An early morning affair

It was an early morning practice Thursday for UConn, who takes on Fordam Friday night in Hartford.

Plenty of interesting comments from the Huskies, including some on coach Kevin Ollie’s soon-to-expire one-year contract:

— AS HE USUALLY is, Shabazz Napier was the most open of the Huskies when talking about his coach.

“Warde, our AD, we don’t know what he’s doing. I don’t know,” Napier said. “After the Michigan State game, I felt like he was going to get the job. Sometimes it doesn’t seem that way. I kind of came to terms that no matter what we do, it’s not going to be in our hands. We can win as many games as we want, I still don’t believe it’s going to be in our hands.

“Hopefully we just keep on winning, keep on playing good, and keep being great student-athletes off the court so that he (Manuel) can see that coach Ollie is not just about basketball. He’s about you being a man and maturing,” Napier added.

Ollie was asked later if he’d like the matter to be settled soon. (He’s obviously getting hurt in recruiting but would never mention something like that publicly).

“That would allow me to get some more Christmas presents,” Ollie joked.

He then said what appeared to be an honest assessment of his situation.

“I’m going to do my job regardless. That’s something I can’t control, like the realignment,” Ollie said.

“I’m not worrying about the contract. You care about it because you do want a contract but I’m not losing no sleep over it,” Ollie aded. “I get up in the morning and I’m refreshed, I’m ready to go. I’m ready to give it my all for my players because they do it the same for me.

Because his players aren’t slacking just because of this subject, Ollie doesn’t plan to.

“They know I’ve got a four-month contract or whatever it is. They’re still playing like I’m here forever. So I’m going to do the same for them.”

— UCONN PRACTICED EARLY on Thursday in Gampel Pavilion to allow the players to get some rest for most of the day. It also was for “political” reasons.

“Actually the women wanted to swap with us. They have some big recruiting obligations they have to do,” Ollie said. “We’re trying to keep the peace around here.”

— OLLIE SAID THAT R.J. Evans should be fine on Friday. Evans (clavicle) was held out of Monday’s game as a precaution.

“R.J. is good. He’s full speed,” Ollie said. “I’m going to definitely use him.”

— NAPIER, WHO WAS as usual very entertaining with his answers to reporters’ questions, had some fun when asked about Omar Calhoun’s improved play of late.

“It’s kind of hard coming from New York. New York guys, as it is, everyone thinks they’re better than everybody,” Napier said.

So, guys from Boston aren’t sometimes the same way, Shabazz?

“No, no. Not at all. We don’t have that attitude. We just go out there and give it all we got,” Napier said.

Napier then went on to praise Calhoun’s improvements and his 22-point effort against Maryland-Eastern Shore in the Huskies’ last game.

Calhoun didn’t seem to be offended when told of Napier’s remarks. Though a quick smile indicated he was perhaps preparing his own verbal retort.

“We have our little hometown battles, Boston, New York, Chicago. It’s all fun and games,” Calhoun said.

— OLLIE HAD PLENTY of praise for Calhoun, too, even his rebounding efforts (3.9 per).

The Huskies, obviously, have had trouble rebounding.

“Our leading rebounder is 4.4 rebounds,” Ollie said. “Hopefully he can get up there and get past five. Somebody get past five! We’re taking baby steps.”

— THE HUSKIES HAVE plenty of respect for Fordham forward Chris Gaston. Gaston just returned to the Fordham lineup after missing six games with an injury.

“I was in Puerto Rico with Chris Gaston. He’s a terrific player,” Napier said. “He’s going to do his best to get points.”

Said Ollie: “He’ll have a shot at the NBA. I think he can handle the ball, he can get it on the perimeter. It’s just not one place that he’s going to be at.”



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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