GLASTONBURY – Had the chance to speak to Kevin Ollie before he hit the links for his annual golf classic. Here are highlights of his 13-minute conversation with reporters:
New year, new team:
“It’s always a change. It was a change my first two years. Last year’s team was different from the team before. But it’s always a difference in make-up, how the guys are going to react to o ne another. But one thing, our our principles are not going to change. That’s not going to change, you’re either going to buy in, or you’re going to find yourself somewhere that you don’t really like. We’re going to buy in, but we’re going to adjust, it’s not just something that’s in a box and you’re going to take it out every year, it’s something that’s able to adjust and I’m able to do that.
But our principles are not going to change. We’re going to work hard, we’re going to share the basketball, we’re going to play fast. Hopefully we can do some things we didn’t do [well] last year a little bit better, and continue to do some of the things we did well – free throw shooting, low turnovers. Continue to have those small things we did, hold onto dearly.”
“… It’s going to be tough. I don’t run an easy practice and these guys have to be ready mentally and physically to endure it. That was one of our big hallmarks last year. We weren’t the strongest team, we weren’t the fastest team but we were a team that could endure the most, and was able to bounce back. The disadvantages, losing by 33 at the end of the season, getting down in different games, we always had a comeback in us. And I think that happened because we worked so hard in the offseason. That’s our motto here, ‘out-will, out-match all our opponents.’ That comes with just working in the summer time, and the effort. When you feel like giving up, it’s no, you’ve got to keep going. That’s what resonated with our team last year and we’re going to keep that same motto.”
On UConn’s incoming freshmen:
“They look good. They’re excited. One thing I like about them is how they react to correction. They react to correction very, very well. You get some freshmen that always react well to praise, and correction – they don’t like that.
But these freshmen – I put our old freshman in there, Sam Cassell; he’s not a freshman but our elder statesman in there. This is his first time on campus and first time understanding what we do here with UConn basketball. It’s a little different. We challenge our kids on and off the basketball court and we want them to be model citizens and work hard and we push them. And I think understanding that in the weight room, it’s ‘level five’ on the basketball court, it’s ‘level five’ in our workouts, it’s all about going maximum speed. They’re understanding that, and doing real well and I’m very excited for them and this season and getting everybody together soon.”
On Rodney Purvis:
“… Rodney looks good. There;’s no time up there [on the clock] yet, crowd’s not in there yet. It’s just him and his teammates, but what I’ve seen is good, his attitude is good. His body looks fantastic, he’s healthy, no lingering effects from the shoulder injury. He’s taking contact, finishing.
It’s still a process, though. It’s going to be a learning curve for him, but he’s preparing very, very well and that’s what we want our kids to do, prepare for the battles.”
On Omar Calhoun
“… Omar’s summer is going great, on and off the basketball court. He’s healthy, springy, even more explosive. He’s shooting the ball great, in workouts he is leading, working hard. I expect some great things for him this season. Him not giving up, staying with the team throughout his battles, not shooting the ball well, he never gave in, he was always a great teammate. That’s what I really, really enjoyed seeing because a lot of kids give up in certain situations like that, when it gets tough, it shows me that he‘s got a mindset that he’s going to be a team player and he’s going to get better from that. I think he learned a life lesson. I think he’s going to really gain some confidence this year, being completely healthy this summer.”
On Amida Brimah:
“The kid is just working. He recognized Ramadan the last month and was on a fast, and you couldn’t even tell. He was getting three workouts in a day. He was working out with [strength coach Travis [Illian], doing the individuals, coming back and workout out on his own – not eating the whole day. His development and how he pushes himself is something I’ve never seen. He doesn’t make any excuses and say ‘I’m fasting’ or ‘my shoulder ..’ No. It’s, ‘What can I do while I’m doing this that can make myself better?’ That’s the great attribute that the kid has, and it’s going to make his learning curve that much shorter and it’s going to get him and get our program on another level. He’s very talkative, too, which I love. He gets in peoples face. And he’s a team leader, and it’s rare to see a guy coming in sophomore year being one of our team leaders. But he has that kind of personality.”
Re: the Calhoun All-Star game (Friday at Mohegan Sun at 7:30 p.m.):
“I’m going to coach, I’m not going to play. I know we’re going to have some great guys out there again and I can’t wait to just be around the guys again. We always share some great laughts, great stories. I’m going to do my best coaching, I’m going to be on coach [Howie] Dickenman’s staff, which I’m looking forward to. I’ll be able to save my voice.”
Here is another batch of UConn news and notes, on our main website for and for the Tuesday Courant.