Tuesday, January 13, 2015

It's been a struggle so far this season for UConn's Phil Nolan

Phil Nolan started all nine of UConn's postseason games last year (three AAC tourney, six NCAA tourney). He scored in double figures three times during the regular season and showed an uncanny knack in taking charges on defense.

While no one was expecting him to be a double-figure scorer-type this season, a natural progression could have been expected. But to this point, Nolan has had a disappointing junior campaign.

The 6-foot-10 forward is still adept at taking charges, but hasn't contributed a whole lot more than that. Nolan is averaging just 1.1 points and 1.1 rebounds per game. His minutes have been dwindling lately -- in his last four games, he hasn't played more than seven minutes, including just three in Saturday's win over Cincinnati.

Meanwhile, freshman Rakim Lubin is making a spirited case for taking Nolan's minutes off the bench. He's played 10 minutes in each of the last two games and made some valuable contributions here and there.

So what does Nolan have to do to get back out on the floor? We asked Ryan Boatright and Kevin Ollie on Monday evening.

"I think he just needs to continue to play hard," said Boatright. "Just try to finish some plays around the rim. If he can get his hands on a few more balls, on both ends of the floor, then he can finish down there when he touches it, Coach will have no choice but to leave him in. Especially when Amida gets in foul trouble or needs a break."

Said Ollie: "Everybody gets a chance to come in and take care of their minutes. It's a competitive state of mind that we're in now. A lot of guys are stepping up and playing minutes, everybody's got to come in and take care of their minutes and play. Hopefully, that's what players want, how they thrive and get better. 'Cuz it's competitive out there for minutes."

Nolan was bothered by a sore heel recently. He's also put on about 30 pounds of muscle over the off-season and is noticeably bulkier. I've seen several players over the years lose their touch and become different (not always better) players after muscling up too much. Maybe all that's a factor, maybe not.

One thing is sure: UConn would love better and more consistent play out of Phil Nolan going forward.

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