Thursday, April 24, 2014

Kevin Ollie to Receive Saint Francis Award

Kevin Ollie will be following in Jim Calhoun's footsteps in yet another way.

Ollie will be the recipient of the Saint Francis Award at the 29th annual Fransiscan Sports Banquet and Silent Auction on Tuesday, June 10, at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington. The award is given annually to an individual who "honors Franciscan values while excelling on the playing field."

Calhoun, a past winner, has always had a special place in his heart for the Fransiscan Life Center and Franciscan Home Care and Hospice Care, which benefit from the annual banquet.

Also honored that night will be longtime sportswriter Jackie MacMullan, who'll receive the Saint Clare Award; recently retired Sacred Heart men's basketball coach Dave Bike (Dean of Sport Award) and Guy DeFrances, Sr. (Jim Calhoun Community Service Award).

Special recognition will also be given to Jon Proto, a defensive tackle at Mount Ida College; the North Haven and Southington football teams; and Connecticut Special Olympians.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Amida Brimah to Have Shoulder Surgery on Friday

Amida Brimah met with doctors Wednesday, and the decision has been made to have surgery on his left shoulder. The surgery, to repair a torn labrum, will be performed on Friday at the UConn Health Center in Farmington.

Nana Baafi, Brimah's legal guardian, noted that while surgery wasn't a necessity, it was really the best way to go about things.

"He was battling with it the whole season," said Baafi. "If he doesn’t do it, it’s gonna keep coming. So, he might as well just do it, so he can be healthy ... He could have fought through it, but it’s not advisable. His health is more important. If something else happened, it might get worse."

Baafi said the shoulder injury is the same that caused UConn's Rodney Purvis to undergo surgery on his left shoulder in mid-December. Purvis had a torn labrum and was sidelined for about four months.

"The brighter side is, it’s better for him to come back 100 percent than to go through the whole season again 80-90 percent," said Baafi. "But with the kind of kid he is, with his work ethic, he’ll be fine."

*** Meanwhile, according to a source, Leon Tolksdorf is considering transferring to Bryant University. He was on the Smithfield, R.I. campus on Wednesday.


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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Shabazz Throws First Pitch: Amida Brimah May Need Surgery; Jessie Govan Update

First, the bad news: Amida Brimah's left shoulder bothered him for most of his freshman season. On Wednesday, he will meet with doctors to determine whether he needs surgery.

Nothing's been determined yet, and Brimah will discuss his options with doctors, as well as his guardian and others. If surgery is necessary, he would be sidelined for about four months -- or until August. He'd essentially be on the same rehab regimen as Rodney Purvis, who had shoulder surgery this past December. Purvis said he was just cleared for all basketball-related activities a few weeks ago.

That could be one of the factors in determining whether or not Brimah has surgery. This is an important offseason for his development, and losing four months of it would obviously affect that.

*** Some scenes from Fenway tonight, where Shabazz Napier threw out the ceremonial first pitch and Big Papi showed some UConn love:





*** Kevin Ollie had an in-home visit with Jessie Govan on Friday. Govan's AAU coach, former UMass standout Dana Dingle, said it went well, but that Govan is in no rush to make a decision.

"He's still wide-open," Dingle said. "So far he's had four home visits, and they've all gone pretty well. Now, college coaches get to come and see him."

Govan, a 6-10 Class of 2015, has had in-homes from UConn, Seton Hall, Georgetown and Stanford the past couple of weeks.

Dingle was once a highly recruited player himself, so he's giving him the best advice he can.

"All I can do is tell him, make sure you’re comfortable, no question’s a dumb question, make sure the school, the situation are everything you're looking for. And make sure you have a good relationship with the coach."

As for UConn: "He likes it. He likes Coach Ollie, likes the staff. They’re in a good place right now."

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Shabazz Napier, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis to Throw Out First Pitches Tuesday at Fenway

UConn's national-champion men's and women's basketball teams will be honored in a pregame ceremony Tuesday night at Fenway Park, prior to the Red Sox-Yankees game, and it appears Boston native Shabazz Napier will throw out one of the ceremonial first pitches. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis will also throw out a first pitch.

All members of both teams have been invited to the ceremony, though it remains to be seen if all will attend. It's not known whether coach Kevin Ollie will attend, either. It is, after all, a live recruiting period (and Ollie is a Dodgers fan!).

Either way, a nice way for the Huskies to be recognized. And certainly a nice honor for Napier, who grew up down the street in Roxbury.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Daniel Hamilton: "I Love it Out Here"

Daniel Hamilton had 10 points and two rebounds Friday night for the West Team in the Jordan Brand Classic game at the Barclays Center. Hamilton started but played just 11 minutes as the East beat the West, 158-147, in a defense-optional game.

Here's some of what Hamilton had to say afterwards:

(on watching UConn's national championship victory)

“I was just so happy for Coach Ollie. Everybody around the house was so happy. We had, like, 13 people there.”

(on his game Friday night, as well as a championship of his own he recently won)



(on what he'll bring to UConn next season)

“I think I can bring my versatility, coming in playing shooting guard, small forward, being able to push it on the break and being able to get our players involved and being able to pull up for jumpers and stuff like that.”

(on whether DeAndre Daniels, whom he's known for many years, will return to UConn for his senior season or turn pro)

“I’ll just let him decide. I’ll let him do his own thing, but I haven’t talked to him about it. Most definitely, I’d love to play with him, especially since I’ve known him probably all my life. We’ll be able to have another chance at a run if he comes back. We’ll be that much better, because he’s a force. A lot of power forwards can’t guard him at that position, because he can put it on the floor and he can shoot, so it’s hard to guard him.”

(on whether UConn's national title will attract more top-notch recruits to Storrs)

“It’ll be easier for Coach Ollie (on the recruiting trail), I think, especially now. The way he coaches the players, it looks like a family. That’s what got me. Two years ago, when they played against Michigan State in that Army game, the way they looked like a family, they all got together and, man, that just touched me. That’s when I figured out I was going there.”

(on playing on the East Coast)

“I love it out here. The fans, they all love you and embrace you. That’s why I like it out here, because there’s no haters.”


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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Omar Calhoun Isn't Going Anywhere

No word yet on whether DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright will be returning to UConn for their senior seasons. But there seems no doubt that Omar Calhoun will be back for his junior year and isn't looking to transfer.

While Calhoun essentially already confirmed this a few weeks ago during the East Regional semifinals and finals at Madison Square Garden, it's always good to check in with his dad, Omar, Sr., who (obviously) is a very influential figure in his life.

Omar, Sr. pretty much echoed what his son had said in New York.

"My confidence in Coach Ollie never wavered," Omar, Sr., said on Thursday. "I believe me and Coach Ollie have the same love and passion for the game. I truly believe in the stuff he teaches to his kids.

"He wants you playing to your potential on the floor. He’s got a lot of Coach Calhoun in him, too, and a lot of the great coaches he’s been around, too. He wants you playing to your potential. That’s how he wants you on the floor. Omar understands that, he’s gonna work extremely hard, and he’s healthy now. I think he’s heading back in the right direction. That’s the beautiful thing about basketball, it increases your value and your character if you grow as a human being and a basketball player. Obviously, at times, he wanted to see more minutes, like at the Garden. But I totally understand what Coach Ollie was doing, the situation he was in."

Keep in mind, any transfer talk regarding Calhoun this winter was pure, 100-percent speculation. But it was certainly on people's minds. It was on my mind, as his playing time
decreased so much that he played a total of four minutes in UConn's six NCAA tournament games. It probably was on Omar's mind, too.

"I'm pretty sure it crossed his mind," Omar, Sr. said. "But the situation he was in, he was always prepared in case his number was called. He wished he was out there, these are kids. But when it's all said and done, Kevin Ollie is a tremendous guy to be driving the bus. He accepted the challenge."

Omar, Sr. also pointed out that, not only did his son have off-season surgery on both hips that prevented him from working out until about October, but he also had smaller injuries throughout the season that hurt his production: a pair of turned ankles early in the season ("one time, Shabazz tried an alley-oop, and he coldn't even get off the ground because of his nagging ankle injury," his dad noted), a sore shoulder and a concussion that kept him out of a couple of games in mid-February.

But he's completely healthy now and ready to get back to the player he was. Omar, Sr. noted that there's one major reason his son was able to handle his tough times so well this season.

"He had the support of his family. I know basketball, I know right from wrong. A lot of parents don't. They fall into the trap. I never wavered from Coach Ollie. I told Omar to stay positive, stay ready. His number wasn't called. But if it was called, I'm pretty sure he would've helped out in the moment. But he's gonna accept this challenge. You can't run from challenges. Coach Ollie preaches perfection. I think (Omar) can make a nice living in the NBA, because he's gonna be prepared. He's gonna be a survivor, someone who knows what it takes when things are good, and when things are bad."

"I wouldn't trade this experience for the world," Omar, Sr. added. "Obviously, he would've loved to see more minutes. But he went through a great deal, and when he comes back next year, he'll be ready."

And, he'll be coming back as a UConn Husky.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kevin Ollie Talks with Gayle King on "CBS This Morning"

Transcript of Kevin Ollie's interview with Gayle King on "CBS This Morning":

GAYLE KING: Well, LeBron James said this about you, that Kevin Ollie has the coaching gene. Kevin Durant said, "He taught us a mindset and professional. And all of us wanted to be like him."

KEVIN OLLIE: Wow. That's-- that's pretty awesome.

KING: What's the Kevin Ollie formula for success?

OLLIE: Oh, man, it's just a lot of hard work. It's believing in yourself. It's a pride that I gotta get better at something every time I wake up.

KING: Okay, so we've been on YouTube. We've seen that "'Cause I'm happy." You even had a thing where you did a Jay-Z brush your shoulders off, too, Kevin.

OLLIE: Yeah, we have to brush the doubters off. We always gotta brush the doubters off.

KING: Let's talk about the doubters for a minute. 'Cause you inherited a team that was on academic probation. It wasn't these particular players. But because of that, U-Conn wasn't allowed to play last year. What do you do to motivate that group of-- that group of players? Because everybody says, "We're going to win." Everybody says that.

OLLIE: Yeah, I mean, you’re exactly right. Everybody brings it in before the season, say, "One, two, three, championship." I'm not chasing championships. Championships are chasing us. I'm not doing that. I want my players to be better people, once they leave campus. Because this is a life lesson. This is more than basketball. This is life lessons that we’re trying to teach.

KING: Let's talk about unionization. A lot of college campuses are talking about it for athletes. Where do you stand on that?

OLLIE: I just think they need a voice. Whatever that voice is. Somebody needs to be talking on their behalf. You know, NCAA can use your likeness for a lifetime. We have to do something for our student athletes. We have to change.

KING: Did you ever have any trepidation about stepping into the shoes of Coach Jim Calhoun? I remember Jim Calhoun.

OLLIE: I cannot step in his shoes. Only thing I'm glad that he passed me the baton. And I'm trying to run as fast as I can with it. And, you know, he's a great man. He's a father figure to me. But I gotta be Kevin Ollie. He seen something inside of me before I seen it.

KING: Before you saw it in yourself?

OLLIE: Oh yeah, even when I was a 17 year old coming from Los Angeles to Connecticut.

KING: What did he see?

OLLIE: Oh, he's seen a fighter. You know? He's seen somebody that-- you know, like, when I first got to campus, I'm a freshman. I'm playing against all these great players. And I'm like (MAKES NOISE). And I'm-- I went to the dorm after our first practice, I called my mother, said, "Mom, I’m coming home." I was crying. Last thing I heard was a click. (LAUGH) That's all--

KING: She hung up?

OLLIE: She hung up. And then-- I was like, "All right, I gotta go back, 'cause I can't go back home. So I just had to stick it out. And he just always told me, “Be the hardest worker. No matter what, just be the hardest worker."

KING: Mom did a favor hanging up on you.

OLLIE: She did a big time favor. She was like, "I sent you there for a reason, to get your degree and play basketball.”

KING: You played 11 different teams in 13 seasons You've been to a lot of different teams.

OLLIE: A lot of different teams. And I wasn't the most talented guy. So I had to watch tape. I had to-- I was playing, like, ten minutes. So I had to-- I had to make sure I knew every play, not only on my team, but the opposing team. So I had to do my homework. And when you put the work in, great things happen.

KING: Do you think that that-- what you learned as a player made you a better coach?

OLLIE: I'm so glad, when you look back at it, that I went and I was able to be around so many different players and so many coaches. Of course, when I was in the NBA, I wanted to stay in one city and have a 20-year contract and all that. But, It's good to come in the locker room. And you say, " Ollie's on one of those jerseys." So I don't care if I'm on a ten-day contract. I was on a make-good contract. Make-good contracts is-- every day, they can cut you. So I've been on all those. But that's what made me. And I'm so glad God took me on that journey.

KING: This was in the USA Today right before the tournament. Did you see this?

OLLIE: No, I didn't.

KING: Okay, this-- I thought this was really great. "Coach's pay, Kevin Ollie, $1.25. Billy Donovan, $3.9. John Calipari, $5.5. Bo Ryan, $2.2." There's a rumor that they're gonna renegotiate your contract. Should they just back up the truck? BEEP BEEP BEEP. What does Kevin Ollie want?

OLLIE: I just want the right conditions around my players. I want the right condition around them.

KING: I knew you wouldn't tell me the salary. But you are thinking, "I could probably get a little bit more than $1.25."

OLLIE: I mean, I imagine, because of a national championship, yeah. I mean, just like-- just rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. When your stock is up, yeah, I mean, it's more. But money don't move me. I played in the NBA. That don't make a man. We’re gonna sit down and negotiate. But I want the best for U-Conn.

KING: So even coming in here today, somebody sees you, somebody on the street, and says, "Hey, Kevin Ollie, you going to the NBA." Has the NBA called?

OLLIE: No, NBA hasn't called. No.

KING: If the NBA called, would you answer?

OLLIE: No, not now in my life. Like I say, I can't never --say no--

KING: Don't let me pick up the paper next week Kevin and it says, "Guess what? (LAUGH) So and so has called and Kevin has accepted the call." There's no secret meetings?

OLLIE: No. I'm just worried-- worried about my kids here at the University of Connecticut. And I got three guys-- four guys is gonna graduate on time. And I want to be there for the graduation. That's actually, that's gonna be even better than the national championship. I'm never gonna say never, but I'm having so much fun. It's my dream job.

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