You need more than talent to play D-I hoops. You need thick skin. And someone to provide a little support.
Couldn’t ask for better examples of this than Connecticut teammates Alex Oriakhi and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel.
The pair was 16 when they made a verbal pact to attend UConn. Along the way, they won AAU championships, prep school titles and quite a bit of confidence. But when Coombs-Daniel found playing time was hard to come by as a sophomore under coach Jim Calhoun this season, Oriakhi was the guy who stepped up when needed.
In fact, he talked of transferring when his minutes evaporated early in the season. But it was during some long talks with Oriakhi — his roommate at home and on the road — that convinced Coombs-McDaniel to stay.
“He just tells me, you know how [Calhoun] is,” Coombs-McDaniel said. “You’re not going to win that battle.”
So Coombs-McDaniel, described by Oriakhi as “hard-headed,” has learned to simply follow Calhoun’s orders without complaining. Now, he says he is committed to playing the next two years at UConn.
That’s what teammates do. They step up when needed and help smooth out the bumps in the road. And now? They’ve gone from long-time teammates to the Final Four.
“We’ve both had a lot of ups and downs,” Coombs-McDaniel told the paper. “We talk after every game. We go back to the apartment or back to the hotel and we talk about every game. He’s been a great brother to me.”
I’d say the support was worth it.
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