Sunday, December 19, 2010

How Will the Wolf Survive?

Jim Calhoun has been known to overhype an incoming player or two over the years. Or does the name Ater Majok ring a bell?

So the fact that Calhoun isn't overtly tossing hosannas Enosch Wolf's way might raise a red flag as to how effective the 7-foot-1, 260-pound German might be. More likely, the coach simply views Wolf as a big body who brings UConn some extra depth as the challenges of Big East play loom just a week away. Grab a few rebounds, block a few shots, and whatever added production Wolf brings will be a bonus.

"Last year, late, our defense wasn't as good as it should have been because of high minutes," Calhoun pointed out. "Beyond Kemba (Walker), no one has high minutes on our team. Down the stretch, we may have fresher bodies to execute defense."

For his part, Wolf is taking things in stride. He's not sure if he'll play tomorrow night against Coppin State – Calhoun said it's possible, depending on how the game goes – but believes he can fill a need on this year's team.

"Maybe I can get some assists here and there, some scoring," Wolf said. "But I think the main thing is the rebounds. Rebound the ball and block shots, and we'll go from there."

Wolf looked a half-step slow in practice Sunday. He scored a nice bucket in traffic at one point, but also took a couple of ill-advised fallaway jumpers and didn't appear to be a force on the boards.

"I think it's going to take a while," he said. "I have to make up a lot of athleticism. They're in better shape."

Indeed, the UConn coaching staff was disappointed when it saw Wolf, who had committed to the program in July, looking a bit heavy and out-of-shape back in late September. But he has apparently shed about 15 pounds since then, and looked lithe enough on Sunday.

"(He can) bring passing ability, soft hands, his knowledge of the game," Calhoun said. "It takes a considerable time, normally, to integrate that into a team. But it appears that he has a high IQ, basketball-wise."


Wolf gives Coppin State some bulletin board material:

"I hope I can get some minutes, just to get used to it before the very hard schedule starts," he said.

Coppin State isn't part of the hard schedule, eh? Well, no denying that. The 4-3 Eagles have lost to Toson and Morgan State and barely beat, in overtime, the UMBC team UConn wiped the floor with a few weeks ago.

But Coppin State certainly knows a thing or two about hard schedules. After UConn, the Eagles play at Wisconsin, at Kentucky and at Texas in its next three games. Ouch.

"I'd rather get them at the end of that," Calhoun said with a smile.

***Wolf isn't worried about dealing with his, shall we say, rather animated coach on the sidelines during games.

"I had a coach in Germany who was very similar to him," he said. "I appreciate that more than a calm guy. If he's what everybody tells me, I know where I'm at. I think I can handle it and will appreciate it."

***While there's no record of it in Ohio State's media guide, Wolf's father apparently once played for the Buckeyes. Both Calhoun and Andre LaFleur have said as much.

***CALHOUN HYPERBOLE ALERT!!!!: According to the coach, Charles Okwandu has "had the best week" of practice. "I sat down with him, talked with him about him making me happy and him happy. He wants to play, he just needs to be more aggressive."

***Calhoun had some wonderful things to say about the UConn women's team and coach Geno Auriemma, calling them the greatest program and coach in women's hoops history. He stressed women's basketball, of course. Clearly, he doesn't hold the Lady Huskies' streak in the same regard as the UCLA men's 88-game streak ... nor should he, IMHO.

"The 18-0 by the Patriots has nothing to do with the 56 games by Oklahoma and Bud Wilkerson," he noted.

***Calhoun spoke about Walt Dropo, the former UConn basketball (as well as Boston Red Sox) standout who passed away Friday at 87.

"They didn't have people like him back in the day," the coach said. "'The Moose from Moosup,' he was a big, strong, physical guy … (American League) Rookie of the Year (in 1950), great basketball player, there wasn't anything the guy couldn't do. He had a terrific life, great accomplishments."

Calhoun, who lives in Pomfret, noted that the entire Dropo family – including his brothers George and Milt – held tremendous esteem in eastern Connecticut.

"People up there had a reverence of what the Dropos did and all the things they did for various families," Calhoun said. "It's kind of the passing of an era."

***Kevin Ollie wasn't at practice today. He was out on the road, recruiting.

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