This forward a Boone for Huskies' hopes
STORRS, Conn. -- Josh Boone isn't going to miss many shots this season.
How do we know this?
He's not going to take many beyond six or seven feet from the basket. And there aren't too many players who can finish or have as long a reach to the basket as Boone.
|“||If I take shots that I should then I could be in the 60s. Honestly I haven't stepped out too much. If it's out six or seven feet then I don't know what I can do. Hopefully I can incorporate the jump shot into my game. ”|
|— Josh Boone|
We could toss out Syracuse's Hakim Warrick, Gonzaga's Ronny Turiaf, Arizona's Channing Frye or Pittsburgh's Chris Taft, but none of them seem to be as efficient as Boone. He doesn't waste time with excessive moves. The defending national champion Connecticut Huskies will have a shot at challenging Syracuse for the Big East title, and anyone else beyond in March, largely because of Boone.
He's not Emeka Okafor, but he's on his way to being nearly as effective when the ball is within his grasp.
There were few shots that came his way in Connecticut's 90-68 season-opening victory over Buffalo at Gampel Pavilion on Saturday night that weren't within his fingertips.
Not much is out of touch for the 6-foot-10 sophomore forward.
"He gets rebounds that aren't in his area," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said. "He goes under the basket for rebounds. He can go back up and in. He not only has the arm length but he has long, long shoulders. He's a very wide guy. He's doing the exact same thing that Kevin McHale used to do."
Boone finished with a career-high 18 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, a career-high seven field goals in 11 attempts and four blocks in an extremely productive 27 minutes. A year ago, he started 37 of 38 games and averaged 5.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and shot 55.4 percent, 40.5 percent at the line as a compliment to Okafor.
He made all four free throws he attempted Saturday night, including one trip he earned by tipping in his own miss for a three-point play.
"He could shoot 70 percent for the year," Calhoun said. "He could average 18 a game. He's always had great hands and keeps the ball up high, which is natural for him but unnatural for others."
"Seventy-to-eighty percent is tough, maybe 60 percent is more likely," Boone said. "If I take shots that I should then I could be in the 60s. Honestly I haven't stepped out too much. If it's out six or seven feet then I don't know what I can do. Hopefully I can incorporate the jump shot into my game."
Buffalo forward Mark Bortz took some of the blame for Boone's rather easy night. He said he wasn't doing his job and had to push Boone further out from the basket but through missed assignments Boone had his way.
"I'm at my best five or six feet from the basket and if I can stay there the whole game then that's what I'm going to do," Boone said. "If I don't have to step out to 14-15 feet then I'm not going to. I'll have to incorporate that into my game because teams will start doubling me and not letting me do that."
Boone was schooled well in post play at West Nottingham Academy (Md.). He said he knew that if he kept the ball low then the 6-2, 6-3 players who were usually in his wake would be there to strip the ball.
"It's very easy (to score the way he does)," Boone said. "It's not like I have to be like Emeka and make a move. I just get it and score and that comes from good guard play, making the passes."
Calhoun wasn't thrilled with the post entry passes and that will surely be a source of concern when the Huskies leave Sunday for a four-game, six-day trip to London.
But he left for Boston's Logan Airport on Saturday night pleased that he has the inside-out balance with Rashad Anderson (23 points on 4-of-9 shooting on 3s in 24 minutes) and the team got to the boards effectively (56-27 advantage).
The point guard play and fast-break points is still a work in progress and will be throughout the non-conference or perhaps the season. Calhoun bristled a bit in the postgame and said he was hoping that a point guard would come in mid-year and be willing to run the team, as in literally run the team, after Buffalo beat Connecticut in fast-break points 19-16. Sophomore Marcus Williams (seven assists and four turnovers) and freshman Antonio Kellogg (two assists, two turnovers) are the caretakers of the position for now.
Calhoun might get his wish by late December or January if freshman guard A.J. Price continues his miraculous recovery.
Price was on the bench Saturday night in sweats, six weeks removed from suffering a brain hemorrhage. Calhoun said Price is slowly being allowed to get back into basketball shape. His progress is being monitored and he continues to see specialists in Hartford and Boston.
He will return home to Amityville, N.Y., frequently to be with his parents during the Thanksgiving break while the team is in London. But Calhoun is cautiously optimistic that Price could be back with the team for the Big East. He said Price wants to play, and that was the first step in allowing him to progress toward a return.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.