Prepping for another Garden party


The T-shirts UConn will wear during warm-ups Thursday and Friday for the 2K Sports Classic, which benefits the Wounded Warriors program.

There are no trips to Hawaii or the Virgin Islands or any tropical site but the UConn men’s basketball team is playing in an exempt tourney is rather, um, exotic, locale.

The Huskies boarded a bus for New York City late Wednesday, making the trek to Midtown for their matchup with Boston College Thursday night in the 2K Sports Classic.

Before they left, however, they spent a few minutes with the media.

— OBVIOUSLY HE CAN’T speak about Daniel Hamilton by name or specifically, but UConn coach Kevin Ollie did discuss the general practice of recruits not signing Letters of Intent.

Hamilton, it appears, will not sign a LOI with UConn but remains committed to the Huskies.

Ollie was asked if he was comfortable with situations in which a player doesn’t sign an LOI.

“You have to be comfortable with it. I can’t say ‘We don’t want you to come now.’ That’s their decision,” Ollie said. “I’m comfortable with it. We have verbal commitments and we’re going to stick by them until they say they’re de-committing.”

If one of his recruits actually does de-commit then Ollie says that’s obviously a different story.

“A lot of people want to come here. If they don’t want to come then we’re moving on. It ain’t like we’re an ugly duckling and nobody wants to marry us. We’ve got some other choices,” Ollie said.

— THE TWO GAMES in two days schedule might be tough on everyone but Ollie likes his team’s depth in situations like this.

“People say we can go to 10. I think we can go to 12,” Ollie said. “There’s just not enough minutes in the game. We have a real deep bench and hopefully we can use that.”

— IF YOU MISSED it earlier, the Huskies are headed to Puerto Rico next season.

— HE WASN’T EXACTLY spurned by his hometown college but Shabazz Napier was a bit shocked Boston College didn’t pursue him harder.

His good friend Steve Hailey, a man Napier calls “my brother” went to BC. And Napier had other friends on the Eagles’ roster and attended many games.

“I was kind of surprised they never offered me a scholarship until they heard I was leaving my junior year (of high school),” Napier said.

Napier said BC had plenty of chances to “grab me up” but never did. He did say, however, that he might not have loved coach Al Skinner’s offense.

“This was when Al Skinner was running the flex. All they did was flex, flex, flex,” Napier said. “It was all about Craig Smith and Jared Dudley and those guys. It wasn’t too much of how it is now, which is up and down a little bit more.”

— WE ALSO HAD a chance to speak with BC coach Steve Donahue.

For starters, Donahue like Ollie would like to see the series re-start.

“I would love to play the game. I talked to Kevin about it,” Donahue said. “I’m probably not a real expert on the rivalry and things like that. I just know they’re a good program and we’re both from up in this area. I think it makes sense that we play each other.”

Donahue seems to have a great deal of respect for what UConn can do on the court.

“The kid Napier is as good as there is in college basketball in terms of helping his team win. It’s incredible that he’s averaging almost a triple-double,” Donahue said. “The thing I admire most about him is he really plays for the team. There’s not a lot of selfishness to him at all. He’s willing to make passes, give up his body and everybody else feeds off of him.”

The Eagles are 1-3 this season, though a number of those losses have been close calls.

“At times we’ve played really well. We’ve had double-digit leads well into the second half in three of those games. I think we’ve played good basketball teams,” Donahue said. “That being said we obviously haven’t defended, rebounded and taken care of the ball in key times. There’s obviously a lot of room for growth.”



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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