Out of nowhere Thursday at the Connecticut 6 Tip-Off Breakfast, Howie Dickenman dropped the Walter Ray bomb.
Things were going along smoothly, a few jokes here, a few shout-outs there. Hartford's John Gallagher teased Dickenman about a contract extension that will take him to age 70. Dave Bike was cited for 35 seasons at Sacred Heart; only Syracuse's Jim Boeheim has been at one place longer. Fairfield's Sydney Johnson, without power because of Hurricane Sandy, was still freezing from a cold shower.
And then, in introducing Kyle Vinales, Howie dropped the Walter Ray Allen bomb. Just like that.
No, the Central Connecticut coach didn't call Kevin Garnett spiteful for ignoring Ray in the Celtics-Heat opener. He didn't call Allen a showboat for seeking out the love on national TV in the middle of a game. Howie's wise enough to know everybody was playing their roles.
No, Howie was playing the effort card.
"Probably the hardest worker I've ever been associated with was Ray Allen at UConn," said Dickenman, who has coached at various college levels, including long-time assistant under Jim Calhoun, for four decades. "That's evidenced by Ray's records for three pointers. I would have to say Kyle Vinales is the hardest worker I've been around."
Ray is legendary for his workouts. In the offseason, he runs Sleeping Giant Mountain in Hamden. He shoots and shoots, and when he is done shooting, he shoots some more. So this is extreme praise for the 6-1 sophomore guard out of Detroit.
"This summer we closed our gym for three weeks for renovations," Dickenman said. "What did Kyle do? He took a three-week membership out at the New Britain YMCA to work on his game."
"I'm telling you, this kid thrives on basketball. Doesn't complain. Energizes the team. It's unbelievable how many shots he takes."
Sitting in the Hartford Marriott Downtown after the breakfast promoting the Nov. 10 tripleheader at the University of Hartford, Vinales smiled when asked about his recent tweet, "I know for a fact no one works harder than me."
"It's like I have OCD when it comes to going to the gym," Vinales said. "I'll go 3-4 times a day in the summer or the weekends if there's no practice. I wake up at 9 a.m. and if I felt like I missed too many shots, I'll have to go back to make up for it. It's kind of weird, to be honest."
"Then I have to work on my handle. If I messed up too many times, I'll take a break and come back later."
Central has a shooting gun, one of those contraptions that spit the ball out for a shooter. There were days in the spring and summer when Vinales wore the machine out to satisfy his obsessions and compulsions.
"Yeah, 1,600 shots a day," he said. "That's 1,600 makes. Attempts don't mean anything unless you make them. It's kind of ridiculous."
Ridiculous, maybe, but Vinales also led the nation's freshmen in scoring last season, averaging 17.9 points. With the departure of Kenny Horton and Robby Ptacek, who combined for 52 percent of Central's scoring, considerable weight falls on Vinales. A weight he did lessen by helping persuade 6-5 guard Matt Hunter to transfer from Odessa Junior College.
"We played on the same AAU team, the Detroit Fire, for four-five years," Vinales said. "I was like an assistant coach. I told him Kenny and Robby were leaving, and I was basically the only other scoring threat last year. Matt's a scorer like me. I told him something he liked hearing."
"There would be a lot of shots available," Vinales said.
Vinales scored 24 points in his first college game against Yale. He scored 39 in his second at Niagara.