Friday, October 11, 2013

Kevin Ollie: 'If They Rebound, They'll Play.'

Took in my first UConn practice of the season today (I wasn’t able to get to the Huskies’ first open practice a couple of weeks ago).

The thing that stuck out the most to me in the 45 minutes we were able to watch practice was how vocal and intense the team was at times, particularly during rebounding/box-out drills. Shabazz Napier started it off by grabbing a pair of boards during the two-on-two drill and riding the two big guys – Amida Brimah and DeAndre Daniels – for getting outrebounded. All in all, the whole team was enthusiastic during the drill, which is a good sign, as boardwork (or lack thereof) was a huge issue last season for the Huskies.

“It’s definitely a point of emphasis, to make sure we do better,” said Kevin Ollie. “I know we have a team that’s very athletic, very versatile. If we get out on the fast break, we can do a lot of damage. First thing with defensive rebounding is getting back in transition, building a wall and then boxing out. And hitting first. I don’t think we did a lot of that last year. They know, if they rebound, they’ll play. I’ve put that nugget out there, we’ll just see who grabs it. Whoever grabs it will be playing.”

Tyler Olander understands.

“I think everybody, that’s definitely been an emphasis in practice,” he said. “We do three or four box-out drills every day. If we mess up on those, we’re on the line running. If we give up offensive rebounds in drills, we’re on the line running.”

Ah yes, Olander. He’s back practicing with the team afterbeing reinstated last week. Olander showed plenty of emotion during the rebounding drill.

“I’m more happy with Tyler because I’m checking every appointment that he has, every class that he has,” said Ollie. “I could care less about the energy here, if he’s not showing the energy off the court then he’s got a problem with me. I told him this is his last time. He’s stepping up to the plate and changing his ways. It starts with him. I love that about him. Hopefully, he can just continue to create something special for his life. His time here at UConn is expiring. There’s a date on that. Hopefully, he can use this time to be better as a young man, and also have a great senior season. That’s just going to make us a better team. But I need everybody.”

Olander addressed his Sept. 7 arrest and subsequent suspension from the team that was lifted on Oct. 3.

“Probably one of the first things I thought about was, ‘This is going to be all over ESPN,’” he said. “That’s probably something that stuck with me: everybody’s going to know.”

Being away from the team for about a month hurt him, as well.

“It was pretty difficult. That’s all I’ve done for the past four years. To be taken away, it was an adjustment. But it did its purpose. I realized what I had to do and that the things I had done were selfish. And that if I really wanted to be a part of this, which I do, that I need to change that.”


*** It appears there will be no dunk or 3-point contest at First Night festivities next Friday. The intra-gender scrimmage, featuring teams comprised by members of both the men’s and women’s teams, will have to suffice.

*** As it stands now, Napier, Daniels and Ryan Boatright are slated to accompany Ollie to AAC Media Day on Wednesday in Memphis.

*** Stanley  Robinson was helping out at practice today. Always great to see “Sticks.”
*** Some obligatory practice facility video footage. It's worth noting that, immediately after UConn's practice ended, the women's volleyball team staff started setting up equipment for its 7 p.m. match with Rutgers. It only served to reinforce the notion of how badly the basketball team needs its own practice facility.

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