Won in the paint | NCAA.com

Won in the paint | NCAA.com.

John Bauernfeind | NCAA.com
Last Updated - Apr 6, 2014 01:32 EDT
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ARLINGTON, Texas – Before Traevon Jackson’s last-second shot spun off the rim, before Aaron Harrison hit another dramatic 3-pointer to give his team a lead late in the game, there was a play that personified Kentucky’s 74-73 national semifinal victory against Wisconsin on Saturday night as Harrison lobbed a pass in the direction of teammate Marcus Lee.

Guarding Lee was Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky. The West Region’s Most Outstanding Player, Kaminsky backpedaled as Lee glided closer to the hoop.

With his back facing Lee, Kaminsky leaped with both hands in the air, hoping to grab the ball rather than swat.

As Harrison’s pass reached the two big men, Lee extended his arms and grabbed the ball, throwing down a two-handed dunk over the head of Kaminsky.

Lee’s dunk was one of 46 Kentucky points in the paint. Lee, along with Kentucky big men Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress, combined to score 38 of their team’s 74 points.

Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan was blunt in his depiction of how Kentucky used its size to its advantage.

“Well, they didn’t exploit it. They just used it,” Ryan said. “I mean, it’s not like you didn’t know. It’s just very difficult to try when they’re putting their heads down or they’re driving in there as hard as they can, and we’re trying to get our bodies in front.”

Those four also shared duties guarding Kaminsky, who had his worst game of the 2014 NCAA tournament. Kaminsky, who came into Saturday’s contest averaging 18.5 points and six rebounds per game in tournament play, finished with eight points and five rebounds. His eight points tied for his lowest offensive output of the tournament, when he scored eight points in a 75-35 win against American in the second round.

Kaminsky took only one shot in the first half, an up-and-under layup.

Kentucky made sure Kaminsky didn’t get the ball down low on the block, and when he did, one or more Wildcats would swarm Kaminsky, forcing him to pass. For the game, Kaminsky took only seven shots.

When it was over, he sat in his uniform in front of his dressing stall, hands clasped in front of him. His head was down and his voice was soft. “We played well,” he said, “but we didn’t play well enough to win. … We just didn’t make enough plays on the inside.

“I knew they were going to game plan for me and my teammates. They devised a good enough game plan to win.”

When asked about Kentucky’s presence inside, Kaminsky said, “They’re great basketball players. They were physical inside. They know how to play. That’s why they’re going to the NBA.”

Kentucky head coach John Calipari said the plan was for the Wildcats to throw several defenders at Kaminsky throughout the game.

“Well, one, I thought Dakari could play him some,” Calipari said. “Dakari could put that big body on him a little bit. Then we wanted to play all kinds of different people on him. We wanted Alex to guard him some, we wanted Julius to guard him some.”

Kaminsky and Wisconsin were held to 24 points in the paint. And even though Wisconsin matched the number of defensive rebounds Kentucky grabbed with 21, the Wildcats pulled down 11 offensive rebounds. Those additional opportunities led to 23 second-chance points for Kentucky, compared to 10 for Wisconsin.

Wisconsin’s Duje Dukan scored eight points and managed five rebounds in 15 minutes of game time. The junior forward Dukan said Kentucky’s aggressiveness on the offensive glass came back to bite the Badgers.

“You can look at so much film, and you can watch them, but the amount of force they come with and how aggressive they are to the glass you really can’t emulate that in any other way until you experience it,” Dukan said. “We talked about it as one thing that we needed to address. I think that was definitely one thing that they killed us on, and it definitely hurt us.”

Wisconsin made six more 3-pointers than Kentucky did. The Badgers had more assists, more blocks and made 19 of their 20 free-throw attempts. The miss, the first of three attempts by Jackson with 16.4 seconds to play, became a difference in the game.

Trailing with 1:15 to play, Kaminsky tried to overcome the threshold of the Kentucky front line. After Jackson missed a mid-range jumper, Kaminsky pulled down the offensive rebound and scored, tying the game at 71. It would be Wisconsin’s last field goal of the game.

Harrison’s game-winning 3-point shot over Josh Gasser immediately became part of Kentucky history. But the game was won in the paint, where the imposing Wildcats soared over Kaminsky and his teammates to earn a chance to win a ninth NCAA championship.

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Archive » Napier, Boatright outduel Harrisons » National Sports Journalism Center

Archive » Napier, Boatright outduel Harrisons » National Sports Journalism Center.

by 
IU Student News Bureau

ARLINGTON, Texas – James Young and Julius Randle entered the Kentucky locker room together after their press conference with the media finished. The Wildcats had just lost the NCAA Championship game to the Connecticut Huskies, 60-54.

Randle tossed his empty water bottle to the ground and made a beeline towards the shower area. Young found an open seat towards the back of the Kentucky locker room and sat down, immediately swarmed by several media members.

Young had tears in his eyes. As he spoke, he took his jersey and wiped one of his eyes, trying to stay composed.

Speaking softly, Young gave praise to Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, UConn’s guard tandem who consistently harassed Kentucky’s set of guards, freshman twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison. Young said that Napier and Boatright were the quickest guards Kentucky had seen all season long.

“They were the best guards, definitely, that we played against,” Young said. “Shabazz and Boatright did a good job of just running their team and getting big shots for them.”

Napier and Boatright anchored a defense that held Kentucky to its lowest point total for the season. They also forced the Harrisons into a combined seven turnovers.

Aaron Harrison said he felt he and his teammates were a bit nervous starting the game, which helped UConn build a 30-15 lead in the first half.

“We just didn’t come out with enough energy out there,” Aaron said. “I guess we were a little bit nervous. They are a good team. They have good guards and they are just a better team.”

Kentucky shot 39.1 percent from the field for the game, but that number dipped to 33.3 percent in the second half. Napier and Boatright limited the Harrisons to 15 combined points. Aaron Harrison made three of seven shots, including just one of five from behind the line. Andrew Harrison made three of nine shots. Kentucky committed a total of 13 turnovers, which led to 17 UConn points.

Napier and Boatright combined for 36 points on 13-for-22 shooting from the field. Napier had a game-high 22 points.

With his team barely holding on to a one-point lead with 6:47 to play, Napier connected on a 3-pointer with the shot-clock running down to extend UConn’s lead to 51-47. Kentucky never led at any point in the contest.

Aaron Harrison said the quickness of Napier and Boatright made them difficult to defend.

“We didn’t handle the pressure early,” Aaron Harrison said. “They’re just really quick. It’s really hard to stay in front of small guards. They’re just great players.”

In the Kentucky locker room after the game, the Harrisons sat in front of adjacent dressing stalls in a corner, a corner, answering separate questions. Andrew sat with his head hung low, speaking in a soft mumble. To his right was Aaron, standing up without his shoes on, talking more loudly.

He said the distance between the court and his team’s locker room was almost reflective, of what could have been.

“It’s a long walk,” Aaron said. “You just get the feeling that that could’ve been you. You want to start over, but you don’t get start overs in life and you don’t get second chances.”

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Archive » Basketball hall of fame announces Class of 2014 » National Sports Journalism Center

Archive » Basketball hall of fame announces Class of 2014 » National Sports Journalism Center.

by 
IU Student News Bureau

DALLAS – Nolan Richardson and Gary Williams, a pair of NCAA national championship coaches, became part of the 10-member Class of 2014 announced Monday by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Richardson’s Arkansas Razorbacks won the title 20 years ago. Williams reconstructed the program at Maryland, his alma mater, and led the Terrapins to the 2002 championship.

Other members of the class to be enshrined in August include Immaculata University’s Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women champions from the 1970s, former National Basketball Association commissioner David Stern, Alonzo Mourning, Mitch Richmond, Bob “Slick” Leonard, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, Guy Rodgers and Sarunas Marciulionis. They will be inducted in a ceremony at Springfield, Mass., Aug. 8.

Clifton, who died in 1990, was selected by the Early African American Pioneers Committee. He became the first African American player to sign a contract when he joined the New York Knicks. He scored 5,444 career points with 4,469 rebounds in eight seasons and appeared in the 1957 All-Star Game.

Rodgers, who died in 2001, was chosen by the Veterans Committee. He was a four-time NBA All Star who led Temple University to Final Four appearances in 1956 and 1958.

Leonard, who was chosen by the American Basketball Association Committee, led Indiana University to the 1953 national championship. He is the winningest coach in the history of the ABA with 387 victories and a winning percentage of .589. Leonard led the Indiana Pacers to ABA championships in 1970, 1972 and 1973, and two other appearances in the championship series.

Marciulionis, from Kaunas, Lithuania, was the first NBA player from the former Soviet Union. He averaged 12.8 points and 1.3 steals per game in seven NBA seasons. Marciulionis returned to Lithuania, where he founded and served as commissioner for the North European Basketball League.

Alonzo Mourning said he was deeply humbled, and credited his coach at Georgetown University, John Thompson II, who was in attendance, for teaching him “more about life than basketball.” Mourning made seven NBA All-Star teams in his career and was a member of the 2006 NBA Champion Miami Heat.

Judy Martelli represented Immaculata University’s three-time national champions, and said that all the team members planned to attend the enshrinement. Immaculata, coached by Cathy Rush, won championships from 1972-74 when the women’s tournament was conducted by the AIAW.

Richardson led Arkansas to three Final Four appearances. He also led Tulsa to a National Invitation Tournament championship in 1981 and Western Texas to a National Junior College Athletic Association championship in 1980. “This is the big one,” Richardson said. “I was told there is nothing left but heaven after this.”

Richmond was a six-time NBA All-Star who was part of the United States gold-medal winning team at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and was a member of the 2002 NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. Richmond made sure his detractors knew he could not care less about them.

“You can judge me, you can judge my game,” he said. “I don’t care. I’m a hall of famer.”

The recently retired Stern, who served as NBA Commissioner from 1984-2014, said he was most proud of how a league dominated by African-American stars – once viewed as a credibility issue, he said — became a global phenomenon.

“I’ve had the best job in the world,” Stern said.

Williams, who coached the University of Maryland for 22 seasons, amassed a total of 668 victories at American University, Boston College, Ohio State and Maryland. He led his teams to seven 25-win seasons and 22 postseason appearances.

Jerry Colangelo, chairman of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Board, said the class of 2014 is a distinguished group that represents the game of basketball across several eras.

“Each year, we follow the tradition of recognizing those who have been leaders in the game of basketball,” Colangelo said, “and this is a special year with a remarkable group of inductees.”

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Archive » UConn prepared to defend red-hot Wildcats » National Sports Journalism Center

Archive » UConn prepared to defend red-hot Wildcats » National Sports Journalism Center.

by 
IU Student News Bureau

ARLINGTON, Texas – Sitting alongside Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie and his fellow starting Huskies, Ryan Boatright laid out his best Kentucky impersonation.

Saturday, Boatright and Shabazz Napier held Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin to four points on 2-of-9 shooting and one assist while forcing three turnovers. After the game, Florida coach Billy Donovan credited Boatright and Napier for putting a stranglehold on Wilbekin and the Florida offense.

When Boatright was asked what he sees in the Harrison twins, Kentucky freshmen Aaron and Andrew, and how he might go about turning them over, he composed his version of the Kentucky “tweak,” the secret that Kentucky coach John Calipari imposed on his team and none of the Wildcats will discuss.

“I ain’t going to reveal all my secrets,” Boatright said, “but I’m going to just try to do my best to turn them up and down the floor, to try to make them uncomfortable.”

Guard play for Connecticut and Kentucky became a catalyst in the national semifinal victories Saturday night. Boatright and Napier combined for 25 points, nine assists and five steals. The Harrison twins managed 17 total points and, of course, Aaron’s 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds remaining became the difference in a dramatic 74-73 victory.

Aaron Harrison laughed when asked about his burgeoning folk hero status among Kentucky fans and if he had given any thought to the fact that children might be named after him. “No, not at all,” he said. “Not really.”

“Can I say this?” Calipari said. “My daughter tweeted out she just became my second favorite ‘Aaron.’ E-r-i-n, she thought. She’s still my favorite Erin.”

Boatright, a junior from Aurora, Ill., discussed his defensive strategy.

“My main thing is making the offensive player uncomfortable,” he said. “Me being a great offensive player, and knowing I can score the ball at any level, for me, the main thing is being comfortable. So I know if someone can get me uncomfortable, it makes me frustrated.”

Connecticut senior Niels Giffey, a native of Germany, said Boatright is a confident player with an accent.

“He is a character, you can say that,” Giffey said. “He talks in his Midwestern gibberish. He is a good motivator in his own way. He can affect the game just by the energy he brings, and he isn’t afraid to show that.”

Napier was just as effective at disrupting Florida’s rhythm Saturday, generating four of Connecticut’s six steals. Teammate Omar Calhoun said Napier’s ability to stay low to the ground aids him in stopping opposing ballhandlers.

“He is so small, but he’s quick,” Calhoun said. “He can get underneath and out in front of a lot of point guards.”

Boatright and Napier are listed at 6-0 and 6-1, respectively. The Harrisons are listed at 6-6. They have competed against several teams with smaller yet quicker guards, most notably the Louisville Cardinals. The Harrisons defeated the defending national champions twice; a 73-66 victory at Lexington on December 28, and the 74-69 regional semifinal victory at Indianapolis on March 28.

In the round-of-16 victory, Aaron Harrison connected on an open 3-pointer to give Kentucky a 70-68 lead with 39 seconds to play. In the regional final against Michigan, Harrison’s contested 3-pointer from the left side gave the Wildcats a 75-72 lead with 2.3 seconds to go.

And late Saturday night against the Badgers, the decisive shot, taken from the left side, was contested.

“Of course, everyone knows when you’re a kid that you always dream about hitting the game-winning shot,” Harrison said, “so it’s just unreal to actually be able to do that in a big-time game. To win a game for your team, it is just the best feeling in the world to be able to take that last shot and get that W for your team.”

Napier, who hit a jumper as time expired to defeat then No. 15 Florida on Dec. 2, is one who can appreciate a game-winning shot in high-stakes circumstances.

“Clutch…Clutch shots, and that just shows you how great of a competitor he is because when you get in the moment, you can shy away from it,” Napier said. “You can tell yourself, ‘I don’t want to shoot this because I don’t want to miss.’ But to be successful, you have to try, and sometimes when you try you fail and you move on to the next one. He’s not worried about failing. He’s worried about doing what he believes is best for his team and that’s taking those shots and making those shots.”

Boatright acknowledged the talent that surrounded the Harrisons and the rest of the Wildcats, but said he and his teammates haven’t paid much attention. To the Huskies, Monday night will be like any regular game, the same defensive schemes, the same UConn basketball.

“We’re not taking it as an extra challenge or nothing like that,” Boatright said. “They got to lace their shoes up just like we got to.”

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Archive » Emmert, NCAA leaders address unionization among range of concerns » National Sports Journalism Center

Archive » Emmert, NCAA leaders address unionization among range of concerns » National Sports Journalism Center.

by 
IU Student News Bureau

ARLINGTON, Texas – Addressing the National Labor Relations Board’s decision to allow Northwestern University football players the right to organize a labor union, NCAA President Mark Emmert said Sunday the implications threaten the institution of collegiate athletics.

“If you move to a model where you have labor negotiations between management — that would be coaches and athletic directors and student-athletes — to determine everything about what that relationship should be, is a wildly different notion than saying these are students,” Emmert said. “It would blow up everything about the collegiate model of athletics. There are some people that think that would be fine. I don’t think that represents the views of anybody up here right now.”

Emmert spoke at a news conference at AT&T Stadium, site of the NCAA Final Four, with members of a steering committee that plans to introduce its reform initiative later this month. He was joined by Bob Bowlsby, the Big 12 conference commissioner; Nathan Hatch, chair of the Division I Board of Directors and president of Wake Forest University; Michael Drake, chancellor of the University of California, Irvine, and incoming president of Ohio State University; Kirk Schulz, president of Kansas State University; and Rita Cheng, chancellor of Southern Illinois University.

Emmert emphasized the need for movement in a reform effort that began with a summit meeting of university presidents in the summer of 2011.

“I mean, it’s time to act,” he said. “It’s time to get on with demonstrating the will of the membership. It is an association. It is a group that makes decisions in a ponderous democratic process.

“These people to my left are trying very much to change the decision-making structure,” he added, “so that they can make decisions much more rapidly and address things in a much more real time way. I think that is exactly the goal.”

Schulz maintained student-athletes should have a voice in the process, but was concerned that adding responsibilities to an already demanding schedule should be managed carefully.

“Let me give a cautionary part to this,” Schulz said. “We have huge demands of our student-athletes. They’re full-time students. On top of that, they have almost zero social life. They’re doing all these things to make sure that they’re competing at the highest level, generally year round, and we got to be careful. They need a voice, but we can’t add too much to an already full slate.”

Hatch said one of the possibilities the NCAA has considered has been to have a post-graduate student representatives, “because they would have more time to devote to these issues.”

The discussion covered a range of concerns. Bowlsby discussed the process of recruiting.

“I don’t know that there’s any reason why we can’t use FaceTime and Skype for some of the early recruitment process things instead of going in and disrupting high schools for a high profile student-athlete,” he said. “That disruption is really quite extraordinary.”

Emmert addressed Final Four games being played in football stadiums.

“There may be people that would like to be in a tighter arena,” he said, “but not the 60,000 that wouldn’t be there.”

As a former provost and chancellor at the University of Connecticut, Emmert said he was pleased to see the Huskies reach the national championship game one year after they were barred from the tournament because of the sub-standard academic performance of the athletes.

“And to see that team hold together, I think it’s a commitment to those young men on that team that they hung together,” he said. “They could have bolted for other programs and they didn’t.”

Bowlsby acknowledged the need to address flaws in the NCAA legislative process.

“By the time we take a legislative proposal through the system,” he said, “it doesn’t look at all like the thoroughbred racehorse that we thought we were inventing, and instead it turns out looking like a three-legged camel that really doesn’t serve anybody’s interests or needs. We need to find a way where we can do better than that.”

Emmert, who was named NCAA president four years ago this month, said athletic success has taken precedence over academic success in recent years.

“Yeah, I think we have, in fact, seen too much of a shift toward athletic success and not enough on the success and the preparation to be the kind of people they will be when that athletic career is over,” he said.

“So we’re trying to make sure that we are focused on that as tightly as we can. I agree with Bob, I don’t think the association membership lost its core focus, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be adjusted constantly. You got to pay attention to that, because the competitive urges of everybody are such that you are constantly trying to find more ways to compete. We have to be sure that we’re providing opportunities for them and requirements that they be serious students.”

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Archive » Kentucky’s frontcourt outduels Kaminsky » National Sports Journalism Center

Archive » Kentucky’s frontcourt outduels Kaminsky » National Sports Journalism Center.

by 
IU Student News Bureau

ARLINGTON, Texas – Before Traevon Jackson’s last second shot spun off the rim, before Aaron Harrison hit another dramatic three-pointer to give his team a lead late in the game, there was a play that personified Kentucky’s 74-73 national semifinal victory against Wisconsin Saturday night.

With 15:59 remaining in the second half, Aaron Harrison lobbed a pass in the direction of teammate Marcus Lee.

Guarding Lee was Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky. The West Region’s Most Outstanding Player backpedaled as Lee glided closer to the hoop.

With his back facing Lee, Kaminsky leaped with both hands in the air, hoping to grab the ball rather than swat.

As Harrison’s pass reached the two big men, Lee extended his arms and grabbed the ball, throwing down a two-handed dunk over the head of Kaminsky.

The alley-oop sent the Kentucky student section into a frenzy. It extended a game-changing Kentucky run to 13-0. When the run was complete at 15-0, over a span of 4:04, Kentucky had a 51-43 lead.

Lee’s dunk was one of 46 Kentucky points in the paint. Lee, along with Kentucky big men Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress combined to score 38 of their team’s 74 points.

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan was blunt in his depiction of how Kentucky used its size to its advantage.

“Well, they didn’t exploit it. They just used it,” Ryan said. “I mean, it’s not like you didn’t know. It’s just very difficult to try when they’re putting their heads down or they’re driving in there as hard as they can, and we’re trying to get our bodies in front.”

Those four also shared duties guarding Kaminsky, who had his worst game of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Kaminsky, who came in to Saturday’s contest averaging 18.5 points and six rebounds per game in tournament play, finished with eight points and five rebounds. His eight points are tied for his lowest offensive output of the tournament, when he scored eight points in a 75-35 win against American in the second round.

Kaminsky took only one shot in the first half, an up-and-under layup with eight minutes and 39 seconds to play in the first half.

Kentucky made sure Kaminsky didn’t get the ball down low on the block, and when he did, one or more Wildcats swarmed Kaminsky, forcing him to pass. For the game, Kaminsky took only seven shots.

When it was over, he sat in his uniform in front of his dressing stall, hands clasped in front of him. His head was down and his voice was soft. “We played well,” he said, “but we didn’t play well enough to win…We just didn’t make enough plays on the inside….

“I knew they were going to game plan for me and my teammates,” Kaminsky said. “They devised a good enough game plan to win.”

When asked about Kentucky’s presence inside, he said, “They’re great basketball players. They were physical inside. They know how to play. That’s why they’re going to the NBA.”

Kentucky coach John Calipari said the plan was for the Wildcats to throw several defenders at Kaminsky throughout the game.

“Well, one, I thought Dakari (Johnson) could play him some,” Calipari said. “Dakari could put that big body on him a little bit. Then we wanted to play all kinds of different people on him. We wanted Alex (Poythress) to guard him some, we wanted Julius (Randle) to guard him some.”

Kaminsky and Wisconsin were held to 24 points in the paint. And even though Wisconsin matched the number of defensive rebounds Kentucky grabbed with 21, the Wildcats pulled down 11 offensive rebounds. Those additional opportunities led to 23 second chance points for Kentucky, compared to ten for Wisconsin.

Wisconsin’s Duje Dukan scored eight points and managed five rebounds in 15 minutes of game time. The junior forward said Kentucky’s aggressiveness on the offensive glass came back to bite the Badgers.

“You can look at so much film, and you can watch them, but the amount of force they come with and how aggressive they are to the glass you really can’t emulate that in any other way until you experience it,” Dukan said. “We talked about it as one thing that we needed to address. I think that was definitely one thing that they killed us on, and it definitely hurt us.”

Wisconsin made six more three-pointers than Kentucky did. The Badgers had more assists, more blocks and made 19 of their 20 free throw attempts. The miss, the first of three attempts by Jackson with 16.4 seconds to play, became a difference in the game.

Trailing with 1:15 to play, Kaminsky tried to overcome the threshold of the Kentucky front line. After Jackson missed a mid-range jumper, Kaminsky pulled down the offensive rebound and scored, tying the game at 71. It would be Wisconsin’s last field goal of the game.

Aaron Harrison’s game-winning three-point shot over Josh Gasser immediately became part of Kentucky history. But the game was won in the paint, where the imposing Wildcats soared over Kaminsky and his teammates to earn a chance to win a ninth NCAA championship.

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Archive » Moore and Freeman, ’99 UConn champs, back at Final Four » National Sports Journalism Center

Archive » Moore and Freeman, ’99 UConn champs, back at Final Four » National Sports Journalism Center.

by 
IU Student News Bureau

ARLINGTON, Texas — Ricky Moore and Kevin Freeman are sitting in a quiet room near the dressing room assigned to the University of Connecticut men’s basketball team at the Final Four. Dressed in sleek UConn zip ups and grey sweatpants, Moore and Freeman both look the part of the different roles they have taken on.

They have returned to the campus where they once helped the Huskies achieve a championship pedigree. Moore is an assistant coach. Freeman is director of basketball administration. After careers in professional basketball, Moore and Freeman became part of the staff under head coach Kevin Ollie, connecting generations within the program hall of fame coach Jim Calhoun began to build in 1986.

Moore and Freeman played pivotal roles in the 1999 national championship run, the school’s first, which culminated in a 77-74 victory against Duke in the title game.

Moore was UConn’s defensive stalwart that season, earning National Defensive Player of the Year honors from Basketball News Magazine. Freeman was named to the 1999 West Regional All-Tournament Team and has played in 140 games, the most in Connecticut history.

But that was 15 years ago, and this is a completely different role for Moore and Freeman. The Connecticut program has endured the retirement of Calhoun and sanctions resulting from academic issues that kept the Huskies out of the postseason a year ago. Despite the disruption, the former players were eager to return.

“For me, it was an easy decision,” Moore said. “I was coming back home.”

“I just wanted to get into coaching,” Freeman said. “Coach Calhoun gave me the opportunity to get in.”

Moore and Freeman each played professional basketball overseas for 11 seasons in 13 total countries, including time spent in the Continental Basketball Association and the NBA Developmental League.

After his playing days were over, Moore went to Dartmouth College, where he worked as an assistant basketball coach for two seasons. Now, he is in his second season at UConn, the first as assistant coach after a year as assistant director of basketball administration.

Freeman is UConn’s director of basketball administration for a second year after one year as an assistant.

Choosing to return to UConn was easy. Sharing last year’s struggle was challenging.

“I think it was tough for the guys,” Moore said. “I think Coach Ollie did a great job of motivating everyone. Knowing that we weren’t going to be able to participate in the postseason, I think everybody played for each other.

“We were able to get to the Final Four this year, so I think everything paid off.”

For Moore and Freeman, the surprising postseason has carried them all the way to another Final Four.

A decade and a half ago, the circumstances and expectations were different. That 1999 team began the season with a No. 2 ranking in the Associated Press media poll and No. 3 in the ESPN/USA Today poll of coaches. The Huskies, led by Richard “Rip” Hamilton, earned a No. 1 seed in the West Region.

The championship game victory was the climax in a 34-2 season. These Huskies, a No. 7 seed in the east region, required overtime to beat No. 10 St. Joseph’s in the second round, and went on to build a record of 30-8 after four NCAA victories.

“I think it’s totally different,” Moore said of this year’s journey. “We won a ton of games. For us, everybody expected us to get to the championship.”

Freeman said senior Shabazz Napier and this year’s Huskies have surprised teams in this tournament.

“This team has kind of blindsided everyone and fought their way to the Final Four,” he said.

In addition to Moore and Freeman, Ollie and assistant coaches Glen Miller and Karl Hobbs all have played for UConn basketball at some point in time. Miller played two seasons for the Huskies and transferred to Northeastern, where he played two seasons for Calhoun. He joined Calhoun’s first UConn coaching staff in 1986.

Moore said the UConn basketball program helps breed strong relationships.

“We have a strong brotherhood as coaches and even as players,” Moore said. “We love UConn. Every opportunity we have that we can come back and work for the university, I think most guys would do that.”

Members of that 1999 title-winning team still come back. At Madison Square Garden last weekend were Hamilton and Khalid El-Amin, whose energy and creativity at the guard position helped lead the Huskies.

Moore said Hamilton and El-Amin joked about jumping in with this season’s team as towel boys.

In their brief careers as a coach and director, however, Moore and Freeman aren’t afraid to get after their players. When a player steps out of line or tries to challenge a coach, Moore says the player has to know who, and what, came before him.

“You have to show them ‘You’re still in college, and I’ve already done this before,’” he said.

Freeman gets up and excuses himself when it’s time to get to work. A few minutes later, he is seen in the UConn locker room, gathering his players. The open practice, scheduled to start at noon, is approaching.

“Six minutes,” Freeman yells, urging his players to get up. “Six minutes. We out.”

Fifteen years after winning a championship in a dome in St. Petersburg, Fla., Moore and Freeman are trying to lead a different team to a similar celebration.

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