Monday, August 3, 2015

Kevin Ollie on Amida Brimah, Sam Cassell, Jr., transfers, recruiting ... and Dave Kaplan's hole-in-one!

Kevin Ollie spoke with the media today, prior to his annual golf tournament, which supports sport and recreational opportunities for people with disabilities.

First, the lead story of the day: UConn assistant director of athletics-video services Dave Kaplan scored a hole-in-one on a the 184-yard, par-3 18th hole on Monday and won a Honda Pilot. Not bad for a self-professed "hacker."

"We can say that sets the tone for the season," Ollie quipped.

Here's why that particular charity means so much to Ollie:

“It’s special to my heart because of (former UConn teammate) Steve Emt first. That’s why I got into the Tolland Fund. What we did for him, and what he went through in his car accident -- but he’s doing great now. Helping athletes with disabilities -- and I don’t even say disabilities. 'Disabilities' comes from your mind. These kids and young adults that we help, they’re striving for greatness. We want to give them a shot to compete -- on a national level, or just around here, recreationally.”

(on how recruiting has been going)

“It’s been going well. We’ve been making some good contacts with a lot of great players. Just sitting down and making sure your staff is getting seen -- that’s pretty much what it is. We’ve already evaluated the guys we like. It’s pretty much just making sure they see us. With social media, it’s a different environment now with recruiting. With all the different tournaments, it’s kind of hard sometimes. But that’s why we get down i the ‘situation room’ and prioritize and go after the guys we really want. Sometimes we win some, sometimes we lose some, but eventually it works out if you have the same creed in mind -- getting great UConn student-athletes, not just athletes.”

(on UConn tapping into the fifth-year senior market so successfully)

“The landscape of collegiate sports now. I believe it’s up to 700 transfers now, which is out of control. But you have to look at it in your recruiting portfolio as something that you have to do and understand and navigate. We start early, we had some great players to come to us this year. Hopefully, they play a vital role in a great season.”

“When R.J. (Evans) gets a master’s degree in one year, that pretty much helps everybody. Lasan (Kromah) did a great job, he’s gonna be finishing up. Everybody can’t be R.J. R.J. was our first fifth-year (senior) (since) I became the head coach. For him to do it in one year was really amazing. He really set a tone. Lasan came in and did a great job, helped us win a national championship but also did an amazing job in the classroom. Everything I’m getting from Sterling (Gibbs) and Shonn Miller is that they’re doing amazing in the counseling program they’re involved in. It’s going amazingly well.”

(on Amida Brimah)

“Last year he was out with the soulder injury, couldn’t really work like he wanted to work. Anybody who knows Amida, he still worked. But to the capacity he’s able to do it now is great. He just went to adidas Nation, got some great reviews on him there.”

(on whether this year we'll see "the real Sam Cassell")

"The real Sam Cassell? Yeah. I thought the real Sam Cassell was there. I touch him everyday, he’s breathing. As a player? Yeah, he got hurt, so he couldn’t really show the real Sam Cassell. But what he did do -- which was phenomonal -- was he stayed with the team. I felt like Sam was still working out, he was always around the guys, encouraging the guys. Sometimes, somebody gets an injury and they withdraw. He actually started coming in even more. That’s the real Sam for me. Everybody looks at the basketball, but I look at the totality of the man. For him to still involved himself with team activities, being hurt, really shows a lot about his character. That’s what we thought about with Sam coming in -- that he has a high character. I love him, and hopefully he has some more opportunities this year to go out and -- I guess -- show the real Sam Cassell. But I see the true man. And the true man has been there ever since.”

(on last season)

“I thought we had a season of up’s and down’s last year. But like I tell everybody, we had a character-building season. I had a character-building season as a coach. It’s not going to always be a national championship. We’re gonna have to go through some valleys. But in the valleys, that’s where you get stronger. I think we got stronger as a team, and we’re looking forward to 2015.”

(on whether UConn has definite plans for its 13th scholarship)

“Not yet. Hopefully a 7-footer parachutes down, and I’ll be right there to catch him. But I don’t know if that’s gonna happen. I look up all the time, hopefully he’s coming down soon. But if he doens’t come down, we’ll have that extra scholarship, and I’ll look at possibly a walk-on filling it. But it’s still open, there are still some activities around there. We’ve still got our antennae up, like always, checking and seeing what’s happening through the wire. So if you all hear something, make sure you put it on your Twitter account, OK?”

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