STORRS – Kentan Facey got the news last week, t hat the NCAA had granted him a waiver and he could play for UConn immediately, and he kicked a chair.
“I told him, ‘the chair didn’t do anything to you – take it out on the opponent,’” coach Kevin Ollie said.
The NCAA had Facey in limbo since July, reviewing his path from Jamaica to the U.S. In the worst case, they could have declared him ineligible for this season, and taken up to two years eligibility away. But last Thursday, they ruled he would have all four years and could play right away.
“I was excited, I was happy,” Facey said. “I just moved my foot and the chair got in the way.”
Facey had a big smile when he went into the locker room. “And we were like, what’s up with you?” DeAndre Daniels said.
Ryan Boatright, who had to sit out two long NCAA reviews two years ago, was as happy as anyone other than Facey himself. Facey had sought out Boatright for advice.
“I told him, keep your head in,” Boatright said. “The NCAA can prolong whatever they’re doing for as long as they want to. … “I would see him on the side, all depressed, and I knew – I was there. I told him, ‘keep your head, just keep working hard, you never know how it’sgoing to turn out.. ‘ And that’s just what he did, he worked hard, he paid attention to the plays and now he’s been cleared and he’s ready.”
The Huskies, who have been practicing since Sept. 28, will be whole for this first game, and the freshmen Facey, Terrence Samuel ad Amida Brimah will suit up for the first time as UConn plays Southern Connecticut in an exhibition game on Wednesday night at Gampel.
“It will be different when the lights go on,” senior Niels Giffey said.
Ollie said he will start veterans, for tradition’s sake, but will obviously look at a lot of players. His goals: “control the tempo and dominate the backboards,” he said.
Omar Calhoun (hips) and Tyler Olander (foot), coming back from surgeries last spring, are ready to go with no limitations, Ollie said.
The game can be seen as a live stream on www.uconnhuskies.com, and will be broadcast on WTIC-FM 96.5 (WTIC AM will have the World Series Game 6.)
“The freshmen’s hands will be sweating,” Boatright said, “but they’ll be all right. We have veteran a veteran team to lead them through.”
Ollie remembered his first game was against Marathon Oil in 1991. “And I had a terrific game that night,” he said.
The doors and walls leading from the locker room to the court are fill with slogans, “Ollie-isms” old and new. Among them: “Greatness is never on discount. … Success is never on sale. … Be phenomenal or be forgotten. … Greatness begins when selfishness ends. … UConn basketball. Ten toes in.”
Niels Giffey reflected on being a senior.
“I’m more relaxed about it because I know what’s going to come. I know how I need to approach certain things. My freshman year, I didn’t know how to get my body right for that type of season. I’m mentally and physically ready for the season, way better than my freshman or sophomore year.”
On his freshman year, first exhibition game: “I remember being very excited, and not thinking too much about basketball which was a mistake. Get out there, get as comfortable as you can and just play basketball.”
“In the end, youve just got to experience it yourself. [The freshman] are going to have up s and downs beginning of the season, but us older guys will be here for them. You’ve got to make your mistakes.”
Kevin Ollie’s goals for the game: “Have a tempo and dominate the backboards.”
Southern coach Mike Donnelly’s goals: “Keep it together, play through adversity, play through the physical contact. Here’s my story on Southern and its growing program.