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Ollie on injuries, PC, the Big East break-up, his favorite team, etc.

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: theday.com

Published March 08. 2013 3:00PM   Updated March 08. 2013 5:07PM

UConn is limping into its final game of the season.

Both junior Shabazz Napier and freshman Omar Calhoun will be game-day decisions for Saturday afternoon's game against Providence at Gampel Pavilion.

Coach Kevin Ollie talked about the injury situation, the Friars, the Big East split and other assortment topics during a conference call this afternoon.

Here's a rundown:

-- Napier, who's missed the last two games with a right foot injury, is feeling better, according to Ollie. But his status remains the same.

"I don't know if he's going to be available," Ollie said.

Calhoun's sore right wrist continues to be a major issue. He's managed to fight through the pain and not miss a game.

"His wrist is still hurting really bad, so hopefully he can play through it," Ollie said. "If not, we're going to have to find somebody else."

Freshman Leon Tolksdorf and sophomore Brendan Allen are options.

Ollie added that he's not inclined to sit anybody that's healthy enough to play.

"The last game we owe our fans if you're healthy, you should go out and play," Ollie said. "You never know if this is your last opportunity to step out on the court."

-- UConn will hold a short ceremony honoring the team following the game. Fans should stay in their seats when the game ends.

Ollie dismissed the suggestion that the injuries have put a damper on the season.

"I'm proud of this team and these last games are not putting any damper on our parade," Ollie said. "Other people can write that, but we're not writing that in this locker room. We're together and we're confident.

"Of course, things happen in life but, we're making our own meaning out of them. I'm so proud of this group. It will be my favorite group forever."

-- Junior Tyler Olander, who suffered a season-ending fractured left ankle in Wednesday's loss toSouth Florida, had a disappointing season, averaging just 4.3 points and 3.7 rebounds as a starter.

But Ollie is optimistic about Olander's future.

"We wanted more production and I know he wanted to have a better year, but he stayed in the fight," Ollie said. "That's the main thing we're worrying about. … He did a wonderful job in practice and in the games he tried hard."

"… I imagine he wanted to be a better rebounder, which we thought he would be. Hopefully, he comes in next year and provides us that spark and give us the rebounds that he can get and knows and believes in his heart that he can get."

"He's going to have a great senior year."

-- Ollie has been consistent with his comments about the Big East split.

An agreement was reached today, with the seven Catholic schools leaving with the Big East name and the right to hold its conference tournament at Madison Square Garden.

UConn, Cincinnati and South Florida will join with several newcomers to form a yet to be named conference starting next season.

"(UConn president) Susan Herbst and our athletic director, Warde Manuel, are going to get us in the best position," Ollie said. "If they think this is the best position for us, we're going forward. I believe in their leadership.

"I have to coach a team no matter in the backyard, or playing in the ACC, or the Big East, or whatever they're calling this conference.

"Their job is to put us in the right direction. I'm in their boat. I'm ready to go wherever they take us. It's going to be a great ride and a great journey. UConn basketball is going to be here forever and I'm just happy to be a part of it."

-- UConn is hosting a highly-motivated Providence, which needs to win Saturday and likely win a couple games in the Big East tournament to earn an NCAA tournament bid.

"They've' been playing great," Ollie said. "Offensively, they've been playing great. (Kadeem) Batts is the most improved player (in the Big East). I think DeAndre (Daniels) is right there behind him."

-- UConn will hold its senior day festivities starting at 11:40 a.m. Saturday. R.J. Evans of Salem will be honored as well as several walk-ons, including Stonington's Dave Vandal.

-- In other news, UConn, Boston College, Indiana and Washington will play in the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 21-22.

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