Thursday, October 11, 2012

Husky Run? Yes, Huskies Plan to Run This Year. Honest!

We've heard this before, but this time it's coming from a different source: the Huskies plan to run a lot this year. And press. And box out.

That's what Kevin Ollie's been stressing so far in the preseason, and he'll be doing so even more as the season officially unveils Friday night at First Night festivities (or, more appropriately, Saturday morning at the team's first full practice).

Jim Calhoun has, of course, promised to do all of these things more in recent years. But the truth is, UConn really hasn't been much of a running team -- at least not an effective one -- lately. And I can't think of more than a handful of times over the past couple of seasons where UConn has applied choking, fullcourt pressure. Please refresh my memory if I'm wrong.

And boxing out? Please -- a lost art in most of college basketball, but a veritable relic in Storrs the past few seasons.

Anyway, here's my story from today's Husky Run, where Ollie promises a "West Coast style, up-and-down, with an East Coast mentality" this season. Really, with such a guard-oriented team, the Huskies don't have many other options.

*** Ollie certainly has a few mottos. One of them today, we learned: "all 10 toes in, not five. You’ve got five in, you don’t belong here. I’m gonna tolerate you for a little bit until I can find someone else.”

*** Inevitably, Ollie and his players were asked by many media types, "With no postseason, what are you playing for this year."

All the right answers were given, but Ollie also touched on an interesting subject. With no NCAA or Big East tourneys, can his players still get proper attention from NBA scouts?

The answer: Of course.

"You’re always getting evaluated," Ollie said. "Kyrie Irving played 11 games and was the No. 1 pick (in 2011). We’re going to still have general managers (here)."

Though nothing's even close to certain, Ryan Boatright would seem to be the top candidate to possibly enter the NBA Draft after this season. I asked him if he thought the lack of a postseason could hurt his draft stock.

"Honestly, for me going to the league, I don’t feel like the tournament would benefit (me)," he said. "I mean, it would benefit, but I don’t think it’ll hurt me. I mean, last year, Jeremy (Lamb) just played one game in the tournament, the first game we lost. Damion Lillard (of Weber State) was the No. 6 pick, I never even heard of that school before. If you’re good, they’re going to find you. They’re going to hear about you, and you’re going to get your opportunity.”

*** Boatright will defend the dunk contest he won from Andre Drummond last year. He'll go against (we're told) freshmen Omar Calhoun and Phil Nolan, as well as Breanna Stewart from the women's team.

"I haven’t been doing as many dunks as I did in high school," Boatright confessed. "In high school, that’s all I wanted to do is dunk all the time. I’m gonna pull something out of my sleeve, definitely try to defend my title. It’s gonna be fun. It’s gonna be a good show.”

Omar Calhoun said he may try his hand at the 3-point contest, as well.

*** As always, Shabazz Napier had some interesting things to say:

(on the postseason ban)

"Why not go out there and hurt someone else’s postseason? We’re going to do our best to win every game possible, and realize we’ve still got a chance to win a championship – the regular season championship."

(on Ollie's one-year contract)

"We want the coaching job to stay in the family. We all love Coach Ollie, we’ve all created bonds with him. We all kind of felt upset he only had seven months, we felt he’d have more than that. But at the end of the day, I guess you’ve got to prove yourself.

(on the difference between Ollie and Jim Calhoun)

"Coach Ollie’s going to put a little spice on it. He’s going to be able to get to the younger guys. Not that Coach Calhoun didn’t, but … Coach Ollie’s a guy who’s going to push you to the limits, he’s not just going to let you go the extra mile, but he knows how to do it in a certain way that’s going to help everybody. Coach Calhoun helped me out because he understood he had to dig deep in me and yell at me. Not a lot of people are like that. Ryan’s that way, Kemba was that way, guys like that, he helped them."

Napier hopes to be able to practice, at least partially, on Saturday.

*** Omar Calhoun on UConn's tradition of great guards.

"It’s a rich tradition. There’s a lot of great guards that have come out of UConn and have made great impacts on the league. I feel like I can be next in line. Kemba, I definitely had a good relationship with him. Seeing his process and growth at UConn, it’s definitely something I looked at when making my decision.”

Omar's sister, highly-touted recruit Sierra, will be on-hand Friday, but not on an official visit.

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