Reporting live from the ghost town that is Storrs, Conn., I have some updates from the day at Gampel Pavilion.
Most UConn students went home for the summer two weeks ago, which leaves athletes and summer session students as the only inhabitants of this wonderful campus. Once upon a time, I was part of the latter group. And I thoroughly enjoyed those extra weeks at UConn: class from 9-12, lift, pick-up basketball, repeat the next day. I guess I appreciate the simple things in life.
Today, I caught up with Shabazz Napier and Tyler Olander, both of whom are operating on the same schedule (except it’s a little more important for them). Here’s what they had to say:
JIM CALHOUN’S FUTURE
*Napier: “He’ll let everyone know when he wants to, including his own players. It’s good for him. It relieves some stress and allows him to enjoy life with his family. He deserves it….I think coach’s heart is always going to be here, whether he stays or whether he leaves. He understands that we want him, and we understand that he wants us, but at the end of the day, he’s his own man. He’s done so much for this program, and he’ll continue to do it whether he’s (head coach) or not. So I think it’s really up to him, whenever he feels like telling everybody. We hope he makes the best decision for himself.”
*Olander: “We’re pretty much in the dark. I had one meeting with him and he said ‘you’re crazy if you think I’m staying and you’re crazy if you think I’m leaving.'”
*Note: Calhoun was not at Gampel Wednesday afternoon.
*Napier: “It doesn’t really matter what players think anymore. I mean, I don’t think it ever did, but this is a great example of not caring what the players have to say. I feel as though, as players, you can’t talk, you can’t say much…it only gets you in trouble. There’s nothing we can really do. I wish there was, but you really can’t.”
*Olander: “It’s pretty much out of our hands. It’s all the administration. They’re doing all they can, but ultimately, the NCAA is going to do what they feel is right. We just have to take what’s given to us, accept it and move on.”
GOALS FOR NEXT SEASON
*Napier: “You don’t want to go on the court and not win, because there’s no reason for you to step on the court otherwise…you have to make it seem like a big mistake by the NCAA and all the people counting you out. We’re dealing with a lot of pride, but also a lot of heart.”
*Olander: “Even though we can’t win a national championship, we can still prove that we’re one of the best teams in the nation….A bunch of us feel like we’re being punished for something that we did not do. No one on this team really had any part of that.We want to make a statement that you can put all these punishments on us, but we’re still going to be one of the best teams in the country.”
*Napier: “It’s sad that we can’t play in the NCAA tournament or the Big East tournament, but those are things you have to deal with. Like I said, some people deal with them, some people run away. It’s how you’re born. It’ s how you live your life.”
*Olander: “I kind of understand where Alex (Oriakhi) is. If you can’t play for a national championship your senior year, it takes a lot out of you, to not be able to get the ultimate prize at the end. I understand Alex, but ultimately the guys are going to do what’s best for them, and these two guys felt that looking at different schools would be their best decision.”