Wednesday, October 24, 2012

UConn's 'Focus' Evident After Players Called Practice on Their Own on Sunday

Kevin Ollie certainly has his own style and ideas for this UConn basketball team, and he's hit the ground running implementing them.

The Huskies have had a sports psychologist meet with the team. They're running different offenses than what Jim Calhoun used to, and running practice a lot different, as well. Today, they had three referees at practice, calling fouls during drills and scrimmages.

“We want him to get used to referees," Ollie said. "They’ve got to have that experience of not fouling, understanding travels. When it’s just us with the whistles, we’re not calling every ticky-tack foul. So I love the refs to come in here and give us that game-like atmosphere.”

One of the off-shoots of the sports psychologist spending a weekend with the team a few weeks ago is that the team gathers in a circle after easch practice and talk numerous things, particularly about being "focused," according to Shabazz Napier.

That manifested itself in a very positive way on Saturday. While gathered in a circle, R.J. Evans came up with the idea of returning on Sunday at 1 p.m. to run through the team's new offensive sets for an hour, prior to 2 p.m. study hall.

“That’s the great thing about this team: R.J. pulling them together, Tyler pulling together, Shabazz," Ollie said. "They came in on Sunday, I didn’t ask them to do it, they did it themselves. They’re doing it for themselves. It’s about sacrifice, 10 toes in and not five. I love their attitude.”

Napier said the 2010-11 and 2011-12 teams might have tried to do the same thing, "but it would have been a struggle. I don’t think everybody would have come in at 1 p.m. People would have been filing in and out – 1:05, 1:15. This team came in at 12:55, they were all here. This year’s team, we’ve got something to prove, so let’s get here five minutes early.”

Here's a few more items from today's practice:

Ollie on Enosch Wolf:

“Everybody is being very cautious around here. It’s his third concussion. We don’t want him to get his fourth and then get to a point where he’s got to retire from basketball ... He’s feeling much better now, but we’ve got to see, once he starts doing his cardio, if the side effects come back. But he’s coming in, paying attention, working hard.”

Wolf was hit in the head by an Omar Calhoun elbow in Friday's practice. Ollie did point out, however, that Wolf "is gonna be ready for Germany."

*** Phil Nolan missed his second straight practice with a 103-degree temperature, but Ollie has really liked what he's seen thus far from the freshman.

“Phil’s been giving us awesome energy and tremendous focus out here, so I can’t wait to get him back.”

*** Ollie on DeAndre Daniels:

“I want him to be engaged. I thought last year he went in and out. I want him to be consistent. I can feel DeAndre’s presence. That’s what we’re working on … then everything else is going to fall in place, because he’s very, very talented.”

*** Ollie on new scholarship recipient Brendan Allen:

“He can contribute. Everybody that comes in this gym can contribute … We gave him a scholarship, so we think he’s got a little something. We need him to continue doing what he’s doing academically, and bring it on the court. Brandon’s a guy, if I play him one minute or 40 minutes, he’s gonna be ready. We want guys like that don’t rock the boat, no matter if you’re playing or not playing. This is your team, it’s about sacrifice.”

*** Ollie on Shabazz Napier and his health:

"He’s pretty much close, to me. If he’s lacking any, I don’t see it. But we still want him to get to that next level. He was picked Second Team all-Big East. We want him first. We’ve got to keep pushing him to that level. I think he can be a great basketball player for us, because he’s smart. He’s one of the smartest players I’ve been around. He knows the game. He says he’s gonna be my assistant coach, but I don’t know about that. Let him have a long career before he’s my assistant coach.”

*** Ollie on Omar Calhoun:

“He puts things in boxes. Academically, when he’s in academics, it’s academics, don’t bother me about anything else. When he gets on the basketball court, he puts it in that box. Everything I try to tell him something, he just does it. I don’t have to tell him twice.”

“And he’s a scorer. I want him to be more aggressive. He’s playing very, very well for me right now, and I’m excited about his future here at UConn.”

*** Niels Giffey on Ollie's interactive style in practice:

“It’s definitely motivating, because he’s the one who’s always giving 100 percent. Every time I step on the court, I feel like I’ve got to match his intensity … He’s really somebody to look up to.”

*** Giffey on Wolf's injury:

“It’s tough for us, it’s so unfortunate. He had a great summer, he was there to take the next step and to actually get a chance to get on court and get in games. Now, me and DeAndre have got to play the four a little bit and show our versatility.”

*** Napier on his health:

“If I had to put a number on it, 92 to 95 percent. I still feel sore if I’m running up and down. If I just stay still, my stiffness comes back.”


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