Thursday, December 20, 2012

Shabazz Napier Talks Ollie's Contract, Boston-New York and Chris Gaston

Early practice today at Gampel. Good chance for UConn players to get off their feet in the early morning, get their work in and have the rest of the day to themselves.

Shabazz Napier was certainly perky, as usual. Here's what he had to say when asked if he hoped Kevin Ollie would receive a contract extension soon:

“Sort of, I don't know. Warde, our AD, we don't know what he’s doing. I don’t know. After Michigan State, I felt like he was going to get this job, but sometimes it doesn’t seem that way. I’ve kind of come to terms that, no matter what we do, it’s not going to be in our hands. We can win as many games as we want, I still don’t know believe it’s going to be in our hands where he’s going to give him a job. But hopefully, we keep on winning and playing great and being great student-athletes off the court, so he can see that SCoach Ollie isn’t just about basketball, he’s about you being a man off the court.”

For his part, Ollie isn't thinking about an extension (though he joked getting one now would allow him to "buy more Christmas presents").

"I’m going to do my job, regardless," Ollie said. "It’s something I can’t control, like the realignment. I’m not worried about the contract. You care about it, because you do want a contract, but I’m not losing any sleepless nights over it, trust me on that. I get up in the morning, I’m refreshed, ready to go, ready to give my all for my players, because they’ll do the same for me. They know I’ve got a four-month contract, whatever it is. They’re still playing like I’m here forever. I’m going to do the same for them.”

Shabazz -- the gift that keeps giving -- also had a great quote when asked about Brooklyn's own Omar Calhoun:

"We want him to score, but it’s also important for him to understand, if you can’t score, he has to do something else. That’s what we have to get him to understand. It’s kind of hard coming from New York. New York, as it is, everyone thinks they’re better than everybody.”

Not so with Boston guys, 'Bazz?

“No, not at all," he said with a smile. "We don’t have that attitude, we just go out there and give it all we’ve got.”

Asked to respond, Calhoun simply noted that there's a fun rivalry between Boston, New York and Chicago (Ryan Boatright) on the team.

*** he Huskies face Fordham on Friday, and despite the Rams' 2-8 record, they're not to be overlooked. They're led by junior guard Branden Frazier (15.6 ppg, starring roles in 'George of the Jungle,' 'School Ties' and 'Airheads') and senior forward Chris Gaston, who's in his second game back after missing six due to injury.

Gaston is a beast, and apparently he was once nearly a Husky. According to Jim Calhoun, the 6-foot-7, 231-pound senior forward strongly considered transferring to UConn after a freshman season in which he averaged 18 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. Gaston apparently made a visit to St. John's in that time, but wound up staying at Fordham.

“He’s just energy," Ollie said of Gaston. "With hard work, he’ll have a shot at the NBA. I think he can handle the ball, can get it at the perimeter. He can rebound, and he can stretch it out to 3-point land and take the opponent off the dribble.”

He also knows Napier well: the two share a Puerto Rican heritage and both tried out for the Puerto Rican National Team this past summer in San Juan.

“We used to communicate all the time," Napier said. "I kept in touch with Mike Rosario, also. You’ve got to keep in touch with people who are the same as your culture. You’ve got to keep them close, because you never know when you might need that person.”

*** R.J. Evans, who sat out the Maryland-Eastern Shore game largely as a precautionary measure, is good to go tomorrow night vs. Fordham.

*** Jim Calhoun, UConn board of trustees vice chairman Tom Ritter and others will gather with employees of several Hartford businesses to participate in the state's observance of a moment of silence for victims of the tragic school shootings in Newtown.

The observance will take place on Friday at 9:15 a.m. at CityPlace in downtown Hartford. Calhoun will give remarks. The moment of silence will be observed at 9:30 a.m.

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