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Coach Kevin Ollie talked about the state of the Huskies during a conference call Friday. He covered several topics.
Ollie particularly spoke about Lasan Kromah, Phil Nolan, Shabazz Napier and Amida Brimah.
UConn (12-3, 0-2) hosts Central Florida(9-4, 1-1) at 6 p.m. Saturday at Gampel Pavilion.
-- Ollie explained why he made a recent change in the starting lineup, replacing senior Niels Giffey with graduate student Lasan Kromah.
Kromah is expected to start for the second straight game on Saturday.
A 6-foot-6 swingman, Kromah gives the Huskies another ball-handler.
“I like his defense,” Ollie said. “I like his presence. He gives me some versatility. Then Niels gives me some versatility coming off the bench. if DeAndre (Daniels) is not having a good start, I can come in with Niels or I can take Lasan out or one of the guards out and put Lasan at the two.
“Niels gives me a lot of flexibility off the bench and gives me another stable person off the bench.”
-- Napier has played all but 14 minutes in the last six games. He ranks among the conference leaders in minutes played, averaging 34.8 minutes per game. He’s been dealing with some tendonitis in his knee.
Ollie is taking steps to safeguard against Napier wearing down, including giving him timely rest in practice and during games.
Ollie added that Napier is in the best shape that he’s ever been in. Napier worked out with the soccer team prior to the season.
“He’s a competitor and he wants to play,” Ollie said. “He knows his body. Kemba (Walker) played a lot of minutes, too, and we won a lot of games. I’ve just got to understand when to pick and choose his spots.
“… It’s something that I’m looking at. But, once again, he’s not 41 like I am. He’s a young man. He’s got a lot of basketball ahead of him. I think he knows where to take care of his body at and how to get his mind and body ready to play.”
-- Sophomore Phil Nolan’s playing time has tailed off in the last three games during which he saw action for a total of 13 minutes. Ollie said that Nolan lost some ground during a recent illness.
“Phil has to get back in shape,” Ollie said. “That sickness took a lot of weight off of him and he doesn’t have the stamina that he once did about two weeks ago when he was having those two pretty good games back-to-back.
“So he’s got to get his stamina back.”
Nolan had his best two games prior to his illness, avearging 9.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in wins over Washington and Eastern Washington.
-- Foul trouble has been a major issue for Brimah, a 7-foot freshman center. Ollie said that most calls against Brimah are not your typical big man fouls.
In Wednesday’s win over Harvard, he fouled out in just 15 minutes. His first foul came when he ran into the back of guard Siyani Chambers. He’s been called for hand-check fouls in other games and struggled in pick-and-roll situations.
“That’s where he’s getting a lot of silly fouls from,” Ollie said.
But Ollie can live with Brimah getting fouls while battling for rebounds like he did against Harvard.
When on the floor, Brimah’s been a defensive force at times, blocking a team-high 42 shots this season. He also has as many fouls (37) as points (37).
“We just want to continue to watch tape with him and have him get better because I want him to be on the court a lot more,” Ollie said.
Today’s American Athletic Conference Championship semifinal doubleheader is underway here at the XL Center in Hartford. A crowd in the 12,000-13,000 range is expected for the UConn-Tulsa game. Tip-off time is 5 p.m.