The pregame ceremonies before Connecticut games since Dec. 14 were respectful and appropriate. But men's basketball coach Kevin Ollie said from the start that he wanted to take his team to Newtown and help those impacted by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.
Ollie and the Huskies kept their word Thursday with a trip to the Newtown Youth Academy. The entire team, including walk-ons, the entire coaching staff and former coach Jim Calhoun, made the trip from Storrs to Newtown. About 150 children and many adults greeted the team. Players and coaches autographed posters and posed for photos.
Newtown officials asked that the media not cover the event and that request was honored. Phil Chardis, assistant director for athletic communications, tells us that the UConn players broke into groups to visit and play with the children.
"Some games of "knockout" … some shooting, some laughing, plenty of horseplay … they were very appreciative of us being there, but team appreciated it as well," Chardis shared in an e-mail.
"We know that this community is coming together and will prevail and we just wanted to go there and show our support, show them that our team and the whole state of Connecticut is behind them," Ollie said. "It was great for us to be able to see some smiles on their faces and to spend some time with them and do what we could. It was a great experience for our kids. We were proud and honored to be able to help."
Chardis said the team spent about 90 minutes at the academy. At the end of the time there was birthday cake for both Ollie and sophomore guard Ryan Boatright, both born on Dec. 27.