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Storrs - A baseline hook can bring his UConn teammates on the bench to their feet. A rebound in traffic can set off another celebration.
Junior Enosch Wolf won over his fellow Huskies long before going from sideline spectator to growing impact player this season.
They're thrilled that their basketball brother's hard work finally paid off.
"We're all family," junior Shabazz Napier said. "We know what he's been through. For him to give us a lift, whether it would be a point, a block or a steal, whatever it is, we're just so happy. He's our brother.
"We want to see him succeed so badly that once he does something great, we erupt."
The Huskies erupted quite often for Wolf in a 69-65 loss to No. 25 North Carolina State on Tuesday. Wolf provided a much-needed inside presence, finishing with a career-high tying 12 points and a career-best nine rebounds in 21 minutes.
Wolf, a 7-foot-1, 245-pound center from Goettingen, Germany, has scored more points and grabbed more rebounds this season than in his previous two years. He hopes to continue his upward trend in tonight's game against Harvard (4-3) at 7 at Gampel Pavilion.
His confidence is soaring.
"I always believed in myself and I believed in this program," Wolf said. "My time was going to come eventually. I thought. I'm just going to keep improving and keep working. As long as you work hard, good things are going to happen to you."
The door opened for Wolf during the off-season when UConn lost frontcourt regulars Alex Oriakhi, Roscoe Smith and Andre Drummond, leaving behind an Empire State building-size void.
Wolf increased his work ethic over the summer, spending hours with assistant coach Glen Miller. He improved his conditioning, lost weight and polished his footwork. Now he's more agile and active in the low post.
"He's got a good feel for the game," Miller said. "He's got a good basketball IQ and he's a skilled guy. The main thing for him was just getting over the hump and getting in good physical condition. This is the best condition he's been in. He's had a few good games and his confidence is at a high right now."
"? He's worked hard. He still needs to keep progressing in the right direction."
Coach Kevin Ollie is stressing to Wolf not to be satisfied, to keep building on his success. And Wolf has had only limited success so far.
Outside of two games - against N.C. State and a 12-point, six-rebound effort against Wake Forest - Wolf's had only 10 points and 10 rebounds in the other six games.
"He's had some glimpses ... but I want it more on a consistent basis," Ollie said. "Hopefully, he provides that. I'm not asking for 12 and nine every night. That's asking a lot. But we see he is capable of doing that.
"Hopefully, he'll have some consistent nights and give us that anchor down low. He's a big guy, and that's what we need."
The Huskies, who've been out-rebounded in all but one game, lack a physical force in the low post. They should be able to overpower a small Harvard frontcourt tonight. But Harvard is still dangerous and can be deadly from the perimeter.
If forward DeAndre Daniels (back spasms) is limited, Wolf might be called upon to play an expanded role as he did against a talented N.C. State team. He is averaging 12.9 minutes per game overall.
"I'm just trying to go out there and play hard and grab as many rebounds as I can," Wolf said, "and then the stuff on the offensive end comes with the flow of the game."
One thing for sure, his teammates are rooting for Wolf. They hope he continues to give them something to cheer for.
"He's not only a teammate, but he's a good friend," said junior Niels Giffey, a fellow German. "I'm proud of him. ? Everybody is happy for him right now. We also tell him, now we know how good you are. You can't hide anymore."
Location: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs
Tip-off time: 7 p.m. (SNY)
Records: Harvard 4-3, UConn 6-2
Last game: Harvard beat Boston College, 79-63, Tuesday; UConn lost to No. 25 N.C. State, 69-65, Tuesday
Probable starters: UConn, 6-1 jr. guard Shabazz Napier (18.6 pts), 6-0 so. guard Ryan Boatright (14.3 pts, 4.8 assists), 6-5 fr. guard Omar Calhoun (10.1, 4.1 rebs), 6-8 so. forward DeAndre Daniels (8.1 pts, 4.5 rebs), 6-9 jr. forward Tyler Olander (4.8 pts, 4.5 rebs)
Harvard, 6-0 fr. guard Siyani Chambers (12.7 pts, 5.3 assists), 6-5 jr. guard Laurent Rivard (11.4 pts), 6-5 so. guard Wesley Saunders (16.1 pts, 5.0 rebs), 6-7 so. forward Steve Moundou-Missi (4.2 pts, 4.7 rebs), 6-6 so. forward Jonah Travis (9.9 pts, 5.4)
Noteworthy: Last game before 10-day exam break for Huskies. ... Harvard coming off upset at Boston College. ... Crimson coach Tommy Amaker is 0-3 vs. UConn, which leads series 15-2 overall including 67-53 win last season. Not lost since 1972-73. ... Top reserve: sr. guard Christian Webster (8.0 pts). ... Saunders scored in double figures all seven games. ... Stat to watch: 3-point shooting. Crimson converting 42 percent from beyond the arc. ... Common foes: Vermont (UConn won 67-49, Harvard lost 85-78). ... Hot: Reserve Enosch Wolf shooting team-best 68 percent (17-for-25) from field. Cold: Olander averaging 4.5 points in last four games. ... Injury update: Daniels (back spasms) and R.J. Evans (clavicle) expected to play. ... Up next: UConn hosts Maryland-Eastern Shore on Dec. 17.
- Gavin Keefe