PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 19: Kevin Ollie head coach of the Connecticut Huskies yells against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Petersen Events Center on January 19, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
It's an annual event for most coaches at big-time college programs: determining if one or more of your underclassmen are NBA-ready. The question goes beyond a simple yes or no; players can have the physical skills to compete with the best players in the world but lack the maturity or mental makeup to handle the fame, fortune or the rigors of an 82-game schedule.
Huskies coach Kevin Ollie, who played 13 years in the NBA for 12 different teams, has been on both sides of this conversation. Recently, he's helped three of you best players -- Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels -- make determinations about their immediate futures. And in all three cases, the players are returning to school.
So, in general, how does Ollie approach a situation in which a player is considering bolting early for the NBA? The Hartford Courant's Dom Amore talked to the Huskies coach earlier this week for the answer.
“First thing I want is kids to come back and get their education,” Ollie told Amore. “It’s not like I want a kid to come back, if they’re ready to go to the NBA. I’m not saying ‘I just want you to come back for my sake.’ If you’re ready and I really think you’re ready -- like Kemba (Walker), after his junior year. I wasn’t the head coach then, but we were all on the same page. That kid was ready because he is able to handle it if he gets drafted by the best team or by the worst team. I keep coming back to that because you’ve got to be able to handle it. You’ve got to be able to handle going down to the D League if that opportunity presents itself, you have to be able to handle that mentally and have that toughness.
“The process is, I want kids to get their degree. I want you to come back. I don’t care if you go to the NBA for five or six years, I want you to come back and get your degree. That’s the only thing I really want."
This news will no doubt make the NCAA happy (you know, the same folks who barred UConn from the 2013 postseason tournament because of low APRs during Jim Calhoun's final years as coach). Either way, Napier, Boatright and Daniels will all be Huskies in 2013-14 and that's great news for Ollie and the program.
“I want everybody to be together," the coach said. "We’ve got a great team coming back, but there are going to be some ups and downs, where guys can start pointing fingers at each other. I want them to all stay in the process where UConn is No. 1. We’re going to try to make the UConn brand better and, as individuals, they will get their accolades coming from our team hopefully winning a lot of games.”