Roughly one year after opening the first “Kevin’s Kourt” at the Boys & Girls Club in Hartford for athletes of all ages with disabilities, UConn men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie helped celebrate the opening of a second court this past Friday in South Windsor.
The 40 by 50-foot court features ten stations by Bankshot, which makes baskets specifically for athletes with disabilities. Ollie also announced at Friday’s ceremony that two more Kevin’s Kourts - one in West Hartford and one in Waterbury - are slated to open this summer.
In addition to the new courts, Ollie has partnered with the Ryan Martin Foundation, which will host adaptive sports clinics at all Kevin’s Kourts locations. The Ryan Martin Foundation seeks to make wheelchair basketball more accessible to those with disabilities and help them become more independent through sports. Martin is also leading an effort to bring a wheelchair basketball team to UConn.
Ollie also provided an update on the Huskies as they prepare for the 2017-18 season and the latest in the American Athletic Conference.
After the trio of Terry Larrier, Mamadou Diarra and Alterique Gilbert missed most of last season due to injuries, the three have worked hard to put themselves in a position to succeed this season.
“They’re just working hard, taking care of their summer academics so they can get off to a good start in the fall,” Ollie said. “There’s a lot of new pieces. Terry’s coming back, it’s good to see him back on the court. Alterique, good to see him back on the court. CV (Christian Vital) and Jalen and all the guys that came back from last year are ready to go.”
Diarra has spent a good part of this summer fasting but has still put in the effort to ensure he’s healthy for this season.
“He’s going through Ramadan right now, lost a little weight, but he’s still Mamadou. He’s out there working hard,” Ollie said.
As the team gets ready for the upcoming season, the Huskies will face their fair share of strong programs, including Arizona and Villanova.
“Arizona has put a great roster together. What a great challenge, especially with our young team,” Ollie said. “We’re going to play hard and try to do our best. I think our team has come together through all the adversity.”
On top of these non-conference matchups, the AAC conference slate will get a boost with the addition of Wichita State. UConn will play the Shockers twice this season, and Ollie firmly believes the Shockers’ bring more basketball credibility to the conference.
“I love it, I think it got great reviews from the media, great reviews from people around. We’re the Power 6. That’s how we feel,” Ollie said of adding the Shockers. “Our league is coming together very well. Mike Aresco is doing a great job. They can’t keep us out. This is the Power 6, and we’re going to keep building that mantra and show that on the basketball court so we can get some respect and get higher seeds in the NCAA tournament.”