- Note: I originally posted this content, as two separate posts, last Friday evening, but there was a technical glitch and it was lost. We identified the problem and recovered the text. Some of this was in the Saturday Courant, but there’s some other stuff you might like to discuss. Here it is again …
STORRS – Some notes, quotes and thoughts from “Decision Day” at Gampel Pavilion …
Ryan Boatright stopped in at Gampel on Friday, knowing it will be his home gym for one more year.
“One more, man,” he said. “One more.”
Boatright, a sophomore, came in a year ago on a mission to make 2012-13 his last year in college. But while his season had its high notes, he realized he needs another year at UConn to be ready for the NBA Draft. Like Shabazz Napier and DeAndre Daniels, Boatright let it be known he is staying.
“It was tough,” he said, “I really had my mind set on going, that’s what I really worked for this year. … But I didn’t want to put myself in a harder situation than it’s got to be. It’s not like I’m a senior and I’ve got to go. I had the opportunity to come back and make it a better situation.”
Boatright talked with Kevin Ollie, and trusted his coach to be straight about his chances for the draft. He sought information elsewhere, too.
“I pretty much heard the same thing from everybody,” he said. “It’s a little different coming from the coaches because obviously they want you to come back, but Coach Ollie had the best interests at heart for me. He told me the best decision was for me to come back, and I took that, I took it back to my mom and we made the decision.”
“There were few teams saying I could have went first round, but a lot of teams were saying second round or not drafted at all. As hard as I’ve worked, the dream I always had, I never thought I would be a second round pick. I got a chance to come back and make my dreams come true. That’s what I’m going to do.”
Boatright, 6-foot-0, says he needs to work on his decision-making and his three-point shooting. “Everybody in the NBA knocks down open shots,” he said. It’s obvious from watching him he needs to play with more control, more discipline.
Another run at the NCAA Tournament, after what happened this past season, doesn’t hurt, either.
“Next year is going to be a great year because everybody’s hungry, extremely hungry,” Boatright said. “Watching that tournament was painful, it’s humbling and it makes you even hungrier. We all watched it together. We’re going to have a chip on our shoulder that’s even bigger than last year.”
Toward the end of the year, NBA scouts were paying a lot more attention to Daniels, 6-8, who would seem to fit more naturally into a position in the league. Daniels might have been a sleeper if he chose to go, but he said he never really considered it.
“I sat down with my family and we decided the best thing was for me to stay here and get better,” he said. “Get better as a player, better as a person and get a step closer to getting my degree.”
Daniels has worked hard in the weight room and said he has put on eight points, from 195 to 203, since the end of the season. As he fills out, he will be an even bigger force for UConn and perhaps a lottery pick by this time next year.
“Me and D came in together,” Boatright said, “and we’re best friends. It’s going to be a long, grind-it-put summer for us and we’re going to do it together.”
Niels Giffey was in the gym with Leon Tolksdorf, who is always shooting. The broken finger on Giffey’s right hand is still in a splint, and still swollen, as he tried to rehab it.
“I may come out and shoot left-handed,” he said.
Giffey, who broke the finger late in the game at Cincinnati on March 1, believes he will be ready to go in about two weeks. He plans to return to Germany to try out for the national team in July, and if he makes it play in the European championships.
On Thursday, Tolksdorf and Phil Nolan were working hard with coach Glen Miller on “big man” drills. Rest assured, the Huskies are getting after it every day. Nolan was UConn’s Student-Athlete of the Month, his photo and plaque were up in the basketball office.
One thing that will help next year, too, is having transfer Rodney Purvis, though he can’t play in games, on the floor in practice to push UConn’s guards.
Napier’s decision to return surprised no one. “I knew he was coming back,” Giffey said, “you live with these guys, you know what’ s going on.”
Boatright: “I knew he was coming back. Shabazz is Shabazz, but I’ve been around him long enough, I know how to read him.”
Daniels: “I see Shabazz walking around all happy. It looks like he has a weight off his shoulders.”
Kevin Ollie’s take, via UConn athletics communications:
“I’m pleased that all three of them will continue their education next year and their development as young me. As far as basketball is concerned, all of them improved last season and I expect that to continue through next year. We’re all looking forward to what’s ahead of us.
“I think Shabazz’s decision is great for him and great for the university. I believe that first and foremost, it will give him a chance to earn his degree, which is something I know he’ll really cherish.
At the same time, he’ll continue to hone his skills as a lead guard and contribute to us continuing the success of UConn basketball, but also he will keep cultivating the kind of atmosphere I want our student-athletes to be around. He was a big part of that with his leadership on and off the basketball court.”
Giffey noted how unique and potentially advantageous it will be for UConn to have so many seniors next season. “I don’t think we’ve had any seniors since my freshman year,” he said.
It’s rare for a high major to have many, but UConn will have Napier, Giffey, Tyler Olander and, if he is allowed back on the team, Enosch Wolf. Plus juniors in Boatright and Daniels. That’s a rare combo of experience and talent.
“[Napier, Boatright and Daniels] are our leaders,” Giffey said, “it’s great to have that core back.”
And UConn is looking at possible fifth-year transfers, ala R.J. Evans, too, to see if there might be a fit.
With the charges dropped against Wolf, his legal problems are behind him. He now faces a review from UConn’s Office of Community Standards after the semester. Wolf, who has been suspended since his arrest on Feb. 11, was in Gampel Pavilion on Thursday, and he and Napier had a long talk. Napier mentioned Wolf, and Brendan Allen, as teammates who helped him come to his decision.
Here is full text of Napier’s statement:
“After many days of figuring out what decision was best for my family and me, I finally came to a conclusion. Before I announce my decision, I would like to thank many generous people.
“I would like to thank Coach (Kevin) Ollie and the UConn coaching staff for their understanding and cooperation as my family and I needed space and time during this process of deciding what move was best for us. Also, I would like to thank my teammates for allowing me to lean on their shoulders when I needed some support. I thank them for helping me get to this position in my life. Without them, along with the coaching staff, I would not be where I am now. Brendan Allen and Enosch Wolf, especially, were two people who made things a lot easier for me. I’d also like to thank the UConn fans for understanding as well. Their support for me and the team and their passion for the game have helped me tremendously.
I’d like to give a special thanks to Coach (Jim) Calhoun, who has pushed me to become a better man, along with becoming a better player every day. We have spent many hours leading up to my decision, figuring out the pros and cons of staying and leaving.”
“Of course, I would like to thank my family members, who have helped me through these difficult days and who have wanted nothing but the best for me. Most importantly, I’d like to thank my mother, who has inspired me to be the best that I can be and to try and be a great a role model for those who look up to me.”
“That being said, I have decided to remain at UConn for my senior year. I am very much looking forward to getting closer to receiving my college degree, as well as becoming a stronger leader for my teammates on and off the court. We think we have a great team for next season and we’re excited about playing for a conference championship and in the NCAA Tournament.”