HARTFORD, Conn. -- “Jim, this is our first chance to ask you about Andre Drummond—”
And then the statement was cut off before it could turn into a question. It was uttered by Hartford Courant columnist Jeff Jacobs, the state’s most frequent and fearless prodder of Jim Calhoun. The agitated UConn coach knew what was coming. Before it came, he rambled on for a few minutes in a terse tone regarding his team’s 79-71 win over Fairfield, a game in which the Stags outscored the Huskies 45-33 in the second half. Calhoun was already his usual ornery self in the wake of a miserable final 20 minutes — he didn’t want questions regarding a scholarship situation that was secretly resolved weeks ago.
“Andre Drummond gave the information at the time, which was correct,” Calhoun said, referring to Drummond taking (not possibly taking — taking) teammate Michael Bradley’s scholarship at the start of the season. “It was then received by the NCAA, it us took two and a half months to work it out. My first responsibility was not to tell the press what was going on, because it’s not any of your business. It’s a private matter between two young men. ”
This is UConn, a public university and the biggest sporting deal in this state. The goings-on of the program are of constant interest and curiosity by the public, privacy matters be damned. May not be fair, but Calhoun reaps so many benefits of all he’s done, he knows how the game works from the opposite end. He was just defending his players and his team.
His reputation too, yet again, which is connected to the fact the No. 1 prospect of the 2011 class strolled onto campus after fall text books hit the school store shelves. No matter: Drummond had a spot on the team, nary an hurdle. There are skeptics of that, fair or not.
For many, it seemed wrong that Calhoun — now about to serve his three-game Big East suspension, handed down by the NCAA last season after — was able to get Drummond on the team. That’s why questions and curiosity abounded. The two don’t connect, but uneasy connotations lingered with how the Huskies got off getting arguably the best player in this class and could squeeze him in despite only have 10 scholarships available.
Calhoun stood there Thursday night and continued his defense/attack all at once.
“I’m not going to tell you about their private life. One’s a walk-on, that’s Andre Drummond, and the other one has a full scholarship,” Calhoun said. “I don’t know why it’s your business or anyone else’s business, to be honest with you. ‘Because we need to know.’ You need to know what? … I don’t know what this has to do with anything.”
Calhoun wanted to get back to bitching about his 10-1 team’s bad game.
"It's a very unusual situation, but we'll go into full detail later about this, so we can tell everyone, so they can hear the story." – Jim Calhoun to me, outside Gampel Pavilion on Oct. 14 of this year.
Calhoun himself never went into full detail. Outgoing sports information director Kyle Muncy did this week. We’ve heard the story, and we want to know more. Now Calhoun and Drummond don’t want to share anything else. Yes, it’s also an extremely sensitive issue for Drummond. For Bradley? I don’t know. The redshirt freshman wasn’t made available to speak after the game.
“Before I was coming in, Mike called me and said I’m going to give my school, and I was like, ‘Man, you don’t gotta do that,’” Drummond said. “I don’t really need to say anything to anybody because that’s between me and him. It really doesn’t need to go out publicly to anybody, you know what I’m saying? Besides, no one asked me what’s going on, so I’m not going to make it my problem to go and tell somebody, ‘OK, me and Mike decided not to do anything.’ So I just kept it to myself.”
Drummond said he’ll take a scholarship next year, an indication he won’t look to leave for the NBA draft. Another conversation for another time, but I did find it interesting he dropped reference to returning next year a few times, as if to try to give this story some spin.
“All I know is, me and Mike, we did what we had to do,” Drummond said. “I let him keep his scholarship, because I feel like deserved it. I can pay my way in. Nobody needs to know what I’m doing, like if I’m paying my way, I don’t need to go around and tell [people].”
Drummond’s only been on campus for a few months, but he knows what the program means; he grew up in Connecticut, which is also why he took the loan on. It makes much more logistical sense that an in-state kid who will make NBA millions in the coming months or years accept walk-on status, rather than a player from a poor background in Tennessee accepting the burden of tens of thousands of dollars in dues.
Drummond being a walk-on also does not count against UConn’s APR, which is also why the Huskies are in a scholarship crunch.
The hazy details of this story still float out there. It was originally reported that Drummond got the scholarship. Calhoun, Drummond and everyone else accepted those reports and responded accordingly, despite the fact all the time Bradley and Drummond were technically of walk-on status. When Bradley took the scholarship in late October, no one surrounding the program made any effort to clarify the situation. It’s a positive thing — why not put it out there? The Huskies and Calhoun were lambasted for how this originally came about.
When Drummond and the school did the smart, sensible thing, they kept quiet. What a strange thing to do.