STORRS – We had some technical problems posting video, hope to get a clip of Kevin Ollie talking after his first practice up on the website soon.
Anyway, Ollie ran a spirited, intense first practice as UConn’s coach. As always, it began over at the old gym, and finished at Gampel. Here are a few notes, quotes and observations.
“Their demeanor is different,” Tyler Olander said, “but the intensity is still there. [Ollie] demands 110 percent effort, he wants everything to be perfect.”
At the end, Ollie wanted his defensive unit to make three stops in a row, citing a stat often cited by Jim Calhoun – UConn wins 95 percent of the time whenever it gets three stops in a row, five times in a game. It took a while, but he eventually got what he was looking for.
Omar Calhoun said it was the “same guy” he remembered coming to his home to recruit him.
When practice was over at 2:15 p.m., the players gathered in a circle and critiqued each other, which is something that came from their sessions with sports psychologist Dr. Joe Carr. There will be weekly players-only meetings.
At one point, Ollie told a walk-on player, who had told players it looked like they “gave up” to cease and desist. “If you’re going to talk, say something positive,” Ollie told him.
Later, someone explained, “first you give the sugar, then you give the hot sauce. He went right to the hot sauce. We can’t have that.”
Rebounding was a major concern for UConn last year, when they had what figured to be, going into the season, a huge front court. Now, Ollie has a smaller, thinner, front line, but he is stressing the fundamentals of rebounding.
“You’ve got to box out and you’ve got to go get the ball,” Ollie said. “First of all, you’ve got to have heart. You’ve got to be willing to go hit somebody. Kemba Walker used to average five rebounds a game, just doing the little things. Last year, we were very athletic and maybe we just decided to lean on our athleticism. But it didn’t work – we were out-rebounded by our opponents. You can call it ‘boxing out’ or whatever. We’re going to stress fundamentals.”
Shabazz Napier participated in some drills, did a lot of shooting, but he is still recovering from the foot surgery. Ollie estimated he did “45 percent” of it.
“I want to do a little bit more every day than the day before,” Napier said.