A few notes, quotes as UConn readies to play UCF on Saturday night. No open practice or player-availability Friday, but Kevin Ollie spoke with reporters via conference call for about 12 minutes.
Shabazz Napier, who nonetheless played 39 minutes against Harvard, has been dealing with sore knees for a few weeks. Ollie said he “picks his spots” to get him some rest.
“You have to watch him here and there, but he’s a competitor and wants to play,” Ollie said. “ know his body. Kemba [Walker] played a lot of minutes, too, and won a lot games, but I just have to know when to chose spots, try to take him out before media timeouts, so he can get that media timeout also. He’s taking care of his body, he worked out with the soccer team before the season started … and I think he’s in the best shape he’s been in, but I do have to watch it. In practice I give him his time off where he is able to rest his knees and just see the action and not get beat up in practice also. It’s something I am looking at, but he’s not 41 years old like I am. He’s a young man and he has a lot of basketball ahead of him.”
Amida Brimah had three blocks in 15 minutes against Harvard, but he fouled out. Brimah, obviously, is an extremely energetic, enthusiastic player, and this sometimes gets him into foul trouble.
“Where he is getting his fouls, it’s not typical of a big man,” Ollie said, “because most big men get them by not keeping their verticality, keeping their hands up. If anyone remembers he got his first foul [against Harvard] running into a guy’s back. He got fouls against Eastern Washington getting beat off the dribble and putting hands on guys. He’s learning how to be vertical and not get fouls that way, but we just have to watch him on pick-and-rolls. They try to put him in pick and roll situations where he can move his feet and hand check, and that’s where he is getting a lot of his silly fouls. … We want him to be on the floor a lot more.”
On Omar Calhoun and Phil Nolan getting back in the rotation.
“… The other guys have been playing well,” Ollie said. “Lasan [Kromah], Niels [Giffey] has been playing well, Tyler [Olander] has been solid for me, Amida. They can’t worry about that, they have to keep working hard and make the decision tough on me.”
On the AAC
“This league is good. Anybody can come in and beat you if you don’t bring your A game,” Ollie said. “We saw that with Houston almost beating Cincinnati [losing 61-60], and Cincinnati is supposed to be the best team – the only one who hasn’t lost a game yet. … Louisville last night, losing to Memphis. Anybody can beat you. You want to come out and have a ‘Level Five’ game each and every day. We understand that it’s guard heavy (in the league), but we do have some good big [men], too, and we’ve seen a couple of them the first two games.”
Nolan was fighting off a flu or virus the last couple of games, and Ollie thinks it may have sapped his strength. … As we note in the main advance for the Saturday Courant, Ollie calls UCF star Isaiah Sykes a “walking triple-double” because he gets a lot of points, rebounds and assists. He had triple-doubles last year against East Carolina and Stetson.
With Memphis and Louisville next week, UConn could be in danger of going 0-5 in the AAC if they were to lose this game. So this, perhaps even more than Harvard, is a must win. … UConn hasn’t been 0-3 in conference play since 1984-85.
One similarity between UConn and UCF: The Knights also have big men who can shoot the three-ball. Kasey Wilson (6-foot-7) is 18 for 34, and Tristan Spurlock (6-8) is 23 for 58. For UConn, Giffey (6-7) is 21 for 34 and DeAndre Daniels (6-9) is 20 for 45.
Here’s is the capsule look at the game for the Saturday Courant.