WEST HARTFORD - A meeting that some may have perceived as awkward will be nothing like that, UConn coach Kevin Ollie insisted Sunday.
The Huskies are playing Providence Wednesday night at Mohegan Sun in a hastily scheduled exhibition to benefit victims of the recent spate of hurricanes. That means going against Providence freshman guard Makai Ashton-Langford.
Ashton-Langford, a point guard from Worcester who attended Brewster (N.H.) Academy, signed to play at UConn before changing his mind and asking out of his letter of intent. He then chose to join the Friars.
“He made a choice, we made a choice and everyone’s got to go on,” Ollie said. “He made a choice that was best for him.”
There is no animosity from Ollie about the situation or upcoming game.
“I love Makai like no other, no matter if he’s going to Providence or if he’s going here,” Ollie said.
Ashton-Langford’s decision came on the heels of UConn’s dismissal of associate head coach Glen Miller. Miller had been Ashton-Langford’s primary recruiter.
The loss of a recruit the quality of Ashton-Langford also came just days after the public learned UConn players Vance Jackson, Steven Enoch and Juwan Durham were all planning to transfer.
The Huskies have re-stocked their roster with players they seemingly believe can help them win, so Ollie doesn’t feel any need to hold a grudge.
“Even with our players here, we love them whether they do bad, good or indifferent,” Ollie said. “And I still love Makai. His family is wonderful, he’s wonderful, his little brother is wonderful.
“There’s no judgement or ill-feelings against Makai. I wish him the best - not when they play us but I wish him the best out there.”
Ollie, who spent much his formative years in Los Angeles, is glad to see his favorite baseball team, the Dodgers, in the World Series. And he’s confident in the outcome.
“Prediction? We’re going to win,” Ollie said the day after the Astros reached the Series by beating the Yankees.
The coach was reminded that one of the Astros’ top players, centerfielder George Springer, is a UConn graduate.
“He can have a couple of hits,” Ollie said with a smile, “but not any RBIs.”
The Huskies held a little team outing Saturday, a further attempt to get a group of players still getting to know each other some time to bond. Ollie and his players headed to Matt’s Outback Paintball in Coventry.
Ollie told reporters of the sojourn after he was asked about his team’s health heading into the Providence game.
“We had a nice game of paint ball,” Ollie said. “Everybody made it healthy out of that. So I think we’ll be good.”
The team-bonding experience didn’t leave any lasting bruises, it seems.
“It was fun,” Ollie said. “They said it was ‘lit.’ I didn’t know what that means but they had fun.”