June 14, 2006
When I've been the road lately, and the subject has been the Big East, a lot of people think the Huskies of Connecticut will be hurting. After all, three key underclassman -- Rudy Gay, Marcus Williams and Josh Boone -- all left for the NBA draft. Hilton Armstrong, Rashad Anderson and Denham Brown were all seniors, so six big names are gone from Storrs, Connecticut.
How many teams could lose that kind of talent and remain competitive? In Williams, the Huskies had one of the premier point guards in America. Gay was one of the best transition players, an explosive, spectacular athlete. Boone and Armstrong were factors on the inside, while Anderson could flat out shoot.
The Connecticut fans may have shed a few tears losing that group of players. Remember, the Huskies were in the Elite Eight before losing to Cinderella story George Mason.
Don't cry too much my friends. There is a reason why Jim Calhoun is in the Hall of Fame and he was prepared for big-time losses. The Connecticut program doesn't rebuild, it restructures. Obviously he and his staff went out and brought in a dynamite recruiting class. There is a mix of quickness and athletic skills in a deep group coming in.
Then there is the return of guard A.J. Price. He was cleared to practice and Calhoun has called Price his most talented perimeter player. If he develops, watch out.
Among the newcomers is 6-9 forward Stanley Robinson from Alabama. He has a world of potential. Also up front is highly-regarded 6-9 forward Curtis Kelly from New York City as is local product Doug Wiggins, a 5-11 guard from East Hartford, Connecticut, will help out in the backcourt.
Don't forget the Huskies also return a tough 6-6 forward in Jeff Adrien, as well as guards Craig Austrie and Rob Garrison. Adrien is the top returning scorer while Austrie started 24 games last season.
Calhoun, George Blaney and assistant coach Tom Moore know how to get the most out of their talent. This is a program that knows how to win. This team will find a way to compete in the tough, tough Big East.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.