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