Husky fans, rejoice.
Basketball had their first practice this past weekend, and according to every account I read it was a doozy. Especially for our incoming freshmen:
Ugh... At one point I just found myself on the ground. I didn't know what was going on.
- Freshman Forward Kentan Facey
I saw [Ollie] this morning, he said "good morning' with the mean face and I knew we were in for something. Oh, my god. We went hard.
- Freshmen Guard Terrence Samuel
Ollie clearly wants to set the tone and make sure we have the most well-conditioned, disciplined, hardest working team on the floor every outing- exactly what you would expect from a guy who kept a roster spot in the NBA behind those three characteristics.
We're returning our top six scorers from a team that won twenty games last year despite injuries, late transfers, inexperience and no chance at postseason play led by a rookie coach on an interim contract. Although expectations are moderate nationally (I've seen us ranked between 15-20's on a few preseason rankings), I'm expecting a deep tournament run in Ollie's second year.
I know that Kentucky has an illegal amount of talent coming in, that Kansas is adding the immortal Doug... er Andrew Wiggins to an already great team, that reigning national champion Louisville is returning most of their core, and that Duke, UNC and Michigan State exist, but I think we can hang with all of those teams.
Why? Because I would put our back court up against anybody's. Having Senior and Junior guards with as much playing experience and talent as Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright gives us a big leg up on the competition. Combining their strong play with the explosive talents of Omar Calhoun and an emerging DeAndre Daniels, I think we can compete with the big boys. All four of those guys averaged double digits in scoring last year.
Napier and Boatright will be expected to pace a team tasked with rejuvenating Men's Basketball's winning tradition and asserting our dominance in this new conference. Memphis was able to put up monster win totals playing these teams and we should too. That's the expectation if we are to make any sort of splash nationally.
In other news, Freshman PF Kentan Facey has yet to be cleared by the NCAA to play. He's been practicing as if he will but with the NCAA being who they are, we know they have no urgency and actually could even reverse their decision once made a la the Boatright saga of 2011.
If Facey is unable to play, then we might have some challenges up-front... again. Olander will probably join the team at some point early in the season, so lets count on him for now. After Olander and Facey are sophomore Phil Nolan and raw freshman Amidah Brimah, standing 6-foot-10 and 7-feet respectively. Not a lot of experience there but we have GOT to improve our rebounding if we are to achieve anything significant this year.
Time for some good news! UConn received a verbal commitment from a second incoming freshman for the Class of 2014 in Power Forward Rakim Lubin.
Lubin joins Danny Hamilton and (yes, I'm counting him for '14) Rodney Purvis to round out a very talented group joining the squad next year. We have some other stokes in the fire, but in short, anyone who has doubted our ability to bring in recruits because of this that and the other mediocre reason can now eat crow. Lubin is a highly rated prospect whose stock dropped recently due to injury.
Word on the street is that Omar Calhoun is recovering nicely from off-season hip surgery. This was to be expected, but a relief nonetheless. He was a full participant in practice, and though he experienced some soreness afterwards (sounds like they all did) it seems he will be ready to go in time for the season.
Calhoun averaged 11.1 points and 3.9 rebounds in a very solid freshman season. He's looking to step up his game and be a big time contributor this year along with Boatright and Napier.
First night/Midnight Madness is October 18th. We are so close to unofficially officially kicking off basketball season!! And, not that anybody's counting, but 38 days until the season opener!!!!!
Kemba Walker Game Winner vs Pittsburgh (via William Sandow)