Mailbag 11/21: The Path For UConn To Get ‘Bigger’

by Categorized: Enosch Wolf, Mailbag, Noah Vonleh, Phil Nolan, Tyler Olander, UConn men's basketball

Q: This is getting way ahead here but … As small as UConn is this year, couldn’t you make the case that they’ll actually be a big team next year? If an improved Nolan logs more minutes down low with Olander and Daniels, mix in a big guard in Samuel, and hopefully Facey, [that] would give them pretty good size. Thoughts?


In CT.

 A: Well, Todd, this reminds me of an old baseball story: The Yankees were very thin in the outfield in 1949, but several young, unknown players had breakout seasons. In spring training of 1950, Casey Stengel said, “Last year, I figure I ain’t got enough outfielders. This year, I figure I got too many. And they’re all the same fellers!”

… This is the phenomenon you’re talking about. Right now, UConn is woefully thin up front, can’t deny it, and the strength is in the backcourt. If Phil Nolan develops as this season goes in, if Enosch Wolf becomes a viable player with real playing time and Tyler Olander gets better, that in itself would make UConn appear “bigger” next year. Wolf and Nolan showed some promise in the Paradise Jam.  If Kentan Facey signs, he adds another next year, though he is still considered something of a project. A guard combo of Terrence Samuel and Omar Calhoun would be a “big” backcourt.

But having said that, UConn needs to land another big man to really upgrade in this area. They put a lot of effort into Noah Vonleh and came up short.  Karl Hobbs left the team in St. Thomas on Tuesday morning and hit the recruiting trail, perhaps to check out Amida Brimah, a 7-foot center in Miami who is considered really a raw talent, and/or Dakari Johnson, a 6-10 center from New York.

Bigs are hard to find, so this will not be easy, and a lot of UConn’s near-term improvement up from may have to come from the all-the-same-fellers theory: the guys they have getting better.

The Courant is using Facebook comments on stories. To comment on articles, sign into Facebook and enter your comment in the field below. Comments will appear in your Facebook News Feed unless you choose otherwise. To report spam or abuse, click the X next to the comment. For guidelines on commenting, click here.

10 thoughts on “Mailbag 11/21: The Path For UConn To Get ‘Bigger’

  1. Joe

    Big, as in tall, is not the issue. Every UConn front court player logging significant minutes is thin (Daniels, Wolf, Nolan, Giffey, and even Olander) and will be no match, strength-wise, for the Big East big men. If these players improve their skills, that will help next year, but they will still be small, based on strength. It appears that UConn has not been able to successfully recruit stronger athletes in the last couple years (with the exception of Drummond). It is good that Oriakhi is gone, but his strength is missed. They are becoming an upper mid-major-type team, with good athletes and significant skills, but not with “NBA-ready bodies”.

  2. Chris

    How about if the starting line up was wolf, olander,Daniels, Calhoun,Napier. We would not be small at all. Or start boatright over Napier. Rotate the guards (1@2)with Evans, boat, calhoun, napier. Daniels play his true position 3 rotate with giffey. Rotate Nolan wolf Daniels (4&5) They aren’t really pressing and running like Kevin Ollie’s uconn teams did anyway in 94. Thoughts…

  3. Mike McManus

    Interesting comments. I don’t consider players the size of Nolan, Olander, and Daniels to be “small.” Aren’t they in the 6’8″ range? But they are thin and certainly not muscular and they seem to be able to jump. But what I have observed is that their timing and anticipation is non-existent. These are typical traits of good rebounders, and they don’t box-out. Whatever happened to the old saying “follow your shot?” When Olander shoots from outside, instead of following his shot, he immediately heads back down court. Several UCONN players bomb from outside when there isn’t a team mate anywhere near the basket…makes no sense whatsoever. This team needs a tutorial in basic rebounding!

    1. TZToronto

      You are correct. It’s like almost any sport you can think of. Players tend to improve their skills, but they lose track of the basics of the game. So there are some guards who can dribble between their legs perfectly, but they don’t look for the open big man. There are big men who can do 360 dunks but don’t know how to box out. There are players who are really fast but don’t know how to shake off a defender. And then there are guys like Ollie who made a career with their brains. I’m sure the mental error–and I consider failing to box out a mental error–must drive Ollie nuts. When Ted Williams was a manager, he couldn’t understand how hitting was such a mystery for his players. Ollie needs to learn from Ted. Some players play; other players, like Ollie, think.

  4. CalusaSouth

    There was an opportunity for a smooth transition to a new coach. The successful recruitment of upper echelon talent would continued. Is there an agenda to deemphasize men’s basketball? Is there a movement afoot to undercut the “cult of Calhoun”? No man is bigger than any program! A Hall of Fame coach has handpicked his successor, but the final say rests with a Michigan man? How long do you think this guy is going to stay? He’s a Big Ten guy, he sees UConn as a backwater institution. First move should be to remove the AD and then immediately sign KO.

    1. Terry

      CalusaSouth – My thoughts exactly. Obviously, Manual wasn’t high on the list of candidates, so he got the job as what’s available not who’s available. He butchered the transition period by going CYA. Ollie fails, the doors open to bring in a Michigan Man, if Ollie succeeds he has to sign him and no one in the Michigan chain gets mad at him. Bad hire from the get go. I don’t think he cares how it plays out.


    Rebounding is about “desire”. Quinnipiac has 2 kids, neither one taller then 6’7″, who wanted the ball (and most times got the ball) against UCONN.

  6. CalusaSouth

    My prediction, if Kevin Ollie is not hired, he will have an opportunity at another school and will be successful. The current UConn Athletic Director will leave UConn for other “opportunities”, in the meantime the UConn Men’s basketball program will have declined to a skeleton of its’ former status. The AD will leave before UConn, if ever again, returns to it’s basketball glory. “Intangibles” a##!

    UConn is not a prime coaching job. Sorry UConn fans, it’s the truth. Calhoun made the program, I can’t understand why fans think that someone like Shaka Smart will want the job. If you get someone like Smart, not going to happen, it will be a transition job for that coach, they will be looking to use it as a stepping stone. Keep the position within the UConn family. Didn’t mighty Michigan hire a football coach, Rich Rod, that didn’t necessarily fail..he wasn’t a Michigan man, while Brady Hoke is a former player. The feeling was that Rich Rod just didn’t understand the Michigan aura. Mr. AD is setting UConn up for the same mistake…fire the AD and sign KO!!

Comments are closed.