SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Kevin Ollie’s public speaking skills are impressive, but especially when he is speaking to young people. The audience of about 150 at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday afternoon was mostly kids, on vacation from school this week.
Ollie broke down his message on terms they can understand. He started out by telling them to think positive thoughts. “If you ask yourself a dumb question, you’re going to give yourself a dumb answer,” he said.
He told of the day Jim Calhoun told him he was retiring. “He said, ‘Kevin, I’m retiring. I’m going to pass this baton on to you. Don’t follow in my footsteps – make your own.’” And he concluded by telling kids to take charge of their lives. “You are the CEO of your own life,” he said. “… write your own book, don’t let anyone write it for you.”
(Ironically, a large photo of Jim Calhoun, part of the mural on the wall behind him, seemed to be looking over Ollie’s shoulder as he spoke.)
After Ollie took some questions and signed autographs, I caught up with him on his way out. He was thrilled to have Rodney Purvis officially in the fold. Purvis signed his financial aid agreement Friday, completing the necessary paperwork for his transfer from NC State to UConn.
“We knew he was a great talent. When he sat in our office [as a recruit in August 2011], we saw what type of person he is. A very high-character guy. It definitely makes us feel good that he chose UConn to further his career in our program. With all the different things we went through last year, people transferring out of here, they’re coming to us means we’re doing something good. People are still gravitating toward us and our program. [Purvis] is going to have a great time, I really believe that.”
Ollie he has given Shabazz Napier the feedback he has gotten from GMs and his other contacts in the NBA. Now the decision to stay or go is in Napier’s hands. Ollie said he believes Napier, Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels will all come back, but until the April 28 deadline to enter the NBA Draft is passed, one can never be 100 percent sure.
“It would be great for [Napier] to come back, and lead this team, show his leadership getting even better,’ Ollie said. “You always try to improve your image. Also, he’s maturing as a young man. One thing he can improve up – he can walk across that stage and get his degree, and he can always have that in his back pocket.
“We’re going to support him regardless. If he comes back to Connecticut, let’s go to work. If he opts for the NBA, let’s go to work to get him in the best shape possible. I know how it is, those 14 [pre-draft] days when you’re flying everywhere and working out every day, it’s a grind on your body and on your mind. … I hope all those guys come back for UConn’s sake, but if they decide to go, we’ll wish them the best of luck and push them to become the best NBA players they can be, because at the end of the day UConn looks good regardless.”
Lots more coming on our main website.