UConn’s Kevin Ollie proving he can win recruiting battles, too

Kevin Ollie has followed in Jim Calhoun's footsteps on the court, but now he's proving he can do the same on the recruiting trail as well.(AP Photo/Michael Probst)

(WTNH)–Kevin Ollie has already proven he can coach. Now, he’s proving he can recruit with the best of them, too.

One day after landing another Top-100 prospect in forward Juwan Durham, the Huskies’ third such get in the Class of 2016, CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein spent half a column praising Ollie for his ability to snag top players:

“Many people including myself wondered how UConn coach Kevin Ollie would do on the recruiting trail following Jim Calhoun and the plethora of pros that he lured to UConn during his Hall-of-Fame career, but the former NBA point guard has answered the bell with flying colors,” Rothstein wrote.

“After dominating the spring transfer market by landing Sterling Gibbs (Seton Hall), Shonn Miller (Cornell), and Terry Larrier (VCU), Ollie has already received commitments from three Top-100 players in the Class of 2016 — Alterique Gilbert, Juwan Durham, and Mamadou Diarra — and we’re not even through the first week of September yet.”

It’s true–and Ollie seems to possess a certain charisma and built-in cred with players that even Jim Calhoun didn’t have.

Nearly every time one of these kids commits, they mention how much respect they have for Ollie’s career and NBA connections, and how easily they feel he can relate to them.

Durham chose UConn over Duke, Florida, Florida State, Indiana, Louisville and a host of others. Gilbert chose the Huskies over Louisville, Syracuse, Texas and Illinois.

Four-star prospect Wenyen Gabriel recently narrowed his list to UConn, Duke, Kentucky, Providence and Maryland. Not bad company to be in.

Of course, maybe we should have known that KO was going to have success in landing players after he nabbed coveted transfer Rodney Purvis, a former McDonald’s All-American, and Sam Cassell Jr., who tore up the junior college ranks, before last season.

When Daniel Hamilton committed to UConn, he mentioned admiring the 2013 squad, and how hard they played for their coach even though they were banned from postseason play. He wanted to be on a team that close, and that’s a big reason why he chose Connecticut.

“It’s the person you’re playing for, and I think coach Ollie has been an inspiration,” Hamilton said. “The way he coaches his players, they look like a family. They play like a family. Two years ago when they played against Michigan State (a 66-62 win in the Armed Forces Classic in Germany), they all came together after the game for the post-game interview. That just touched me, and that’s when I kind of figured out I was going there.”

Again, we shouldn’t be surprised. As Ollie has shown many times before in this brave new, post-Big East era, this program ain’t no Cinderella.

It’s UConn.

And it’s nice to know it’s staying that way.

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