Friday, May 26, 2006

 

Huskie Pride! (A Tired Act...)

Growing up in Connecticut I have come to form an aversion for the UConn Huskie basketball program. Well, let me explain myself. Not necessarily for the 'program,' since part of my love for basketball is respecting talent and over the past decade plus, UConn has put some of the nation's foremost talent on the court (Ray Allen, Rip Hamilton, Caron Butler, Ben Gordon, 'Spliff' Robinson, Emeka Okafor, etc..). I also recognize that since I am a diehard Syracuse Orange fan that my views on the Huskie program may be a bit slighted, however, I will reiterate that I am first and foremaost a basketball fan and do not write off players based solely on the ridiculous jersey they don (even if I were a UConn fan I would never be caught dead wearing a UConn jersey. It screams 'We're from Connecticut' to me...).

The UConn tradition has been wonderful over the past decade with two NCAA championships since 1999, the only team to win multiple championships in that span. They have been dominant in the Big East conference and, as mentioned before, have sent several all-star calibur players into the NBA. The 2006 UConn Huskies we supposed to be part of that tradtion walking all over the Big East and any other "cake" team they threw upon their out of conference schedule. With the consensus number one pick in the NBA Draft in Rudy Gay and a "High Lottery" pick in Josh Boone, this team had all the makings of a 30-2 team with a few slip-ups on the way.

The first began with now lottery bound Marcus Williams, "the best pure point guard in the nation," getting arrested and suspended from all basketball related activits through January 1st. Yes, that's right, he missed the JC portion of the schedule (Army, Texas Southern, UMass, New Hampshire, Stony Brook, Moorehead St., and Quinnipiac) and retunred just in time for conference play. He stole $11,000 worth of laptops out of college dorms and was able to earn millions in a looming NBA contract in the moths to follow. This just sounds like something you'll see on E! or "Touched By an Angel" in the near future.



Then we Have Mr. Rudy Gay and Mr. Josh Boone, both of whom were sure fire bets to be selected in the lottery and, in Rudy Gay's case, he was considered to be a lock for the #1 pick in the 2006 NBA draft. So what happened? Why is Rudy Gay now considered to be the 6th or 7th overall pick in the upcoming draft? Why is Josh Boone hanging on for dear life just to stay in the 1st round? Are they bored? The idea of them not "turning it on" during the season because the competition was lackluster is ridiculous. And even if that was the case would you want a guy like that on your team? Not at all! The upside of Rudy Gay is through the roof. And if you wantch basketball you have no reason to question his ability. But, where was it? Why is he bored with the competition? How bored were you with George Mason, who should never in a million years have beaten UConn. Play that game 99 more times and the result is a UConn win.

We saw the same thing, however, with Charlie Villanueva. They word on him was that he had no motivation and lacked the "will" to play the game. Then we saw him score 48 points in a game against Millawaukee and finish second in Rookie voting behind Chris Paul while being named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team.

Would Andrew Bynum have helped this team had he not opted for the draft and getting a suprise lottery selection from the Lakers? Probably not. He dunked over Shaq on a nationally televised game, pumped his fist, and then played Kwame Brown and hid for the rest of the year. Is he the prototypical UConn player? With Rudy Gay falling, Josh Boone falling, Marcus Williams shoing up 15 lbs. overweight to his workout with the Celtics, and Bynum (though only 19) learning the game on the end of the Lakers bench (and I can see him becoming the next Jermoe James and not the next Shaq. Shaq had several more years of experience in organized ball and honed his skills with a few years at LSU).

Is there a motivation problem in Storrs? Did Calhoun assemble a team that is so good that they don't need to compete to their best ability? Why ask all these questions when one of the best stories in NCAA basketball also comes from Storrs. Keep an eye on Hilton Armstrong, because he has the size, tools, and heart to make an impact in the NBA.

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