Boatright Ready for the Challenge

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The questions heading into the 2012-13 season are numerous. The most obvious one -- how will Kevin Ollie do as Jim Calhoun's successor -- won't officially be determined until the spring, after UConn has finished a season that won't include the Big East, NCAA or NIT tournaments as part of NCAA sanctions for underwhelming academic performances in recent years. We're more likely to get quicker answers on the state of the roster, one that will be without the five players who left the program for the NBA or as transfers.

That brings us to sophomore guard Ryan Boatright. He was set to take on added responsibility with Jeremy Lamb's departure but that job got bigger with point guard Shabazz Napier sidelined as he recovers from foot surgery. Napier will be ready to go when the season starts, but his absence now is an opportunity for Boatright to continue to grow as a player and a leader, something he not only recognizes but fully embraces.

"I was born to be a leader," he told the Hartford Courant's Dom Amore earlier this month. "I was raised to be a leader. I was a team leader in high school. I would be doing it anyway, but with the inexperienced team we have, I'm speaking out, when I see something that doesn't look right, I'll say something to the person. And I try to lead by example."

Like most freshman, Boatright was inconsistent during his first season, but he also had to endure stints on the bench while the NCAA investigated his eligibility. He was eventually cleared to play and proved to be a key cog in a backcourt that should've been better than it was. Boatright aims to fix that this time around. According to Amore, he spent part of the summer in his hometown of Chicago playing in the NextLevel Pro-Am League. He also added 15 pounds to his 160-pound frame.

"He has a heart," Ollie said recently, "Boat plays a lot bigger than he is, and that's what you do. You play big. His leadership has been remarkable, and I want him to keep doing what he's doing. He's surprising me, and I want him to keep surprising me."

In some ways, Boatright is an on-court manifestation of Calhoun -- fiery, outspoken and with a chip perpetually on his shoulder. In some ways, it only seems fitting now that Calhoun has officially retired.

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