Saturday, December 29, 2012

Kevin Ollie: 'I Just Never Thought it Could Happen for a Guy out of South Central L.A.

What they were saying after UConn's 61-53 win over Washington tonight:

Omar Calhoun said the team learned about Kevin Ollie's extension at today's shootaround from AD Warde Manuel.

“We clapped it up for him. We were heading into tonight with a positive mindset," Calhoun said. "It definitely feels good. Coach Ollie’s a great guy, he wishes the best for everybody. He’s the guy who recruited me here. Everybody was happy for him.”

Added Enosch Wolf: “We work so hard for him to get that contract. We all know he deserved it, they should have given it to him right away, we all know that. So now we’ve got to prove it that he’s the right guy. We’ve got to go even harder and can’t let down.”

Ollie got a standing 'O' from the crowd of about 6,600 storm-braving fans when he first walked onto the court prior to the game.

“My legs were shaking and everything," he said. "It was like the first game I stepped into the XL Center. I was excited for the moment. I just never thought it could happen for a guy out of South Central Los Angeles. But I’m an unrealistic thinker, just like Coach Calhoun.”

Other coaches weighed in on Ollie's contract.

Buzz Williams, who'll be sitting out Tuesday's game vs. UConn due to a one-game, school-imposed suspension, said: "I think (Ollie) is a stud. I love (the contract extension). I've loved him before he got into coaching. I love his path, respect his path, think he's a star. I think it's hard to follow a Hall of Famer, but I think he has enough bravado to do it."

And Washington's Lorenzo Romar (like Ollie, an L.A. native), said: "I didn't really know him that well until he got into coaching. Right away, when he joined the coaching ranks from the NBA, the way he carried himself, he didn't conduct himself as if he was above anything. He conducted himself as if he was a student trying to learn to be the best. I've just kind of watched him, here and there talked to him ... I've just always been impressed with him. He was a fine basketball player, but I don't know if he was gifted where he was going to be Kobe Bryant. But he played a long time in the NBA because he worked really hard, he was a great teammate, very coachable, highly intelligent, high basketball IQ. All that allowed him to play. His last few years, (veterans) like guys on the team who are like coaches, they police the team. He's that kind of guy. So I thought it was a natural for him to get into the coaching profession ... I'm happy for him."

*** DeAndre Daniels left the game late in the contest after banging his chin against the floor. He'll need some stitches ("battle wounds," according to Ollie), but the coach thinks he'll be ready to go agianst Marquette Tuesday -- provided, of course, that he has no concussion symptoms.

*** On Wolf's press-breaking, alley-oop dunk from Calhoun:

“That was a great dunk," said Ollie. "I’ve seen it a couple of times in practice. Omar did a great job by giving it up and being unselfish. It was a remarkable play. I didn’t like the celebration too much. I’d like them to understand that that’s what they’re supposed to do. But I did like the excitement we played with today.”

Said Calhoun: "I knew he could catch it, I’ve thrown lobs for him before. I thought I was testing him a little bit with that one. He was able to go up and get it, so I was happy for him.”

And Wolf: “When I went up, I didn’t think I was going to get it, but I caught it. I was happy he threw it, so I finally could get one.”

“I was trying to get the crowd going a little bit. (Ollie) said act like we’ve been here before, stay cool, it’s not over yet. He was right.”

*** UConn outrebounded the bigger Huskies, 40-36, just the second time this season its won the rebounding battle.

“That was a real physical game, especially on the rebounds," said Wolf. "Coming in and fixing our biggest problem in this game, I feel really good.”

*** UConn has won 13 straight vs. Pac 10/12 foes, dating back to the loss to UCLA in the 1995 NCAA tournament.

*** There were 12,720 tickets sold for the game, and though UConn said only about 6,600 showed up, it truly seemed like more than that.

Said Ollie: "I know there's a foot of snow out there, and for them to come out and support us like they did, it's exceptional, it's outstanding. They're wonderful people that I love."

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