Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Kevin Ollie, UConn Talk Howard, Jr., Hand-Checking

UConn faces Detroit on Thursday at Gampel (7 p.m.) in a 2K Sports Classic game. (Here's today's game preview, focusing on the spate of hand-checking fouls currently plaguing college basketball teams, including UConn). The Titans, of course, are the last non-conference team to win a game at Gampel, a 67-61 win over the Huskies in the second round of the 2001 NIT (the team was known as Detroit-Mercy back then).
UConn isn't likely to get as much of a challenge this time around. Detroit posted its second straight 20-win campaign last season but lost high-scoring Ray McCallum to the NBA draft (second round, Sacramento) and also lost sweet-shooting guard Jason Calliste to Oregon as a transfer.

The Titans are led by redshirt-junior forward Juwan Howard, Jr. Yes, son of the ex-Fab Fiver and longtime NBA journeyman. Seems the senior Howard and fellow journeyman Kevin Ollie never crossed paths in their respective long NBA careers, though the two have long been friends.

"We were the same class, so we played a lot of AAU tournaments together," Ollie recalled. "Back then, they had the Nike camps. We'd go to Princeton, we'd always stay there and hang out together. He's always been a good friend of mine since I was in the NBA."

The younger Howard's got some game, too, averaging 20 points per game over his first two contests for the 1-1 Titans.

"He's a real big, crafty player,"Ollie said of the 6-foot-6, 210-pound junior forward. "Not an explosive player, but he's got a lot of stuff to his game, a lot of pump-fakes. He's an integral part of their offense."

Ollie was a bit more descriptive during practice.

"He can come in here and put 25 on you!" Ollie shouted during a break. "They run everything for him!"

*** Most of the talk today focused on the NCAA's new crackdown on hand-checking, which has led to a slew of fouls all over the country.

Here's what Ollie, Niels Giffey and Ryan Boatright had to say about the situation:

Ollie: "They're calling a lot of fouls. We've been fouling a lot. A lot of teams are going zone. I'm pretty much a man-to-man coach, but we've got to have that zone in our back pocket. I do have it in my back pocket, I just haven't felt the need to use that yet."

"We've got to keep adjusting to the rules, I'm telling my guys that every opportunity I get."

"Moving your feet, just keep emphasizing ... You can't just say I'm not gonna play defense because I don't want to get in foul trouble. You've got to learn to play hard, pursue the basketball, but know a foul's a mistake."

"If you're not talking, you're not playing defense. Doc Rivers used to always tell me that. He's absolutely right. You've got to talk. Our communication breaks down sometimes."

Giffey: "It affected us in the way that we really had to change our mindset a little bit. We can't use our arm guard anymore that much. You really have to work on moving your body a little more than before. It's an adjustment you have to make."

"And one thing, right now I'm really not too worried about it because if I'm getting beat, I know Amida (Brimah) is going to block the shot."

Giffey was kidding. Or, half-kidding.

Boatright: "I knew it was going to make a dramatic change in the game. I feel like sometimes it slows the game down, because there's a free throw after every possession. But at the same time, it allows the games to be a lot more high-scoring."

"It's hard, it's definitely an adjustment. But it's gotta be done. The main way you get a lot of those fouls is if you're late on close-outs. If you're closing out late, your automatic instinct is to throw your forearm out there. That's where a lot of fouls are going to be called."

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