The Great Purge has become a staple of the UConn men's basketball program, with the announcement of which players have been put on waivers marking the official start of the offseason.
Each season, usually two or three weeks after the final game, Coach Cal will gather the Connecticut media horde to his chambers for a pre-offseason run-down. There, Cal will recap the season, give his thoughts heading into the next, tell some irrelevant story about Donny Marshall and, eventually, say that there will be some changes and hint at who the possible pink-slip victims will be. And by hint, I mean basically say that he's made up his mind and Scrub Player X will announce his decision to transfer to the SWAC school of his choice in the coming days.
This year, things were a little different.
There was no mass (media) gathering (that I can recall), no big announcement that Cal would be returning. Instead, Calbertus was forced to jump the gun a bit on his "I may be old, but I still love the kids" address after some ill-informed reports of his coaching demise surfaced.
But the waiving talk is still rolling along nicely. Mike Anthony reported in late April that Jamaal Trice is talkin' transfer. And while Cal and Co. whiffed on The Big 5 recruits, he still reeled in five new incoming freshmen, meaning the Huskies will be one scholarship over the limit of 13 if SHABAZZ! Napier is in fact reclassifying to join the 2010 class.
Which player(s) will ultimately get the boot? As of now, all signs point to Trice, whose biggest contribution this season was making Jonathan Mandeldove seem a little less useless. But isn't still no sure thing.
For matters as complex and as important as this, we can't rely on mere reports and journalism. No. We need science.
So to investigate further, I present to you The Calometer (above), the ultimate tool for rating a player's Calocity -- defined by Webster's as, "A scale measuring UConn coach Jim Calhoun's tolerance for a player's lack of godliness" -- on a scale from Dove to Okafor.
#24 DARIUS "NO NICKNAME" SMITH, FR.
1.0 ppg | 0.7 apg | 4.4 mpg | 19 GP | 41.7% FG
#13 JAMAAL "OTHER JAMA(A)L" TRICE, FR.
0.2 ppg | 0.1 apg | 2.8 mpg | 10 GP | 0.0% FG
Although both Trice and Smith have been the muses for two of our best nicknames, they were ghosts basketball-wise -- and even Mark Madsen bench cheerleader-wise -- this season. And unless one or both purchases a kiln and seduces Cal Swayze-style, they may be scoping out NEC schools in need of backcourt help quite soon ... and be without holders for both their beverages and/or writing utensils.
Because of Cal's limited rotation -- i.e. the starting five and one, maybe two players, depending on who's pissing him off at the time -- there was a good chance neither was going to get any significant playing time. But both Trice and Smith haven't done anything to contribute when they do detach themselves from the bench. Trice didn't total enough court time to span an entire game, never made a field goal and logged just two minutes since the start of conference play; that's Dove-caliber stuff.
Smith has popped up from time to time, even appearing in the team's last five games, when Cal was willing to play anyone that he didn't want to strike with blunt instruments ... or at the very least, only knock unconscious a little. But there were times where he wouldn't check in for weeks, like after totaling as many fouls as minutes (4) against Cincy and then going MIA for four straight games; my guess is Cal was still feeling the effects of his mystery ailment and made a mistake he soon regretted. It's probably why Chris Elsberry now has to see a therapist.
But while both are on course for free agency this summer, I have to at least commend Trice for doing all he can to cling to Cal's power teet. Besides an almost Tutankhamun beard/chin combo, he seems like an average guy. So to stand out a bit, he grew out a stylish mohawk, and last time I noticed (probably around Game 5) he still has it. Plus, he wears No. 13, which just screams "REBEL!" ... Although, Cal seems to be the type that doesn't like meddlers in his lawn, so the counter-culture approach may not endear him much to his head coach.
Smith, meanwhile, may be the most nondescript person I've ever seen -- from his name down to his Fake Mo Williams depressed/sleepy look/demeanor. And the fact that he inherited Austrie's number is either a very good or very bad sign. Good because Austrie somehow avoided Cal's mighty axe for four straight years, even though he spent the first half of each season dancing to the bullets Calbertus snapped off near his feet while the coach twirled his Yosemite Sam 'stache (and waited for other, more-talented players to do not-so-smart or injury-inducing things) before being considered an actual player. Plus, there was the time he was Jesus for a few weeks. That was fun. Bad because Craig was basically worthless as a basketball player. Don't be that guy, No Nickname.
Although there's only a need for one to leave, it wouldn't surprise me if both were gone by the end of the month. And if either happens to survive this year's layoffs, there's a good chance he'll be gone next year, anyway.
Although Smith has proven to be moderately serviceable (and that's being pretty generous), he seems like the ideal candidate to leave in search of more playing time. Trice's spirits seem to be too unbroken thus far, so it may take another year of hanging out on the bench with the Dove before he gets the picture. But it's the latter who's the odds-on favorite to get the boot, according to people in the know.
Verdict: Gone, either this year or next
#35 CHARLES "CHARTER OK" OKWANDU, SR.
1.0 ppg | 1.6 rpg | 0.4 bpg | 7.7 mpg | 12 GS | 51.7% FG
I kind of feel bad for Okwandu, because he's been a bit Dove-struck in his short time with the program. He was all set to go to Seton Hall after attending junior college and become Kentrell Gransberry 2.0 (i.e., a decent center who you never really knew much about, but would always say, "Yeah, that tall guy -- what's his name? Gilberry? I hear he's pretty good" before your team played him). But then Cal hung his Hall of Fame carrot in front of him and Okwandu couldn't say no.
Last season, his first in Storrs, Charter Ok appeared in 10 games for a team that didn't really need him and was declared academically ineligible before the start of February. He was promoted to pseudo-starting center this season, most likely because A) he was the tallest person on the team and Cal would probably rather quit than put a lineup without a 7-footer on the court, or B) Cal confused him with Hilton Armstrong. Either way, it took Oak less than half of the season to figure out it was a pretty empty title.
And if that wasn't enough, there's a good chance that he's also suffering from the onset of male pattern baldness. Sad, sad stuff.
He's wasted so much of his career already that it makes no sense to leave with one year of eligibility left. And while he'll likely never see the starting lineup again, he's carved out a nice niche as a solid backup center who can protect the rim for five minutes at at time. He also gives the team some flexibility, as a frontline of Okwandu, Oriakhi and Majok could do some serious damage down low.
But had he not wasted his first two years, he probably could have been much more. Now, he'll head into next season as a role player with the beginnings of the classic horseshoe pattern.
Verdict: Keeper, mostly because of circumstance
I once floated out the idea early in the season that JMC might not be any good at basketball, but had been viewed as a promising player only through about five-plus years of Oriakhi osmosis. I was joking (mostly) then. Now ... I don't know.
Of all the secondary freshmen (i.e. everyone not Oriakhi and Majok), JaCoMc has played by far the most minutes and was often the first player off the bench. But despite appearing in every game this past season, the only thing different about him now as opposed to the beginning of the year is the length and lavishness of his left arm sleeve. Don't get me wrong, because I'm obviously in favor of anyone who would attempt to look like Jax from Mortal Kombat. But while it will surely improve his babalities, I don't think it will help much with his bballabilities.
In the preseason, I expected Coombs-McDaniel to be like a college version of Shane Battier: a player who won't score a ton, but one who can do a bunch of things well. So far, he hasn't been okay at even one thing.
Whether it's by design or because of his poor decision-making, JMC has shot 59 3s (more than half of his shots) and made just 16. I still think he can develop into a super role player that opponents' fans criticize but we all love -- so basically a talented Craig 2.0 -- and he's definitely a keeper. But he needs to develop some -- any -- other way to contribute offensively besides hoisting up Scottie Haralson Memorial airball 3s.
NOT: Majok is a 6-foot-11, 230-pound center that can't score almost as easily as Mandeldove.
HOT: The Journal Inquirer ran a feature on Majok in January entitled "Nothing's Ater-matic." Awesome.
HOT: Can Majok bounce back this season? I DON'T SEE WHY NOT?
Beverly has essentially become the Trent Dilfer of college point guards: someone who can't really make a lot of plays and isn't terribly athletic, but a good game manager. All he needs now is Okwandu's hairline.
Just to show you how bland Beverly is, I just spent about 12 minutes thinking of something to say about him and the only things I can come up with are a bunch of cliches: He is what he is ... he gives it his all ... that's how the cookie crumbles.
He's a decent option as a backup, because he won't make mistakes and he can at least initiate the offense. But considering Cal's offense is based off of throwing five really good athletes on the court and letting them do their thangs, I'm not sure he's the best fit for the team.
Still, there's no turning back now, as Beverly is somehow going to be a senior next season (he hopes). So maybe he'll become one of those wise end-of-the-bench veterans who does silly handshakes and pre-game dance routines. And if that doesn't happens, we'll simply continue to point out the utter lack of noteworthiness to his game and laugh at the hilarious things he posts on Twitter ... like, "Watchin Juice til I fall asleep..." I'm not sure if I hope that means "Beetle Juice" with Michael Keaton or just a glass of juice.
If Kemba and Beverly bought friendship ying-yang necklaces, there's no doubt in my mind that Kembawesome -- excuse me, KEMBAWESOME! -- would end up wearing the black portion. Why? Because while DBev represents the calm, easygoing, unexciting side of UConn basketball, KEMBA! is all about the fast-paced, dash-recklessy-into-the-lane, OMG-DIDYOUJUSTSEETHAT~!!~!1`1~!!!! ... part.
However, there's been less of that than we expected this season and more of "You're going too fast!", "Stop driving reckelssly into the lane!", "OMG, DIDYOUJUSTSEETHAT?!!?! What a stupid decision!"
But since Kemba can do no wrong, I'm going to blame any regression on the bad influence that is Jerome Dyson. Next year, without Dyse there to teach him bad habits and smoke cigarettes with in the bathroom during lunch period, my guess is Kemba will begin his assent into Allen territory. For now, though, he''ll have to settle for somewhere around Moore.
Verdict: Super-duper keeper