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Ollie has already taught newcomer Calhoun a valuable lesson

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: The Day

Published November 04. 2012 4:00AM
Huskies close out their exhibition season today

UConn coach Kevin Ollie constantly stresses acting the right way on and off the court.

There's no deviating from his program's principles.

So when Omar Calhoun flexed his muscles after converting a tough baseline layup and drawing a foul in Thursday's exhibition opener, the freshman guard later received a firm message from his head coach.

"He just said, `We don't do that here,' " Calhoun said. "I got a little caught up in it. I feel like I made a strong move and flexed my muscles a little bit. ... He just explained to me just keep playing, that's what we do.

"I understood the message and I'll make sure that I won't make the mistake again."

UConn will be back on the court today to face UMass-Lowell in its exhibition finale at 1 p.m. at the XL Center in Hartford.

Ollie, a true professional during his days as an NBA point guard, is old-school when it comes to proper behavior on the court.

No showing off. No showing up opponents.

Calhoun, who's from Brooklyn, plays with the bravado and attitude of a New York City guard. He knows he has to make an adjustment without losing his edge.

"Being a Brooklyn kid, it was something that I was brought up with, just always going hard and being confident on the court," Calhoun said. "Regardless of what happens, I'll stay confident."

Calhoun, a 6-foot-5 guard, showed off his offensive skills against American International College, pouring in a team-high 24 points.

Ollie expects great things from Calhoun.

"I stressed to him, don't lay on your successes, build upon them," Ollie said. "I told him to stay humble. I don't like the little gestures after layups and the showing up. No, that's not who we are.

"He's going to learn that, and he's going to get better and he's going to be a great player for this university."

Calhoun has the potential to be a Big East All-Rookie team candidate. He possesses confidence to knock down perimeter jumpers, sinking three of six 3-pointers Thursday, and the toughness to drive into the heart of the defense.

"He's a natural scorer," sophomore Ryan Boatright said. "He's got a big body, 6-5, athletic. Not only can he shoot, but he's got a quick release and it's pretty hard to block his shot. And he's got a lot of confidence.

"Omar is a great player. You can expect that all year coming from what I've seen him do."

Today's exhibition finale is a valuable tune-up for Friday's season opener against No. 14 Michigan State in Germany. UMass-Lowell is expected to provide a stiffer challenge than AIC.

UConn has practiced together for roughly three weeks and it showed in the exhibition opener. Not everyone was in sync. Too many mistakes were made.

While generally happy with his team's effort, Ollie would like to see improvement across the board - from rebounding to sharing the basketball and to playing sound defense.

More importantly, Ollie wants his Huskies to play the right way.

"We're going to keep building," Ollie said. "We're going to keep playing the right way. We're going to respect the game. We're going to respect this great university and we're going to go out there and play with effort."

News and notes

Former UConn center Souleymane Wane is an assistant coach at UMass-Lowell. He played on the 1999 national championship team with Kevin Freeman, UConn's director of basketball administration. He teaches French at Haverhill High School in Massachusetts. The Huskies leave for Germany Tuesday after practicing at Gampel Pavilion.

g.keefe@theday.com

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