UConn assistant coach Kevin Ollie was the featured speaker at a Husky Sport celebration Friday evening at the Hartford Public Library, telling a gathered group of about 150 to persevere in life, remain dedicated to helping others, set goals and be willing to work to achieve them.
“My mother always told me that when you fall down in life, make sure you land on your back so you can see up and then get up,” said Ollie, who played for 11 teams in 13 NBA seasons.
Husky Sport, which partners volunteering UConn students with Hartford schoolchildren through various community outreach initiatives, was founded in 2003 through the Neag School of Education and now works with 30-plus Hartford-area agencies. Many of those agencies were represented in the crowd Friday.
Former women’s player Brittany Hunter (who just recently earned her Master’s from the Neag School of Education) and former men’s player Hilton Armstrong (with the Atlanta Hawks), both involved with Husky Sport before and after their playing days, attended the event.
“A community is not an easy thing to develop,” said Justin Evanovich of Husky Sport. “It’s a rigorous process and it takes a lot of work, day to day.”
Evanovich was a walk-on on UConn’s 2004 national championship team and later a graduate manager for the Huskies. He recently completed his Ph.D. from the Neag School.
Husky Sport is in the Hartford community seven days a week and runs a program for 300 children at Clark Elementary school. The program has about 1,000 UConn volunteers each year – players from all UConn sports have been involved and often appear at schools — and those volunteers have surpassed 25,000 hours of community outreach.
“As the years have gone on, we’ve developed really good relationships with the students, the teachers and the staff,” Evanovich said, “and now more than ever, the families. … We’re a supplement. We’re bringing together college students who are willing to assist [with already established community programs]. We’re a helping hand.”
Ollie praised the group for its efforts and talked a little about his journey. Undrafted out of UConn, he kept fighting to stick in the NBA and did until retiring last year to become a coach under Jim Calhoun.
“Every day I woke up and said, ‘It’s possible,'” Ollie said. “Don’t always go by what you see. Your eyes can play tricks on you. Go by what’s inside your heart. … Be better than you think you can be.”
Article courtesy of Hartford Courant.