Monday, December 3, 2012

UConn Ready for Big Bout with NC State at MSG Tuesday Night

UConn coach Kevin Ollie and various players met with the media Sunday to talk about Tuesday night's Jimmy V Classic bout with NC State at Madison Square Garden (start time is listed as 9 p.m., but don't expect it to start any time before 9:30 p.m. The Georgetown-Texas tilt tips off at 7 p.m.)

We had some notes, quotes and video on a few items on yesterday's blog, and here's some more specific, NC State-oriented stuff in advance of the game:

*** The Wolfpack are well-balanced, with six players averaging in double figures. T.J. Warren, a 6-8 freshman forward, leads the way at 15.3 per game, followed by Richard Howell at 14.1 ppg and a team-leading 7.8 rebounds per contest. Howell, a bruising 6-8, 257-pound junior, is shooting a whopping 74 percent from the floor.

C.J. Leslie, the ACC preseason player of the year, checks in at 11.7 and 7.5. Highly-touted freshman Rodney Purvis, a one-time heavy UConn recruit, averages 10 points per game. He had started NC State's first five games until the Wolfpack's last game, a Nov. 27 loss at Michigan.

*** Ollie on NC State (and a little Omar Calhoun on the New York native's first-ever chance to play on the Madison Square Garden floor):

*** Obviously, the Jimmy V Classic is near and dear to NC State, though this is only its second time participating in the event (2002). Jim Valvano coached the Wolfpack for 10 seasons, winning the national championship in 1983. He died of cancer in 1993, two weeks after giving his inspirational "Don't Ever Give Up" speech at the ESPYs.

NC State will pay tribute to Valvano on Tuesday by wearing specially-designed jerseys. The red road jersey features a net design around the collar and shoulders, reminiscent of Valvano wearing the nets following the '83 title. On the back of each jersey is the famous line, "Don't Ever Give Up" (which was first heard during a pregame speech on Feb. 21, 1993, prior to NC State's bout with Duke). The V Foundation's "V" logo will also be on the jersey.

Besides his obvious strong ties to NC State (he was the schools athletic director for three years, as well), Valvano does share a connection with UConn, as we also noted in yesterday's blog.

Ollie never got a chance to meet Valvano, but still was able to garner a tremendous amount of respect for the man.

"I just knew him through Coach (Dee) Rowe," Ollie said. "He told me different things that made a difference in his life, just the wonderful people that he touched. Just to be around all his family members back in New York (in October) was a great thing, to understand who he was, what he'd done. His legacy lives a long time. That shows a great, successful man, when he can die and his legacy of him helping people beyond basketball ... it's just a great situation for us to play and honor a great man."

*** Here's what NC State coach Mark Gottfried had to say about UConn in his weekly press conference, courtesy of He spends about the first 3:13 on the Huskies.

*** Playing at MSG is old hat for some UConn players like Shabazz Napier. It never gets old, though.

"It's big, man," Napier noted. "It's like playing at the Apollo. The light's are on, the atmosphere is crazy. that's the basketball Mecca, right there."

Omar Calhoun said he's expecting a "packed house, the crowd screaming, yelling, and everybody going out there and going hard."

Why didn't the Brooklyn native ever get a chance to play at the Garden before? For one, he went to a Catholic school (Christ the King), and they play their championships at Fordham. The public schools play their championships at MSG.

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