Scrimmage Report!

Like many UConn fans, I've been champing at the bit for any good karma when it comes to UConn men's hoops. Well, I recently got a good dose of that when I had the chance to watch some of our players scrimmaging on the hardwood.

One of the biggest treats was to see Charlie Villanueva demonstrate why he went to the Raptors with the seventh-pick in this summer's NBA draft. 

Although many have said taking him that high was a reach, he gave us a glimpse at how much he improved since he began training for his NBA debut.  He was by far the best player on the floor; hitting threes, punctuating drives to the basket with get-out-of-my-way tomahawk slams - not just one, mind you, but multiple highlight worthy dunks.  He also had a few nice not-on-my-court blocks that sent a few shocked past teammates to the floor. 

I got a chance to talk briefly with Charlie, who told me he's off to Toronto in a couple weeks.  We wished him well and I have a feeling he's going to turn some doubters around sooner than later. Good luck, Charlie!

 Before I get to the 2005-2006 Huskies, I do want to report on the play of two visiting recruits, Jerome Dyson and Samardo Samuels

I was impressed by both Dyson and Samuels.  Dyson, to use a trite saying, is just what the doctor ordered.  He looked a bit tentative early on, but he slowly got into the fray, driving among the trees with mixed success.  After beating his man on the drive and then tossing up a wild miss, he again drove his man on the next possession and finished with the defender draped over him.

Dyson shows a solid handle for a combo guard and appears to have great upside. Prior to the first scrimmage, we watched as he drained deep three after deep three.

Samuels was as impressive as his #2 Scout rating in the class of 2008 would suggest. At 6-8, 235 pounds, he is already good enough and strong enough to suit up and play at the highest college level. If he doesn't land in Storrs two years from now, it won't be because the staff didn't want him, that's for sure! 

Samuels was not afraid to bang with the big boys; once he got acclimated as to how hard he would have to play, he put his share of opponents on the floor.  He has an excellent handle and solid post moves for a young player of his size.  He's only 16 years old and there is no telling how good a player he can become – he is a bona fide talent! 

Now turning our attention to the 2005/06 Huskies - there is a lot to get excited about. 

Many of us lamented Andrew Bynum's decision to forgo his UConn career for the NBA, but I have a feeling that Hilton Armstrong will have us saying, "Andrew who?" 

Hilton is not the next coming of Emeka, but I think many don't realize how athletic and skilled this big man is. He demonstrated a number of nice spin moves, putting the ball on the floor and finishing in traffic. He had a couple impressive blocks and wowed us with an acrobatic fly through the lane, one handed rebound, and rim rattling flush. 

As for the freshmen, they did not disappoint. Both guards, Garrison and Austrie, looked solid.

I was particularly impressed with the way Garrison lead his team. He's smooth with the ball and sneaky quick, slashing into the paint through open seams in the defense.  Hes got a nice stroke although outside jump-shots were in short supply during the scrimmage. He did a nice job of getting his teammates involved and seems to be a pass-first point guard. 

I didn't watch Austrie as closely, but he has a good enough handle to play the point if needed and was also unselfish with the ball.  If UConn has to go to battle with these two sharing the point, I think they'll hold their own against Big East competition. 

One player that was hard to miss was Jeff Adrien. Not only is he as long as advertised, but he comes to Storrs with an NBA-ready body. He's got the combination of the longest and biggest arms I've seen on a player his size. I have little doubt that he'll play bigger than his listed 6-6, 220 pounds measurement. He plays very hard every minute out there sending a few surprised opponents to the floor. 

Look for him to win some solid minutes this season and end up being a Calhoun favorite ala Kevin Freeman by his effort alone. 

The fourth member of the 2005 class, Marcus Johnson, also impressed us with his athleticism and relentless defense. 

Like Adrien he's not afraid to get after his man, but it's when the ball changes hands he's at his best! Johnson does most of his scoring on slashes to the basket and appears to need to improve on his jump-shot.

Don't be surprised to see Jim Calhoun look down the bench and call upon these two players to get some critical late stops once they acclimate to college game.

 Rashad Anderson had a quiet couple games but he looked healthy.  I'm sure he's anxious to get back on the court and hit his signature flurry of threes once the lights turn on for real. 

I amazingly almost forgot to mention Rudy Gay

He's so smooth and does some incredible things so effortlessly that I tend to take him for granted. Rudy was making his presence known using his long arms and sweet jumper.  He did a nice job of creating for himself off the bounce and finishing some aggressive moves at the rim…check that…way above the rim.  

Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't make mention of one of regular scrimmage participants and long time favorite, Donny Marshall. Donny is still in great shape, still plays hard and, yes, he still does his share of trash-talking. Villanueva was the recipient of some good-natured ribbing from Donny early on.

It was nice to see Donny back at Gampel. It was fun to see him out there teaching the younger players a thing or two, while witnessing some who weren't about to back down.  Hmm…I guess there's a lot to be said about teaching by example.

 I don't think it was the last we'll see of him, and I'm sure other Husky greats will make their annual pilgrimage to Gampel this fall as well!



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