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Ollie's lone concern is preparing for Big East

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: The Day

Published December 21. 2012 4:00AM

Coach Kevin Ollie is too busy preparing and improving his UConn basketball team to worry about his contract status.

Whether he's working under a seven-month deal, as he is now, or seven years, Ollie's razor-sharp focus remains on his Huskies.

"I'm going to do my job regardless," Ollie said Thursday. "That's something I can't control. ... You care about it because you do want to have a contract but I'm not losing sleep over it. Trust me on that.

"I get up in the morning, I'm refreshed, I'm ready to go, I'm ready to practice, I'm ready to give my all for my players because they do the same for me. They're still playing like I'm here forever so I'm going to do the same for them."

UConn continues to build a case that Ollie is deserving of a long-term contract, taking an 8-2 record into today's game (7 p.m., SNY) against Fordham at the XL Center in Hartford.

So far, the Huskies are doing all the right things, on and off the court.

They've consistently played hard for Ollie. Their energy level remains high following exams and during the semester break, and Ollie wants to keep it that way.

"Once you get your finals done, you get a little sigh of relief," Ollie said. "We can't sigh too much. We have to play a lot of great teams coming up. ... The Big East schedule is coming and the intensity is going to ramp up another notch. They have to be ready for it."

After playing Fordham (2-8), UConn hosts Washington on Dec. 29. Then the Big East season begins Jan. 1 at Marquette.

Of course, the Huskies don't want to get caught looking ahead.

Fordham is an improved team with the recent return of Atlantic 10 preseason first team forward Chris Gaston, who missed six games with an injury before leading his team past Princeton (63-60) Saturday. He's been the conference's top rebounder three straight years.

"He's a very talented player," Ollie said. "With hard work, he'll have a shot at the NBA. ... He's going to create some mismatch problems for us."

Overall, scoring has been an issue for the Rams, who average just 62.1 points and shoot 40 percent from the field.

The Huskies are showing signs of diversifying their offense and being a bit less dependent on the backcourt duo of junior Shabazz Napier and sophomore Ryan Boatright, the team's top scorers.

In the last two games, sophomore DeAndre Daniels and freshman Omar Calhoun took turns leading the team in scoring for the first time this season, scoring 23 and 22 points, respectively.

Calhoun, a 6-foot-5 guard, had scored just five points in the previous two games prior to Monday against Maryland-Eastern Shore.

"We need him to score," Ollie said of Calhoun. "We need him to be a good basketball player for us to win because we don't have a lot of margin for error."

Another plus for the Huskies: guard R.J. Evans, who was held out of Monday's game to rest his sore collarbone, is ready to go.

"I'm definitely going to use him," Ollie said. "We're going to go into the game with him being full strength."

g.keefe@theday.com

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