Friday, December 28, 2012

UConn on Newtown Visit, Areas of Improvement, Tyler Olander, Team Chemistry

Some notes, quotes (and later, some video) from UConn's practice today, in preparation for Saturday night's bout with Washington at 7:30 p.m. at the XL Center:

The Huskies visited the Newtown Youth Academy on Thursday, and it was a rewarding experience for all involved.

Said Omar Calhoun: “It was definitely a good experience. The kids started smiling, it’s good to see smiles on their faces. It reminded me as a kid. It was definitely a good time.”

Added Ryan Boatright: "It was a good experience, something to bring happiness to that town and bring smiles to those kids' faces. I know they've been through a lot. To be able to go down there as a team and help them have a good time and take their minds away from the tragedy was a good experience."

*** Ollie said his team needs to improve in several areas (besides the obvious: rebounding), including keeping opponents' shooting percentages down and other things that may not be readily apparent to the naked eye. But most of all, the team must play with toughness and energy, he said.

“We don’t have the Rudy Gays, we don’t have those guys. And that’s alright. We’ll do it collectively together, and we’ll try to fight through different things, we’ll be fine. But we can’t lack on the energy, the effort, the ball pressure, the steals. Everybody knows the Big East is going to be tough, so we’re going to have do some of the things that we haven’t been doing well. We’re going to have to do better to win games. And I’m sure we’ll do that.”

Tyler Olander essentially echoed those thoughts:

“Mental toughness, focus, really just putting a body on someone, getting back to the fundamentals of hitting your man and keeping him out," he said regarding areas that need improvement. "When the shot goes up, we just turn and try to find the ball instead of going to hit someone. Then, we end up underneath the rim. It’s really a matter of keeping your man out.”

Olander had five points and six rebounds in 17 minutes against Fordham last week, which could be viewed as a step in the right direction from what's been a very disappointing junior season thus far.

"Yes, he’s turned the corner," Ollie said, with a smile. "Let’s keep believing. Write it."

Olander said his move from the starting lineup to the bench behind Enosch Wolf a few games ago gave him a kick in the pants.

“It definitely did, right away in practice, when coach put Enosch in with the first five. I knew I wasn’t producing or playing well, so that kind of woke me up a little more and made me say, ‘I’ve got to pick it up a little more for this team. I know they’re going to need me down the road.’ And it was good for Enosch, as well, to get his confidence up, because we’re going to need him, as well.”

But he said retrurning to the starting lineup isn't the most important thing in the world to him.
"I'm going to work to get back in, but if I don’t, I’m still going to work harder and harder and harder every time, so it doesn’t really impact me like that.”

*** Ryan Boatright said the chemistry on this year's team is miles ahead of what it was a year ago.

"Everybody’s playing well, me and Shabazz are clicking, we have a great thing going. The chemistry’s good. We just need to rebound, man. The more possessions we can get for ourselves, it’s better for us.”

He continued: “We’re all getting along, joking around. But when it’s time to get serious, we do. The chemistry here is extremely good."

*** Former UConn head coach Dee Rowe was at Gampel with a bandage covering his nose, a result of a skin cancer operation he recently had. Rowe had to get a skin graft from around his ear (which was also bandaged).

*** With all due respect to Jim Calhoun, I don't recall him ever being this, shall we say, participatory in practice:

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