Huskies draw Charleston

Puerto Rico Tip-off bracket

The UConn men’s basketball team’s first-ever game on the island of Puerto Rico will be against the College of Charleston.

The bracket for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, which the defending national champion Huskies will be competing in Nov. 20-23, was announced today. Among the four first round games is a Nov. 20 matchup between the Huskies and Cougars at 12:30 p.m. that will be aired on ESPNU.

The tournament, now in its eighth year, is being played at Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan. The games will be aired on ESPNU and ESPN2.

The other first round matchups are Texas A&M against Dayton, New Mexico against Boston College and George Mason against West Virginia.

UConn will play either Texas A&M or Dayton in the second round of the event Nov. 21. The championship game is Nov. 23 at 6:30 p.m.

Among the Huskies’ other non-conference games in the upcoming season at Florida (Jan. 3), at Stanford (Jan. 17), at home against Texas (Nov. 30) and against Duke (Dec. 18) in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

The team’s full schedule, including the dates for its 18 American Athletic Conference games, will be announced within the next few weeks.

Here are a few other notes on the Huskies:

— HUSKIES COACH Kevin Ollie spent much of the day Monday trying to raise money for a good cause. The Kevin Ollie Charity Golf Classic was staged at Glastonbury Hills Country Club, followed by a dinner later that night. Both events benefited Athletes with Disabilities.

Ollie, who first became interested in the group when his former teammate Steve Emt was injured in a car accident, called it a “beautiful day”. Emt, a Hebron native who was a walk-on for the Huskies in the early 1990s, was partially paralyzed in 1995. He’s now the boys basketball coach at RHAM High School.

“They are some tough, courageous people. And I like to be surrounded by those type of people,” Ollie said of athletes like Emt.

— THE COMPLETION DATE for the new basketball practice facility being built adjacent to Gampel Pavilion has been pushed back a couple of times but AD Warde Manuel said Monday that players from both the men’s and women’s basketball teams will be able to use the building when the fall semester begins.

“When school comes, the student athletes will be able to get into the facility,” said Manuel, who like Ollie played in the charity golf event Monday.

Ollie said the finishing touches on the building will be done “back to front,” with an emphasis on the needs of his players first.

“Our student athletes can get in there first. I can stay in my old office but I want to make sure they’re taken care of,” Ollie said.

Said Manuel: “We’ll do the locker rooms, training rooms, weight rooms, then we’ll get the coaches in there in September. We have more work to do but the building’s coming along great. It looks beautiful.”

The UConn Basketball Development Center, as it is being called, may have taken a bit longer than expected to be completed but it will be worth the wait according to Manuel.

“It’s going to be the best facility in the country, bar none,” Manuel said.

— ONE OF THE players that has impressed Ollie the most in the offseason is sophomore center Amida Brimah.
The 7-footer from Ghana was a part-time starter and regular contributor on UConn’s national championship team as a freshman, and Ollie believes he’s ready to play an even bigger role in the upcoming season.

“His development and how he pushes himself is like nothing I’ve ever seen,” Ollie said. “He’s remarkable when it comes to that.”

Brimah had offseason shoulder surgery but hasn’t let that slow his development, Ollie says. Nor did he let the fact that he wasn’t eating during the daylight hours for the last month.

“He recognized Ramadan last month and was on a fast but you couldn’t even tell,” Ollie said. “He was getting three workouts in a day.”

Brimah also continues to make his voice heard during pick-up games and workouts with his teammates.

“He’s a team leader. That’s rare from a guy coming into his sophomore year,” Ollie said.

— SWINGMAN Omar Calhoun’s sophomore season was so rough that he probably would have been forgiven had he decided to transfer. But the New York native has come back to Storrs for his junior season and Ollie couldn’t be happier.

“Him not giving up and staying with the team throughout all his battles of not shooting the ball well, sophomore slump, whatever you want to call it. He never gave in,” Ollie said. “He was always a great teammate. That’s what I really enjoyed. A lot of kids do give up in situations like that.”

Calhoun, who started 29 games and averaged 11.1 points as a freshman in 2012-13, saw his average dip to 3.8 points as a sophomore. Calhoun did not play in five of UConn’s final nine games, and didn’t score a single point over the team’s last 18 games.

“I think he learned a life lesson. And I think he’s going to really, really gain some confidence this year,” Ollie said.

— SEASON TICKETS FOR both the men’s and women’s basketball teams will go on sale Wednesday. Fans can visit uconnhuskies.com for more information or to make a purchase.

— OLLIE HAD HIGH praise for sophomore guard Rodney Purvis, the transfer from N.C. State who will make his UConn debut this season.

“His attitude is great. His body looks fantastic,” Ollie said. “He’s healthy, no lingering effects from the shoulder injury. He’s taking contact and finishing.”

— THE TEAM’S FRESHMEN have also played well this summer, it seems.

Ollie said he was pleased with incoming freshmen Rakim Lubin, Daniel Hamilton and Sam Cassell Jr. since they arrived on campus last month.

“They look good. They’re excited,” Ollie said. “The one thing I like about them is how they react to correction. They do it very, very well.”

Neill

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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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