This is only my second year on the UConn beat, but in those 34 games last season, I became accustomed to Jim Calhoun press conferences.
Win or lose, they all played out the same way: Calhoun would lean into the mic, say “Well, congratulations to so-and-so” and five minutes later, he probably had answered any question you had (or rambled about a random player or coach from the early 90s, in which case I could just smile and nod).
So when Kevin Ollie entered the press conference following a 78-63 exhibition win over American International College, we expected a long postgame monologue. That’s what all coaches do, right? Instead, Ollie just stared at all the reporters. We stared back for a few awkward seconds before Dave Borges of The New Haven Register broke the silence.
I guess we’ll all have to get used to that.
Some other (more relevant) observations from Thursday:
*Omar Calhoun (24 points) was big-time. He could become the team’s best player as a freshman. Calhoun has a strong build for his age and he’s dangerous spot-up shooter.
“He just knows how to play basketball and kept his composure,” Ollie said. “Now I stressed to him, ‘Don’t lay on your successes, build on them.’ I don’t like the little gestures after layups and showing up. That’s not who we are.”
Ollie was referring to a late-game bicep flex following a three-point play. DeAndre Daniels did something similar — the 3-point monocle — early last season.
“I still have my high school stuff, flexing my muscles on the ‘and 1′,” Calhoun said. “I’ll make sure I won’t do that again.”
*UConn’s other two freshmen, Phil Nolan and Leon Tolksdorf, didn’t have reason to flex. Tolksdorf barely played, and Nolan fouled out in nine minutes (he also missed at least two layups). Tyler Olander (nine points, eight rebounds, three assists) passed well from the high and low posts.
*Ollie credited Ryan Boatright’s perimeter defense with igniting a 16-0 run that blew the game open (and actually gave UConn its first lead). Boatright primarily played the point, which seems to be the plan going forward.
“I like it a lot better because that’s all I did my whole life,” Boatright said. “I played the point and had the ball in my hands. But Shabazz and I, we can play together because I can play the two just as well and he can play the one. But it really doesn’t matter. Dead ball situations I’m bringing the ball up. I like playing with him because if he gets it he can bring it up and I can get to the 2-lane.”
*R.J. Evans, who scored all five of his points in the first half, provided a much-needed spark. The bullish 6-foot-3 senior guard attacked the lane aggressively.
“I’ve been praising R.J. and he is still that rock that I look to,” Ollie said. “He came in and settled us in and we started playing better basketball.”
*UConn had 14 assists and 16 turnovers, a ratio that must improve when the games matter.