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The Unlikeliest Champion: a book on UConn 10/11

December 15th, 2011 · No Comments

Like any other Connecticut resident, Aaron Torres grew up living and breathing University of Connecticut athletics.  After attending UConn and beginning a career as a young sportswriter, Torres has continued his passion for UConn basketball and explores the 2011 NCAA National Men’s Basketball Champions is his book, “The Unlikeliest Champion.”

The book retraces the successful season 2010/2011 of the Huskies that saw the Germans Niels Giffey and Enosch Wolf win a NCAA Championship. The author of this blog is also featured in the book that you can buy here. You will find a lot more information on this book on the official website: www.uconnbook.com

See below for an excerpt talking about Giffey and his background.

But while Olander had to only move a mere few miles to begin his UConn career, the person he would be sharing a dorm room with had come halfway across the world to play college basketball: Niels Giffey from Germany.

Giffey grew up in Berlin and from a young age had been identified as one of the top players in his age group in the country. He starred as a local club player for a youth program named Marzahn Basket Baeren before moving on Alba Berlin, the junior team of one of the top clubs in all of Europe.

Once there, Giffey flashed a lot of the skills that he would later show at UConn.

“He did everything,” said Christophe Ney who runs the popular European basketball website EuropeanProspects.com and is considered one of the foremost experts on European youth basketball. “He was never a big scorer, but he was so dominant everywhere else. In passing. On defense. He was the best player on the court.” Alba would go on to win two age group titles during Giffey’s time with the team.

For three summers, Giffey played for the German National Team as well. He participated with the Under-16 team in 2006 and 2007 and played with the Under-18 team at the 2008 European Championships.

And it was after the 2008 championships, Giffey had a decision to make. Alba was interested in signing him to a pro contract and was ready to move him up to their senior team. But with his parents more interested in his education, Giffey—with the help of his coach and former North Carolina Tar Heel Henrik Rödl—decided to come to the United States to play college ball. Schools like UConn, Louisville, and Gonzaga showed interest, with Giffey ultimately choosing the Huskies in June of 2010. He would join Olander and Smith as freshmen in the frontcourt, all battling for playing time. But despite being the least known commodity of the three entering his freshman year, Giffey made the biggest early splash.

Starting from the opening game in at the small forward spot that was assumed to be Smith’s, Giffey thrived, showing the smart, sound, and fundamental game that many Europeans are known for. Giffey did nothing flashy but did all the little things needed to stay on the court early in the season: he played solid defense, didn’t commit dumb fouls, and occasionally was an effective offensive player, just like he had been in his time playing for Alba. In particular, his fourteen points against Kentucky in Maui stood out in the early season. Understand that while the Maui Invitational will always be remembered as “Kemba Walker’s coming out party,” the All-American guard couldn’t do everything by himself. And against Kentucky, Giffey was as responsible as anyone for providing an unexpected spark.

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