— THE LONG WAIT for the return of college basketball to Storrs is over. What? You haven’t been eagerly awaiting this season?
Well, it actually should be a lot of fun. And the Huskies may actually turn some heads in Kevin Ollie’s first year as head coach. We’ll see.
First up is American International College Thursday night (7 p.m., No TV, WTIC-AM 1080) at Gampel Pavilion.
A few injury updates first:
— JUNIOR CENTER Enosch Wolf has returned practice (though not full-go) with his teammates but will not play in Thursday’s exhibition.
The 7-foot-1 Wolf sustained a concussion during practice recently _ his third in the last 11 months _ and the Huskies are being careful about his return to playing.
It still seems likely that Wolf will be able to play in the Huskies’ regular season opener Nov. 9 against Michigan State. That game will of course take place in Wolf’s native Germany.
Wolf is slated to be “full-go” when the Huskies practice on Saturday and could see some time in the Huskies’ second exhibition Sunday against UMass-Lowell.
“We haven’t had him do full contact yet,” Ollie said. “Actually, I might have cheated, because he was doing pretty much full out there (Wednesday).”
— ANOTHER INJURY cropped up Wednesday as guard Ryan Boatright sprained his ankle and left practice early.
It didn’t seem too serious, however.
“I’ll think he’ll be full go (Thursday), ready to perform and be Ryan Boatright,” Ollie said.
— THE HUSKIES have won 36 straight exhibition games, most coming since the NCAA forbade games against traveling groups of former players (Marathon Oil anyone?). They are 5-0 against AIC, Jim Calhoun’s alma mater, and won 78-35 here last year.
— CALHOUN WAS in attendance for Wednesday’s practice. He watched everything intently, but also chatted with his former players (and current admin guys) Kevin Freeman and Ricky Moore.
— FRESHMAN CENTER Phil Nolan (flu) is back at practice after missing some time last week, FYI.
— WHAT CAN fans expect from exhibition No. 1? Mistakes, it seems.
“One thing’s for certain: I expect a lot of mistakes to happen,” Shabazz Napier said. “But I hope and I feel like we’ll keep our composure.”
Ollie seems to feel the same way.
“Hopefully we use this as a point of reference, a foundation builder,” Ollie said. “Hopefully we see some good things out there, and I know we’re going to see some things that we have to work on. That’s just the evolution of a team.”
— OLLIE WAS asked what he’s liked best so far from his team in practice.
“Our transition with Ryan and Shabazz. Our transition’s been great,” Ollie said. “We still have to work on rebounding. We still have to work on those things that I really think you can’t take off. You can’t take off of rebounding, you can’t take off of consistently beating people to the basketball.”
Ollie said, in rebounding especially, he wants his team to “hit firsts.” Then he took a page out of the Jim Calhoun school of coaching, albeit tongue in cheek.
“We have to hit first. We’re going to have to have our guards hit first. It’s not all on our forwards and centers. It’s our guards, it’s everybody,” Ollie said. “It’s me. I have to hit first. I have to hit that coach first. I don’t know how I’m going to do it but…”
— WITH BOATRIGHT on the sidelines UConn’s “first” team was Napier, Omar Calhoun, Niels Giffey, DeAndre Daniels and Tyler Olander.
Ollie wouldn’t talk about who would start, though.
“There are three lineups that I’m floating in my head,” Ollie said. “I think I’ll let my daughter pick them.”
“I’m going to play a bunch of combinations. I want to see which combinations work going into Michigan State,” Ollie said.
— OLLIE HAD some high praise for senior/transfer R.J. Evans.
“It’s been big-time. He’s been wonderful,” Ollie said. “I can’t say enough words about him. He’s been great. He’s given us that rock when we’ve needed it, that person in the locker room who can talk to guys.”
Evans, a former NFA standout and Holy Cross guard, is anxious to see his first action as a Husky.
“It’s my first time to put on that uniform,” Evans said. “That’s something I’m really excited for.”
— SANDY DIDN’T impact the Huskies’ plans too much this week.
“We couldn’t practice on Monday but we got right back in here on Tuesday,” Ollie said. “Geno, coach Auriemma, he was gracious enough to let met have the noon practice when it was his early day. I appreciate that. There’s some good will going on.”
“We came in at noon, we got some work in, then we had the guys come back in the evening to shoot,” Ollie said of Tuesday. “So we got kind of two practices in, though not really.”
— ONE OF MY esteemed colleagues (I forget which one…the one who likes music by Foreigner, or maybe just foreigners, I don’t know) asked Ollie about his substitution style. Calhoun obviously had a notoriously quick hook.
Ollie’s answer was pretty good. He says no matter what he does it’ll be compared to Calhoun, though in reality it’s neither molded after Calhoun’s style nor a breakaway from that style.
“I just do it by feel. If I don’t see a guy with effort, I will have a real quick hook. But if I see a guy giving effort and he makes a mistake honestly, I’m going to let that go,” Ollie said. “But if he continues to do the same mistake, that’s a problem.
“If coach (Calhoun) did it that way or didn’t do it that way, that’s on coach,” Ollie added. “I’m going to coach the team. It might be a quick hook and people say ‘Oh, there goes Jim Calhoun.’ If not, ‘Well, there’s Kevin Ollie.’ It’s not that. It’s just that I go by feel.”