Life of a Sportsaholic

This blog is intended to be insight into my life as an irrational, stats-driven, obsessive sports fan in Boston. I am a fan of all types of sports with an emphasis on Boston teams and am a proud UConn alum.

Category: UConn Basketball

A Husky for Life: Rip Hamilton

Dave Martin/AP

On Sunday, the Detroit Pistons retired Richard Hamilton‘s #32 at the Palace of Auburn Hills. It was a nice honor for Rip considering he spent 9 of his 14 NBA seasons with the Pistons and helped them win the NBA title in 2004. He made 3 consecutive All-Star appearances with the team (2006-2008) and had a strong impact on the franchise during his tenure. For me, despite a successful NBA career, Rip will always go down as one of the greatest to wear a UConn jersey.

During his 3-year tenure at UConn (103 games), Rip averaged 19.8 pts/game, 4.5 rebounds/game, and 2.6 assists/game. He was an impressively strong and remarkably steady leader who was able to hit a big shot when the team needed it down the stretch, especially during the National Title run in 1999. In his final 2 seasons with UConn, Rip won the Big East Player of the Year and finished with the most field goals in the conference.

“He’s a rare combination of shooting touch and a feel for the game.” – UConn Head Coach Jim Calhoun on Rip Hamilton

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The 1998-1999 season is where Rip Hamilton cemented his college legacy. UConn began the season ranked #2 in the country after a deep tournament run the previous season (Lost to #1 UNC in the East Regional Final). They were expected to have a strong team and did, finishing with a Big East regular season title and running the table in the conference tournament with a win over St. Johns in the final (Rip had 23 points and 7 rebounds in the championship game).

Once the NCAA Tournament started, UConn looked like a force to be reckoned with from jump-street. Behind Rip, the UConn team shalacked #16 Texas-San Antonio in the first round (91-66), handled #9 New Mexico in the 2nd round (78-56), and beat #5 Iowa by 10 (78-68) in the regional semifinals. After a tight contest in the regional finals with a potential cinderella team #10 Gonzaga (67-62), the final four was waiting for the Huskies.

Behind 24 points from Rip, the Huskies pushed #4 Ohio State aside (64-58) for a match-up with the vaunted #1 Duke team in the championship game. On March 29, 1999, Duke and UConn faced off for a much anticipated title game that did not disappoint. The talk was all about Duke’s power and UConn was a 9.5 point underdog entering the game. The Blue Devils had 4 future 1st round picks in it’s lineup (Elton Brand, Trajan Langdon, Corey Maggette, and William Avery) and had won 37 games that season.

Despite all the pro-Duke build-up, UConn was more than ready to play and held Duke in check in the first half of the title game. Down just 2 points (39-37) with 20 minutes remaining, the UConn players believed in themselves and their chances, even if most others didn’t. UConn had been able to shut down superstar Elton Brand, which was critical to keeping the game tight.

The game continued to be neck-and-neck and down the stretch as UConn held a 4-point lead with under 2 minutes remaining. With 1:38 left to play, Langdon hit a huge 3 to shrink the UConn lead to 1. At the other end of the floor, Khalid El-Amin delivered for UConn with a nice baseline shot to bring the lead back to 3 (75-72). After a Ricky Moore foul and 2 made FTs, the game was back to 1 point with under a minute remaining. Could UConn actually pull off the upset or would Duke prove to be too much in the closing seconds?

With 34.3 seconds left, Jim Calhoun called a timeout to regroup with the game hanging in the balance. After the timeout, El-Amin missed a shot badly with 24 seconds left and Duke grabbed the board and a chance to win the game. Duke chose not to call a timeout and after bringing the ball up the floor. Langdon started to drive to the basket and thanks to stifling defense from Ricky Moore, tried to force the play and traveled. El-Amin was then fouled on the inbound play and hit 2 crucial FTs to bring the UConn lead to 3 points. Duke in-bounded the ball to Langdon with 5.4 seconds remaining and he brought it up the court and tried to get a shot off, but the ball came out and the buzzer sounded. It was over, UConn had won the program’s first national title by upsetting the Duke powerhouse.

“We shocked the world!” -Khalid El-Amin

Rip Hamilton was named the final four Most Outstanding Player and walked into the NBA draft as a champion.

“They knew they were going to win. They were going to beat the best, and they did beat the best tonight. As of this moment, we’re the best team in the country.” – Jim Calhoun on the 1999 Championship game

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My congratulations go out to Rip and his family for such a great honor on Saturday and for a great college and NBA career. You will forever be a Husky and a crucial piece of UConn’s first national title.

The End of An Era: Ray Allen Retires

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On Tuesday morning, Ray Allen retired from the NBA by writing an article on the Player’s Tribune. For those in Boston, Allen will forever be a crucial member of the big three with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce that helped deliver banner #17 to the TD Garden in 2008. For others, Allen was a nice complementary player on the 2013 Miami Heat Championship. And even for others, Allen is Jesus Shuttlesworth from He Got Game. For me, Allen is the star of the most important sports moment in my life.

March 10th, 1996. Madison Square Garden. Big East Championship game. Allen vs Allen, Ray vs Iverson. I was sitting in the living room at my childhood home in Manchester, CT, just 20 minutes from the Storrs, CT campus watching the game with my dad on our 19 inch TV. The game began and UConn looked like there were going to get blown out by the Hoyas. They were down 18 in the middle of the 1st half and had committed 20 turnovers. Then UConn started to make a push, closing the gap to just 4 at half time, 46-42. Jim Calhoun had rallied the team and was not going to go quietly (as he never did).

As the 2nd half wore on, UConn was still trying to play catch-up. At the 4:46 mark, UConn was down 74-63 and things were looking bleak. Then the run started. Freshman Ricky Moore and junior Kirk King stepped it into high gear and cut the deficit one basket at a time. All of a sudden, it was a 1-point with under a minute left on the clock, 74-73. After a timeout, Doron Sheffer fouled Victor Page, the tournament MVP, and sent him to the foul line in a 1-and-1 situation. Page missed the first shot and UConn got the rebound and called a timeout with 33 secs left. This was their chance. The ball was in-bounded to Ricky Moore who brought the ball up the court, dribble penetrated, handed the ball off to Ray Allen who hit a ridiculous off-balance, feet kicking, body contorting, twisting jumper.

AlIen Iverson had a jump shot to win it, but missed and the put back with just a few seconds left rolled off the rim. The UConn Huskies were Big East Champions for the first time in the program’s history. Ray Allen had exactly 1 basket in the 2nd half, but it was the greatest shot of my lifetime. Huddled around our TV, we went nuts and my life was changed. My passion for sports grew from that moment and into the crazy, obsessed fan I am today 20+ years later. From then on, I followed Allen, as best as I could, for the remainder of his basketball career until today, when he officially decided to hang up his shoes.


In general, I have a terrible memory, but that moment is emblazoned in my mind. No matter what you think about Ray Allen, he has had one hell of a career. After 3 years at UConn, Allen logged 18 seasons in the NBA for the Milwaukee Bucks, the Seattle SuperSonics, the Boston Celtics, and the Miami Heat. Allen holds the record for 3-pointers made in a career with 2,973 (413 more than Reggie Miller) and is ranked 22nd on the all-time scoring list with 24,505 points.

Thank you Ray, for helping me find my sports passion.

Get Buckled in for an Exciting UConn Basketball Season

AP Photo

AP Photo

Last Friday was First Night (formerly midnight madness) on the UConn campus in Storrs, CT. It’s the first day college basketball teams can practice together and begins a month-long stretch of preparation leading to the home opener at Gampel Pavilion on November 11th against Wagner. The Huskies are without Daniel Hamilton (left early for NBA), Shonn Miller, and Sterling Gibbs from last year’s AAC Tournament Championship team, but are poised for great success once again. By my estimation, Kevin Ollie has the best team in the AAC going into this 2016-2017 season.

With Gibbs gone, sophomore Jalen Adams (Roxbury, MA native) will be the starting point guard for the Huskies. He is a smart player who looked more mature than a freshman last season (he also had his share of freshman mistakes). He made some big shots throughout the year (beyond half-court shot in the AAC tourney against Cincinnati to send the game into a 4th OT and eventually to a UConn W) and has shown leadership abilities. He has a much higher ceiling than Gibbs last season and is more of a true point guard who can distribute the ball. If there is one thing UConn is known for (besides championships), it’s producing great guards.

Alongside Adams in the backcourt is freshman Alterique Gilbert. Gilbert is a point guard, but will likely play some shooting guard in this year’s squad with time spent at the point when Adams gets a breather. Having two 6’+ ball handlers playing at the same time, both with quickness to spare, will prove difficult for opponents on both ends of the floor. Both can create their own shots in the lane and will create mismatches on smaller guards defensively. Gilbert was given an ESPN scouting grade of 89 (4-star rating) and was ranked as the 30th best prospect in the class of 2016.

UConn returns senior shot-blocker extraordinaire C Amida Brimah to lock down the paint and can now move senior Rodney Purvis to the small forward slot where his skill set fits the best. The biggest question mark is at the power forward spot. Kentan Facey was solid last year when he could stay out of foul trouble and is returning for his senior season. It will likely be his spot to lose, but with several young, athletic big men sitting on the bench, he will certainly be pushed. The main competition will likely be a pair of freshman Juwan Durham and Mamadou Diarra. They both likely see solid playing time, especially if Facey continues to hack everyone in sight.

Another major roster piece is VCU transfer big man Terry Larrier. At 6’8″ and 192 lbs, he is athletic and can stretch the floor, opening up the lane for Adams and Gilbert. As a sophomore transfer, Larrier has a little more experience than Durham and Diarra, which could prove to be useful in late game situations or if foul trouble becomes an issue. He played in 36 games for VCU his freshman year, sat out last year because of the transfer, but was able to practice with the team. He should have a knowledge advantage on the others and could be a critical piece down the stretch.

Overall, this UConn team appears to be as talented, if not more talented, than last year’s squad. There is a higher ceiling, but more uncertainty given the reliance on young players in the guard spots. If Adams can effectively run the offense and Gilbert is as good as advertised, a deep run in the NCAA tournament is not out of the question. I predict that UConn wins the AAC title this year and makes some noise in the tournament come March.

The Fall Sports Overlap and Overload

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It’s about this time every year that my head begins to fill will a jumble of sports craziness. Ok, maybe that’s unfair, my head is filled with sports craziness all year long, but this time of year it kicks into overdrive. With professional football beginning to pick up in week 4, professional baseball in the stretch run, and college football in full swing, life is crazy. Then you add the beginning of professional hockey now and professional/college basketball in the next few weeks and my eyes don’t know where to focus. It’s hard enough to keep up with 2 sports running simultaneously, forget 4 or 5. Here’s how I prioritize my limited sports viewing time in order to get the most bang for my buck during a nutty fall of sports.

Baseball

Since the Red Sox are very much in contention, they become the priority viewing experience, weekdays or weekends. Baseball is my true love and with just days left in the regular season and a potential championship contender in town, it has to be the focus. Once the Sox clinch the AL East (magic number is 1) and hopefully lock up the best record in baseball, I’ll have a small breather until the playoffs. Obviously, playoff baseball takes precedent over all else in October.

Also, since this week is the Fantasy Baseball championship for me, that will shift more of my focus away from other sports.

Pro Football/College Football

I limit my football focus to the weekends (unless UConn or the Patriots are playing another day) for now. Saturdays are for college football and Sundays are for pro football. It seems pretty logical, but can be surprisingly difficult to limit myself when both pro and college football are full-time viewing and following experiences. Between injury reports and match-up information, it’s an easy rabbit-hole to get sucked down on weekdays, but I must be strong!

Once the Red Sox season is over (hopefully not for another month+), I will shift the major focus of my attention to football. Since my Fantasy Football teams are terrible (combined 1-5), I may not have to worry too much about the fantasy aspect once baseball is over.

Pro Basketball/Pro Hockey

I know it’s blasphemy to say in Boston, but I’m just not a big NBA fan. I consider myself a periphery Celtics fan and enjoy watching an occasional game and following an interesting storyline, but can’t bring myself to watch on a consistent basis during the regular season. My wife would say that’s a good thing, because I love college basketball and pro hockey, which significantly overlap in seasons (not to mention the serious overlap with football), so I don’t know if I would have the time to avidly follow the Cs even if I wanted to.

The Boston Bruins are a newer passion for me. I grew up outside of Hartford, CT and was a big Whalers fan growing up. When they left Hartford in 1997, I denounced hockey for about a decade in protest. In 2007 when I moved to Boston, I began watching the Bruins and got the hockey itch back. Ever since then, for about 9 years now, I have been an avid hockey fan and a strong Bruins follower. On days when football is not being played and there isn’t a big UConn game (basketball or football), hockey is my major focus.

College Basketball

Being an obsessive UConn sports fan, college basketball season is often a joyous time. I follow the early season games as much as I can, but really start to watch obsessively after the turn of the year. January-April is prime college basketball watching season, with a special focus in early March and into April. Thankfully there are only a handful of earlier season games that are must-watch TV, allowing me to focus on other fall/winter sports until things really pick up. Regardless of what UConn does, the NCAA Tournament is the greatest sports viewing experience of any sport at any time hands down.

There are a smattering of other sports I follow casually during the fall/winter timeline, but everything else is secondary (or thirdary, or fourthdary, or fifthdary).  For right now, discipline and focus are the keys to successfully managing the sports nuttiness that is the fall. Happy watching everybody!