Friday, March 8, 2013

Kevin Ollie: "This Will Be My Favorite Group -- Forever"

There will be a brief ceremony after Saturday's PC-UConn game at sold-out Gampel, honoring this year's team. There will be no championship banners lifted to the rafters, no pep rally for the upcoming Big East tournament. The season will be over, but this team of gritty players that defied a lot of odds, that stayed in Storrs despite knowing there'd be no postseason and watched many former teammates defect (and got precious little national recognition all season) will be honored.

I like the idea. Apparently, so does Kevin Ollie.

“This will be my favorite group forever, how they battled and played with each other,” the coach said. “If we get beat by 50 (Saturday), that’s not going to change anything. The sentiments in my heart I have for these guys. When the last buzzer goes off, they’re going to have their heads up high and their chests out.”

Here’s more of what Ollie had to say before today’s practice:

No update on Shabazz Napier, but he’s “feeling better. I don’t know if he’s available.”

Omar Calhoun’s wrist is “hurting really bad. If he can’t go, we’ll have Leon (Tolksdorf) and Brendan (Allen) to fill in.”

Ollie added: “I want guys, if they’re healthy, to play … I won’t be inclined to sit anybody down (just because it’s the last game of the season).”

(on the Big East-Catholic 7 split, which became official today)

“Susan Herbst and our athletic director, Warde Manuel, are going to get us in the best position possible. If they think this is the best position for us, we’re going forward. I have to coach the team, whether they’re playing in my backyard, the ACC, the Big East or whatever they call this conference. I’m in their boat, ready to go wherever they take us.”

“It’s going to be a great journey. UConn basketball is going to be here forever. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

(on Tyler Olander, whose disappointing junior season came to an end after he broke his foot in Wednesday’s loss at USF)

“We wanted more production, he wanted to have a better year. But, he stayed in the fight. I’m not worried about individual stats, I’m worried about team. He did a wonderful job in practice, in games he tried hard. The shots weren’t going in. I imagine he wanted to be a better rebounder, and we thought he would be. Hopefully, he comes in next year, provides a spark, gets the rebounds we know he can get. He’s gonna have a great senior year. Everybody’s got to go through something.” 

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