Beverly proud to do little things to help make UConn title-worthy
HOUSTON --- Donnell Beverly was hanging out by his locker before practice at Reliant Stadium early Friday afternoon. He seemed relaxed and seemed to be enjoying the moment of being at the Final Four for the second time in his career.
Being a senior captain, he knows this weekend marks the end of the road for his career regardless of what the Connecticut Huskies do against Kentucky in the second semifinal of the night Saturday here in Houston. It’s why he wants to make sure he enjoys every moment of the experience.
“I’m having a lot of fun,” Beverly said. “I feel like the big brother, especially seeing how the young guys react to it. I’m embracing all of it.”
Beverly doesn’t have a stat line that opens eyes or turns heads. He is averaging just 1.3 points per game and has tallied 14 steals and 44 assists. He has played in 37 games this season for the Huskies (30-9), who are in their fourth Final Four under head coach Jim Calhoun since 1999.
The thing is, Beverly doesn’t mind not having the spotlight on him. For him, it’s all about doing the little things that make all of the difference in the world.
“If I play one minute or 20 minutes, I try to bring a spark to the team,” Beverly said. “I play hard on defense, rebound and do whatever I can to help our team win games. I try to be a leader and help our young guys.”
|UConn's Journey to the Final Four|
HOW THEY GOT HERE: No. 3 Connecticut beat No. 14 Bucknell 81-52; No. 6 Cincinnati 69-58; No. 2 San Diego State 74-67; No. 5 Arizona 65-63.
STAR: This might be the easiest call in all of college basketball. Kemba Walker had a great regular season, and he has been even better in the postseason. He led the Huskies to five wins in as many days to win the Big East tournament, averaging 26.0 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists. With talk of him being exhausted from his big week in New York, Walker went and averaged 26.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists in the four NCAA tournament games.
COACH: Jim Calhoun is looking for his third national championship in his fourth Final Four appearance. Calhoun, a 68-year-old Hall of Famer, has a career record of 853-607 placing him sixth on the all-time wins list and third among active coaches behind Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim.
KEY POINT: The Huskies are going wherever Kemba Walker takes them. The rest of the team has really picked it up since the postseason started. Freshman Jeremy Lamb is averaging 16.0 points, and sophomore Alex Oriahki is pulling down 9.8 rebounds per game.
The Huskies are averaging 73.3 points per game and give up 65.7. They have six players averaging at least five points per game, with junior guard Kemba Walker, arguably the best player in the country, leading the charge at 23.9 ppg.
“We have a lot of guys who contribute in different ways, and that is one of the reasons we are still playing,” Huskies head coach Jim Calhoun said. “I’m proud of what our guys have accomplished and I want them to enjoy this time here. It’s been an incredible run and we’re happy to be back. But we also want to win a championship.”
Beverly said the play of Walker has opened things up for others on the team. He is also thrilled that Walker has received a hefty share of recognition.
“Kemba does a great job of finding other guys for shots when teams collapse on him,” Beverly said. “We benefit from it. Kemba deserves all of the attention he has gotten. He has worked very hard for it.”
Beverly has worked hard to improve his game as well. Although he has never scored in double figures during his career, his point total has gone up each season. His assist and steal numbers have increased each year as well.
“I have become more aggressive and have learned to play with more confidence,” Beverly said. I think it has helped me become a better player.”
The last time Beverly was here, the Huskies lost to Michigan State 82-73 in a national semifinal in Detroit.
He remembers how tough it was to walk off the floor after that setback. But he came to UConn to have a shot at a national title and he is determined to leave the gym as a champion this time around.
“This is my second time here and it’s a great feeling to be back,” Beverly said. “We’ve had a great run through the tournament and it would be awesome if we could win the title this time.”