Ollie looking for more consistency from UConn men’s basketball team

STORRS >> Kevin Ollie’s booming voice could be heard from outside the Werth Family Champions Center practice floor on Thursday afternoon and ... let’s just say he wasn’t shouting out pleasantries at his players.

“I always want it loud in here,” he said afterwards. “I don’t want it quiet. We’re not in a library.”

Ollie’s got a very talented team this season, but it’s young and, in many cases, inexperienced. All five of the heralded freshman class could see major minutes this season, not to mention sophomore Terry Larrier, who sat out last year as a transfer. With that comes good days and bad days, ups and downs. It appeared Thursday’s practice was on the downside. In fact, the freshmen stayed back after practice had ended to continue working some extra reps.

“It’s never going the way I expect it,” Ollie said. “That’s why I coach. Every day is different. We’re figuring it out as a team, and we’re gonna get better each and every day. But if it was going the way I wanted all the time, we’d have a lot of national championships. We wouldn’t need a coach.”

Jalen Adams continues to be bothered by a quad contusion, though he participated in most of Thursday’s practice. Larrier had a strong first couple of weeks of practice, then “took a nosedive for a couple of days,” according to Ollie, before rebounding with “two special days.” Freshman point guard Alterique Gilbert missed a couple of days with a stomach flu and is still turning the ball over more than his coach would like.

Ollie did praise the play of Amida Brimah, Kentan Facey and Steve Enoch, but noted that a veteran leader hadn’t quite stepped up yet.

“It’s coming,” he said. “It’s not where I want it to be at. Hopefully, some guys keep emerging and stepping up. But it’s not to where I want it to be at. It’s not at a championship level right now.”

Last season, UConn had several key newcomers come in and play major roles. Granted, two of them were grad students — Shonn Miller and Sterling Gibbs — and not freshmen. Still, it took a little longer for the team to jell than Ollie would have liked.

It’s imperative that this year’s team jell quicker than last year. The team plays its first two games in four days, then heads to Los Angeles for a game, followed by three more in three days in Hawaii against what could be Top 10 competition.

“We’re trying to get that camaraderie together,” said fifth-year senior Rodney Purvis. “I think it’ll be huge if we can get rolling early.”

Ollie pointed out that last year’s newcomers were different than this year’s group, but conceded that he hoped this group would jell sooner.

“We started jelling at the end of (last) season, and that’s the thing I really want,” he added. “I want us to be playing our best ball at the end of the season. I don’t want to throw away games like we did early in the season last year, but it happens. I thought we fought our way back and did some great things at the end of the season. That’s where I want to peak.”

Rim Rattlings

UConn is ranked No. 16 in the preseason coaches poll that came out on Thursday.

“All that stuff is good,” said Ollie, “but we’re not to that level yet. I don’t get caught up in preseason things, I just want to work every day to be the best chemistry team we can possibly be. Hopefully, we’re No. 1 in the polls in that. No. 16 is great, but the ball hasn’t even been tossed up.”

Two Huskies have been named to preseason watch lists: Adams is on the Bob Cousy Award list for point guards, while Larrier was named to the Julius Erving Award list for small forwards.

“It’s an honor to be one of the candidates, but I’m not really too focused on winning awards,” Larrier said. “I’m just focused on playing hard and winning games. I think with that, any personal goals of mine will happen out of that.”