It's back to Texas for UConn men

UConn senior Shabazz Napier responds to questions following a workout at Gampel Pavilion on Tuesday. The Huskies left later in the day for the Final Four in Arlington, Texas.
UConn senior Shabazz Napier responds to questions following a workout at Gampel Pavilion on Tuesday. The Huskies left later in the day for the Final Four in Arlington, Texas. Steven Senne/AP Photo

Storrs - Coach Kevin Ollie will be digging deep into his wallet this weekend.

He has to shell out money for tickets for friends and family members for UConn's Final Four game against Florida Saturday night (6:09, TBS) at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

It is a homecoming game for Ollie, who was born in nearby Oak Cliff, and lived there for five years before moving to Los Angeles.

"Most of my family is down there," Ollie said. "My mother is from there. … My mother and father got divorced when I was five and we moved to LA. But my Dad always stayed down there and always came back in the summer time.

I'm very fond of Dallas. … I've got a lot of ticket requests, so I've got to get that taken care of. I'll be coming out of my pocket a little bit this trip."

This is UConn's second trip there this season. The Huskies played at SMU in early January as part of a two-game road swing through Texas that started in Houston.

Ollie took the Huskies on a tour of AT&T Stadium, the home of Dallas Cowboys, his favorite football team.

"It's just amazing place," senior Tyler Olander said. "The fact that we're going back is pretty remarkable. That's what we said that we wanted to do."

When asked if he feels prophetic now that the Huskies reached the Final Four, Ollie responded: "I'm a head basketball coach, not a prophet. But I did want them to get a sense of it. … I wanted them to realize that dream that we do it, no matter what."

The Huskies won't have any time to sightsee on this trip. The demanding Final Four schedule leaves no time for fun. They left for Texas on Tuesday night after practicing at Gampel Pavilion.

"We'll probably have a dinner Wednesday," Ollie said. "After that, you don't have time to do anything. The kids are going to be tired, so you want to get them off their feet. It's a business trip."

As hectic as this week will be for Ollie, his staff and players, it sure beats the alternative. His wife has a long to-do list at home waiting for him when the season ends.

"There's a lot of things that I have to do, but that goes with the territory," Ollie said of his Final Four obligations. "I'd rather be doing that than the honey-dos piling up right now."

One big family

There's a family atmosphere with UConn's two basketball teams.

For the fourth time in school history, the men's and women's program will play in the Final Four during the same season.

They both won the national championship in 2004, the only time any school has accomplished the double feat.

The Huskies are thrilled that the women's team won their Elite Eight game on Monday.

"It's great to have both teams in the Final Four," junior DeAndre Daniels said. "I texted Steph Dolson after the game and told her congratulations. I tweeted them. Everybody is close together.

"This school is a basketball school. This school is just getting back on top and back where it belongs."

The Huskies haven't let all the excitement distract them from their goal.

"It's been really crazy," junior Ryan Boatright said. "Students on campus are real excited and just showing us a lot of love … We're just focused. We're hungry. We're not satisfied.

"We celebrated a little bit but we're looking forward to going down there and taking care of business."

Just a regular guy

Senior Shabazz Napier tries to live a normal campus life even when everyone around him is in a celebratory mood. Not an easy task for the All-American guard of a Final Four team.

The humble Napier has managed to stick with his low-key routine. He went right to sleep after arriving home from New York following UConn's upset of Michigan State in the East Regional final.

"I'm just a home guy," Napier said. "I don't do too much. I go to class and grab some food. … I tell everybody that I'm not a celebrity. I'm just a regular guy. I don't take advantage of who I am. … Who I am is Shabazz Napier, a student."

Napier, Mr. Regular Guy, will be in big demand this week during the Final Four press conferences leading up to Saturday's game.

g.keefe@theday.com

UConn's Ryan Boatright gestures toward members of the media before boarding a bus to the airport to depart for Dallas on Tuesday night. The Huskies play Florida in the Final Four on Saturday.
UConn's Ryan Boatright gestures toward members of the media before boarding a bus to the airport to depart for Dallas on Tuesday night. The Huskies play Florida in the Final Four on Saturday. Steven Senne/AP Photo
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