Storrs — The first time Kevin Ollie saw Amida Brimah play at Archbishop Coleman Carroll in Miami, the UConn head coach came away very impressed.
Shortly after entering the game that day, Brimah blocked a shot from behind, finished off a statement-making dunk and grabbed a rebound.
Since he arrived at UConn, Brimah has played with the same passion, effort and energy.
Brimah was one of the bright spots in UConn's 93-65 rout of Southern Connecticut State University in an exhibition opener Wednesday at Gampel Pavilion.
"We've been seeing it since we recruited him, since we went down to Miami," Ollie said. "When we first saw him in the gym, he was the best player. But it wasn't only that, he had the best passion out of anybody.
"… We were sold. He's going to be a great player for us."
An athletic 7-foot, 217-pound freshman center, Brimah finished with eight points, five blocks and three rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench. It is the most blocks by a Husky in an exhibition game in the last five seasons.
Brimah has the potential to make a substantial impact this season. While deep in the backcourt, the frontcourt needs help.
Brimah is fighting for a regular spot in the rotation. Sophomore Phil Nolan stated his case with a productive nine points and six rebounds in 11 minutes. Freshman Kentan Facey (two points, two rebounds, 12 minutes) and senior Tyler Olander (one point, three rebounds, 12 minutes) had relatively quiet games.
While still a bit raw offensively, Brimah will, at the very least, provide an inside presence missing from the team last year.
In his first trip off the bench about midway through the first half, Brimah dunked home an alley oop pass from Lasan Kromah and challenged SCSU's Greg Langston but was called for the foul.
"I was nervous," said Brimah, who's from Ghana. "After I scored, I felt comfortable."
By halftime, Brimah already had three blocks. He has good natural instincts and timing, but needs to learn to avoid fouls; He had three against the Owls.
Brimah already has won over his teammates.
"That guy is amazing," said junior DeAndre Daniels. "He doesn't allow anybody to lay the ball up easy. He blocks everything. He runs hard and he can finish. He's going to be a great player here at UConn."
Considered an unpolished offensive player coming out of high school, Brimah also showed off a nice hook shot and converted four of five field goals overall.
Right down to the final minutes, Brimah kept playing hard.
"I run hard all the time," Brimah said. "The thing I do best is I'm a shot blocker."
Veterans fueled UConn's offensive attack. Daniels led all scorers with 21 points and 10 rebounds while Ryan Boatright (15 points, five assists) and Niels Giffey (10 points) also scored in double figures.
Rebounding has been a point of emphasis throughout preseason, but the Huskies lost the battle of the boards, 48-43, Transition defense also was an issue, as the Owls had 27 fast break points.
"First game, we had some bright spots," Ollie said. "But we've got a lot of things that we've got to work on. First thing is transition and then our rebounding. Once again, it's been an emphasis of ours and I'm disappointed with that."
UConn has one more exhibition game — Monday against Concordia in Hartford — before opening the season Nov. 8 against Maryland in Brooklyn, N.Y.