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In the old days, getting to know UConn basketball players was an easier game. The locker room was open. That meant you could stand at a player's locker and talk one-on-one, not necessarily a
bout the game. You could build relationships that led to better information through familiarity and trust.
Not so much in recent years. It's that way everywhere now. Interview sessions are group outings. Quotes are more canned and more boring than math class. Universities want it that way. Less chance of the inflammatory line ending up on somebody's bulletin board or the nucleus of the old "sources said."
That is not a complaint. Just a fact.
All of which makes Ryan Boatright a different cat. Forget that he's quicker than one. That's the window dressing. It's the rest of him. His personality gives his team … personality. The only thing more fun than watching him play is watching him be Ryan Boatright.
He's the guy whose forays with honesty, earnestness and humor are a good reason waves of reporters crowded around him Tuesday night after the Huskies hammered DePaul, a school from the city around which Boatright grew up.
His family and friends watching back home saw him score 22 points. Too bad the cameras weren't on him a few days earlier in the same building. That's when Boatright was in the student section of the women's game against Notre Dame. He could have assumed the big man on campus affectation that often afflicts male athletes who perfect looking too cool for school.
Instead, he stood the whole game. Just a college kid with all the other college kids.
"I talk to the girls all the time. We run into each here in Gampel. I see them in the crowd supporting us," Boatright said. "I want to support them any chance I get. I want to experience the college atmosphere, so I don't just sit down and watch the game. I'm in the student section. I was proud to be there."
A more cynical fellow might suggest that Boatright could get a one-game suspension for talking so nicely about the women's program on a men's basketball night. Maybe Boatright could be the pied piper toward higher levels of Glasnost.
He's a happier kid this year. No longer is the NCAA interested in his every dribble. His freshman year was in and out, in and out.
"My confidence is a lot higher. K.O. (UConn coach Kevin Ollie) instilled that confidence in me," Boatright said. "I feel like I've got a lot more freedom. Shabazz (Napier) and I are clicking. All of this came together for me this year. … I've got a rhythm. A flow. Last year I was pulled in and out too much."
Boatright's point total Tuesday didn't impress Ollie as much as his relentlessness. Coaches call it the good, hard push. It's the constant sprint with the ball at the defense.
"He's one of the fastest guys I've ever been around. And I've been around Allen Iverson," Ollie said. "I'm not saying he's faster than Iverson. But when he pushes it and plays with that force and pace, we're tough to beat. Not only does he get up and down the court very fast, but he explodes. He attacks the rim. It's not just like he's a little guy. He's a little guy with power."
Boatright grinned at the question of whether his biographical information is correct, the part that lists him at 6-feet tall.
"No comment," he cracked.
Ah, but it did make his one-handed jam Tuesday all the more impressive.
"I give that to my grandfather. You can quote me saying that," Boatright said. "He made me run track all my life. I hated track. I used to cry all the time. He made me run track and work out. Me being able to jump comes from the high jump and all that."
It was near the end now Tuesday, all of us almost out of questions, when another arose about a minor skirmish in practice with his roommate DeAndre Daniels. Boatright even chuckled at how the two of them ran into each other a few times during Tuesday's game.
Reporter, alluding to Daniels' 26 points: "When you're in the room together do you talk about him doing this consistently?"
Boatright: "Running into me?"
Ryan Boatright left them laughing again.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.