Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Kevin Ollie Believes UConn Will Maintain its Edge Next Season

Had a great interview with Kevin Ollie this morning. His enthusiasm knows no bounds, and he is truly excited about this upcoming season. Ollie really believes this team has the chance to be very good, and it's hard to disagree.

One thing I wanted to ask him about is whether or not next year's team can keep it's "edge", so to speak. Last year, with no postseason eligibility and nothing to "play for," the team rallied around the idea that they were playing for themselves, for their university, etc. Will they maintain that next season, even though they'll now have very tangible goals to reach?

"I hope so, because that's the Level 5 team that I want, where we're playing for the love of basketball, for getting the opportunity to get out and play," said Ollie. "I call that a Stage 5 basketball team, and that's what I want. We can't be just, 'I'm good, and everybody else is bad.' If we have that mentality, we might win some games, but we're not going to be the team that I aspire our cast of players to be ... Hopefully they have that same mindset, especially with all the talent we have coming back. If everybody comes back with that level of unity, playing for one another, I think everything else will take care of itself."

Ollie broached a whole lot of other subjects. Here are some:

*** Shabazz Napier is at full-speed and is with Ryan Boatright at the Point Guard Skills Academy in Newark, N.J. UConn may well be the only program with two players at that camp.

*** Tyler Olander is getting back to full recovery and may play in one of the several summer tours set up for college basketball players, specifically the Athletes in Action Tour in South Africa.

"With Tyler, it's just mental," Ollie said. "You learn from negative things in your life, from positive things in your life. I think he's learned from this. He did help us in tremendous ways, so I wouldn't call his whole season a disappointment. He did some great things: his practice, his work ethic, trying to change his body. He's been doing great academically, also ... I wouldn't consider it a disappointment, but I think it was a learning experience for him. I know he's going to bounce back and be a great facilitator for us to go forward and be a person that we can count on, night-in, night-out."

*** Rodney Purvis showed his competitiveness while he was on campus for three weeks recently, earning three credits.

"When he was working out with Ryan, you could see the competitiveness coming out of him: Ryan was pushing him, he was pushing Ryan. It's going to be tough for him to sit out this year."

*** DeAndre Daniels leaves for Kevin Durant's camp in a couple of days.

"I'm not expecting him to come in and average 25 (next season), we're going to let the game dictate that. But I do want him to put his imprint on the game, which he is starting to do. Just being a stat-stuffer in every category. For DeAndre, just seeing Otto Porter, how he made other people around him better, is the next part of his evolution."

*** It's really looking like Enosch Wolf will not return to UConn next season as a non-scholarship player. But he's got a good reference in Ollie.

"If he decides to transfer, anybody who calls me, I'm going to give them great remarks about him as a young man and how he grew up from that situation."

*** On Amida Brimah:

"The first time I walked in the gym and saw him, I maybe got there late, they took him out and he was just clapping and showing so much passion about the game. Once he checked in, he blocked a shot from behind, made an absolutely great dunk, got a rebound, got double-teamed and passed it out. It was like, man, that's what you want a big man to do. Because he was the most passionate, but also the best player on the court. You add those two elements together, that's a recipe of a successful person. That's what we're trying to identify here -- high-character individuals."

"He's got some improvement that he's got to do skill-wise, on the blocks, which all our big men have to do -- getting in the weight room with Coach West, getting his strength up where he has confidence in his base, being able to withstand the bumps and still scoring and making plays for his teammates. I think he'll do that."

*** On Kentan Facey:

"Kentan is the same way. I'm not gonna have to coach hard work and effort with these guys. He has a relentless motor, getting up and down the court. He's an energy-giver, not an energy-taker. He's developed more on his jump shot where he's got more range now. He's probably a little bit more polished in that area going forward. I just think he's going to be a person that can come in and give us major minutes as a freshman. I think all our freshmen can."

*** On Terrence Samuel:

"From a scoring standpoint, from a leadership standpoint, from a facilitator standpoint, I think all our guards have gotten better. Then, to add Terrence Samuel - someone who has size, who's a push guard, a pass-first guard -- it's really going to help us, not only in games but in practice, too."

*** Lasan Kromah will likely arrive for the second summer session in mid-July.

"He's Mr. Versatility. I can put him at the 3, the 2, if we go small put him at the 4. He's going to give us a lot of advantages there, with his length, his defensive prowess. He's not a ball-stopper, which is great. He moves the ball. He can get the ball off the break, push it and be a facilitator. And he's a good person, too."

*** Omar Calhoun is free of crutches, braces, etc. and is rehabbing his way back, working on his strength and flexibility in his legs. Calhoun believes he'll be 100-percent by the start of classes in September.

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