Just spent a few minutes talking with UConn coach Kevin Ollie and a few of the Huskies Monday night at the Hotel Pfister in Milwaukee.
The Huskies are in town for their Big East opener against Marquette on Tuesday.
I know plenty of you have important libations to imbibe so I’ll make this quick.
— THE GAME IS a homecoming for UConn freshman center Phil Nolan. The Milwaukee native and Riverside University High grad hasn’t played a ton this season for the Huskies but he’ll definitely get in the game for a bit Tuesday.
Nolan said he’ll have plenty of family and friends in the stands at the Bradley Center cheering for him.
“A lot,” Nolan said. “I know I got tickets for about 15 people, but I know a lot of my friends and family had tickets already. There are going to be quite a few people here for me.”
Marquette actually offered Nolan a scholarship before he chose UConn. Did he consider going there?
“Yes. I considered them when the first offered me. After that, not really,” Nolan said.
Nolan has played in nine games so far, netting a total of 17 points and 19 rebounds.
“I’m getting used to everything. Everything’s going pretty well,” Nolan said. “I just have to get used to the college level. Everything’s a little bit faster, everyone’s stronger. I’m still working on it.”
Nolan has attended games at the Bradley Center before but never played there.
“It’s a crazy atmosphere,” Nolan said.
— ALTHOUGH IT’S NOT his hometown, Ryan Boatright’s home outside of Chicago isn’t too far from Milwaukee. He’ll have some support in the crowd Tuesday as well.
“Yeah, I’ve got a lot of family coming up,” Boatright said. “When we travel, we travel in packs.”
— MARQUETTE COACH Buzz Williams won’t coach his team Tuesday. He’s serving a one-game suspension imposed by the school after one of his assistants committed recruiting violations. Williams apparently had no knowledge of the “crime” but was suspended basically because it came on his watch.
The Husky players obviously aren’t fazed by this. Actually, most aren’t aware of this.
“I didn’t even know that. I didn’t know what happened,” Boatright said.
— OLLIE HAD PLENTY of nice things to say about Williams, nonetheless.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Buzz and the way he has his team play each and every night,” Ollie said. “They play hard, they play aggressive, they’re tough minded. It’s definitely going to be a challenge for our guys
— IN ADDITION TO being UConn’s Big East opener, it’s also their first true road game of the season.
What can Ollie expect?
“It’s all about growth. You grow in life and this is going to be another growing step for us,” Ollie said. “I want to see how they respond, of course. I want to see how I respond, how our coaching staff responds. It’s going to be a good test.”
— THE ARENA is the first challenge UConn must overcome. The Bradley Center can get very loud, and usually is when UConn comes to town.
“It’s one of the most hostile environments we have in the Big East,” Ollie said. “I consider it top five, top three, in terms of fans and how they get behind Marquette.”
UConn’s first-ever game at Marquette (Jan. 3, 2006), which was also the Golden Eagles’ first-ever Big East game, was REALLY loud. That’s when Donyell Marshall and LeBron James had front-row seats to a drubbing that Steve Novak and Marquette put on the Huskies.
UConn has lot three of its last four games to Marquette overall, however, the Huskies did win here in their last trip (Jan. 25, 2011).
— OLLIE, WHO SPENT time in nearly every NBA city this side of Shanghai, fondly remembers his time in Milwaukee playing for the Bucks.
“I was here for a half a season, and then me and Ray (Allen) got traded to Seattle,” Ollie said. “I do have some wonderful friends here and I’m going to catch up with a couple of them later on.”
Actually, the same hotel the Huskies are staying at now is very familiar to Ollie.
“I stayed in this hotel for probably about a month and a half,” Ollie said. “You know those make-good contracts, you didn’t want to come in and buy a house everywhere.”