One thing about the Connecticut's Men's Basketball staff – when they see what they want, they go after it. And it was clear that Detroit, Michigan's 6-3 stud Ramar Smith was one of the staff's priorities this summer. Head Coach Jim Calhoun was clearly visible at the Nike Camp in Indianapolis and also followed Smith's every move in Las Vegas.
Calhoun had to like what he saw. Ramar has been the talk of the town
since his freshman year in Detroit and seems to thrive on
playing against the very best competition. The spotlight is something he looks
for, not shies away from.
With UConn looking to sign a ton of players for the 2006 campaign Calhoun
pursued Smith intensely for several reasons. The Huskies will be inexperienced
at the guard position in '06 especially if Marcus Williams leaves early for the
NBA (by the way all of this is of course provided Williams and Price stay on the
Husky roster). That would leave A.J. Price, Craig Austrie, and Robert Garrison
as UConn's other options at the guard position. Though Smith will be a freshman
he's viewed as a shooting guard who would not be in awe of playing on the road
in the rough and tough Big East. Smith is one tough customer and fit the
description of what Calhoun was in search of perfectly. Smith's gusto can be
compared to that of former UConn guard Khalid El-Amin, who always seemed to
raise his level of play against better competition.
Right now Ramar is an athletic shooting guard who seems to get to the rim
whenever he wants. It's not uncommon to see Ramar penetrate, take the hit, hang
and finish the play. Smith is a tremendous scorer though his shooting ability
might be one of his weak spots. He lacks consistency with the jumper and his
shot is a bit flat at times, but he does have a good stroke. Smith will attend
Connecticut this year and
improving his shot will be a focal point. Really he just needs to add some arc
and soon the shots hitting the front rim will be swishing through the net.
It will be exciting to see his athletic ability on
display in the open floor where he will be a terrific finisher for UConn's
fast-paced offense. Smith's scoring prowess is one of the reasons he's been so
highly touted since his freshman campaign but expect Ramar to play some point
for the Huskies. He's a sneaky good passer with an excellent handle and the
rumor is he'll see some time as the primary ball-handler in
Other Recruiting Notes
-- Just how impressive is Calhoun's recruiting work ethic? Check out this
During the last two days of the July recruiting period the UConn coach
traveled 9,000 miles to see 6-3 guard Jerome Dyson and 6-11 Spencer Hawes.
Here's a copy of Calhoun's itinerary:
Took red-eye from Los
Angeles on Friday and arrived in
Philadelphia at on Saturday where he spent the day watching Dyson.
Calhoun then hopped on the flight
from Philly to Seattle to see
Spencer Hawes. Calhoun arrived in
Seattle by 9p Saturday night and
watched Spencer workout Sunday afternoon. The UConn coach left the gym by 1230p
and then took a flight back to
Newark. After getting in at
, he drove back and got in by
3-330am. These are the types of things Calhoun is willing to do for top
recruits. That had to make an impact on both of those prospects.
The Macklin Story
- I've gotten some email about UConn's interest in 6-9 Vernon Macklin
VA). Macklin is a highly coveted prospect who
stands pretty firm on his list of schools which include;
Wake Forest, North Carolina, and
OhioState – in that order. Here's my
opinion. The only way to get "in" the Macklin race would've been to send Calhoun
to Orlando. With 10-15 UConn
prospects in Las Vegas, it would've
been a tough call for the staff to make to "possibly" be in the mix. I won't say
it's a completely dead issue but the Huskies are on the outside looking in with
Names to Watch
- Again, all this is pending A.J. and Marcus remaining on
the team but the Huskies will look to give one more scholarship to a guard.
Dyson is the likely top target here. Derrick Jasper
and combo guard Matt Bouldin (Highlands Ranch, CO) are names to watch here.
- In all likelihood the Huskies will fill one more scholarship from the
class of 2006 on a wing player. 6-6 Quincy Pondexter from
(who will be visiting the Storrs
campus) is likely the primary target here. 6-7 Raymar Morgan
and 6-5 Lazar Hayward (Fitchburg,
MA) are the other targets for the Huskies at
this position. Though Hayward is a
bit smaller, he fits a Rashad Anderson type of wing who can shoot it.
- The key recruiting area for
Connecticut will be up front. At
the 4-position the names include 6-11 Spencer Hawes (Seattle, WA), 6-8 Alex Stepheson (North Hollywood, CA), 6-8 Taj Gibson (Tarzana, CA), 6-8 Deon Thompson
(Torrance, CA), 6-9 Perry Stevenson (Lafayette, LA), and finally, 6-8 Bryan Davis (Grand Prairie, TX). 6-9 Lance Thomas
and 6-9 Stanley Robinson (Birmingham,
AL) can play both the 4 and the 3 positions
and are still very much a part of the UConn recruiting picture.
- Connecticut has gotten
extremely comfortable leading the nation in blocked shots the last 4 seasons so
finding a 5-man is crucial. With Andrew Bynum never setting foot on campus and
Josh Boone likely gone after this season finding a quality center ranks high on
UConn's priority list. There are some top prospects available at other positions
but expect the Huskies to really focus on guys like7-0 Jonathan Mandeldove
(Chatham, VA), and 6-10 Hamady Ndiaye who's from Senegal but plays at a prep
school in Lake Suzy, FL. Even though Ndiaye is a bit raw and is a project expect
UConn to go after both of these players because of their wish to fill the center
position with size instead of an undersized 4-man.