Emeka Okafor and Adama Sanogo make valuable connections at UConn; a Connecticut man was an eyewitness to Olympic history in 1972 and more – Hartford Courant


STORRS – Great players who have come through UConn watch practices from atop the wall at the Werth Center, gazing at larger-than-life posters, ensuring standards remain high. Lottery picks, All-Americans, are neither ghosts nor granite, and any day one of them might walk through the door with something more to offer.

On September 1, Emeka Okafor, as decorated as any Husky, appeared in the flesh and Adama Sanogo was floored.

“Man, that meant a lot,” Sanogo said. “He was one of the best players ever at UConn and for him to come back here and watch us. I asked him about some of the things he was doing and he gave me some advice. J enjoyed chatting with him.

They’re about the same height, Okafor at 6-foot-10 and 255 when he last played, Sanogo, entering his freshman year at UConn at 6-9 and 240, and the two are the focal points of their teams at Storrs. As Sanogo, a member of the Big East first team last season, strives to reach another level, one could not imagine a better role model or mentor.

“Adama has been telling me about Emeka since he came here in first grade,” Andre Jackson said. “He’s someone Adama used to look up to, idolize in different ways. I saw them cut him for 30, 45 minutes. It was a good thing for Adama to soak up some of this information.

They talked about basketball, leadership, and their conversation is to continue.

“He talked to me about how to be a leader,” Sanogo said. “And I asked him a lot about it because it’s something I need to get better at. He gave me his number and said if I needed anything just text text him.

In 2003-04, his junior year, Okafor averaged 17.6 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.1 blocks per game. He was NABC Player of the Year and NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player as the Huskies went 33-6 and won their second championship. Last season, sophomore Sanogo had averages of 14.8, 8.8 and 1.9.

“You want Adama to aspire to have a year like he did,” coach Dan Hurley said. “A guy who can carry a team and Adama has the potential to do that.”

Okafor spoke to the team and also spent time with UConn staff and several players, including freshman center Donovan Clingan.

“We just try to absorb some of that greatness into all aspects of his life,” Hurley said. [His message was] you can do everything here. He was an American Academic Player of the Year, a Champion, and a Lottery Pick. You can do anything here, but there’s a price to pay for it. You are going to have to be a hard worker and a perfectionist.

None of the current players are old enough to remember when Okafor, 39, left his indelible mark on the program 18 years ago. He played in the NBA until 2013 and made a remarkable comeback afterwards in 2017 after missing nearly five years with a neck injury. Sanogo only remembers the end of his professional career.

Okafor, along with his family, spent a few days at UConn. On Saturday, he was in New York to speak at the Big East freshman orientation. His words penetrated.

“It’s great to learn and take anything away from these guys,” Jackson said. “His appreciation for UConn and UConn Nation is out of this world. The way he talks about UConn, like it’s the pinnacle of his entire career. It’s really inspiring, because you see him every day on the wall, but when you see it face to face, it’s a whole different energy.

Gregory Stamos, then a 17-year-old basketball player at Ansonia High, traveled to Munich in what was then West Germany with his uncle who had connections in the travel industry, his brother and a friend to see the Olympics. Landing at 7:30 a.m. one morning, “I was stunned because of all the security and all the guys in fatigues with machine guns, which was unheard of at the time,” Stamos recalled.

They had just heard the terrible news that had occurred at dawn, the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches and a German policeman by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September. The Games have been stopped. Stamos walked darkly through the Olympic Village to meet personalities. He remembers seeing swimmer Mark Spitz, winner of seven gold medals, surrounded by security.

When the Games resumed, Stamos watched track and field, as well as the men’s basketball semifinal and final. Fifty years ago this weekend, September 9, 1972, he was in the building for the gold medal game between the United States, which had won 63 consecutive Olympic competitions, and the Soviet Union. In one of the most controversial sporting events in history the referees allowed the Soviets to replay final possession three times until they scored to win 51–50.

“The game actually started at midnight,” recalls Stamos, now a lawyer in his hometown. “I snuck out and crouched under a pole among the photographers.”

The American team came back from eight points to prepare for the finish. Stamos: “Doug Collins intercepted a cross pass and a Russian more or less tackled him. Collins landed five feet in front of me and he was literally knocked unconscious and I bend down to watch as they try to revive him. Then he swept both free throws.

When the USSR failed to score on the first of their “last possessions”, the buzzer went off, the USA thought they had won and the fans, including Stamos, took to heart. storm the field. An AP photo shows the Ansonia teenager in checked trousers, a yellow shirt and horn-rimmed glasses amid the chaos. The photo is framed in his law office.

“I ran over there and jumped on the players, Bobby Jones, Kevin Joyce, Tommy Henderson, I don’t remember being held at all,” Stamos said. “[Coach] Hank Iba turned around and said, almost to me, ‘where’s my wallet?’ Someone had looted his wallet. … Everyone is trying to figure out what’s going on, The players thought they had won, but [the Soviets] had two more chances. I remember coming back to my hotel at three o’clock in the morning, simply amazed.

Stamos’s party happened to be on the same flight from Munich as American players, and Gregory remembers hearing players, who had refused to accept the silver medals, swear again. and even. Someone telegramed Tom McMillen from an angry fan.

The American protest was dismissed, arbitrators voted along geopolitical lines during the height of the Cold War, and the bitterness lingers to this day. But Stamos keeps reminiscing about the tragedy that preceded the game, keeping things in perspective.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a match of this importance when you look at geopolitics,” Stamos said. “I think I learned the proper context of the sport. I heard some of the guys on the team say, “We were discouraged, but we thought about what happened to the Israelis and that overcame our discouragement.

Ryan T. Lee of Berlin, was looking forward to playing golf for LIU in the 2011 NEC Championship when, three days before leaving, he was hit by a taxi near campus and later died. Her parents, Dan and Theresa, started the Ryan T. Lee Memorial Foundation and raised and donated over $500,000 to help charities and individuals achieve their goals and dreams.

The foundation sponsors the Ryan T Lee Memorial Collegiate Golf Tournament, now in its 12th year, with UHart, Sacred Heart and Fairfield among the 17 Division I teams, takes place at Shuttle Meadow CC, where Ryan Lee worked at adolescence. It started on Saturday, ends on Sunday.

“It’s become one of the most unique college golf tournaments in the country,” said tournament director Rob Josephson, whose son, Kevin, was Ryan Lee’s best friend. “Most players and coaches call it an ‘experiment’, not just a tournament.”

* After the season, new Hartford Athletic manager Tab Ramos will serve as an analyst for World Cup matches for Telemundo.

* Through Friday, the Yard Goats were averaging 5,781 spectators per game with two games to go, leading the Eastern League in total attendance at 387,338. So the novelty has yet to wear off.

* The first Harrison Fitch Leadership Initiative, with the Naismith Hall of Fame, UConn and Alpha Psi Boule, brought local youth to the Hall of Fame induction weekend. The initiative, in honor of Harrison “Honey” Fitch of New Haven, the first African-American to play basketball at UConn, brought students from Hartford Youth Scholars, JuMoke Academy and Springfield Technical Community College to Mohegan Sun to meet Hall of Famers and at the induction ceremony in Springfield on Saturday.

* Lots of rule changes coming to baseball. Larger bases, height clock, prohibiting shifting. Now, how about getting rid of the ghost runner? Not only is it cheesy and contrived, but watching teams fail to score with the runner on second to start an inning is pure torture.

It was great to see 88-year-old Ken MacKenzie travel from Guilford to Citi Field for Mets Alumni Day on Aug. 27. MacKenzie, who pitched for Yale, was the only pitcher from the original, terrifyingly tying 1962 Mets to post a winning record. You could search for it. And from what I hear, he had the time of his life.

Dom Amore can be reached at [email protected]

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