Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Jalen Adams a Kid Out of Roxbury Who Hits Tons of Clutch Shots. Hmmm ...

Cushing Academy coach Barry Connors seems like a real straight-shooter, not a coach prone to exaggeration and over-hyping his players.

But Connors can barely contain himself when talking about Jalen Adams, the Class of 2015 combo guard who recently led Cushing to a second straight New England Class AA Prep title.

"I'm not telling you he's the best player in the country, that's not my point, but the game comes to him easier than anyone else," Connors said. "He's just in the right spot. If there's a loose ball, it ends up in his hands. We need a rebound, he gets it. He's got that 'it' factor. He's had, like, six game-winning shots the last two years."

Sound like someone we know? In fact, Adams hails from the same Roxbury neighborhood as Shabazz Napier.

Perhaps Adams' best-known game-winner came in the New England Class AA championships a year ago, when he hit a 35-footer at the buzzer to beat St. Andrew's for the title. This past season, Adams had 20 points, 19 rebounds (remember, he's listed at 6-2, but more like 6-1) and nine assists in a semifinal win over St. Andrew's. He hit a putback with eight seconds left to give Cushing its first lead of the game.

"He's a perfect UConn guard, no doubt about it," said Connors. "Kemba, Shabazz -- he kinda plays like them. Their style and system fits him. He knows that, too. UConn's very high on his list, and that has a lot to do with it. He's mentioned he likes the guys. (Karl) Hobbs has been up here quite a bit, he likes him. He's gotten to know Kevin (Ollie) a little bit and he likes him, too. He mentioned that he likes the staff, likes the way they use their guards. He fits."

Adams has predictably received many offers. Georgia Tech, Kansas State, Providence are among those who seem to have a lot of interest. But it appears that two schools stand atop his list: UConn and Kansas.

"To be honest with you, they're the ones," said Connors. "You can tell by what he says, how he responds. They're the ones high on his list right now."

Connors said Adams will play out the summer for Mass Rivals AAU before making his decision. The coach seems like a real straight-shooter, not one prone to exaggeration. But he's coached the Pressey brothers (Matt and Phil), Syracuse-bound Kaleb Joseph and other top-notch players over the past several years, and ...

"Jalen's the best of 'em all. He's an incredible athlete, he can jump out of the gym, his arms are crazy-long. He doesn't play 6-1/6-2 at all. I've never seen anything like this kid. He's got the 'it' factor. He just makes winning plays. The ball just ends up in his hands -- loose balls, rebounds, deflections."

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Future Shabazz Napier? Tremont Waters Getting it Done in Classroom, on Basketball Court at South Kent

It's obnoxiously early to start talking about Class of 2017 prospects. Sure, every now and then you get a kid who commits real early (ask Ryan Boatright how that worked out), but really, let's let the kids enjoy their high school years as much as possible and see how they develop over those years before we start labeling them top prospects and wondering where they'll take their talents.

All that said, New Haven's own Tremont Waters seems like a special one -- in a lot of ways. He's made high honors at South Kent Prep for the spring term. He's been voted as one of his class's leaders. He's already a mentor to some young kids in New Haven. Oh, and as a freshman, he made honorable mention all-New England Prep League after averaging 13 points and a team-high 2.2 steals per game.

There seems little doubt that Waters likes UConn. Likewise, UConn likes Waters. But then, so do Florida, Duke, Syracuse, Maryland, Oklahoma, St. John's, Villanova ... the list goes on and on.

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Rakim Lubin Signs LOI to Attend UConn

Rakim Lubin, a 6-foot-7, 260-pound bruising power forward out of Buford, Ga., has signed his national letter-of-intent to attend UConn next season,.

Lubin is just the kind of big, physical forward the Huskies need, especially with DeAndre Daniels off to the NBA and Tyler Olander graduated. He could be a rebounding presence UConn has really needed the past couple of seasons.

Lubin joins elite wing Daniel Hamilton and JUCO combo guard Sam Cassell, Jr. as UConn's Class of 2014 signees.

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Quotes from DeAndre Daniels, Kevin Ollie

Here's the press release sent out by UConn regarding DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright:

UConn junior DeAndre Daniels (LosAngeles, Calif.) has filed paperwork with the NBA to declare himself eligible for the upcoming NBA Draft. The 6-9 forward, who started 38 games for the national champion Huskies, will forgo his senior season of college eligibility.
Junior guard Ryan Boatright (Aurora, Ill.), also an instrumental part of the national championship run, has decided to return to UConn for his senior season in 2014-15.

“I just felt like this was the right time for me,” Daniels said. “I sat down with my family and we discussed it and everyone agreed, but the final decision was still mine and it was hard. I had a great career at UConn and I wouldn’t change it for the world, and to go out on top like we did makes it even better.”

Daniels averaged 13.1 points per game this season and led the Huskies in rebounding at 6.0 per game. The versatile forward shot .469 overall and .417 from three-point range. However, Daniels played his best basketball during the Huskies’ six-game march to the fourth NCAA title in school history, averaging 16.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, and shooting .487 overall and .857 from the free throw line.

“DeAndre has made an enormous contribution to the success we have enjoyed at UConn, both on the court and in the classroom,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “Besides being an outstanding basketball player, he is a quality young man. We wholeheartedly support the decision he has made and wish him nothing but success as he moves ahead with his basketball career. He will always be part of our UConn family."

Boatright teamed with senior Shabazz Napier this season to form one of the toughest backcourts in the country. The 6-foot guard averaged 12.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game. It was on the defensive end, however, that Boatright arguably made his biggest contribution during the NCAA Tournament, continually disrupting the opposing point guard with outstanding on-ball defense, taking opposing teams out of their offensive game.

Boatright, a team tri-captain this season with Napier and Niels Giffey, will be the lone senior on next year's roster.

“I couldn’t be happier that Ryan will be back with us next season,” Ollie said, “not only for his terrific basketball talents, but to provide tremendous senior leadership for us, both on and off the court. The growth and maturity he has shown throughout his career has been wonderful and I expect that to continue as he works 

Daniels finishes his 99-game career at UConn with 953 points and 457 rebounds. He's the 16th UConn player to declare for the draft early. Of the previous 15 early entrants from UConn, 14 were selected in the first round and player in UConn history to leave school early for the NBA Draft. 

“I will always bleed blue, I will always love this program,” said Daniels, a sociology major who intends to finish his degree requirements in the summers ahead. “There have been ups and downs, but it’s been the best three years of my life. Today, when I thought about leaving, I even cried a little bit because I love this school and the friends I’ve made here to death. But I’m excited to follow the dream I've had since I was a little kid.

"I want to thank Coach Ollie and Coach (Jim) Calhoun for believing in me and everybody who helped me get to where I am, especially my teammates. If it weren’t for them, I certainly wouldn’t be in this position.”

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DeAndre Daniels Heading to NBA, Ryan Boatright Remaining at UConn

DeAndre Daniels is heading to the NBA. Ryan Boatright is staying in Storrs. Both are probably the correct decisions.

According to a pair of mock draft sites, Daniels could go in the late first round. NBAdraft.net has him going to Houston with the 25th overall pick, while DraftExpress.com foresees him going No. 27 to Phoenix.

Two veteran NBA scouts, however, aren’t so sure Daniels will land in the first round.

“I don’t know if he’s had enough of a body of work for the next level,” said an Eastern Conference scout. “Obviously, he helped himself out in the NCAA tournament. He’s got NBA length, NBA athleticism, a decent skill set, he played very well late in the season. But he hasn’t demonstrated consistently high-level play. He’s too in-and-out, too much time missing in action, which I think will make him a second-rounder.”

Added a Western Conference scout: “I don’t think it’s a good decision. I know he had a good tournament, maybe someone got caught up in the hype. I could be out of the mainstream on that. What’s the guy weigh, 180 pounds? That’s kinda silly. He’s got to get a lot stronger. Maybe he’s getting some better advice than I know about. Maybe he would be a late first-round pick. I could be all wrong on that one. I haven’t really re-calibrated since the hype of the Final Four.”

Boatright, meanwhile, is probably making the right choice by staying for his senior season. He likely wouldn't have been drafted this year, but a strong year, in which he can prove his leadership skills without Shabazz Napier around, could boost his stock.

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"Historic Huskies" Magazine Chronicles UConn's Magical Run

The Register and its sister publications, including Connecticut Magazine, have produced a 64-page commemorative magazine that chronicles the national championship runs by the UConn men's and women's basketball teams.

It features color photos, profiles on each player and stories that ran in the Register throughout the season. It can be purchased here for $9.95.

Do check it out. It's worth a read.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Kevin Ollie to Receive Saint Francis Award

Kevin Ollie will be following in Jim Calhoun's footsteps in yet another way.

Ollie will be the recipient of the Saint Francis Award at the 29th annual Fransiscan Sports Banquet and Silent Auction on Tuesday, June 10, at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington. The award is given annually to an individual who "honors Franciscan values while excelling on the playing field."

Calhoun, a past winner, has always had a special place in his heart for the Fransiscan Life Center and Franciscan Home Care and Hospice Care, which benefit from the annual banquet.

Also honored that night will be longtime sportswriter Jackie MacMullan, who'll receive the Saint Clare Award; recently retired Sacred Heart men's basketball coach Dave Bike (Dean of Sport Award) and Guy DeFrances, Sr. (Jim Calhoun Community Service Award).

Special recognition will also be given to Jon Proto, a defensive tackle at Mount Ida College; the North Haven and Southington football teams; and Connecticut Special Olympians.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Amida Brimah to Have Shoulder Surgery on Friday

Amida Brimah met with doctors Wednesday, and the decision has been made to have surgery on his left shoulder. The surgery, to repair a torn labrum, will be performed on Friday at the UConn Health Center in Farmington.

Nana Baafi, Brimah's legal guardian, noted that while surgery wasn't a necessity, it was really the best way to go about things.

"He was battling with it the whole season," said Baafi. "If he doesn’t do it, it’s gonna keep coming. So, he might as well just do it, so he can be healthy ... He could have fought through it, but it’s not advisable. His health is more important. If something else happened, it might get worse."

Baafi said the shoulder injury is the same that caused UConn's Rodney Purvis to undergo surgery on his left shoulder in mid-December. Purvis had a torn labrum and was sidelined for about four months.

"The brighter side is, it’s better for him to come back 100 percent than to go through the whole season again 80-90 percent," said Baafi. "But with the kind of kid he is, with his work ethic, he’ll be fine."

*** Meanwhile, according to a source, Leon Tolksdorf is considering transferring to Bryant University. He was on the Smithfield, R.I. campus on Wednesday.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Shabazz Throws First Pitch: Amida Brimah May Need Surgery; Jessie Govan Update

First, the bad news: Amida Brimah's left shoulder bothered him for most of his freshman season. On Wednesday, he will meet with doctors to determine whether he needs surgery.

Nothing's been determined yet, and Brimah will discuss his options with doctors, as well as his guardian and others. If surgery is necessary, he would be sidelined for about four months -- or until August. He'd essentially be on the same rehab regimen as Rodney Purvis, who had shoulder surgery this past December. Purvis said he was just cleared for all basketball-related activities a few weeks ago.

That could be one of the factors in determining whether or not Brimah has surgery. This is an important offseason for his development, and losing four months of it would obviously affect that.

*** Some scenes from Fenway tonight, where Shabazz Napier threw out the ceremonial first pitch and Big Papi showed some UConn love:

*** Kevin Ollie had an in-home visit with Jessie Govan on Friday. Govan's AAU coach, former UMass standout Dana Dingle, said it went well, but that Govan is in no rush to make a decision.

"He's still wide-open," Dingle said. "So far he's had four home visits, and they've all gone pretty well. Now, college coaches get to come and see him."

Govan, a 6-10 Class of 2015, has had in-homes from UConn, Seton Hall, Georgetown and Stanford the past couple of weeks.

Dingle was once a highly recruited player himself, so he's giving him the best advice he can.

"All I can do is tell him, make sure you’re comfortable, no question’s a dumb question, make sure the school, the situation are everything you're looking for. And make sure you have a good relationship with the coach."

As for UConn: "He likes it. He likes Coach Ollie, likes the staff. They’re in a good place right now."

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Shabazz Napier, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis to Throw Out First Pitches Tuesday at Fenway

UConn's national-champion men's and women's basketball teams will be honored in a pregame ceremony Tuesday night at Fenway Park, prior to the Red Sox-Yankees game, and it appears Boston native Shabazz Napier will throw out one of the ceremonial first pitches. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis will also throw out a first pitch.

All members of both teams have been invited to the ceremony, though it remains to be seen if all will attend. It's not known whether coach Kevin Ollie will attend, either. It is, after all, a live recruiting period (and Ollie is a Dodgers fan!).

Either way, a nice way for the Huskies to be recognized. And certainly a nice honor for Napier, who grew up down the street in Roxbury.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Daniel Hamilton: "I Love it Out Here"

Daniel Hamilton had 10 points and two rebounds Friday night for the West Team in the Jordan Brand Classic game at the Barclays Center. Hamilton started but played just 11 minutes as the East beat the West, 158-147, in a defense-optional game.

Here's some of what Hamilton had to say afterwards:

(on watching UConn's national championship victory)

“I was just so happy for Coach Ollie. Everybody around the house was so happy. We had, like, 13 people there.”

(on his game Friday night, as well as a championship of his own he recently won)

(on what he'll bring to UConn next season)

“I think I can bring my versatility, coming in playing shooting guard, small forward, being able to push it on the break and being able to get our players involved and being able to pull up for jumpers and stuff like that.”

(on whether DeAndre Daniels, whom he's known for many years, will return to UConn for his senior season or turn pro)

“I’ll just let him decide. I’ll let him do his own thing, but I haven’t talked to him about it. Most definitely, I’d love to play with him, especially since I’ve known him probably all my life. We’ll be able to have another chance at a run if he comes back. We’ll be that much better, because he’s a force. A lot of power forwards can’t guard him at that position, because he can put it on the floor and he can shoot, so it’s hard to guard him.”

(on whether UConn's national title will attract more top-notch recruits to Storrs)

“It’ll be easier for Coach Ollie (on the recruiting trail), I think, especially now. The way he coaches the players, it looks like a family. That’s what got me. Two years ago, when they played against Michigan State in that Army game, the way they looked like a family, they all got together and, man, that just touched me. That’s when I figured out I was going there.”

(on playing on the East Coast)

“I love it out here. The fans, they all love you and embrace you. That’s why I like it out here, because there’s no haters.”

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Omar Calhoun Isn't Going Anywhere

No word yet on whether DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright will be returning to UConn for their senior seasons. But there seems no doubt that Omar Calhoun will be back for his junior year and isn't looking to transfer.

While Calhoun essentially already confirmed this a few weeks ago during the East Regional semifinals and finals at Madison Square Garden, it's always good to check in with his dad, Omar, Sr., who (obviously) is a very influential figure in his life.

Omar, Sr. pretty much echoed what his son had said in New York.

"My confidence in Coach Ollie never wavered," Omar, Sr., said on Thursday. "I believe me and Coach Ollie have the same love and passion for the game. I truly believe in the stuff he teaches to his kids.

"He wants you playing to your potential on the floor. He’s got a lot of Coach Calhoun in him, too, and a lot of the great coaches he’s been around, too. He wants you playing to your potential. That’s how he wants you on the floor. Omar understands that, he’s gonna work extremely hard, and he’s healthy now. I think he’s heading back in the right direction. That’s the beautiful thing about basketball, it increases your value and your character if you grow as a human being and a basketball player. Obviously, at times, he wanted to see more minutes, like at the Garden. But I totally understand what Coach Ollie was doing, the situation he was in."

Keep in mind, any transfer talk regarding Calhoun this winter was pure, 100-percent speculation. But it was certainly on people's minds. It was on my mind, as his playing time
decreased so much that he played a total of four minutes in UConn's six NCAA tournament games. It probably was on Omar's mind, too.

"I'm pretty sure it crossed his mind," Omar, Sr. said. "But the situation he was in, he was always prepared in case his number was called. He wished he was out there, these are kids. But when it's all said and done, Kevin Ollie is a tremendous guy to be driving the bus. He accepted the challenge."

Omar, Sr. also pointed out that, not only did his son have off-season surgery on both hips that prevented him from working out until about October, but he also had smaller injuries throughout the season that hurt his production: a pair of turned ankles early in the season ("one time, Shabazz tried an alley-oop, and he coldn't even get off the ground because of his nagging ankle injury," his dad noted), a sore shoulder and a concussion that kept him out of a couple of games in mid-February.

But he's completely healthy now and ready to get back to the player he was. Omar, Sr. noted that there's one major reason his son was able to handle his tough times so well this season.

"He had the support of his family. I know basketball, I know right from wrong. A lot of parents don't. They fall into the trap. I never wavered from Coach Ollie. I told Omar to stay positive, stay ready. His number wasn't called. But if it was called, I'm pretty sure he would've helped out in the moment. But he's gonna accept this challenge. You can't run from challenges. Coach Ollie preaches perfection. I think (Omar) can make a nice living in the NBA, because he's gonna be prepared. He's gonna be a survivor, someone who knows what it takes when things are good, and when things are bad."

"I wouldn't trade this experience for the world," Omar, Sr. added. "Obviously, he would've loved to see more minutes. But he went through a great deal, and when he comes back next year, he'll be ready."

And, he'll be coming back as a UConn Husky.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kevin Ollie Talks with Gayle King on "CBS This Morning"

Transcript of Kevin Ollie's interview with Gayle King on "CBS This Morning":

GAYLE KING: Well, LeBron James said this about you, that Kevin Ollie has the coaching gene. Kevin Durant said, "He taught us a mindset and professional. And all of us wanted to be like him."

KEVIN OLLIE: Wow. That's-- that's pretty awesome.

KING: What's the Kevin Ollie formula for success?

OLLIE: Oh, man, it's just a lot of hard work. It's believing in yourself. It's a pride that I gotta get better at something every time I wake up.

KING: Okay, so we've been on YouTube. We've seen that "'Cause I'm happy." You even had a thing where you did a Jay-Z brush your shoulders off, too, Kevin.

OLLIE: Yeah, we have to brush the doubters off. We always gotta brush the doubters off.

KING: Let's talk about the doubters for a minute. 'Cause you inherited a team that was on academic probation. It wasn't these particular players. But because of that, U-Conn wasn't allowed to play last year. What do you do to motivate that group of-- that group of players? Because everybody says, "We're going to win." Everybody says that.

OLLIE: Yeah, I mean, you’re exactly right. Everybody brings it in before the season, say, "One, two, three, championship." I'm not chasing championships. Championships are chasing us. I'm not doing that. I want my players to be better people, once they leave campus. Because this is a life lesson. This is more than basketball. This is life lessons that we’re trying to teach.

KING: Let's talk about unionization. A lot of college campuses are talking about it for athletes. Where do you stand on that?

OLLIE: I just think they need a voice. Whatever that voice is. Somebody needs to be talking on their behalf. You know, NCAA can use your likeness for a lifetime. We have to do something for our student athletes. We have to change.

KING: Did you ever have any trepidation about stepping into the shoes of Coach Jim Calhoun? I remember Jim Calhoun.

OLLIE: I cannot step in his shoes. Only thing I'm glad that he passed me the baton. And I'm trying to run as fast as I can with it. And, you know, he's a great man. He's a father figure to me. But I gotta be Kevin Ollie. He seen something inside of me before I seen it.

KING: Before you saw it in yourself?

OLLIE: Oh yeah, even when I was a 17 year old coming from Los Angeles to Connecticut.

KING: What did he see?

OLLIE: Oh, he's seen a fighter. You know? He's seen somebody that-- you know, like, when I first got to campus, I'm a freshman. I'm playing against all these great players. And I'm like (MAKES NOISE). And I'm-- I went to the dorm after our first practice, I called my mother, said, "Mom, I’m coming home." I was crying. Last thing I heard was a click. (LAUGH) That's all--

KING: She hung up?

OLLIE: She hung up. And then-- I was like, "All right, I gotta go back, 'cause I can't go back home. So I just had to stick it out. And he just always told me, “Be the hardest worker. No matter what, just be the hardest worker."

KING: Mom did a favor hanging up on you.

OLLIE: She did a big time favor. She was like, "I sent you there for a reason, to get your degree and play basketball.”

KING: You played 11 different teams in 13 seasons You've been to a lot of different teams.

OLLIE: A lot of different teams. And I wasn't the most talented guy. So I had to watch tape. I had to-- I was playing, like, ten minutes. So I had to-- I had to make sure I knew every play, not only on my team, but the opposing team. So I had to do my homework. And when you put the work in, great things happen.

KING: Do you think that that-- what you learned as a player made you a better coach?

OLLIE: I'm so glad, when you look back at it, that I went and I was able to be around so many different players and so many coaches. Of course, when I was in the NBA, I wanted to stay in one city and have a 20-year contract and all that. But, It's good to come in the locker room. And you say, " Ollie's on one of those jerseys." So I don't care if I'm on a ten-day contract. I was on a make-good contract. Make-good contracts is-- every day, they can cut you. So I've been on all those. But that's what made me. And I'm so glad God took me on that journey.

KING: This was in the USA Today right before the tournament. Did you see this?

OLLIE: No, I didn't.

KING: Okay, this-- I thought this was really great. "Coach's pay, Kevin Ollie, $1.25. Billy Donovan, $3.9. John Calipari, $5.5. Bo Ryan, $2.2." There's a rumor that they're gonna renegotiate your contract. Should they just back up the truck? BEEP BEEP BEEP. What does Kevin Ollie want?

OLLIE: I just want the right conditions around my players. I want the right condition around them.

KING: I knew you wouldn't tell me the salary. But you are thinking, "I could probably get a little bit more than $1.25."

OLLIE: I mean, I imagine, because of a national championship, yeah. I mean, just like-- just rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. When your stock is up, yeah, I mean, it's more. But money don't move me. I played in the NBA. That don't make a man. We’re gonna sit down and negotiate. But I want the best for U-Conn.

KING: So even coming in here today, somebody sees you, somebody on the street, and says, "Hey, Kevin Ollie, you going to the NBA." Has the NBA called?

OLLIE: No, NBA hasn't called. No.

KING: If the NBA called, would you answer?

OLLIE: No, not now in my life. Like I say, I can't never --say no--

KING: Don't let me pick up the paper next week Kevin and it says, "Guess what? (LAUGH) So and so has called and Kevin has accepted the call." There's no secret meetings?

OLLIE: No. I'm just worried-- worried about my kids here at the University of Connecticut. And I got three guys-- four guys is gonna graduate on time. And I want to be there for the graduation. That's actually, that's gonna be even better than the national championship. I'm never gonna say never, but I'm having so much fun. It's my dream job.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

President Obama Congratulates Kevin Ollie, Geno Auriemma

From the White House, Office of the Press Secretary:

Today, the President called University of Connecticut Men’s Basketball Head Coach Kevin Ollie and University of Connecticut Women’s Basketball Head Coach Geno Auriemma to congratulate both teams on their respective National Championship wins in the Men’s and Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournaments. The President commended Coach Ollie and his team on their decisive championship victory and noted that he enjoyed watching the team throughout their tournament run. On the call with Coach Auriemma, the President expressed how impressive it’s been to see the team continue to dominate the field of Women’s NCAA Basketball and commended Coach Auriemma on yet another championship win. The President told both Coaches that he looks forward to congratulating their teams at the White House in the coming months.

*** Elsewhere, as we mentioned on this blog over the weekend, the UConn men and women will be recognized at Fenway Park on April 22, prior to the Red Sox-Yankees game. No details yet on exactly how they'll be honored (first pitches, etc.), but we'll have those in the coming days.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

AAC Tournament Moving to Hartford for 2015

Win a national championship, get the conference tournament in your backyard.

The 2015 American Athletic Conference tournament will be held at the XL Center in Hartford.

“We are pleased to bring our 2015 men’s basketball championship to the city of Hartford and to this outstanding arena,” said AAC commish Mike Aresco. “The success of UConn’s men’s and women’s teams this year has made Connecticut the center of college basketball nationally. This event will enjoy tremendous fan support and our visitors will enjoy the many attractions in Hartford and its surrounding communities.”

Sounds like it's a one-year deal. The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that the tourney will be held in Orlando in 2016 and 2017. Aresco said an announcement about those years' sites will be made on Tuesday. There will also be announcements on the site of next year's women's tourney, as well as a bowl game, later this week.

Aresco said that moving to Hartford has no bearing on the women's tourney, which was held at Mohegan Sun this season and will likely be held there again next season.

“Today’s announcement puts Hartford back in the basketball tournament business,” said Governor of Connecticut Dannel P. Malloy. “While this is great news for next year, I am even more excited for what this means in the future. I believe we can and should be in consideration for more NCAA tournament events, and I will continue to push to bring those games to our state. I want to thank the American Athletic Conference for making this decision. I also want to send a message to college basketball fans everywhere – come to Hartford next March. You won’t be disappointed.”

“We're honored and proud to have been chosen to host this prestigious event,” said Global Spectrum's Chris Lawrence, General Manager of the XL Center. “Through the commitment and unified approach of Global Spectrum, the Capital Region Development Authority, the city of Hartford and the downtown business community, we're extremely excited and eager to showcase Hartford. Combined with our scheduled summer renovations and an ever-growing events calendar, the American Athletic Conference Men's Basketball Championship will highlight a resurgent XL Center.”

The inaugural AAC tourney was held this past March at FedExForum in Memphis, and the league had a one-year option to remain at FedExForum for 2015. But the league has decided to move to Hartford instead.

Attendance at the inaugural tourney was solid but unspectacular, especially after UConn knocked out the home team in a first-round game. Louisville brought a decent amount of fans from not too far away, but, of course, the Cardinals will be in the ACC next season.

With the conference championships in Hartford, good crowds can be expected -- assuming UConn doesn't get bounced in the first round.

Memphis, which offered Beale Street, blues music, Graceland and several other interesting tourist attractions (not to mention a strong college basketball fan contingency) was a good choice for Year One. Hartford remains to be seen.

Here's what Kevin Ollie and Warde Manuel had to say:


“We are excited and proud that the American Athletic Conference has chosen the XL Center as the site for next season’s men’s championship tournament. It will give more of our great fans in Connecticut a chance to watch the intensity and competitiveness of postseason play. Last year’s tournament in Memphis brought together some of the top teams in the country and I know next year in Hartford will do the same. We want to keep Connecticut in the college basketball spotlight.”


“I am very excited that the American Athletic Conference men’s basketball tournament is coming to Hartford in 2015. I want to congratulate Governor Dannel Malloy and the state of Connecticut, UConn alumnus Andy Bessette and the Connecticut Region Development Authority and Chris Lawrence and the staff at Global Spectrum for submitting an excellent proposal that resulted in the event coming to our capital city. We believe that our loyal UConn fans will once again fill the XL Center for our men’s and women’s basketball games in 2014-15 and that will continue during the 2015 American men’s tournament.”

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Shabazz Napier on Kevin Ollie: "He's Not Going Anywhere." Ollie Essentially Agrees

Some quotes and video from today's parade, where we learned that Kevin Ollie "isn't going anywhere," but DeAndre Daniels, Ryan Boatright could be.

Shabazz Napier talked about his "hungry Huskies" comment and what he really meant by it:

(on appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated)

“Man, that’s surreal. My stepfather had bought a couple of magazines. I just saw it first glance, that’s just so surreal. I can’t believe that.”

(on now getting ready for NBA workouts)

“I knew, going into the tournament, before the first game, I’ve got to be prepared for anything, whether we lose or win. I’ve been preparing myself since then. I played well in the tournament, so it kind of showed how much I was prepared. But I”ve got a lot more to prepare for, a lot more to work on, because that’s a big jump.”

(on LeBron James saying on Twitter that Napier should be the first point guard taken in the 2014 draft):

“I don’t social network. But that is definitely cool. It’s just so surreal to see guys who you look up to shout you out and say stuff like that. I want people to know that, at the end of the day, they’re not picking. I wish they were. But at the end of the day, I’m going to go out there and treat every opportunity I have like an interview, like it is, and hopefully their words can get inside people’s heads. Maybe it’ll work. But I’m gonna work, no matter what.”

(on rumors of Kevin Ollie leaving for the NBA)

“He’s not going anywhere. He loves this university. When you love this university with the passion he has, he’s gonna stay here until they tell him he’s got to leave.”

“I doubt that he will leave. But, at the end of the day, I state what I believe.”

*** Incidentally, if you were wondering whether or not Jim Calhoun was at the parade, he wasn't. Calhoun was vacationing in Hilton Head, S.C.

*** Ryan Boatright said he'll talk to Kevin Ollie on Monday and his family this week regarding his future, and if he wants to turn pro or not.

(Boatright on paying attention to what scouts, critics, etc. say about his game translating to the NBA)

“You do a little bit. You take the good with the bad. Everybody ain’t gonna believe in you or think you’re a pro. So, you’ve just got to take the good with the bad and have firm belief in yourself, firm confidence.”

(on whether the idea of being "The Man" next year would help lead him to decide to return to UConn for his senior season)L

“It ain’t even about being the man. It’s just getting to put on the UConn uniform again, just having another chance to do this again. These type of experiences drive you to want to do it again. This is something special. It felt good to be a part of this.”

*** Ollie said nothing's really changed over the past week after winning a national title.

"I have to walk my dog and pick up the poop, all that stuff. Dogs don’t really care. Nothing’s really changed. It’s just amazing. I know their lives are going to change.”

“It’s great to be the fourth African-American head coach to win a national championship, to be with those names, mention my name with them, it means the world to be. Hopefully, it creates the path for other African-Americans that can get these jobs and perform very, very well.

He said he talked with John Thompson and Nolan Richardson at the Final Four, and plans to reach out to Tubby Smith, as well.

(on if anything would shake him to leave UConn for the NBA):

“No. Nothing will shake me. I love this place. Like anything else, I evaluate it each and every year. I want the conditions right around my student-athletes. You just never know where the NCAA is going in years to come. I want to make sure the university is doing everything possible for our student-athletes to succeed. If I don’t see that, maybe it’s an opportunity for me to leave. But I’m going to evaluate that each and every year, and it’s perfect right now. We’re doing everything it takes for our student-athletes to get their grades and do certain things on the road and have a great experience at this university.”

(on a possible contract re-negotiation with Warde Manuel)

"We’re going to sit down. Whatever it takes, I want to be here at the University of Connecticut. Hopefully, we can come up with a great solution that benefits not only me, but benefits the university going forward.”

(on what he'll tell Boatright and DeAndre Daniels about leaving for the pros)

“I’m just going to give them information that I’ve received from general managers, and then they’re going to have to make their own decisions. I don’t want to make any decisions for them. I want them to be committed, if they’re gonna come back. They’ve got to have the right attitude. If they decide to go to the pros, they’re gonna have to have the right attitude. I’m gonna give them information, and they’re gonna have to make the decision that’s best for their family. Not what’s best for UConn. What’s best for them and their family. And hopefully, they make the right decision and be committed to it. If you decide to go the NBA, you’d better be in the best shape of your life. If you decide to come back to UConn, you’d better be in the best shape of your life. I know they will.”

(It's worth noting that Daniels, one of the most congenial guys on the team, didn't want to talk to the media on Sunday)

Ollie has been out recruiting the past few days and said he hasn't heard anything yet about anyone possibly transferring from the program, but will start meeting individually with players on Monday.

"From what I hear now, they’re working, they’re in the weight room already. When they come to my office, I’m going to be all ears and all heart opened to them. Because they gave me so much. Even the guys that weren’t playing, they were great teammates. Whatever it takes for them to be better – if that’s moving on or if that’s staying at the University of Connecticut – I’m gonna be there for them.”

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Huskies Putting in Some Bullpen Sessions?

To the victors go the spoils: UConn's national-champion men's and women's basketball teams will be feted in numerous ways over the coming weeks and months. There will be Sunday's parade, which is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of fans. There will be trips to the White House, championship dinners and loads of other stuff.

There will also likely be ceremonial first pitches. Now, the question becomes, where do these pitches happen -- Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, CitiField ... or, possibly, nowhere at all.

The UConn women will almost certainly be taking part in ceremonial first pitches at Fenway Park on Tuesday, April 22, according to a source from the Red Sox. The men may join them that day, but that hasn't been determined yet. There are minor issues like classwork and the like that the Huskies must catch up on after their incredible run through March and early April.

Invitations have also come from the Yankees and Mets. This makes things even more intriguing. The 2011 team did the honors at Yankee Stadium.  Kemba Walker, the New York native (and non-baseball fan) threw out the pitch, but he was joined by Roscoe Smith, Alex Oriakhi and several other teammates. Not Jim Calhoun, however -- he threw out the first pitch at Fenway Park a few days later. Just as he'd done in 2004, after saying that he had rejected the Yankees' offer (this was later found to be an embellishment, at best).

Now, the question is -- does UConn, which is trying to strengthen its foothold in New York and will be playing a football game next November in the Bronx, go with Yankee Stadium? What about CitiField -- let's not forget, SNY broadcasts both UConn and Mets games.

Maybe there's a happy medium. Maybe Roxbury native Shabazz Napier does the honors at Fenway, while other UConn players accept the Yankees and/or Mets' offers.

Or maybe nothing comes of it at all. Seriously, there are classroom issues to take care of, and that's a concern for the Huskies over the next couple of months.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

UConn Dual Championship Parade to be Held Sunday

As I'm sure you all know by now ...

Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced on Wednesday that the Hartford Business Improvement District will host a victory parade and rally in Hartford on Sunday, April 13 to congratulate the UConn women’s and men’s Basketball Team for winning the 2014 NCAA women’s and men’s basketball national championships.

The parade, which will begin and end at the State Capitol, starts at 4:00 p.m. and will be immediately followed by a victory rally on the north steps of the State Capitol building.

“A decade after claiming both titles, UConn women and men have once again focused the spotlight of college basketball on Connecticut by bringing home another dual national championship and proving to the nation why the road to the Final Four always runs through Connecticut,” Governor Malloy said. “I’m looking forward to joining thousands of Husky fans in Hartford on Sunday to let the both teams and Coaches Auriemma and Ollie know how proud we are of their success this season.”

Governor Malloy added, “I want to thank the Hartford Business Improvement District for again hosting this event, organizing its sponsors, and allowing Connecticut residents to celebrate another national championship team from our state.”

Organizers continue to rely on private funds to support the parade and the rally. These celebratory events are produced by the Hartford Business Improvement District and the MetroHartford Alliance, in collaboration with the City of Hartford, the State of Connecticut, and a number of civic and business organizations. Companies may choose from several sponsorship levels ranging from $10,000 (marching at the head of the parade) to $1,000 or less. To discuss parade sponsorship opportunities, quickly contact Michael Zaleski at the Hartford Business Improvement District (HBID) at 860-728-2274 or mzaleski@hartfordbid.com.

The parade will begin at the State Capitol, travel north on Trinity Street, take a right on Jewell Street, bear right at Gold Street and halfway around Pulaski Circle onto Hudson Street, then make a right onto Capitol Avenue before returning to the State Capitol, where the rally will be held.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Shabazz Napier's Sports Illustrated Cover

UConn, National Champions. Again.

Well, that happened. Another national championship for UConn. In my opinion, the most unlikely of the Huskies' four. Yes, even more unlikely than the 2011, Kemba-led run.

Not sure what more to write at this point, so we'll leave you with some video:

Shabazz Napier was emotional as he watched "One Shining Moment" on the video board. Kevin Ollie consoled him and gave him a kiss.

Here, Napier explains why this title is so special:

Richard Hamilton on UConn's title:

UConn celebrating on the podium:

DeAndre Daniels with his new hardware:

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Check Out Our Live Blog of National Championship Game: UConn-Kentucky

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Time Heals All Wounds with Jim Calhoun, John Calipari; Mark Emmert, UConn

John Calipari had just left the AT&T Center floor after Kentucky’s Final Four win over Wisconsin Saturday night when he bumped into an old adversary.

“We’ll go after this again,” Calipari said to Jim Calhoun.

“Yeah,” Calhoun replied, “but the other guy might be tougher than me.”

Calhoun, of course, was referring to Kevin Ollie, his heir apparent who has led UConn into the national championship game in just his second season as head coach. Indeed, while Calhoun vs. Calipari would add even more spice to Monday night’s national championship game, Ollie and Calipari are prepared to being their own rivalry.

It certainly seems to be getting off to a friendlierstart than the one Calhoun and Calipari were involved in years ago.

“Wonderful coach,” Ollie said of Calipari on Sunday. “Everybody says he’s a great motivator. Yeah, but he’s a great coach, too. To get all those guys to buy in and not give up on them … you see the fruits of their labor right now. They’re playing their best basketball, they allow their teams to play the best basketball and grow up and mature.”

Ollie and Calipari actually share a bit of history – Calipari was Larry Brown’s assistant coach with the 76ers in 1999-2000 when Ollie was on the team.

“He is one of the wonderful people that I’ve ever come across in my life,” Calipari said. “Genuine, loyal, and a great coach. Because you know what he was doing while he was playing? He was coaching. That’s how he played. He was an unbelievable student of the gam then. He was teaching me when I was in Philly. As an assistant for Coach Brown, he was teaching me. So, fond memories.”

Much fonder than Calipari’s memories of his rivalry with Calhoun years ago, when Calipari was the new guy at UMass, trying to make an imprint in New England college basketball, and Calhoun was the veteran who didn’t want to cede anything.

“It was a rivalry,” Calipari recalled. “We wanted it to be, they did not. Which I don’t blame them. They were in the Big East, we were in the Atlantic 10. We really didn’t play each other, but you had two teams going at each other.”

UMass and UConn played just twice when Calipari was there, with the Huskies winning both games, once in Storrs (104-75 in 1989) and once at Amherst (94-75 in 1990). The schools’ yearly rivalry resumed in 1997, almost immediately after Calipari left to coach the Nets.

Still, time heals all wounds.

“Sometimes, the things we fight each other about, we forget years later why we’re fighting,” Calhoun said on Sunday. “John’s trying to do his job. He does it differently than how we do it at UConn. But, he certainly is a good coach, he’s had great success with the young kids that he’s coached.”

He added: “There are very few guys that you stay mad at. When you’re competing against someone over players, over scoreboards, trying to win games … as far as John goes, he’s got a chance to win his second national championship. He’s certainly done a good job.”


Boatright talked about how tough it was to grow up in Aurora.

"People say it's the suburbs, but when they tear the projects down in Chicago, where's everybody gonna go? They're going to Aurora. It's just like Chicago. It's tough, man. There's gang activity, stuff like that. It's a rough environment. So just growing up in it and being a small guy, you're naturally just tough. You can't be a punk. My mom's the same way. She had me at 16. She just raised me to be a tough dude, but to be smart at the same time, which is why I'm here in college and not in jail or dead. Growing up like that, man, seeing the things I saw and going through the things I've been through, I'm fearless. Nothing scares me. 


Cheshire’s Pat Lenehan, the junior walk-on who played at Xavier High, hasn’t been able to sit on the bench during UConn’s NCAA run. In the tournament, teams only have 17 seats on the bench, as opposed to 19 during the regular season. So Lenehan and sophomore walk-on Nnamdi Amilo have ceded their spots on the bench to senior walk-on Tor Watts.

“Tor earned the spot last year and he’s a senior, so I wouldn’t even want to rotate at this point,” Lenehan said. “It would be really cool for me to be on the bench, but I’m happy for Tor. He’s gotten into two tournament games. I’m happy for everything he’s been able to do.”

Lenehan’s greatest accomplishments, of course, have come in the classroom. He recently earned a Goldwater Scholarship, one of the most prestigious undergraduate academic honors in the nation.


NCAA president Mark Emmert met with the media Sunday and was asked how he felt about UConn, a team barred from the postseason a year ago due to APR penalties, being in the title game.

“I’m personally very pleased at it,” he said. “The reality is that the University of Connecticut, as we all know, had really abysmal APR performance for a consistent period of time. They had to achieve, in relatively short order, essentially a 1,000 APR, a perfect score. They have got a new president, new coach, new AD, and they were deeply committed to making those changes and they have done it. It’s actually very impressive.”

Emmert was provost and chancellor at UConn in the late-1990’s.

“It was painful for me to watch them go through that,” he continued. “As the former chief academic officer, it was painful to watch them go through those kind of issues, and I’m delighted that they’re doing well, not just on the court, but in the classroom.”

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Saturday, April 5, 2014

No Fluke Here: UConn Heading to National Championship Game After Final Four Win Over Florida

This is really getting pretty amazing. In fact, this UConn run may surpass the 2011 run -- even if the Huskies don't win on Monday night.

I mean, at least in 2011, you had the Big East tourney run as evidence that maybe the Huskies were getting hot at the right time (or, as many thought, maybe they would be burnt out by NCAA tourney time).

Really, how could you have seen this coming? The 34-point loss to Louisville a few weeks ago? The 10-point loss to the Cardinals in the AAC title game that really felt like a 20-point loss? Getting outplayed for most of regulation by St. Joe's in their opener before getting saved by a 3-point play by (of all people) Amida Brimah?

Go ahead and say you saw all this coming. You're lying.

My game column focuses on how UConn's Final Four win over Florida was no fluke -- the exact word used by CBSsports.com's Gregg Doyel in reference to the Huskies' Dec. 2 win over the Gators in Storrs.

Here's a couple of UConn players talking about the whole "fluke thing":

And here are a few notes from tonight's game:

UConn showed flashes of being a very good defensive team at times this season. But this is getting ridiculous.

The Huskies’ team defense was swarming and suffocating once again in their Final Four victory over Florida Saturday night. They held the Gators to 38 percent shooting, 1-for-10 from 3-point land. They forced them into 11 turnovers but, more to the point, made Florida look uncomfortable offensively throughout the contest.

It was similar to UConn’s 60-54 win over Michigan State on Sunday in the Elite Eight in which the Huskies turned the bigger, more physical Spartans into a perimeter team (29 3-point attempts) thanks to their choking defense.

The game plan was a little different this time around, according to associate head coach Glen Miller.

“(Florida’s) offense is really good when it can flow from one side to the other,” Miller said. “We just shut it down and kept it on one side, all their ball-screen actions, we kept it to coffin corner. They couldn’t change sides, they were uncomfortable, couldn’t get into their offensive flow. Even when we were struggling offensively early, we were still defending.”

Ryan Boatright led the charge up top, harrassing Florida point guard Scottie Wilkbekin into an awful (2-for-9, four points) night. Shabazz Napier had four steals, most notably one with just under seven minutes left, when he picked Wilbekin’s pocket and hit Boatright with a pass for a layup that gave the Huskies a 47-40 lead.

And though UConn’s big men were largely plagued by foul trouble, they kept the Gators from penetrating most of the night.

“This is the best we’ve defended all year,” said Miller. “A good defensive team has become a great defensive team in this tournament.”

Rodney Shows Respect

Rodney Purvis, the talented guard who has sat out this entire season due to NCAA transfer rules, arrived in Dallas on Friday and was in the locker room after the game.

“Nobody really had us making it this far,” said Purvis, who transferred from NC State last year. “I’ve been a fan, that’s the reason I came to this school. I knew what we can do. Not being able to play, it’s tough. But I’m enjoying my time sitting on the side, becoming a better student of the game by watching and learning from Shabazz and Boat.”

On Friday, UConn coach Kevin Ollie called Purvis “a Ferrari sitting in the garage that I can’t drive.” Purvis will be eligible to play next season, of course. But for now, he can’t dress with the team or sit on the bench, and his entire trip to the Final Four must be on his own dime. He and his mother came down, though Purvis is still spending time with his teammates.

“I’ve been hanging out with them, though,” he said. “They can’t stop me from that.”

No Pain Stuart

UConn may have dodged a bullet — at least in the minds of its fans — when the officials were announced for Saturday’s game. Or, more aptly, when a certain official wasn’t assigned to the game.

Mike Stuart, who famously ejected Kevin Ollie from the Huskies’ 76-64 loss to Louisville on Jan. 18 at Gampel Pavilion, was one of 10 officials in the pool to work Saturday’s Final Four games. However, he didn’t draw the UConn-Florida bout: John Higgins, Mike Stephens and Doug Sirmons drew the duty (with Mike Roberts as standby).

Stuart ejected Ollie about seven minutes into the second half of that game after Ollie ran up and down the sidelines, incensed that no foul had been called on a Niels Giffey shot attempt. He got hit with a technical by Stuart, then a second one just a few seconds later, ejecting him from the game.

Ollie had to be escorted off the court by director of basketball administration Kevin Freeman, and had some choice words for both Stuart and fellow official Ted Valentine on his way out.

After the game, Ollie was apologetic for his actions, but didn’t back down from his belief a foul should have been called. A couple of days later, he said: “I did (overreact), a little bit, when I ran down the baseline. But, it happens. Hopefully, we can move on. Hopefully, Stuart can move on from the game and we can all be better from it.”

Stuart was on the whistle for Saturday’s other national semifinal bout between Kentucky and Wisconsin. It’s not yet known who will officiate Monday night’s championship game.

Rim Rattlings

• UConn is the third team to be a No. 7 seed or lower and reach the national championship game since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. No. 8 Butler advanced in 2011, and No. 8 Villanova in 1985. The Bulldogs, of course, lost to Kemba Walker and the Huskies.
• Ollie is the first coach to reach the national title game within his first two seasons since interim coach Mike Davis led Indiana to the 2002 title game.
• UConn is now 5-0 in Final Four games played in the state of Texas.

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Do Join Us On Our Live Blog for UConn's Final Four Bout with Florida

Friday, April 4, 2014

Some UConn Video and Quotes from the Final Four

DeAndre Daniels was once heavily recruited by Florida. Now, methinks he may be the key to beating the Gators in the Final Four Saturday night.

Meanwhile, Jim Calhoun had some interesting things to say about how proud he is of Kevin Ollie.

Some video of UConn at AT&T Stadium today:

*** Glen Miller on Amida Brimah's improvement over the season:

“People don’t really know how talented he is offensively. He’s more talented than he appears to be. He’s got a terrific right-hand and left-hand half-hook. As he gains strength and he can get better post position, you’ll see more scoring out of him going forward. Defensively, he’s got a great talent to block shots. But, when he has to come out away from the basket and play pick-and-roll defense, things like that, we’ve had to work with him a lot on that. A guy with his height and ability to block shots, when he gets drawn out from the basket a little bit … so often now, you see four and five guys that can step out and shoot the ball away from the basket, put it on the floor a little bit. So, his ability to guard away from the basket is probably what he’s had to work the most on.”

*** Some of the transcript of UConn's press conference:

Q.  What did you learn from guys like George Karl, Larry Brown, even Coach Calhoun, about trying to get guys to buy into a certain way of going about their business?
COACH OLLIE:  Just every day having the consistency.  We look at it as you can be a pro or you can be a professional.  A pro just does it in convenient times.  A professional does it in inconvenient times and convenient times.  You do it over and over again, and it becomes habit. 
That's what I try to put on my team each and every day, to get better at something.  If we can do that, we'll get better and we'll win games and we'll win together.  I learned that from George Karl.  I learned that from Larry Brown, of course Larry Brown, because he's a perfectionist.  He wants you to do certain things the right way, and especially the things you can control, which is your attitude and the way you show up each and every day.  I learned that from him because without him I wouldn't be here. 
Just the toughness that you got to show each and every day.  Hopefully it feeds over into my coaching staff. 

Q.  In your two years as the head coach, how much has it helped to have such a connection to UConn on your staff as well as the older players who come back and impart wisdom on your current guys?
COACH OLLIE:  Oh, it's invaluable.  I can't put a price tag on it.  I can go through my coaching staff, two of my coaches coached me.  Glen Miller coached me my freshman year, my sophomore year when I didn't know anything.  I'm just walking around as a freshman and trying to find my way, and Coach Calhoun's screaming at me and I didn't understand what he was saying, and I'm very glad Glen was there.  Now he's on my staff. 
Coach Hobbs came in after Glen left and he coached me my junior and senior year.  That's when I really started taking off as a point guard and really establishing myself as a basketball player and a point guard.  I loved those guys to death.  To see them on my staff now, and then couple that with the younger coaches that I got on my staff, two of the guys played on our 1999 National Championship team. 
So my coaching staff, I tell them they're the best in America because they young, but they're all UConn guys.  They all graduated.  They all got their degrees from UConn.  It's a beautiful synergy that we have because we all have that common denominator that we played for UConn.  We know what it takes to put that jersey on and the pride that we are playing for each and every night.

Q.  You joining the UConn program was sort of contingent on there being a position open on Jim's staff.  There's a position open, and so you get it, and then Jim retires and now here we are.  Would you be in college coaching if not for a position being open at that particular time right now?  Do you have any idea what else you might be doing?
COACH OLLIE:  I would have probably been with the Thunder, because I had an opportunity to stay with the Thunder in different capacities.  Me and Sam Presti is great friends and he wanted me to come back and be a coach or be in the front office with him. 
I could have still played because I'm not a free agent that's going to get signed July 1st.  So I usually get signed probably in September right before training camp.  So I didn't have that luxury to see what was the free agent market. 
So I decided to just go back to UConn.  They had a spot open even before the season was over with.  That spot was open, and I decided to many could back.  I wanted to be closer to my family.  The last five years of my NBA career, my family stayed in Glastonbury, Connecticut, while I was at Oklahoma City, Minnesota Timberwolves, Philly 76ers, so I wanted to be close to them.
It's nothing like coming back home and being at University of Connecticut and everybody say, How do you recruit?  It's like recruiting is natural for me because I'm not making nothing up or anything, this is what I believe in.  I said I sat in those same seats, I went to the same classes that you're going to, and it's just a part of me.  I love the university and I want to be here for a long time. 

Q.  Kasey Hill didn't play the last time when you guys beat Florida in December.  What sort of problems does he present in contrast to maybe Scottie Wilbekin when Kasey Hill is in the game?
COACH OLLIE:  Kasey, with his speed, his ability to make plays, Scottie does the same thing, but it gives them an opportunity, kind of like us, where we can play 2‑point guards at the same time.  They didn't have that option when they played us last time. 
I don't think I had the option of Terrence Samuel either, because he wasn't playing a lot.  Now I can put three point guards out there. 
So it's a different game.  That was four months ago.  We're a different team.  I'm a different coach.  Billy Donovan's definitely got better understanding his team and what it takes for his team to win.  So it's going to be a whole different game. 
But Kasey Hill is a wonderful player. 
Now they got Chris Walker back in the rotation, which they didn't have before.  It's going to be a challenge for us.  We have to play our A‑game.  I've been telling the guys we don't have a B‑ or C‑game.  We just got an A‑game and that's what we got to bring each and every night when you step out on the floor and play in the NCAA tournament. 

Q.  What's your relationship like with Billy Donovan?
COACH OLLIE:  Just cordial.  We haven't had an opportunity to spend a lot of time together, but just on a recruiting trail.  Especially when I first got into the business and seeing all the coaches, they were very cordial to he me saying, Welcome.  Saying all the bad things about coaching, but also the good things.  We stay in the gyms for 15 hours and all that stuff.  But it was great just to see all the coaches. 
I admire Billy Donovan from afar even when I was playing.  To do the different things that he's done at the age of 48, he's definitely a Hall of Famer where he's built the program, predominantly football school, and he took it and made it a basketball school also.  I have so much respect for him, and getting his teams to win each and every year is tough.  To build a program that's tough, but to sustain it is even tougher.  He's sustained it over a lot of years there at Florida. 
I respect him so much.  I just look at how hard his teams play each and every play.  It's not each and every game, each and every play, and that's what I respect. 

Q.  Transfers have changed college basketball.  Billy Donovan has four.  I think you have two.  Wisconsin has one.  They're more predominant today.  How does that affect you guys from a recruiting standpoint?  It's almost like a little bit of a free agency situation. 
COACH OLLIE:  Yeah, you definitely got to look at the transferring, transfer market, the five‑year graduate students also.  We have been doing a real good job with that having assigned Kromah here this year from GW, and last we had R.J. Evans from Holy Cross.  They played a great role a leadership role on our team. 
We have Rodney Purvis that's sitting out right now, he's like a Ferrari sitting in the garage that I can't drive.  But he's practicing and getting better.  He's just a wonderful person.  It's tough for guys to sit out like that.  They think that they can be better changing venues and I want to just make sure they understand that they're a part of this team, too, while they sit out. 

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH OLLIE:  I mean, it is different.  It's a different situations.  I know it's probably good for Rodney because he wanted to change.  He's a good kid.  He had to be penalized by sitting out and he can't be here with us in the Final Four, but he's here in spirit. 
But I think he's going to be a better person for it because he made a decision, and that's what you want young kids to be committed, by making a decision.  He decided to leave NC State and come here.  We want to make this the best situation for him. 
For us, we don't lack for all transfers, but we do look for certain situations that we evaluate basketball players on their character.  We think that's a good fit for our team and transfer fifth year seniors.  If it's a good fit for our team, we're going to look at it and explore that option. 

Q.  You've experienced this world as an athlete.  You've experienced this world as an assistant coach, now as a head coach.  If there was just one common sense change that you would say to the NCAA, I would like to make, what would that be and why?
COACH OLLIE:  Yeah, I mean, that's so hard.  You have to get in the room and you have to sacrifice a little bit.  Everybody got to come to a compromising position.  I think that me playing, we never played in venues like this.  The venues got bigger, the ticket prices got more. 
We have to find out a way that we can involve the student‑athletes a little bit more, give them more benefits and help them out even more.  I would like to see, you know, when they graduate, medical benefits or something like that, a 401K.  Something when they get out of playing that they have something to fall back on. 
I don't know the right way to go.  I don't know the wrong way to go.  But I want to see us getting in a room and start changing a little bit because I've seen all this change.  My last game was in the Oakland Coliseum in 1995.  This is definitely a bigger venue than that. 
So I would like to see things change.  Hopefully we can come to a situation where we can get better as student‑athletes and it's a business.  Hopefully we can get better at that. 

Q.  When you were an athlete, was there ever a moment where you looked at what was going on around you and you saw the contradictions in what was going on?
COACH OLLIE:  Of course you seen it.  We wasn't getting paid and you see our jerseys getting sold.  So you seen it.  But at the end of the day, I was living the dream.  I was at University of Connecticut.  I was playing basketball.  The relationships I have now with my friends back in 1995, through 1991 and 1995, I still have today.  They're here at the Final Four with me and they're celebrating this achievement of our teal. 
So I can never put a price tag on the relationships I have.  I got my degree in communications, so I can never put a price tag on that.  But definitely things got to change.  You're aware of it.  At the end of the day, I'm getting a great education and I embrace that.  I want our kids to embrace that because it's a great time in their lives and they should be celebrating that instead of looking at all the negative things. 

Q.  Could you contrast for me Billy's got a team that's considered one of the more balanced teams in the country.  You've got a great team as well, but you heavily reliant on a star.  I'm just wondering from your own comfort level, do you prefer having a team that's maybe a little bit more dependent on one guy to carry the load or would you prefer the balanced situation?  Could you contrast those two situations?
COACH OLLIE:  I just want to be at the Final Four.  Okay.  I don't care how I get here.  It could be Ryan playing good, Bazz playing good.  I think we have a complete team, too.  I think you can't get here by one player.  If you seen our games, you had DeAndre Daniels stepping up in one game.  If Amida Brimah didn't make the three‑point play against St. Joseph's, we wouldn't be here.  That wasn't Shabazz. 
Shabazz is a great player, don't get me wrong.  But I think we got more balance than a lot of people give us credit for.  Ryan Boatright is playing unselfish basketball and that's really allowing us to flourish on the offensive end.  We have Niels Giffey that's a deadeye three‑point shooter that's playing a bigger role than he played last year. 
So I give a lot of credit to my team.  A lot of people don't talk about our front court because they don't score all the points, but they are tough.  We showed that against Michigan State shutting down Dawson and shutting down Adreian Payne, and Shabazz didn't really have a hand in that.  Our bigs had to do that job and control the paint and limit them to six points and in the paint. 
So we have a more complete team than a lot of people give us credit for. 

Q.  Coach and Ryan, just to follow‑up on the question about Ryan and his defense, when a guy comes into the school offering 31 points a game, what's the process like to get a guy to become a defensive player and a stopper?  For Ryan, coach was talking about you having an evolution as a player and becoming more coachable.  Just wondering how you develop that, how you have become more coachable and how you have evolved since being at UConn. 
COACH OLLIE:  I just think when you come from high school, you are All‑American, but you're not always surrounded by All‑Americans also in your high school team.  So you're going to have to understand it's a part of a team and you're going to have to find your way. 
When I came in the school I had Ray Allen and Donyell Marshall and I scored a lot.  But I found out that them guys can score more.  I had to I understand a way to get in the rotation.  For me it was playing defense. 
Ryan is an explosive scorer.  He does some great things.  But I think for him to get to that next level, he has to make his teammates better.  That's what he's starting to do.  That's what he's starting to embrace, and it's great to see. 
That's how he's going to get to the next level and continue to play, is to embrace his teammates and make everyone better.  That might be scoring, some nights that he scores 20 points.  Some nights he scores 10.  But you can always be a great teammate. 
I think all of our student‑athletes are understanding that it's not all about being great players, but every day, every time we step out on the court, every time you put that UConn jersey on, you can be a great teammate.  I think that's what we're starting to get on a more consistent basis.  I think that's allowing us to get to this venue and play in a Final Four and have 80 minutes from cutting down the nets. 
RYAN BOATRIGHT:  Like he said, when you in high school and you're scoring 50, 60 points, averaging 33, you think you know it all.  When I got to this level I was coachable, but I always had something to say back.  So I learned right away playing for Coach Calhoun that that ain't a good thing to do.  I just started listening more and knowing that I didn't know it all.  I wasn't as good as I thought I was. 
So Coach Ollie said, Open your heart and open your ears so you can get better, and I just started doing that. 

Q.  Coach, when kids were deciding whether to go or not, and can you specifically speak to Roscoe, when they go through that decision, what is your advice, if anything?  How do you take kids through the process of, Will they stay, will they go?  Can you speak about, he would be a senior on this team, so he started as a freshman, what role would he have?  Through that process, we talked to Shabazz about did you re‑recruit him or did they just have to make up their minds on their own?
COACH OLLIE:  You tell them about the value of coming back and what role you expect them to play when they comeback.  But at the end of the day, I can't make anybody want to come back.  I can't make their decision. It wouldn't be right for me to have them come back against their will.  They got to make their own decision. 
At the end of the day, I told Roscoe to think about it, and I want to be your coach, I want you to stay here at this program because I believe it's the greatest program in the nation.  But at the end of the day, he has to make his own decision.  I can give him suggestions, but at the end of the day, he got to make his own decision.  He decided to go to UNLV, and it worked out great for him, you know. 
These guys decided to stay.  It worked out great for them.  So that's how life is.  You ask for wisdom from your family and they thought that was the best choice for him.  He thought in his heart that was the best choice for him.  So I wish him all the luck.  I love Roscoe still to this day, and I think he had a great run this year rebounding the basketball, doing all the different things that we wanted him to do while he was at the University of Connecticut. 
I'm glad I got this team here.  I'm glad these guys believed in the program, believed in me, but most importantly believed in each other to stay, to fight through the tough times, and now they're reaping the benefits. 

Q.  Kevin and DeAndre and Phillip, you were talking about how you don't feel your front court gets enough props because it's so much focused on the back court in shutting down Dawson and Payne that was a great example.  Can you compare the challenges that they have compared to Florida's bigs, specifically, and maybe how your guys are equipped to handle that? 
COACH OLLIE:  First of all, it starts with activity for our bigs.  They did a great job widening, they did a great job boxing out.  We call it, 'commit to hit.'  Every available hit, make sure you take it and that's what they did. 
DeAndre was doing a great job finding his niche in our offense.  He's a dynamic scorer.  He's a hybrid four, hybrid three, whatever you want to call him.  He's just a great player inside out.  I can manipulate the defense with him. 
Phillip is doing all the things that it takes for us to win.  He got a dunk at the end of the game last game.  He didn't pass it to Niels Giffey, but he said Niels don't never pass it to him, so he was going to dunk that one.  So it was great for him to have that.  Him playing 27 minutes, 29 minutes, it really gave us that point where we can go and have a big be a stopper, and I appreciate that. 
A lot of people don't see it, but I go back and watch tape after tape after tape, and I see what these guys bring to our team each and every day.  We are a complete team.  It's just not our guards, it's our bigs, it's our coaching staff.  It's just not me, it's everybody involved in winning and making this program the best.  It's just a great feeling when we can all get here together and we have been through our ups and downs and we never gave in.  We kept providing that energy each and every day and we taking ownership.
RYAN BOATRIGHT:  Talked about that earlier, these guys taking ownership of the team now.  This is, I'm in the back.  They're taking ownership.  They're driving the bus right now.  That's the only way we are here at the Final Four. 

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH OLLIE:  They present a big challenge.  We played those guys.  They pick‑and‑roll guys, they dive hard, Young is a great player, Yeguete brings his challenge, Finney‑Smith shooting the three‑ball, going inside.  They present a big challenge for us, and we got to be ready to play. 
We got to play at a level five.  We got to rebound.  We got to limit their touches.  We got to do our work early.  Phil and DeAndre know that because they hear me screaming it each and every day.
PHILLIP NOLAN:  Pretty much everything coach said.  Just I have to do whatever I need to do to help this team win, whether it's running, fronting the post, getting an extra rebound, it's just me.  I have to do what I have to do. 
DeANDRE DANIELS:  It starts with the little things.  Just playing the details and always following the game plan that we have.  We work on it every day in practice, of fronting the post and boxing out.  We have been doing a great job lately of that.  But most important thing is the front court.  We lack size all year, but one thing we don't lack is heart.  And we're just out there having fun and playing hard. 

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