STORRS – R.J. Evans has played a limited, but important role in the two exhibition games. He played 15 minutes against AIC, scoring five points, and 15 minutes against UMass-Lowell, getting eight points and five rebounds.
But there was an intangible at work. When he checked in, things seemed to pick up.
“That’s what coach Ollie says he expects of me,” Evans said. “So when I go in there, I try to pick things up. I’m not a guy who shuts his teammates put, puts his head down.”
Against AIC, for instance, UConn was struggling inside. Evans, a burly 6-foot-3, went strong to the basket a couple of times, though he was called for a charge on one of them. “That’s just part of my game,” he said. “I’m an aggressive player.”
The Huskies will practice at Gampel on Tuesday, then take an afternoon bus to JFK and fly out at 7:40 p.m. They will arrive at Ramstein Air Force Base on Wednesday morning. (If my travel all goes well and on time, I will join the team as they visit Wounded Warriors near the base at about 10 a.m., our time, on Wednesday.)
Ollie is looking forward to the influence of the military personnel on his team.
“I hope they learn something about the teamwork,” he said, “and the accountability. If everybody doesn’t pull his weight in their situation, you could have casualties. … It’s good for the players to understand that the freedom and the liberties we have here are the result of wonderful job our troops do. Someone else is sacrificing their lives for us over here.”
The Huskies will wear special camouflage uniforms, gray on white. Their sneakers, and laces, have the same scheme. Michigan State will have a similar pattern, but in green.
Enosch Wolf was happier on Monday. He learned that the Huskies schedule may be tweaked, allowing for a couple of hours on Friday when he might be able to take teammates out for a taste of Germany.
I asked Shabazz Napier about the contributions of the three German players.
“International basketball is something we all want to know about,” Napier said. “Getting four steps for a travel, the ‘Euro-travel.’ It’s completely different from American basketball. I don’t want to say they’re as good as him, but look at Marco Genobili. He’s a great basketball player. We all want to learn about that style of play.”
To the team chemistry: “When they first came, you could see they were a little shy because they weren’t from here. But we see that they’ve made a big sacrifice, leaving their home and their family to come and play here.”
Ollie isn’t worried about the various issues surrounding this trip, the time difference, the off-the-court activities, etc. “Both teams have to do it, not just us,” he said.
Ollie on Michigan State: “First and foremost they’re built around defense and rebounding. But they like to ‘sneaky’ run. We have to get back on defense, too. They have a couple of Ferraris back there who can run.”
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