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Through Coaching Change And Violations UCONN Has Not Missed A Beat

Photo Credit to blogs.rep-am.com

UCONN men’s basketball can never be counted out.  That is what head coach Kevin Ollie is proving since taking over in September 2012.  UCONN has always been known as a powerhouse, producing a significant amount of NBA players such as Ray Allen, Richard “Rip” Hamilton, and Rudy Gay.  Much of this success is credited to ex-head coach Jim Calhoun.  Calhoun won the NCAA Tournament three times, 1999, 2004, and 2011.  He provided the brand for UCONN, the name recognition. UCONN is one of the first schools that comes to mind in college basketball because of their successful players and historic games.  This laid down the foundation where recruits wanted to play for UCONN and potentially reach the NBA.

When Kevin Ollie, an ex-Husky and 13-year NBA veteran, was promoted to head coach he had a daunting task ahead of him.  UCONN was ruled ineligible for postseason play because they fell below the mandatory Academic Progress Rates over a four-year period between 2007-08 through 2010-11.  There was also a recruiting violation that occurred in March 2009 when former team manager Josh Nochimson helped guide recruit Nate Miles to Connecticut, giving him lodging, transportation, meals, and representation.  The result was three years' probation and scholarship reductions for three academic years from Feb. 22, 2011, through Feb. 21, 2014.  Despite this, Ollie guided UCONN to a 20-10 record and probably would have made the NCAA Tournament if it had not been for the postseason ban.

While Ollie had success on the court, he has been just as good recruiting.  Even though UCONN was facing these sanctions, they were still able to add 6’9 forward Kentan Facey.  Facey was born and raised in Trelawny, Jamaica, and moved to Long Island in 2010 to improve his chances of receiving a basketball scholarship.  Before Facey ever stepped foot on Long Island UCONN was on his mind.  An unofficial visit to campus affirmed everything he already knew; Facey wanted to be a Husky.  Right then and there he committed to UCONN in August of 2012.  Ollie was responsible for recruiting him and was with Facey during his unofficial visit when he signed.  According to The Courant, Facey said that even with the coaching change he would stick with the Huskies.  He also said very confidently Ollie would not steer him in the wrong direction.  This is a big signing for UCONN, as he is a four star recruit and known for his exceptional shot blocking skills.

UCONN has developed the reputation that they produce NBA players.  This is why UCONN can easily stay relevant in the recruiting game.  Ultimately when a top prospect is deciding what school they want to commit to, the NBA is one of the factors that weigh in their decisions.  The Huskies play on ESPN and CBS pretty frequently.  In addition, SNY and UCONN men’s basketball and football completed a television deal that would feature 300 hours of Huskies programming.  This gives the country unprecedented access to both UCONN players and coaches.   Some young athletes can be overwhelmed by the cameras, but most players relish the fact their games are constantly watched.  It also helps recruiting that Ollie had success playing in the NBA. While some thought UCONN might struggle with the retirement of Jim Calhoun, they have persevered through the NCAA violations and have not missed a beat.