Gampel To Get New Banner

STORRS – Jim Calhoun isn't big on pomp and circumstance. Never has been and never will be.

But raising a third NCAA championship banner for the Connecticut men's basketball program is a big deal, Calhoun said Wednesday. The unveiling of that 2011 championship banner will be part of the pregame festivities Friday night when UConn opens the 2011-12 regular season against Ivy League-opponent Columbia (7 p.m., Gampel Pavilion).

"I've never been one of those guys to say, ‘Well, it's not a big deal,' " Calhoun said after practice Wednesday. "It's a big deal. A national championship is a big deal. I'll always consider it a very, very big deal. I think it will be very good to finish [last year] off and start anew, and do it the same night."

Calhoun said he hopes to share the moment with a full house at Gampel – and he hopes fans will show up early enough for the ceremony. That shouldn't be asking too much since the banner will be unveiled (along with a new lineup introduction video) at 6:59 p.m. Tipoff is at 7:02 p.m.

UConn officials said Wednesday a limited number of tickets are still available.

"I would expect this place to be full," Calhoun said. "C.W. Post was a very good crowd [Sunday, 7,215 attendance at XL Center in Hartford], given all the circumstances. I feel comfortable our fans will recognize what happened [last season]."

The returning players from the championship team received their national championship rings last month at a banquet in Hartford. Junior forward Alex Oriakhi said the banner will provide some final closure to last season. But UConn's new players are excited too.

"I was actually pretty angry watching them get their rings," freshman center Andre Drummond said with a smile. "It just made me want to go out there and get a ring and do everything I can to make sure I get a ring. Yeah, I was sitting by myself in the front row [at the banquet]."

Walk-on Brendan Allen, a freshman from Windsor, Conn., said he remembers watching on TV when Richard Hamilton and the rest of the 1999 Huskies won UConn's first national title.

"Definitely pretty cool," Allen said of Friday's plan. "To be a part of team that won the national championship last year, is cool. Just to be a part of that when I wasn't sure if I would be here at this time last year. It's a blessing."

OMAR CALHOUN SIGNS

Wednesday was the first day of the early signing period and UConn received a signed letter of intent from guard Omar Calhoun from Christ the King High School in New York.

Calhoun, a 6-3 guard considered a Top 50 recruit, gave his oral commitment to UConn in June and was a visitor to the campus for First Night festivities. Now it's all official.

NO NEWS ON BOATRIGHT

Calhoun said there is no new information regarding the status of freshman point guard Ryan Boatright, whose eligibility is being reviewed by UConn and the NCAA. The NCAA reportedly is looking into a matter involving Boatright's affiliation with an AAU team when he was in high school. The case may involve the purchase of an airplane ticket.

"We'd love to have him back," Calhoun said. "You'd hope the NCAA would prioritize and work some of these things through. His situation is somewhat simplistic."

It is anticipated the NCAA will suspend Boatright for a few games early in the season, possibly as many as six games, depending on the finding.

"He will return," Calhoun said. "When I don't know."

Boatright is able to practice with the Huskies. Swingman Niels Giffey, who missed Sunday's exhibition game with ankle and knee injuries, did not practice Wednesday and it seems unlikely that he will be available for the Columbia game.

Calhoun said he expects to star the same lineup that started against C.W. Post. That would be Shabazz Napier, Jeremy Lamb, Roscoe Smith, Oriakhi and Tyler Olander. Drummond, making his official debut, will come off the bench. Drummond has strugglcd at the free throw line early in the season. But he has an explanation.

"I wasn't always a bad free throw shooter," Drummond said "But my arms got longer out of nowhere for some reason. I don't know what happened. But it kind of threw me off a little bit. It's starting to come back slowly."

CALHOUN ON PENN STATE

Jim Calhoun offered some thoughts on the football sex abuse scandal at Penn State that led to coach Joe Paterno's dismissal Wednesday night.

"All of us feel it's an incredible tragedy for the young people involved and certainly those families," Calhoun said. "I never [can remember anything] in athletics that encompasses the entire spectrum of our society. That makes it so hard on so many levels. It's just a hard, hard thing for everybody. Hopefully those kids will be able to go on and have a full life and some sort of restoration psychologically."


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