Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Kevin Ollie talks about a number of topics

Had a nice chat with Kevin Ollie and Josh Carlton today. Look for story on Carlton in Wednesday's Register.

Here's some of what Ollie had to say about a number of different topics:
Kevin Ollie

(2017-18 outlook)

I think our ballhandling’s gonna be much improved, especially with Alterique coming back and Jalen coming off an outstanding season.

(Looking back on last season's disappointment, injuries)

“It happens, it’s part of the game, we’re not making any excuses about it. I’m just glad to see those guys healthy.”

“Two weeks left in the season, we were fighting for third. Then we kind of had a letdown at the end of the season.”

“I was proud of the guys overall. Proud of the coaching staff. We just learned a lot. I know I learned a lot. I had never been through anything like that in my career as a head coach or an assistant.”

(Alterique Gilbert)

"He's still not 100 percent. We're still kinda cautious with everything, He'll do some contact, then lean off that a little bit. In July, we're gonna allow him to go full-contact, 5-on-5."

"He’s a tremendous leader. He has a great work ethic, and just seeing him out there, I think it really helps our team and our psyche, just to see that leadership out there. He’s a pit bull on the basketball court. He loves what he does, and you can see it in everything he does – every behavior he does, he’s kinda like a quiet leader."

(Will next year's team try to run more, go with smaller lineups?)

“That’s got to be the game plan. We don’t want to go down and face set defenses all the time. But that goes back to defensive rebounding. If you want to be a great running team, you’ve got to play good defense and rebound the basketball.”

(Mamadou Diarra)

"Mamadou’s been going full strength, getting up at 6:30 a.m., working out with Carlos Daniels, coming back to practice center doing individual work. No swelling in the knee, no bad feedback, every day he's recovering and coming back stronger."

(Terry Larrier)

Terry Larrier
"Terry’s doing great. He’s a man on a mission ... Terry’s really stepping up vocally, in workouts, going above and beyond the things we ask. I think the switch has really flipped on by him.”

(Will it be good for UConn to go into next season with lesser expectations, a bit under the radar?)

“I’d love to be No. 1. I don’t run away from expectations. I don’t care if we’re eighth or 10th in the preseason – in Connecticut, they expect us to win. That’s the expectations that we come into each and every year, and that’s how we’re evaluated. I understand that pressure. I played here, I coached here. I like that pressure. I think that’s a privilege. If people want to call us an underdog, this and that, it is what it is. We want to just come in and play.”

“In February, when we’re coming back from SMU and you’ve got to get up for school at 8 a.m. and then come back in for practice – can you be committed then? That’s when I’ll know if we have a championship-caliber team.”

(Jalen Adams)

"Just being more consistent in big games – SMU, Cincinnati games. Stretch the defense more. He's a fantastic open-court basketball player. I want him to be known as one of the best defensive guards in our conference. That’s an area he can improve on.”

"His ankle was messed up the last three weeks. The way he gutted it out for us and gutted it out for me, and it’s not like we pushed him or anything. He wanted to play. That was big-time. Now, just giving him a little time to rest his ankle, get it back to full strength, that’s kind of what we’re doing with him now. But what he did those last three weeks … people didn’t write about that, but we knew about it. His ankle was bothering him. But he wanted to push through for the team and give it his all.”

(Does he think the program is still in good shape?)

“I don’t think, I know. Guys left, made their own decisions. It happens. I wish them the best of luck, but we have to move on. I don’t have time to be looking back. I’m running towards my destiny, and I think this program is running towards their destiny. We don’t have time to go back. We learned from it, we got through it. We’re focused on a new task this season to get the guys that are putting these jerseys on and going out here playing for this great university.”

“I know this program is in a good state. We’ve graduated guys, we did a remarkable job academically. On the basketball court, yeah, we took a step back. Everybody understands the different circumstances that happened. But, at the end of the day, I thought we played hard, we competed.”

“We have to win. I can’t keep going 15-17, we all know that. But I really admire the men that they’ve become. I hope everybody sees that, too.”

“We have a great program. It’s not for everybody. If you want to be here, come in with the mentality, you’re going to be successful. A lot of guys on that wall have done it, and it’s not all based on talent.”

(Will Antwoine Anderson help compliment Adams, Gilbert and Christian Vital in the backcourt?)

"(With a smile) Compliment? He’s gonna make them compete a little bit more, too. He’s really good. He’s what we need. He’s a push guard, he loves to play defense, he’s got a chip on his shoulder. Those guys stepping up a little bit want to prove themselves. He’s kind of what we need. He’s got the veteran leadership, but then he also has the tenacity to get out there defensively. He’s very shifty with the ball, he’s gonna give us another ballhandler.”

(Josh Carlton)

“Very skilled, big body. It’s not like we’re telling Carlos to put 25 pounds on him. We want to get him more lean and physically in shape, condition-wise. Very talented around the rim, can rebound. He’s just got a big body. I expect him to compete for minutes. He could be, eventually, a person that we can throw it down low to. He can command a double team, eventually. But I really think his skill level is close to (Steve) Enoch’s. Enoch is better skilled than him now, but I kind of compare those two, skill-wise. Great touch around the basket. Hopefully, he can come in and compete for some minutes.”

"We want to get him more athletic, boost his jumping ability, his fast-twitch muscles, being able to react on defensive end. Only way they get on court is if they pick up defensive schemes. Hopefully, he can do that."

(Eric Cobb)

"He went through an ordeal at South Carolina, took whatever punishment came his way, then went to JUCO and proved himself there and did great academically. Now, he’s coming back to get his second chance to play Division I basketball. I really think he has that motivation in his heart to say, ‘Man, I went through some stuff, but I’m better now.’ I think he has a toughness that we kind of lacked sometimes last year against the bigger teams.”

"His fault, not his fault – he was part of it. I think he took that under consideration, how he needs to change his life, the circle that he was running with. Now he’s a better man for it. I’m very intrigued by him.”

(Keeping two scholarship spots open)

“Just in case Andre Drummond falls out of the sky. We’re working. Some 2018’s that can be 2017’s, and still some guys transferring, we might bring in transfer and have him sit out and be a part of our system while not playing. That would be ideal.”

Ollie said that Amida Brimah will likely play for Miami in the Orlando Summer League, then with Chicago out in Las Vegas. It seems the Bulls have the most interest in Brimah.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

UConn men's season tickets are on sale now

We already know UConn will host Villanova on Jan. 20, and host strong AAC foes Wichita State, Cincinnati and SMU, as well.

On Monday, we learned the bulk of the rest of the Huskies' non-league slate. And it's underwhelming, to be sure.

UConn will host Colgate (Nov. 10), Boston University (Nov. 19), Columbia (No. 29), Monmouth (Dec. 2) and Coppin State (Dec. 9), in addition to 'Nova and its nine home dates with AAC foes. UConn will also play a home game either on Nov. 14 or 15 as part of the PK 80 Invitational.

Of course, the Huskies also face a challenging road slate, at the PK80 Invitational (opening up vs. Oregon), vs. Syracuse at Madison Square Garden, at Arizona and at Auburn.

UConn will also play a pair of exhibition games against Division 2 foes: Merrimack on Oct. 30 and Queens College on Nov. 5.

Public sale of season tickets went on sale Monday, June 19.

The dates of UConn’s nine American Athletic Conference home games will be announced when the league releases its schedule later this summer, but the AAC opponents UConn will play at home include UCF, Cincinnati, East Carolina, Memphis, USF, SMU, Temple, Tulsa, and Wichita State.

UConn’s league road opponents include UCF, Cincinnati, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, Temple, Tulane, Tulsa, and Wichita State.

2017-18 Non-Conference Home Schedule
Monday, Oct. 30                       Merrimack (exhib.)
Sunday, Nov. 5                         Queens (exhib.)
Friday, Nov. 10                         Colgate
Tue or Wed, Nov. 14 or 15        TBA
Sunday, Nov. 19                       Boston University
Wednesday, Nov. 29                 Columbia
Saturday, Dec. 2                       Monmouth
Saturday, Dec. 9                       Coppin State
Saturday, Jan. 20                     Villanova

2017-18 AAC Home Opponents

East Carolina

Wichita State

Friday, June 16, 2017

Kevin Ollie on UConn's walking wounded, outlook for next season, Wichita State, etc.

Kevin Ollie helped open the second Kevin's Kourts in South Windsor today. He also spoke to the media about a variety of UConn-related subjects.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

UConn-Villanova set to meet Jan. 20 in Hartford

UConn will begin a three-game series with Villanova on Jan. 20, 2018 at the XL Center in Hartford, the school announced on Thursday.

The series will shift to a neutral site, Madison Square Garden, on Dec. 22, 2018, with the final game being played at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center on Jan. 18, 2020.

Villanova owns a 33-31 all-time advantage over the Huskies, including a 70-61 win at XL in the teams' final meeting as Big East foes on Feb. 16, 2013.

Of course, a little over a year later, they'd meet again in an NCAA tournament second-round game. And UConn won that one, 77-65, en route to its fourth national title.

Here's the press release sent out by UConn:

UConn and Villanova, former longtime rivals in the Big East Conference, have agreed to a three-game series in men’s basketball that will begin this coming season and run through 2019-20.

The series will bring together two of the past four NCAA champions -- - UConn in 2014 and Villanova in 2016. The schools will start the series on Jan. 20, 2018, when they meet at the XL Center in Hartford.

The second game of the series is scheduled for Dec. 22, 2018, at Madison Square Garden as a neutral-site game. The final game of the series will be held on Jan. 18, 2020, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

“We are very excited to renew our series with Villanova, and especially pleased to be able to play one of the games in the tremendous basketball atmosphere of Madison Square Garden,” UConn had coach Kevin Ollie said. “We have had so many memorable games against Villanova over the years and Coach (Jay) Wright obviously has one of the very best programs in the country. I know our fans will be thrilled to see the Wildcats back on our schedule.”

UConn has an overall 31-33 record against Villanova in a series that began in 1941. As Big East rivals for 33 years, beginning in 1980-81, the Huskies were 28-31 against the Wildcats -- 1-17 during the first eight seasons and 27-14 during the last 25. In their final game as conference colleagues in 2013, Villanova took a 70-61 decision at the XL Center.

UConn, however, has won five of its last six games against Villanova, including a 77-65 victory in their last meeting, on March 22, 2014, in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo. The Huskies went on to capture the 2014 National Championship, the fourth in the history of the program.

“UConn and Villanova have enjoyed exciting games over a long history. This series honors the great tradition of Villanova and Connecticut basketball,” said Villanova coach Jay Wright. “Facing UConn was always a challenge and will be again. Coach Ollie was one of the toughest and smartest players in Big East history and he instills those same qualities in his team.”

Over the last five years, Villanova has compiled an outstanding 149-31 record (.828) and made five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, including winning the program’s second national championship in 2016.

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

AAC announces regular-season pairings

The American Athletic Conference has announced the 2017-18 men's basketball conference pairings.

With the addition of Wichita State in 2017-18, each team in The American will play seven of its 11 opponents twice, and the other four opponents once each – two at home and two away.

UConn will face UCF, Cincinnati, East Carolina, Memphis, Temple, Tulsa and Wichita State both home and away next season. The Huskies will face USF and SMU at home only, and face Houston and Tulane solely on the road.

Playing only one game against SMU could hurt the Huskies' RPI. Typically, the American ensures the upper-level teams in the league (UConn, SMU, Cincinnati, now Wichita State) play each other twice, in order to help each teams' respective RPIs.

However, UConn's non-conference slate (Oregon and others at the PK80 Invitational, at Arizona, at Auburn, vs. Syracuse at MSG) should mean its RPI remains strong. There's also the chance that SMU isn't as strong this year now that AAC player of the year Semi Ojeleye has opted to turn pro.

The complete 2017-18 men's basketball schedule with dates and times will be announced at a later date.

Houston, Tulane
UCF, Cincinnati, East Carolina, Memphis, Temple, Tulsa, Wichita State

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A little bit on new UConn grad transfer forward David Onuorah

Had a nice phone conversation with newest Husky David Onuorah this evening. What a thoughtful, respectful young man - as you might expect from a Cornell graduate.

Here's some of what Onuorah had to say:

(Why UConn?)

“I felt comfortable with the coaching staff. The visit was a great visit. I feel like they understood me and it was a good fit.”

* Onuorah visited last Monday-Wednesday. Only other visit was Georgetown.

* He sat out all but one game last season for "personal reasons" but received a waiver to play one more season.

* Onuorah was a teammate of Shonn Miller's at Cornell. Miller also transferred to UConn as a grad transfer, two years ago.

"I guess it just happened that way. I had no plan of that, it just happened that way. I’m thankful I had Shonn to talk to about his experience. I think it only helps to make the decision a bit clearer. It’s crazy, it’s kinda funny and cool. But yeah, Shonn’s awesome. He enjoyed his experience there. He had a good year. I was able to follow him."

* Onuorah hails from Lithonia, Georgia, the same hometown of current UConn guard Alterique Gilbert. Gilbert played at Miller Grove while Onuorah played at Marist School. Gilbert was in eighth grade and Onuorah a junior when the teams met, so they didn't play against each other. The following year, the teams switched regions and weren't on each other's schedules.

"I didn't really know about him until my visit, honestly. I don't think he knew me. We just had that connection of Lithonia."

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Monday, June 5, 2017

Local prep coaches weigh in on UConn's status in recruiting world

Tremont Waters chose LSU over UConn, Georgetown.
With the (not unexpected) news that New Haven's own Tremont Waters is heading off to LSU, it would appear yet another indignity in UConn's recruiting season of discontent.

It started back in January, when Hamidou Diallo chose Kentucky over the Huskies. It continued on as one UConn target after another opted for different programs, most notably Sidney Wilson picking St. John's a couple of weeks ago.

Add it all to Makai Ashton-Langford backing out of his commitment, three players (Steve Enoch, Vance Jackson and Juwan Durham) bolting the program and ... well, the optics aren't good.

So I called around to some New England-based prep and AAU coaches to see what the perception of UConn is these days. Here's some of what they had to say.

JASON SMITH, Brewster Academy head coach:

"It's still definitely one of the premier programs in the country. Coach Ollie is tremendous, and I think they made a fantastic hire. Coach (Raphael) Chillious is one of my closest friends in the business, one of the coaches I communicate with most frequently."

"I know they've had some hiccups the last month or two, but that's part of how recruiting goes in cycles."

The 'Top Five' is now down to 'Top Three'
"They're gonna be more than fine. Coach Chillious, Dwayne Killings are two of the most respected assistant coaches in the business. Coach Ollie's proven to be a championship-caliber coach himself. I think UConn is one of the premier programs in the country. Everything goes in cycles. You'll see them bounce back, have a great year, then continue to recruit great guys."

JERE QUINN, St. Thomas More head coach:

"I think it's taken a hit. Unfortunately, the conference lacks the luster with a lot of these kids. They're in with the top players with every other major program. But the league doesn't bring a lot of national prominence. The rivalries are new; it's a new league trying to find itself. Connecticut is still going after the top-echelon kids in the U.S., and they've got some pretty good players, too."

"It's very difficult for those guys to compete against the Big 10, the Big East, the ACC. If you ask the same question to the people at East Carolina or Tulane - nothing against them, but they're not going after the same kids UConn is going after."

We'll have much more in Wednesday's Register, including Smith's views on why Ashton-Langford de-committed from UConn and went to Providence, and why Wilson picked St. John's. Smith coached both players at Brewster.

Also a bit more on Smith's relationship with Chillious, and Quinn's take on why Christian Vital elected to remain at UConn.

*** Meanwhile, UConn is still heavily interested in Class of 2018 point guard Luguentz Dort from Canada. Chillious saw him drop 36 points against 22 Feet Academy (S.C.) while still at Washington to see Mamadou Diarra (not the UConn kid, the kid that recently committed to Cincinnati). The Huskies are still inquiring about the score-first point guard, but Louisville likes him a lot, too, as does Florida and old friend Andre LaFleur at UNLV, among others.

*** And add this name to UConn's recruiting interests: Brycen Goodine, a 6-foot-4, Class of 2019 combo guard from New Bedford, Massachusetts. He preps at St. Andrew's, and comes from good stock: his mom played at Providence, and his dad, Jonathan DePina, was a guard at UMass.

DePina also was a mentor to a young kid from Roxbury by the name of Shabazz Napier.

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