There’s your last Ollie-ism of 2012. I’m sure there will be plenty more in 2013.
With its non-conference schedule in the rearview, UConn looks forward to its first Big East clash — a New Years Day date with Marquette — under Kevin Ollie. The game also marks a homecoming for freshman forward Phil Nolan, who grew up in Milwaukee and entertained an offer from the Golden Eagles.
“I considered (Marquette) when they first offered me and after that, not really,” Nolan said.
Milwaukee, a city of nearly 600,000, isn’t a basketball town, per se.
“The Bucks weren’t too great (when I was younger) and there weren’t a lot of people from the inner-city who were Marquette fans,” Nolan said. “Marquette wasn’t like how UConn is. It wasn’t like that at all.”
Like all freshmen, Nolan has found it somewhat difficult to adjust to Division I basketball. He cites the speed and physical nature of the game as things he must “get used to.” Still, though, he’s shown some flashes, scoring nine points and grabbing four rebounds in UConn’s past two games.
“He’s working, not only in practice the two hours I have him, but he’s grabbing coach Miller, he’s grabbing myself and he’s willing to ask for feedback,” Ollie said. “I think that’s a great thing for a young player. Instead of just getting a shell and saying, ‘I’m not playing,” he’s saying ‘what do I need to do to get on the court, coach?’”
If September 13 was Jim Calhoun’s day, then December 29 belonged solely to Kevin Ollie, who was awarded a five-year contract extension through April, 2018.
There hasn’t been much good news in UConn athletics lately, and the fanbase can now breathe a sigh of relief: Kevin Ollie is free. He can now begin to truly recruit.
It’s a relief for Warde Manuel, too. The guy has a ton of pressure on him: Find the right conference for UConn and find the right successor for Calhoun. That’s no easy task.
Luckily for Manuel, Kevin Ollie fell into his lap. Twelve games in (and ten toes in), Ollie has proven that he’s unequivocally the right choice.
“What Kevin has done, even in the short period of time, has showed me that, hey, we might have bumps in the road, we might lose here and there,” Manuel said. “But I’ve got the right leader who will stick with it and fight through it because he loves this place.”
By the way, there was a basketball game played Saturday night at the XL Center. UConn moved to 10-2 with a 61-53 victory over Washington. Here’s what you need to know:
Omar Calhoun (AP)
*The story was defense for UConn, which held the West Coast Huskies to 29.7 percent shooting from the field. Washington guard C.J. Wilcox, who entered averaging 19.6 points per game, shot just 2-for-12 for five points.
“I think Shabazz did a remarkable job on him, playing tough defense, taking him out of his comfort zone, getting into his space,” said UConn coach Kevin Ollie. “And then, it’s not only Shabazz. It’s Enosch moving over, being in the low position…We did it collectively, so everything Wilcox did was tough on him.”
*Enosch Wolf (four points, five rebounds in past three games) was benched in favor of Tyler Olander. Both played 17 minutes, but Wolf was more productive.
“It was an ESPN game, so we know Enosch would come to play,” Ollie joked.
The 7-foot-1 junior grabbed a team-high nine rebounds while Olander tallied just two.
*DeAndre Daniels received stitches in his chin after hitting the floor late in the game. Ollie said he’ll hopefully be ready for Tuesday’s Big East opener versus Marquette. The team doctors must first check for concussion symptoms, he said.
*Against three high major teams — Michigan State, N.C. State and Wake Forest — Omar Calhoun averaged just 4 points and 2.6 rebounds while shooting 14.3 percent from the field. On Saturday, he led the Huskies with 14 points, using his muscular frame to score in the lane.
*It wasn’t a particularly pretty game: Shabazz Napier, prolific for most of the season, committed seven turnovers. In fact, both teams were in the red for assist-to-turnover ratio (Washington 10/13; UConn 13/17).
A few quotes about Kevin Ollie’s five-year contract extension:
Kevin Ollie (AP)
*Kevin Ollie: “My legs were shaking and everything. It was like the first game I stepped in the XL Center. My legs were shaking because I was excited. I was excited for the moment. I just thought it could never happen for a guy out of South Central Los Angeles — to be here at UConn and be the head basketball coach, but I’m an unrealistic thinker, just like coach Calhoun. That’s what thing I learned from him — he’s unrealistic to come in here and believe in Storrs and make this a powerhouse, that’s unrealistic thinking. And that’s how I think. I’m never going to settle for mediocrity. I’m never going to let my team settle for mediocrity.”
*Shabazz Napier: “I think he’s been doing a spectacular job on the court and also off the court…He and the coaches are the reason why we’re 10-2.”
*Jim Calhoun: “With the new leadership of Susan Herbst and Warde Manuel and now with Kevin as the head basketball coach for the forseeable future, I feel very good about the future of the men’s basketball program at UConn. I know Kevin will do a great job, as he already has, and I am looking forward to more success for the Huskies in years to come.
*Geno Auriemma: “I am absolutely thrilled for Kevin and for UConn. Kevin stepped into a tough situation and has done a great job in all facets. The UConn men’s basketball program is in great hands with Kevin Ollie and I look forward to working with him for years to come.”
*Dick Vitale: “Kevin absolutely rolled up his sleeves and earned the opportunity to coach his alma mater. He is the perfect hire. His passion and love for the game will be contagious to his players.”
Shabazz Napier: G 6-0 Jr..: 23 assists in past 3 games, 21 in previous 8
Omar Calhoun G 6-5 Fr.: Double-digits in 7 of past 11
DeAndre Daniels F 6-8 So.: Only Husky with double-figure rebs in a game (vs. UNH)
Enosch Wolf C 7-1 Jr.: 4 pts, 5 rebs since earning starting job on Dec. 7
Tyler Olander F 6-9 Jr: 5 pts, 6 rebs vs. Fordham
Niels Giffey F 6-7 Jr.: 4.4 ppg
R.J. Evans G 6-3 R-Sr.: 9 pts in 15 mins vs. Fordham
Phil Nolan F 6-9 Fr.: 0 pts, 2 rebs in 15 mins vs. Fordham
NEWTOWN VISIT: Kevin Ollie and the Huskies visited the Newtown Youth Academy Thursday afternoon to engage with the children affected by the Dec. 12 tragedy. On Friday, Ollie discussed the trip. “It’s the responsibility we have,” Ollie said. “This is our job. This is why God created us — to help other people in need and hopefully on the other end, somebody’s helping you.”
SIZING THE HUSKIES UP: For just the third time this season, UConn will be at a serious size disadvantage (Michigan State and N.C. State were the others). Washington center Aziz N’Diaye leads the Pac-12 with 4.1 offensive rebounds per game. The 7-footer also shoots 63.2 percent from the field, which ranks second in the league. Washington’s backcourt–6-foot-5 C.J. Wilcox and 6-foot-6 Scott Suggs–could make life difficult for Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier.
TIME ZONE DEFENSE: Washington has already played in Connecticut this season. The Huskies took part in the Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic (held at Mohegan Sun), and split games against Ohio State and Seton Hall. Since Lorenzo Romar took over in 2003, Washington is just 2-12 when playing in the Eastern Time Zone.
Kevin Ollie is the next UConn men’s basketball coach. This time, the title is permanent.
UConn announced Saturday that Ollie, who accepted a seven-month contract on Sept. 13, had received a five-year extension through April, 2018. The deal is worth an excess of $7 million.
“We’re going to do things well, and we’re going to do them properly,” Ollie said. “I’m not coming here with a five-year contract. That’s what it says on the paper, but we’re recruiting for a lifetime here. We’re going to recruit like we’re going to be here for 20, 25 years.”
Under Ollie’s leadership, UConn has jumped out to a 9-2 record, including a season-opening upset over then-No. 14 Michigan State. Athletic director Warde Manuel needed just three and a half months to arrive at a decision.
“It was time,” Manuel said. “I always said to you guys when you asked me the questions about when I’m going to make the decision, I said ‘I’m going to talk to Kevin and he’s going to be the first to know.’ But I believe that, for the long-term, that he was going to be the right fit for our program. And at that moment I felt it, there’s no need to wait.”
In addition to UConn’s play on the court, its first semester classroom performance was vital to the extension.
“I think the timing of today was about seeing what the student-athletes did under his leadership academically,” Manuel said. “Obviously it was very, very important in general and very important for where the program is right now.”
UConn, which is banned from the 2013 postseason because of a low academic progress rating (APR), has made a strong push to improve academics since Manuel arrived in March. As a result, Ollie’s contract is heavy on APR language: In the event that UConn scores below the NCAA standard of 930 in a given year, Ollie will forfeit any postseason bonuses. Two consecutive years of a sub-930 score could result in suspension or termination of employment with just cause, according to the contract. Ollie can also receive bonuses for good academic performance.
“I have a belief in my student-athletes,” Ollie said. “We’re students first, and we’re going to get it done. We’re going to get the right kids in here, and I believe, with the support system we have, we can cultivate a great learning experience for our guys.”
UConn hosts Washington (8-4) tonight at the XL Center at 7:30.
UConn visited the Newtown Youth Academy Thursday, and at the request of the town, media was not allowed.
Can’t say I blame them.
After Friday’s practice, the Huskies spoke about the experience:
*Kevin Ollie: “It was something special…all the kids came in, we were signing autographs, kids were smiling, fans were smiling. Then we got an opportunity to interact with the kids and just play basketball and have fun. I think we’re all kids at heart. I like to tell myself that I’m still a kid, and that’s what it’s all about — influencing other people.”
“It’s the responsibility we have. This is our job. This is why God created us – to help other people in need and hopefully on the other end, somebody’s helping you.”
*Ryan Boatright: “It was a good experience. It was something to bring happiness and put smiles on the kids’ faces. I know they’ve been through a lot, so to go down there as a team and make them have a good time and kind of take their mind away from the tragedy — it’s a great experience.”
If you’re focused solely on college hoops, you may be a little behind on ex-UConn players in the NBA. We’re here to catch you up.
Here’s a list of the ex-Huskies in the big leagues, from best to worst:
Kemba Walker (AP)
Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats — Walker has taken an enormous step forward in his second year. He’s tied for 15th in the league in scoring (18.6 points) and also ranks seventh in steals (1.86) and No. 20 in assists (6). The only issue: Charlotte has lost its past 16 games.
Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies – There are only two players among the NBA’s top 30 scorers — Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis — with a lower field goal percentage than Gay. Still, though, the 6-foot-8 swingman is the top scorer (18.2 points) on a playoff-caliber team.
Ray Allen, Miami Heat – The NBA’s all-time leading 3-point shooter hasn’t skipped a beat with the Heat. Allen, the perfect complement to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, is shooting a career-best 45.8 percent from deep.
Richard Hamilton, Chicago Bulls — A foot injury has kept Hamilton out of the Chicago lineup since Dec. 4. Before that, Hamilton had been putting together another solid season, scoring 13.9 points per contest and shooting a career-high 93 percent from the line.
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons – Everyone in Detroit seems thrilled with Drummond, who has two double-doubles in his past three games. The 6-foot-11 specimen is averaging 10 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in just 23.5 minutes over the past eight games, begging the question, “Why isn’t he playing more?” Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said there are things “the general public isn’t aware of.” Sounds sketchy. I’d assume Frank is referring to work ethic, but who really knows? Either way, it’s been a better-than-expected rookie year for Drummond.
Ben Gordon, Charlotte Bobcats – Gordon, in his ninth professional season, can still put up points in a hurry. He’s averaging 12.8 points in 21.9 minutes while shooting 42.7 percent from 3-point range. The 6-foot-3 shooting guard recently surpassed 10,000 career points.
Caron Butler, Los Angeles Clippers – Injuries have limited Butler the past few years and, at 32, age may be catching up with him as well. A starter for the 27 games in which he’s appeared, Butler is averaging career lows (9.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, 23.4 minutes) in almost every category. The Clippers have plenty of other weapons, though, which has likely contributed to his decrease in production.
Emeka Okafor, Washington Wizards — Like Butler, Okafor’s career — a success, for sure — is on the decline. He leads the hapless Wizards with 6.3 rebounds per game (a career-low) and has chipped in with just 7.7 points per game.
A.J. Price, Washington Wizards – Price was inconsistent as the starter (8.5 points, 4.9 assists, 36.6 percent from the field) before fracturing his right hand against Golden State on Dec. 8. He hasn’t returned since. With John Wall (knee) expected to be ready by January, Price will likely finish the season in a back-up role.
Charlie Villanueva, Detroit Pistons — A former lottery pick, Villanueva has become a reserve in Detroit. He’s scoring 7.8 points in 16 minutes per game, but must be strictly a jumpshooter: He’s attempted just 13 free throws this season.
Hasheem Thabeet, Oklahoma City Thunder – A DNP vs. Miami on Christmas Day was a disappointment, especially for those of us watching with the sole intent of seeing Thabeet. The big fella, fourth in the Oklahoma City frontcourt, is having the best season of his five-year career. He’s even shooting 77 percent from the line (23-for-30).
Jeremy Lamb, Oklahoma City Thunder – Buried behind Kevin Durant, Kevin Martin and Thabo Sefolosha, Lamb has bounced from the Thunder bench to the Tulsa 66ers of the NBDL. Stat of the year for Lamb: 33 field goal attempts in his D-League debut.
Jeff Adrien, Charlotte Bobcats – The Bobcats must have liked Adrien: President of Basketball Operations Rod Higgins cut his son, Cory, to make room for JA. So far, Adrien has played sparingly, posting a season-high 4 points in three minutes versus Denver on Dec. 22.