UConn Basketball

with Kevin Duffy

Notes/Quotes from Saturday’s practice: “Sugar and Hot Sauce.”

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The Kevin Ollie era has yielded a brand new tradition.

At the conclusion of Saturday’s practice, the Huskies circled around the midcourt logo and engaged in an exercise called “Sugar and Hot Sauce,” or as Stewie Griffin likes to call it, the “compliment sandwich.”

While UConn’s group session is slightly less hilarious, the players claim that it’s been pretty effective.

“You throw the ball to someone and give them a compliment and then say something they didn’t do so well that they can work on for tomorrow,” said UConn junior Tyler Olander. ” It’s worked well because communication is huge. If you’re out there in the middle of a big game and you don’t know how to talk to your teammates and something goes wrong, and you’re screaming at them, cursing at them, that diminishes your team chemistry because now your own team is inside your head in a negative way.”

The exercise, instituted by sports psychologist Joseph Carr, is just one of several culture changes. Senior R.J. Evans said the players meet every week without coaches to discuss (and fix) things as seemingly insignificant as a dirty locker room.

“That stuff carries over,” Evans said.

The “team bonding” weekend, which took place in mid September, helped the Huskies connect on a personal level.

“I found out stuff about my teammates that I probably would have never found it,” Evans said. “That stuff doesn’t normally come out in the locker room. Everything is coming out now. There’s no hidden things on this team. It’s all out in the open which makes us closer.”

Some other observations/notes from Saturday’s practice:

*I watched Omar Calhoun hang with Kemba Walker this summer, and Saturday only confirmed my suspicion that he might be the team’s best player.

*Leon Tolksdorf looked like a capable spot-up shooter, drilling quite a few contested 3-pointers in a 4-on-4 shell drill.  His ability to stretch the floor makes him a perfect fit alongside Calhoun, Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier, who all figure to create open looks with penetration.

*Napier (foot) was a limited participant Saturday. He took part in shooting drills, but “nothing up-and-down where I had to play defense or anything like that.”

“My goal is to do a little more than I did yesterday,” Napier said. “I think I’m getting there. My athletic trainer is doing a great job and the coaches understand that I’m not going to just pop in there and start playing defense. I’ve been doing what I can and they’ve been appreciative of it.”

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