First things first, I'm happy to let everyone know I am still alive. I would love to tell you that I spent the past month at the White House negotiating the debt ceiling deal, but that would be false. I spent more time than I would like to admit on my couch watching Millionaire Matchmaker and more fully understanding why I'm single.
But, as T.I. says above, "I'm back." No, not from jail like him. From Deer Park, which some would consider an equally effective form of rehabilitation. And unlike T.I., I don't return to you driving an Escalade or Lambo, rather a cost-efficient crossover.
All that said, I couldn't be more happy to be back covering UC for you guys and you can look forward to seeing the Breakfast here every weekday morning for the next year. There are many other plans to give the blog more a more inside the ropes, fan-friendly appeal, but we'll let those details out a little bit at a time when I think you're ready for it.
As always, for those of you in the constantly growing Twitterverse, know you can follow me @pauldehnerjr. If you have any suggestions for things you'd like to see more or less of on the blog this season, feel free to drop me a message on the Twitters or if you are a little 2000-and-late, you can go old school and send me an email. (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Now that we've renewed pleasantries, let's eat...
--- Sad news yesterday that Yancy Gates did not make the USA World University Games team. Gates really wanted this. And Mick Cronin really wanted this for him. It would have been a great confidence and skill builder as he returned for a senior year that will ultimately decide if he fulfills his dream to play in the NBA.
Here was a brief interview with him from the training facility following Day 2.
The group of 14 finalists for the 12 spots was announced. Here's the complete list.
Before leaving Gates talked about how excited he was at the opportunity to wear the USA jersey and how he was getting more and more nervous the closer it came to the tryout period. People were reminding him of what Kenyon Martin did after he played for the WUG team in 1999.
Here were K-Mart's stats from pre-WUG and post-WUG.
Year Pts Rbs Blks
1998 10.1 6.9 2.4
1999 18.9 9.7 3.5
Not claiming Kenyon's dramatic ascension was directly due to playing in the Games, but it certainly didn't hurt.
Eric Hicks also played on the team in 2005 and saw his numbers rise. They were nowhere near as significant as Kenyon, but a bump all the same.
Year Pts Rbs Blks
2004 13.7 9.0 2.3
1999 15.0 9.7 3.3
Depsite missing out on making the team, Gates did receive the valuable gains of training to keep his body in shape for the tryouts and the three days to high-quality hoops against college basketball's best.
It sure beats a summer game in the Deveroes League.
As Mick Cronin said when asked what he thinks about Deveroes: "It's a nice clothing store."
Gates spent many extra hours working with Dave Lawson to advance his condition into prime basketball shape during the offseason. For a guy whose come under fire for work ethic and consistency issues in his past, just his dedication to the process serves as an award all on its own.
--- Tommy G sat down with Butch Jones to talk about the season on the verge of his departure for the Big East Media Days Monday and Tuesday in Providence, R.I.
The team will report Aug. 7 and the first four days of practice will begin at Nippert Stadium on Aug. 8. From there, the Cats head out to Camp Higher Ground for a few weeks of buffets and excessive sweating.
Jones is taking a different approach to the first week this year, where he will run two-a-days for the coaches during practices 2,3 and 4. The team will split up into two groups and practice separately. Yes, it's rough on the coaches, but it means plenty of extra reps for all the young players UC will be relying on this year.
You don't hear about this much and I'm surprised you don't. It's a fantastic way to build depth and deliver more one-on-one teaching sessions with the team.
However, I don't imagine this development helping the vocal chords of Kerry Coombs.
--- If you were looking for more from Butch, Tim Adams at BearcatLair sat down with him last week and churned out this two-part interview. Here's Part I and here's Part II.
--- Jones talks about winning off the field and you have to stand up and cheer for the football team, which was the top team in the Big East academically. Couple it with the best football team GPA during the winter quarter in history and you have an impressive first season in the classroom.
Of course, few fans care about facts like these and won't even let those numbers seep in when judging the job Jones has done. That's a shame, because it should matter quite a bit.
--- Bill Koch wrote that the biggest question determining how well UC plays this year hangs on how the defense plays. Returning all 11 starters is a nice touch, but those guys must improve.
That said, I disagree with Bill. I think the defense will be better, even if only be default of everyone returning for the second season of a system. It is the offensive line where these games will be won and lost. If the o-line minus three starters from a year ago can't provide time for Zach Collaros and open space for Isaiah Pead, it will place too much pressure on what is still a young defense. If the o-line comes together, this team could average 30+ points a game.
--- Bill and the rest of the BE media types will be enjoying the greatest meal of the media day season at the legendary clam bake. Forget interviews with players (Collaros and JK Schaffer on site for UC), I want streaming video from the kitchen with sideline reporters breaking in with updates from the chef.
--- The flurry of NFL activity last week saw Vidal Hazelton end up in San Diego, Armon Binns in Jacksonville, Jake Rogers in New Orleans and Ben Guidugli in St. Louis.
Hazelton continues to be the most interesting case study for me. The Chargers landed his vast upside potential and may need it. I can't imagine a much better fit than a receiving corps featuring Vincent Jackson then a list of names like Patrick Crayton, Seyi Ajirotutu, Vincent Brown and the squirrel himself, Kelley Washington.
At the very least, an impressive, healthy camp could land Hazelton on the practice squad. Best of luck to him and all the Cats out there on making the teams.
--- The Enquirer put out its list of the Top 50 UC Basketball players. As expected with any list of this nature, I've got some serious problems with it. Darnell Burton (34) and LaZelle Durden (35) need to be much higher. Maybe I'm biased toward Burton because he was my personal favorite players, but those two were the backbone of some very good UC teams in the mid-late 90s.
And don't get me wrong, I love Deonta Vaughn. He's been a pleasure to cover and an even great pleasure to watch play, but he doesn't belong at No. 9 all-time. He's there for his points, which are ample, but those were strictly out of circumstance as the lone scorer on mediocre teams. How many point would LaZelle Durden have scored on those teams?
But, that's what subjective lists like that are for, so I guess I'm the sucker.
--- Some randomness....
--- Andrew Luck looks more and more like a young Bill Walton every day. The End.
--- Further proof that if you are French and you love cycling, you are probably insane. Sidenote: A friend of mine organized a Tour de France watch party at bar. To watch the tape delayed race. Obviously, nobody showed. If you would like to help my friend and others like him, please be his friend, he clearly needs some. Contact me for details.
---- Not happy TNT canceled Men of a Certain Age. I know I wasn't anywhere near the primary demographic for the show, but it was smart and funny. Oh well.
--- For Dwyane Wade, going to the grocery store is like going to an amusement park. If you aren't a multi-millionaire, I caution you not to click the link for fear of excessive eye-rolling.
--- This came out last week, but I would be remiss if I didn't pass it along since I have been pushing this movie since it was first announced: The trailer for Pearl Jam: Twenty was released. Not shockingly, it looks awesome.
--- With that, it would only be fitting to throw up this video for you: PJ plays Daughter/Rockin in the Free World in 1998. See you tomorrow.