UConn forever

We spent a few minutes on the phone with UConn coach Kevin Ollie this afternoon.

Plenty of snow so no trip to Storrs this afternoon. The Huskies take on Providence Saturday in Gampel.

Anyway, here are a few of the highlights.

— THEY MAY BE barely able to put a starting 5 on the floor right now because of injuries but Ollie talking glowingly of his team on the eve of their final game.

“I’m proud of this team. And these last few games are not putting a damper on our parade,” Ollie said, referring to the Huskies’ current three-game losing streak.

The players on this year’s team have won over Ollie and vice versa, it seems.

“I’m so proud of his group. It’ll be my favorite group forever,” Ollie said. “Nobody expected anything except the guys in this locker room and the coaching staff.

“I’m very, very proud of this group. If we get beat by 50 tomorrow that’s not going to change anything,” Ollie said.

— AS HE HAS throughout the process, Ollie took the high road when it comes to the Big East split and UConn’s place in it.

“(UConn President) Susan Herbst and our Athletic Director Warde Manuel is going to get us in the best position,” Ollie said.

“I have to coach the team, whether we’re playing in the backyard, the ACC, the Big East or whatever they’ll call this conference now. That’s my job,” Ollie said.

The ship hasn’t sailed yet on UConn’s final destination, it seems.

“I’m in their (Herbst’s and Manuels’s) boat. I’m ready to go wherever they take us,” Ollie said. “It’s going to be a great ride, a great journey. UConn basketball is going to be here forever.”

— THE HUSKIES’ INJURY situation isn’t any better, or more clear, right now.

Shabazz Napier’s right foot is still a major issue. He’s missed two straight games.

“It’s doing better. I don’t know if he’s going to be available,” Ollie said.

Omar Calhoun’s sprained wrist is still hurting as well.

“With Omar, his wrist is still hurting real bad,” Ollie said. “Hopefully he can play through it.”

Ollie was glad Calhoun had confidence in his shot against USF.

“He took 14 shots last game, good shots that he normally makes,” Ollie said. “He’s been showing his toughness by fighting through it.”

But on the other hand….

“We still need him on the defensive end to stop his man and play good defense,” Ollie said. “That broke down in the second half. That doesn’t have anything to do with shooting or his wrist.”

— AGAINST PROVIDENCE Phil Nolan will be the Huskies’ center. No, he’ll be the ONLY center.

No more Tyler Olander (foot), no more Enosch Wolf (suspension).

It’s Nolan or bust. Well, Nolan or someone much smaller anyway.

“He’ll have big responsibility. He’s pretty much our only big,” Ollie said.

— SPEAKING OF OLANDER, Ollie admitted he had hoped for more from the junior this season.

“We wanted more production and I know he wanted to have a better year, but he stayed in the fight,” Ollie said. “That’s the main thing we’re worrying about. We’re not worrying about individual stats.”

“I imagine he wanted to be a better rebounder,” Ollie continued. “We thought he would be. But hopefully he comes in next year and provides that spark, gives us the rebounds we know he can get. He’s going to have a great senior year.”

— THERE WILL BE some senior day festivities before Saturday’s game, starting at about 11:40.

In addition, the school has asked fans to stay in their seats after the game for a short ceremony honoring the team. Not many details on the latter affair, so we’ll have to wait and see.



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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