Men's Basketball Notebook: UConn's title two years in the making
The UConn men's basketball team celebrates after winning the 2014 national championship at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
ARLINGTON, Texas - From the moment Kevin Ollie took over as the head coach for UConn in 2012, he had planned for this moment.
Only it needed some time and faith for it to come to fruition.
"I keep telling you, it started 18 months ago when they kept believing and they stayed loyal to the program," Ollie said after UConn defeated Kentucky, 60-54, to win the national championship.
"Coach Ollie told us, this is going to be a two-year plan," said Shabazz Napier, who scored 22 points in the win, "and since that day on we believed."
Banned from the 2013 postseason by the NCAA over poor academic scores from none of the current student-athletes, Napier and company stuck together and made Ollie's vision a reality.
"We always knew the words were 'if we work hard,'" Napier said. "We wanted to be on top. We wanted to feel like we were the champions, and there were times when we were down and guys were picking us up."
One those times came on Jan. 18 this year after the Huskies lost to Louisville at Gampel Pavilion. Napier rallied the team after the loss and assured them of the r.
"I remember telling these guys, I said, 'Everybody pick your head up. We're going to be the team that's going to be holding up that trophy. I promise you that,'" Napier said.
Napier kept his promise and made Ollie look like a prophet.
"It's unbelievable," Ollie said. "It's unbelievable because those guys, my players, stayed with the program... They believed in a vision before anybody seen it. They stuck with it through the down times, when we were losing. When we were winning, they stayed together and they believed it was possible."
Ollie said the beautiful thing about this championship when he reflects upon it is the team's "toughness" and "togetherness."
"We had faith in each other, and we are here," Napier said. "We won the whole thing. We didn't listen to any doubters. We just went out there and did what we had to do."
UConn had to go through a road filled with tournament-favorites such as Michigan State, Florida and finally Kentucky. Through it all, the Huskies never lost that faith they had in each together.
"It took an unbelievable team," Ryan Boatright said in a postgame radio interview. "It took a special team... They fought very hard this year. We stuck together. Everybody doubted us. We stuck together and pulled this national championship out."
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