JOE D’S NOTEBOOK March 5th
WEDNESDAY-MARCH 5: Lo and behold,it’s the final week of the regular season. Isn’t it great to be a UConn basketball fan and know that unlike last season, there is life beyond the final game. But first things first, a quick recap and some reflections.
The Cincinnati game was not aesthetically pleasing by any means if you are a basketball connoisseur. But, if hard nosed, tough as nails competition is your cup of tea, that was the game for you. UConn out-willed Cincinnati, there is no other way to describe it. The Huskies out toughed what I feel is the toughest team in the conference.To win when shooting as poorly as the Huskies did, to get out rebounded as badly as they did and still win is a sign of maturity. UConn was terrific at the defensive end, holding the Bearcats to their worst shooting game of the season and equalling their season worst with 20 turnovers. To not score a field goal for the final 7:39 and win a game is something I don’t think UConn could have done earlier this season.
And so tonight, the Huskies play one final home game for this season at Gampel and for a quintet of Huskies, their final game ever in Storrs. You probably don’t know Tor Watts, he is one of the Huskies walkons. He has missed the last month with an ankle injury but is one of the great personalities around the team. I’m not sure his teammates ever cheered louder than when he made his one field goal this season against Detroit. An outstanding young man.
Lasan Kromah has been a critical ingredient to the Huskies success this season. The grad student from George Washington has been a defensive stopper, and at times has shown he can score. Lasan also brought a sense of maturity to the team. A terrific addition.
Niels Giffey has saved his best for last. He came back from a summer with the German National Team and has been irreplaceable. Niels started the year on fire shooting the ball from long range and even though his accuracy isn’t as sharp as earlier in the year. when he settles his feet to fire up from downtown, you don’t think he’s going to miss. Plus, he too,like Kromah, has really contributed on the defensive end. And, Niels has become a team leader.A gentleman in every sense of the word.
Tyler Olander hasn’t had the smoothest path to Senior Night, in fact for a time last off season, you weren’t sure if he would be back for 13-14. But he earned the trust of his head coach and even though his playing time has decreased, Kevin Ollie says his contributions in helping to tutor players like Brimah, Nolan and Facey has been invaluable. An extremely likeable, pleasant young man.
And then there’s Shabazz Napier. You know about his on court performance, you don’t need to be reminded about that. He is the Mariano Rivera of college basketball, the ultimate closer. But it’s off the floor that I think “Bazz” has made the greatest strides. When he tried to be a leader in his sophomore season, it didn’t go well. In fact, it went poorly. But between Shabazz learned from that experience and over the last two years has become one of the best leaders UConn has seen. He still plays with a bit of a chip on his shoulder and that has made him the player he is.I think Napier has flown under the national radar as far as his brilliance this season. If he isn’t at least AAC co-player of the year with Sean Kilpatrick, something is wrong.
The three fourth year seniors didn’t leave when things got tough, and for that, they should be thanked and honored. Bazz, Niels and Tyler have helped get UConn back on track after last season.And they have been a joy to cover. Always cordial, always friendly, always willing to talk. Thanks guys.
We will broadcast the Senior Ceremonies during our pre game which begins at 6:30. I hope if you aren’t at Gampel, you can listen.