Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Kevin Ollie Compares Shabazz Napier to NBA Veteran Andre Miller

Shabazz Napier took exactly six shots in UConn's two exhibition game romps. Played only 14 minutes in the second one. Is he injured? Just reverting to 'Shabazz-the-distributor' mode? Anything to be concerned about?

Ummm, no.

"I didn't want to tire out 'Bazz," Kevin Ollie pointed out. "I wanted him to have fresh legs for the (Maryland) game. And I wanted to have good gamesmanship, too. I didn't want to run up the score."

Think of it as sort of like a spring training game, where the stars get one or two at-bats and leave the rest of the game to guys wearing numbers in the 70's and 80's. Still, Napier admitted to being "kind of upset" about not seeing much playing time against SCSU or Concordia.

No doubt, Napier goes through stretches where it seems he'd rather distribute than look for his shot. But Ollie has no concerns.

"The game's going to dictate it," said the coach. "You go out and say, 'I'm gonna shoot 25 shots,' that's when you don't have a good game. If the game dictates him to take 20 shots, he'll take 20. If the game dictates him to pass it and get off the ball and get 10 assists, then he'll dictate that. He's got great basketball IQ. I've been around probably one guard that's had better basketball IQ than him, and that's Andre Miller, when I was at Philadelphia."

Napier appreciated the compliment.

"That's kind of unexpected, actually. Andre Miller's got a great IQ. He's still in the league because he's a smart point guard. That's a great compliment."

Ollie continued: "I want him to be aggressive. That doesn't mean shooting. Sometimes I get on him not being aggressive -- probing the defense, getting in the thick of the defense. Maybe that's passing 20 times in a row, but that's being aggressive. I never talk about shooting with him, I just talk about aggressiveness."

A few more notes and quotes from today's practice:

*** Napier was asked how much concern the team has for Maryland on Friday night.

"I don't think anybody on this team is scared or nervous of Maryland, or anybody. Once you step on the court, everything goes out the window. Maryland ties their sneakers the same way we tie our sneakers. They've just got Under Armours, we've got Nikes."

"It's gonna be tough. Dez Wells is a great player, one of the best players in college basketball. He's big, strong, he's lie 6-4, 6-5. It's gonna be hard. But one thing I can tell you, we'll be ready to play them."

*** Gotta love Phil Nolan.

"I do't have a go-to move or anything," Nolan said. "When I catch the ball, I have, like, 10 different moves in my head. Whichever one happens, it just happens. I have a couple of favorites, but I just like switching it up. I just don't know what I'll do."

*** Ollie said he has no set starting lineup at this point.

"I'll figure that out on my trip down to Brooklyn ... The starters get their name called out, but that's who I like. Who I trust is the guys who are in at the end of the game. When I was a player, I wanted to be in to finish the game."

*** Brooklyn natives Omar Calhoun and Terrence Samuel get to play a true home game on Friday.

"I'm definitely excited, that's where I grew up," Calhoun said. "There's gonna be a lot of people there -- family, friends, coaches -- coming out to support me."

Does he have to guard against trying to do too much for the hometown fans?

"At the end of the day, everybody knows I'm focused on the game. I want to win, I'm a competitor."

Ollie was asked if Samuel, a freshman, also had to be careful not to get too amped up.

"I"m just gonna say calm down, play your game, be a point guard," said Ollie. "If he gets too jacked up, he'll sit by me. I've got a lot of guards on the bench."

*** Jim Calhoun will join Joe D'Ambrosio on the WTIC-AM 1080 broadcast, just as he did in UConn's season-opener last year in Germany -- an impressive win over Michigan State.

"Coach Calhoun is on the broadcast again, that's a guaranteed win right there," Ollie said with a smile. "We're 1-0 with coach on the broadcast with Joe D., so hopefully we're 2-0."

*** Sometimes in recruiting, it's the not ones you hit on but the ones you miss on that turn out to be a bit of a blessing.

Last year, UConn lost out on a pair of recruits -- Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Brandon Austin -- who they certainly wanted badly. Rathan-Mayes, despite his father being a New Haven native, elected to take his talents to Florida State (his pop's alma mater). Austin, a Philly native, selected Ed Cooley and Providence over the Huskies.

Now, Rathan-Mayes is out for the year after being ruled ineligible by the NCAA. And now Austin, along with fellow frosh Rodney Bullock, is suspended indefinitely from the Friars after "not upholding their responsibilities as student-athletes."

Certainly, no one wishes ill will on either player, and hopefully both are able to get their respective issues resolved and (at least in Austin's case) return to the basketball court as soon as possible. And certainly in Austin's situation, there's no telling whether whatever he did or didn't do at PC, he wouldn't have made the same mistakes at UConn.

But fans that live and die each time a recruit chooses another school over UConn should realize that, sometimes, it's UConn that drops interest (in the cases of Rathan-Mayes as well as Ray Kasongo), and sometimes not getting a particular recruit ends up being a blessing in disguise.

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