Arguably the biggest problem for the UConn Huskies last season (removing their being ineligible for postseason play, of course) was their lack of size and depth in the post. DeAndre Daniels performed admirably as an “undersized” four as a sophomore, posting averages of 12.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game game. But outside of Daniels there wasn’t much production from the front court, with the Huskies’ perimeter play able to do enough to lead Kevin Ollie’s team to 20 wins.
Freshman forward Kentan Facey is one of the additions expected to help UConn in this area, but the school had no idea when the Trelawny, Jamaica native would be eligible to play. In the midst of his move from Jamaica to Long Island, the NCAA wondered if Facey’s eligibility “clock” had already started due to his passing a standardized test while in Jamaica that could be considered equivalent to graduating from high school.
On Friday Facey and the school received good news from the NCAA, which has cleared the 6-foot-9 forward and given him a full four seasons of eligibility. Facey gives UConn an athletic big man whose shot-blocking ability (4.5 bpg to go along with 14.8 points and 13.0 rebounds per game as a high school senior at Long Island Lutheran) is one of his best assets.
“I am so pleased and excited that everything has worked out for this outstanding young man,” Ollie said in the release announcing the decision. “It’s great to see him go through this situation and persevere. He just kept working very hard and believed in our university.
“I can’t say enough about what a model student-athlete Kentan has been in spite of the situation he was facing,” Ollie continued. “He never let circumstances distract his positive image of himself and that’s just a testament to his strong character. We are very excited that he will be with us this year and beyond.”
UConn’s interior returnees (removing Daniels and wing Niels Giffey) are senior Tyler Olander and sophomore Phil Nolan, with the former needing to rebound from a disappointing 2012-13 campaign. Seven-footer Amida Brimah should also be in line to earn playing time after 15.7 points, 11.6 rebounds and 7.5 blocks per game at Archbishop Carroll HS in south Florida.
UConn’s strength is still on the perimeter, with Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright once again leading the way, but if they’re to be a player nationally the front court will need to step up. Adding Facey to the equation will help in that regard.
The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.
The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.
They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.
That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.
So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.
Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:
With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.
At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes
“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:
“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”
“It’s all money.”
Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.
Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .
Want to talk about coaching luxuries?
Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.