Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Calhoun: 3-Game Suspension Will Be "Difficult"

UConn was focusing squarely on Fairfield at its practice today at Gampel. The Huskies have great respect for the Stags, who have won four straight and have an NBA-type talent in Rakim Sanders.

“This won’t be the easiest team, personnel-wise, that we play the rest of the way," said Jim Calhoun. "I think, from a talent standpoint, they’re better than some of the teams we’ll be playing in the Big East.”

However, talk eventually drifted over to the Huskies' Big East season, which gets underway on Dec. 28 at South Florida. Of course, Calhoun won't be on the sidelines for that game -- or for St. John's on Dec. 31 and Seton Hall on Jan. 3 -- as he sits out an NCAA-imposed three-game suspension stemming from the Nate Miles mess.

Calhoun said sitting out the three games will be "difficult. It's something that, according to the NCAA, happened 5 ½ years ago, some of these kids were probably sophomores in high school. It’s for, I guess, an atmosphere. I’m sitting out three games because – for me, it’s probably an attitude, as opposed to an atmosphere ..."

He added that the school suggested some alternatives to the suspension, but the NCAA didn't want to hear it.

"That’s unfortunate," Calhoun said, "Because I just don’t think you should drag these things on, particularly in light of a lot of things going on in college athletics.”

Calhoun won't travel with the team for the South Florida game.

“You’ve got to start off with somebody running the team and make sure they have a practice and can spend some time down there with the kids," he explained. "It’s nothing that they don’t know, just a different voice. Same system, different voice.”

It's not known whose voice the Huskies will be listening to just yet. George Blaney, of course, has always filled in in the past. Blaney wasn't at practice today while tending to a personal issue. Assistants Kevin Ollie and Glen Miller were also on the road recruiting.

Calhoun said he'll meet Wednesday with compliance director Marielle VanGelde to iron out what he can and can't do during the suspension.

*** Andre Drummond, for one, can't wait to kick off his Big East career.

“I’ve been looking forward to this since the day I stepped on this campus," he said. "I can’t wait to play in the Big East. I can’t wait to play Syracuse, Louisville, Notre Dame … you go down the line of the teams.”

It will be "pretty weird" playing the first three games without Calhoun, he admitted.

"But I think we’re going to be fine. Coach Blaney is also a great coach. Coach Miller, Ollie … anybody can really coach us, it just depends on how we go out there and play.”

*** The big sidebar heading into Thursday's Fairfield game will be the battle of the Olander brothers: Tyler, UConn's sophomore foward, and Ryan, Fairfield's 7-foot senior center.

The two have never really played against each other before, other than in 1-on-1 games in the driveway -- which often got very chippy. So chippy, in fact, that it's impossible to tell who had the upper hand in terms of basketball in those games.

"We'd always get in fights because neither of us wanted to lose," Ryan said. "We never really finished any games, they were always so physical."

We'll have more on the Olanders in a feature story later today.

*** Shabazz Napier appeared to turn his ankle badly at the very end of practice. He was crumpled on the ground, writhing in pain for several moments. Trainer James Doran tended to him, and Napier eventually got up, walked around and appeared fine.

"He wanted to end the drill," joked Calhoun, who never looked concerned even while Napier was down.

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