Saturday, October 13, 2012

Kevin Ollie Gets Vocal at UConn's First Practice

Some observations from Kevin Ollie's first practice as UConn's head coach:

Ollie is more vocal than Jim Calhoun, who didn't do a lot of shouting in practices. Ollie raised his voice a few times, but it was mostly positive encouragement. At one point, a walk-on shouted, "You look like you're giving up!" at the White Team of Ryan Boatright, DeAndre Daniels, Enosch Wolf and another walk-on that was struggling to get stops during a four-on-four drill. Ollie turned to the kid and told him if he was going to do any talking, it needed to be positive encouragement, not negative.

Not that Ollie didn't go negative. He once yelled at frosh Phil Nolan, "Hey Phil, if you want to play, you've got to get your ass some rebounds." He got on Boatright during the drill for not keeping his arms raised on defense. Another time, he stopped everything and told his team to be more vocal.

There were no "F-bombs" like Calhoun was noted for, but certainly some, shall we say ... PG-13 language.

Boatright was particularly peeved during the final drill, in which each four-man group must get three straight defensive stops before practice can end. It took Boatright's team a while, due in part to Leon Tolksdorf's hot shooting but also due to a lack of boxing out. At one point, Boatright kicked some foam padding about eight rows into the stands out of frustration.

After practice, Ollie took Boatright aside, one-on-one.

“He was just saying continue to be a leader," Boatright said. "Even when things aren’t going your way, continue to be a leader, because this team is going to feed off me. I’ve got to bring the energy and enthusiasm, even when things aren’t going my way.”

*** We only caught the last hour or so of practice, but there were certainly some positives. As mentioned before, Tolksdorf can shoot. Boatright calls him "Pistol Pete" (and I give Boatright props for knowing his hoops history).

Omar Calhoun knocked down some shots, as well, and looked good overall -- even providing some vocal leadership, though he's just a freshman.

I also liked a fairly complex new offense Ollie has installed, one that involves plenty of down-screens and movement. It's far more imaginative than some of the offensive sets I've seen the team run in recent years.

*** Shabazz Napier participated in about "45 percent" of practice, according to Ollie. He looked good in shooting drills, the coach said, but can't move laterally as quickly as they'd like him to and didn't do any one-on-one or physical drills.

Napier hopes he's "a few days from being 100 percent" and hopes to be ready for UConn's first exhibition game on Nov. 1.

“I think I should be out on the floor," he said. "I’m moving along quickly. This is my fifth week, so I really wasn’t supposed to be shooting, jumping (at this point)."

*** Khadeen Carrington of Brooklyn and Winston Morgan out of East Catholic, both of whom were guests at Friday's First Night, were also at Saturday's practice.

UConn also had another visitor -- Bennie Boatwright, a 6-6, Class of 2015 wing out of the Los Angeles area who has received scholarship offers San Diego and New Mexico State. He was on an unofficial visit.

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