Jim Calhoun sat at one of the several round tables inside the Gampel Pavilion news conference room Thursday. But this was no discussion. This was a declaration — of the UConn men’s basketball team’s past, present and future. Who’s involved with the latter may take a dramatic turn in the coming weeks.
Jim Calhoun sat at one of the several round tables inside the Gampel Pavilion news conference room Thursday.
But this was no discussion. This was a declaration — of the UConn men’s basketball team’s past, present and future.
Who’s involved with the latter may take a dramatic turn in the coming weeks.
“We want to make sure that everybody is on the same page of where we want to go,” Calhoun said in wrapping up the UConn’s one-part-successful, another-part-disappointing 24-9 season. “I always think what the kids should be concerned about the moment they step on the court — and a number of things have subtracted from that — they should be concerned about winning the game.
“And I don’t know if they got that this year.”
In turn, Calhoun promised changes on several levels six days after the Huskies ended their season in the first round of the NCAA tournament, 70-69 in overtime to San Diego.
The most basic will be the personnel.
The Huskies now have two open scholarships, which will be filled by incoming freshmen guards Kemba Walker, a McDonald’s All-American out of Rice High School in New York, and Scottie Haralson, a shooting specialist from Jackson, Miss.
They won’t be alone, though. While cautioning that nothing would be “wholesale,” Calhoun said he expects at least four new scholarship players will be in Storrs next season. He said some current players haven’t lived up to the “total package” of being a member of the Huskies, citing academic and “social” issues. Others may have disputes over playing time.
“We’ve made our mind up in a couple situations that it might be best, and none of these things are written in stone,” Calhoun said. “But the chisel’s ready to start doing that.”
The coach didn’t name many names, and refused to discuss Doug Wiggins in particular, but he did speak of definite plans of others. He hopes to have Jerome Dyson, for example, work out this summer with Ben Gordon, and returning seniors Craig Austrie, Jeff Adrien and A.J. Price, who undergoes surgery today to repair a torn ACL (see story, C3), are all in next year’s plans.
UConn is currently recruiting frontcourt help in 6-foot-8 Ater Majok and 6-foot-10 Jamie Vanderbeken out of Tyler Junior College in Texas. Their arrival would leave little room for current Huskies such as Curtis Kelly, whose playing time took a large dip late in the season, and guards Wiggins and freshmen Donnell Beverly may face a similar situation with the introduction of Walker and Haralson.
There also remains the possibility of the well-traveled Nate Miles joining UConn this fall.
“So between some personnel changes, some additions to the roster and a couple deletions, we think it’s the best interest of everybody,” Calhoun said. “(The changes) won’t be shocking to anybody I don’t think. ... But there is a standard. You have a period of time to meet that standard and if you really haven’t, then maybe it’s time.”
Hasheem Thabeet, however, remains the biggest factor in UConn’s path next season. Tempted last year to declare for the NBA Draft, the 7-foot-3 sophomore faces a “legitimate decision” this season, said Calhoun, who called Thabeet a definite first-round choice.
April 27 is the draft’s early entry deadline.
“I want him to see the big picture, what’s going to happen over the next 10, 12, 14 years of your life,” said Calhoun, who added he does have an inkling of what Thabeet will choose but refused to divulge it.
Price said the decision is clear to him.
“I’m expecting him to be back,” the junior said. “It’s just my gut feeling, my outlook. That’s what I think he should do, but if he has other agendas, it’s his life. I don’t really know if others have (spoken to him about it). I haven’t really said that much to him about it. It’s his decision. I’m just expecting him back. I think he needs to do it one more time, and we can get one more shot next year.”
Ah, next year. Outside of the team’s season-ending banquet on April 16, that remains the focus.
Even Thursday, as Calhoun discussed this past season and the team’s need for a renewed focus in defense and rebounding, that’s where the discussion turned.
“If you’re not growing, you’re dying,” he said. “And we’re not going to die yet. I don’t plan to go backwards.”
Calhoun said he hopes to beef up UConn’s non-conference schedule next season, which already includes a date with Gonzaga in Seattle. He said there are discussions with Alabama and USC. ... Calhoun added that assistant Andre LaFleur had been contacted by Mercer about its head coaching vacancy, but the school filled the position Thursday.
Reach Norwich Bulletin writer Matt Stout at 425-4250 or email@example.com