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UConn's Ollie has high praise for Omar Calhoun

Updated 12:19 am, Tuesday, August 5, 2014
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GLASTONBURY -- If Omar Calhoun had walked away from UConn after struggling through his sophomore season, it likely would not have come as a surprise.

But on the night the Huskies cut down the nets in Arlington, Texas, Calhoun vowed to come back as "a monster" this season. According to UConn coach Kevin Ollie, Calhoun has spent the summer embracing that challenge.

"Omar's summer is going great," Ollie said prior to teeing off at his Kevin Ollie Charity Golf Classic, which supports sports for people with disabilities, Monday afternoon at Glastonbury Hills Country Club.

"He's doing great off the basketball court. He looks healthy, springy and even more explosive. He's shooting the ball great, and in workouts he's leading and working hard, so I expect some great things from him this season."

Calhoun enjoyed a breakout freshman season, but after undergoing surgery on both hips last off-season, he never found his rhythm. He opened the season in the starting lineup, but was reduced to a spectator role during the Huskies' championship run, losing his minutes to senior Lasan Kromah and freshman Terrence Samuel.

"I think him not giving up and staying with the team throughout all his battles of not shooting the ball well and whatever you want to call it, he never gave in," Ollie said. "He was always a great teammate and that's what I always enjoy seeing because a lot of kids do give up in certain situations like that when it gets tough."

Calhoun went from averaging 11.1 points and shooting 40.2 percent from the field to 3.8 points with a 30.5 shooting percentage in one year. He failed to score in his last 11 game appearances and was 0-for-13 shooting in those games, but was still smiling with the rest of the Huskies when they celebrated a national championship game win over Kentucky in April.

"It just shows me he has a mindset that he's going to be a team player and he's going to get better from it," Ollie said. "I think he learned a life lesson. I think he's really going to gain some confidence from it especially having the hip surgery and coming back from that and being completely healthy this summer."

The Huskies' backcourt will be quite a crowded house with Calhoun returning along with freshman Daniel Hamilton and North Carolina State transfer Rodney Purvis eligible. Point guards Ryan Boatright and Samuel are also in the mix along with JUCO guard Sam Cassell Jr.

Calhoun's adversity last season pales to what the athletes Ollie is assisting by raising money with his golf outing have been through. However, Ollie champions people's ability to rise up and overcome adverse situations in life, be it his players or the causes he supports like the disabled athletes.

"There are a lot of things that happen in life and they never stop," Ollie said. "They had certain things that didn't allow them to go on and continue to do the things they were doing before the incident, or whatever happened. ... Incidents happen, and you can't control that. But, you can control the attitude, keep pushing and pressing no matter what the situation. That's why I gravitate toward the athletes that are here.

"It's not a `disability,' it's an ability to keep going farther. They show me that each and every day, and it really keeps my life in perspective."

wpaxton@ctpost.com; http://blog.ctnews.com/uconnbasketball