Deutschland bound

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The military-style uniforms UConn will be wearing Friday night against Michigan State (Neill Ostrout photo)

I’LL KEEP THE “European Vacation” references to a minimum (no small task for me) but the UConn basketball team is about to leave for Germany.

The Huskies game with Michigan State at Ramstein Air Base is Friday night (6 p.m. here, midnight local). They’re leaving Tuesday night out of New York’s JFK.

“We have to take care of our bodies. It’s a long trip. I think it (the flight) is like eight hours,” head coach Kevin Ollie said after practice Monday. “I don’t know why they put the five minutes on there. It’s 8-oh-5 then we have to get on the bus for an hour an 30 to get to the base.”

– UCONN HAS A number of connections to Germany. Obviously, three of its players are natives of the country. But Enosch Wolf, Niels Giffey and Leon Tolksdorf aren’t the only ones with ties.

R.J. Evans says his grandmother emigrated Germany in the 1940′s. She still lives in New York.

But some of Evans’ relatives, cousins in particular, will attend Friday’s game and spend some time with Evans. Evans’ great uncle (his grandmother’s brother) was also hoping to attend but recently had surgery and won’t be able to.

“I met them when I was younger,” Evans said. “They came to New York when I was younger. But it’s so long ago I kind of forgot them. It’s pretty cool. My cousin and her husband are coming to the game.”

This will be Evans’ first time out of the country.

Giffey says he has spoken to Evans’ grandmother.

“I talked to his grandma one time. She’s originally from Germany,” Giffey said. “She called us one time before he came here and told us we have to take care of him.”

Many of the players, including Evans, are trying to learn to speak some Germany from Giffey and company. Most involve, ahem, interacting with the locals.

“A lot of guys came up to me and asked ‘Let me know how I can talk to girls out there,’ ” Giffey said.

– OLLIE HAD SOME high praise for Tom Izzo’s team and his counterpart in particular. He also said he’s sure Michigan State isn’t just a big, tough team (which he says they are).

“They’re always a sneaky running team,” Ollie said. “On free throws they’ll run it. (Keith) Appling will push the ball up on makes and misses.

“They’ve always been that, even back when we played them in 2009,” Ollie said. “That was one thing I saw. I was in Ford (Field). They pushed the ball up and they got easy baskets against us. Everybody says they’re a grind-it-out team, a rebounding team, a defensive team. But they’ve got some Ferraris back there that can get out and run.”

– OLLIE DOESN’T SEEM to mind jumping into the deep end as far as scheduling goes, ie. facing a perennial top-25 opponent in the first game.

“I like the challenge,” Ollie said. “Our student-athletes come here for a reason. They’re going to play in the best conference in America and they’re going to play top teams out of conference. It don’t sweat me.”

– EACH OF UCONN’S German players are glad to play in their home country and will have a few family members and friends on hand to watch them. Wolf will probably have the most, however.

Giffey and Tolksdorf are from Berlin (about a 6- or 7-hour drive from Ramstein) while most of Wolf’s family and friends live about half as far away. He’s trying to secure 30 tickets.

“Just having a chance to play in front of my family and friends,” Wolf said when asked what he’ll enjoy most. “I haven’t been able to the last two years and I won’t be able to for the next two years.”

- Neill

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About Neill

Neill Ostrout covers the UConn men's basketball team for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester. He has been a member of the "Horde" for more than 16 years.
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