would be waiting to turn those guards around. There is no Hasheem Thabeet on this team.

You may be reading your computer screen screaming “Andre Drummond!” Knock it off. Drummond, while holding the potential to be a phenomenal shot blocker only has 88 on the year. That may seem Thabeet-like in comparison to Alex Oriakhi’s paltry 44 blocks, but it’s not a reliable skill to base a team defense on.

Watching UConn on defense this season has been frustrating. The over-commitment by the guards has led to a bevy of wide-open 3s and Husky defenders leave their mark on the wing to help their beaten teammate. When opposing post players get the ball inside, ill-timed block attempts and poor rotation on help defense has allowed an inexcusable amount of offensive rebounds. The offense has suffered as a result. The fast paced, run-out strategy has been curtailed by a lack of blocks and outlet passes on defensive rebounds.

What’s disconcerting about this year’s team on defense is that they have the skills to be better. Napier and Boatright are almost always quicker than their counterparts. They should stay in front of them, make it difficult for them to penetrate instead of surrendering the lane. The length on the wing of Jeremy Lamb and Roscoe Smith should make entry passes near impossible. Oriakhi and Drummond should be focused on guarding opposing big men instead of being forced to help on guards running unchecked into the paint.

The defensive strategy enjoyed by Jim Calhoun for the last decade is a sound one. It just doesn’t fit the roster. It’s probably too late in the season to administer dramatic changes, but you know what they say. Defense wins championships.

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