Greetings from San Juan. (I know, I know. Tough gig).
Anyway, the UConn men’s basketball team is getting ready to take on the College of Charleston Thursday afternoon.
Just met with UConn coach Kevin Ollie and a couple of the Huskies. Here are the highlights:
— IT MAY BE 82 in the shade here but Ryan Boatright says the Huskies are on a business trip.
“We just have to be focused. I know we’re out of state, there’s nice weather and feels like a vacation but it’s a business trip and we have to stay focused,” Boatright said. “It’s totally different than playing at home. It’s hotter over here. You get dehydrated a little faster. The gym is different; they’ve got double rims.”
— HIS KNEE SPRAIN will keep UConn G Omar Calhoun out of action Thursday. He still might be able to play later in the tournament.
“From what I’m hearing, no. But he’s looking better and better every day,” Ollie said. “It might be a possibility that he’ll be back but if not we’ll just re-examine him when we get back home. Hopefully he’s ready for Texas.”
— THURSDAY WILL MARK the UConn debut for guard Rodney Purvis. Purvis missed UConn’s opener because of an NCAA suspension.
He’s good for Charleston, however, right coach?
“The NCAA might come back with something. You never know,” Ollie said.
Ollie was kidding, of course.
Purvis didn’t like missing UConn’s opener but he’s ready to go.
“Yeah, the first game in Gampel that was kind of frustrating,” Purvis said. “But I’m happy we got the win as a team and I was there cheering.”
Purvis didn’t have a great preseason but says a chat with Jim Calhoun may have helped him turn the corner.
“I’m good. I just have to slow down. I was trying to move too fast,” Purvis said. “Coach Calhoun pulled me to the side in practice last week and told me to be ‘shot ready.’ I slowed down a whole lot and things have been going a whole lot better.”
— WE’LL HAVE some updates from the Huskies following their shootaround this afternoon but until then here are a few words from the Cougars.
College of Charleston coach Earl Grant put his team through a quick workout at the Coliseo Roberto Clemente this morning.
— THE HUSKIES HAVE played Charleston twice in their history, winning both games.
The last time the two teams met was Dec. 27, 1995 in Charleston, S.C. The game was a homecoming of sorts for Ray Allen (who went to high school in Dalzell, S.C.) and UConn rolled to a 77-60 victory. Travis Knight had a big game, if I recall correctly.
— CHARLESTON IS PLAYING the defending national champs for the second year in a row. It lost to Louisville in last season’s opener.
Don’t expect the player to be shell-shocked, I guess.
“We’ve got some older guys. I’m sure they’ll look forward to the challenge,” Grant said. “We know it’s a challenge but hey, that’s why you play the game. You like to be challenged.”
Senior guard Anthony Stitt seemed to agree.
“It’s always great going out and playing great competition like the defending national champion,” Stitt said. “UConn has a great team, we watched some tape on them.”
— GRANT IS IN his first year (third month, really) coaching the Cougars.
“It’s been fun. But it’s been a learning experience,” Grant said.
“At the end of the day, the biggest thing for me right now _ when I got the job and it’s still ongoing _ I really want to get to know my player and build a great relationship with these guys. I’ve got a really good group of guys that deserve my best effort,” Grant said.
The player seem to like their new boss. After the way former coach Doug Wojcik apparently treated them, that’s probably expected.
“He’s a very good people person. He’s a player’s coach. He’s also very demanding and expects a lot out of his players, but he knows how to get the best out of his players,” Stitt said of Grant.
— KEEP AN EYE on Charleston’s Canyon Barry (yes, youngest son of Rick). He shoots his free throws like the old man, underhanded.
— CHARLESTON MAY HAVE to contend with the likes of Amida Brimah, but it has its own talented big man.
Adjehi Baru, a 6-foot-9, 250-pound senior from Ivory Coast (he looks like he’s about 37), is averaging 13.0 points and 10.0 rebounds so far this season. He’s 8th all-time in rebounding at the school.
“Baru’s a tough player. He’s an animal,” Stitt said. “He’s got that length so hopefully he’ll be ready to compete with those boys.”
— UCONN IS PLAYING in a November tournament for the 10th season in a row. It has won five of those events _ the 2005 Maui Invitational, the 2006 Hispanic College Fund Classic, the 2008 Paradise Jam, the 2010 Maui Invitational and the 2013 2K Sports Classic _ and been the runner-up three times.