ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 07: Aaron Harrison #2 of the Kentucky Wildcats defends against Ryan Boatright #11 of the Connecticut Huskies during the NCAA Men's Final Four Championship at AT&T Stadium on April 7, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
By Friday morning, the Shabazz Napier era at UConn will officially be over. One of the most consistent, clutch players in school history will have been drafted into the NBA and the mantle of team leader will fall to rising senior Ryan Boatright. On Wednesday, coach Kevin Ollie talked about that responsibility and what it entails.
"He has to (take on that leadership role)," Ollie said, via the New Haven Register. "Not only for UConn, but for his basketball future. He has to take over that leadership role …
"I think Boat is going to do that," the coach continued. I see a lot of great qualities in Ryan. A lot of attention was given to Shabazz, but Ryan wants it. He has a great competitiveness about him. He competes at everything, and he wants to be great. He’s not going to settle for good. That’s the one thing I love about Boat. He’s never missed a practice. The guy just wants it. If a guy has a vision and he wants it that bad, yeah, we have to mold and change his approach sometimes, and he has to change his approach sometimes. But I think he’s going to get it. I think he’s already got it already. It’s for me to bring that out a little bit more, but it’s for him to give that gift away everyday – that leadership gift he’s got.”
One of the biggest questions heading into next season: team chemistry in the absence of not just Napier but Niels Giffey, DeAndre Daniels and Tyler Olander.
“We’re not going to have DeAndre, Niels -- that stretch forward we had last year," Ollie admitted. "I think Amida (Brimah)’s going to be a tremendous asset for us. I think Kentan (Facey)’s going to give us a different dynamic, where he can shoot the ball. Probably not off the 3 like Niels and DeAndre did -- I know he’s working toward it, but those guys were exceptional shooters for us. Kentan brings us a guy running and jumping and getting rebounds. He’s working on his game very, very hard.”
Ollie also expects Omar Calhoun to bounce back from a tough sophomore season.
"He’s a highly-motivated person before this happened," the coach said. "I think this is not going to destroy him, I think it’s going to open up room for him to get to the next level. I just believe in the kid, believe in the hard work he puts in. Results follow hard work. For him, last year was tough. But he grasped that, he embraced that, he was like a coach on the bench for me. That spoke volumes, because a lot of kids say, ‘I’m not in the spotlight,’ and they go away from team-oriented stuff. But he involved himself even more. I was like, ‘Wow.’ That shows me something, the growth in him. That’s what special people do.”
And it's going to take a special effort from everyone for the Huskies to consistently play at the level they did in 2013-14.