Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tyler Olander, Niels Giffey Wax Nostalgic Day Before Their Final UConn Home Game

Tyler Olander and Niels Giffey on their respective UConn careers. Tomorrow night is their last home game.

Olander's story may be the most intriguing of all, going from a starting freshman on the national title team to a senior getting little playing time, with arrests, bad rapping and scattered playing time in between.

OLANDER:

"Just looking back on the four years, the ups and downs, good and bad, it's been so fun and enjoyable, so many life lessons from so many different people. It's just been an unbelievable ride. Tomorrow night will definitely be emotional."

(on being a leader to younger big men)

"They're playing well ... I know we have pieces where we can make a good run in March. I just thought, a while back, what can I do? How can I help this team win? I'm not getting a lot of playing time. It's just helping these guys be the best they can be, so when they're out there, we've got the best team we can out there. I took a leadership role like that, and it's been successful so far ... I think that's what UConn basketball is all about. We have guys come back all the time and shed their wisdom on us. It's only right to continue to do that."

(on the team bonding through tough times)

"We've been through it all together, we really love what this program is all about. We love this school, the people involved in the program, the bond that we've had is one that probably will carry on for probably a lifetime. Just to think about that alone, to share this night tomorrow with these guys, will be something I wouldn't want to do with any other group."

"We stuck with it, ups and downs, for the love of basketball and for the love of each other, this university, the UConn family. That makes it all worth it."

(on Shabazz)

"He's unbelievable. Day-in, day-out, the transformation of him as a person behind the scenes has been unbelievable. He's grown so much. It's hard to put it into words, the things that he's done on the court, and his growth off the court has been even more remarkable."

(highlights of his career)

"Scoring the first points of the Final Four and (national championship) game are things you can definitely hold onto. Getting that ring, the run that we had in the Big East tournament ... there are so many memorable moments, more just of the team than myself. When 'Bazz hit that shot this year (against Florida), all the things that Kemba did, the adversity that we faced last year, not playing for anything but each other -- things like that, the bonds that I've created with these people and the reasons why are what I'll hold most (over) on-court performances."



(on learning from mistakes)

"Realizing your goals and knowing things you can and can't do to reach them. When you play Division 1 athletics, you're not a regular college student. When you play UConn basketball, you're far from a regular college student. So, just learning lessons like that will help me, I think, in the future ... whatever that will hold."

NIELS GIFFEY:

(on Shabazz)

"I remember he had this little rat-tail, and he had glasses on. I had just met Tyler in the dorm room and Shabazz popped in, said hello, introduced himself."

"It was an amazing start. At that point, we didn't realize what great leaders we had on the team -- Kemba, Charles and Donnell. At this point, we're just trying to carry that over to this season. I'm just getting a little emotional about it."

"It's just a sign that we really wanted to be here, we wanted to be at UConn, we wanted to be nowhere else. It wasn't always about ourselves or about our situation, but sticking with the program that gave us a chance to do all this, to win a national championship. I hope people see that."

(on his future in basketball)

"I think there's always going to be a good spot for me back home, but maybe I can play somewhere else. I like it in the U.S."


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