STORRS – Shabazz Napier sitting at the scorer’s table, talking to Jim Calhoun, is not a picture UConn fans want to see right now.
But that was the image of practice on Thursday. Napier, his left shoulder still barking since Monday, has been sitting out practice. That’s the main story in The Courant for Friday.
The gist: UConn will practice later on Friday, in Pittsburgh at 5 p.m., so they hope to have Napier practice and then be able to play some at Pitt. It’s hard to imagine him going his usual 36-37 minutes, though.
If he can’t go, it will mean more of R.J. Evans, more of Niels Giffey, perhaps some Brendan Allen and some Omar Calhoun handling the ball. The last part is problematic, because Calhoun has been turnover prone – six against Louisville.
“They’re going to challenge him to be ball-tough,” Kevin Ollie said, “every time he puts the ball down they’re going to challenge him. We’ll have a chance to see if he’s improved on that this week.”
I didn’t get much chance to talk to players today. I had a one-on-one interview schedule with Ollie for an upcoming issue of Hartford Magazine. We talked a lot about his vision for the program, but I won’t spoil it yet.
After encouraging performances against Washington, DePaul and Notre Dame, UConn’s big men were badly over-matched against Louisville.
“They took a step backward,” Ollie said, “but they’re going to take another step forward this week. We still believe in them, they know that. They did a hell of a job at Notre Dame, and against DePaul, it happens.”
Jim Calhoun is going to be honored, along with Bill Self and Bobby Bowden, at Dick Vitale’s Gala in Sarasota, Fla., on May 17. Tickets start at $1,000. The event has raised $8.6 million for pediatric cancer research for The V Foundation, including $2.1 million last year. It’s a big-time event.
Here is more info on it, if you’re interested.
Time to pack for Pittsburgh, early flight. I will check in with you from there. No interviews tomorrow, with the team practicing there at 5 p.m.