Connecticut's Dave Vandal, Ryan Boatright, and R.J. Evans, left to right, celebrate after their 63-59 overtime win against Providence in an NCAA college basketball game in Storrs, Conn., Saturday, March 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Fred Beckham)
Perseverance paid off for UConn freshman Kentan Facey. He was officially cleared by the NCAA to play this season after questions about his eligibility. But now he adds much-needed depth to a frontcourt that includes Tyler Olander, DeAndre Daniels, Phil Nolan, Leon Tolksdorf and fellow freshman Amida Brimah.
Facey, who admitted to being "excited, happy" when he heard the news, leaned on another teammate for support during the NCAA's review: junior guard Ryan Boatright, who faced his own eligibility investigation during his freshman season.
“I told him, keep your head in,” Boatright said, via the Hartford Courant. “The NCAA can prolong whatever they’re doing for as long as they want to. … I would see him on the side, all depressed, and I knew -- I was there. I told him, ‘Keep your head, just keep working hard, you never know how it’s going to turn out.‘ And that’s just what he did, he worked hard, he paid attention to the plays and now he’s been cleared and he’s ready.”
And just in time, too. The Huskies' first exhibition game is on Wednesday night at Gampel against Division II Southern Connecticut, and Facey doesn't know what to expect.
"The older guys have told us that by the first TV timeout, our lips are going to be chapped and white and we're going to be exhausted," Facey told the Courant. "It's going to be a challenge and I'm ready for that challenge."
Coach Kevin Ollie, meanwhile, is excited to be back on the court.
"The lights are on, you get to smell the popcorn," coach Kevin Ollie said. "The fans will be here. It's different than scrimmaging or just practicing, and I'm looking forward to how guys will respond."
As for what Ollie will be looking for, it's pretty simple.
"I'm looking for one guy to step up and separate himself," the coach said. "I'd like for two, or three or four to separate themselves, but if no one does, we'll do it by committee. We don't have a rotation set; the guys who play with the passion and the ability to give us a chance to win are going to play."