CROMWELL – Kevin Ollie’s tee shot off No. 10 might have sailed right of the fairway Wednesday morning at TPC River Highlands, but golf is not the reason why University of Connecticut is paying him a lot of money.
Ollie’s day job with the Huskies could not be going any smoother after leading UConn to a national title in April and receiving a hefty raise – five years for about $16 million – last month.
Now the third-year head coach is getting ready to welcome some new Huskies in Daniel Hamilton and Rakim “Rock” Lubin.
“Kids are coming up next week and I’m getting excited,” Ollie said. “Daniel Hamilton texted me his plane ticket, so I was real excited about that. I was real, real excited when I saw that.”
The 6-foot-6 Hamilton is regarded as the top recruit, but Lubin – a 6-8, 250-plus pound power forward – and JUCO guard Sam Cassell Jr., who is already on campus, are also onboard.
“I’m looking forward to (them),” Ollie added. “Seeing Rakim, he likes to be called ‘Rock,’ but he’s going to have to get a couple rebounds before I call him Rock.”
Ollie and former UConn coach Jim Calhoun got off to an early start at TPC River Highlands.
Calhoun teed off at 8:20 a.m. with pro Ryan Moore’s group off No. 10, while Ollie, playing with pro John Huh, went off two groups later from the same hole.
“I’ve been playing golf eight years,” Ollie said. “(Former UConn Husky) Donny Marshall told me to go out and I just picked it up from there. He was real patient with me and he started me on the golf.”
Ollie found plenty appealing about the game right from the start.
“It’s just patience,” he said. “The challenge of getting back up after a bad shot, which is an often occurrence for me, and I got to get back up. It’s just all those things. Integrity, the only game you don’t have a ref there. You have to call the penalties on yourself, so that is true integrity right there.”
After replacing Calhoun, the opportunities to play have not come quite as frequently for Ollie.
“Since coach Calhoun retired it took my golf privileges away,” he said, with a laugh. “I play a little bit. I belong to Hartford and Glastonbury Hills (Country Clubs). I can go over there and play three or four holes before my wife is calling me and I have to come back home before the street lights go on.”
With three newcomers and sophomore guard Rodney Purvis eligible following a transfer from North Carolina State, the Huskies go into the season with only 10 scholarship players.
The coaching staff will be back on the road next month evaluating talent, but the head coach does not expect to add anyone for next season, which begins Nov. 14 against Bryant.
“Probably not,” Ollie said. “I want to save those scholarships unless something (happens). We’re always working.
“There’s always something that could happen, an Andre Drummond signing. We’d be welcome with him. I’m not really looking to add anybody, but we always have our ears to the concrete and see what’s shaking.”
A championship repeat won’t be easy for the Huskies, who have non-conference games with Texas (Nov. 30), vs. Duke (Dec. 18 in New Jersey) and Florida (January) in addition to American Athletic Conference play. UConn also travels to Stanford in January and is playing in the Puerto Rico Jam in November.
“It’s pretty much set already and I’m looking forward to playing Duke and going to Florida, I haven’t been there,” Ollie said. “It’s going to be a challenging season, but I think we are going to be ready for it.”