Wolf finding a role

Connecticut's Enosch Wolf (1) is defended by North Carolina State's C.J. Leslie (5) and Rodney Purvis (0) during the first half of their NCAA college basketball game in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Connecticut’s Enosch Wolf (1) is defended by North Carolina State’s C.J. Leslie (5) and Rodney Purvis (0) during the first half of their NCAA college basketball game in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

John F. Silver

Enosch Wolf is 7-foot-1, 245-pounds with a soft shooting touch.

Give that profile to a college  basketball coach and you don’t have to ask twice if they are interested. Every school in America would take a shot at a 7-foot-1 player. If you are going to take a shot on a project, make it a big project. At least that’s the thought process.

For over two years the Huskies have had Wolf at the end of the bench. It was more of an investment in a lottery ticket than player development.

For two years Wolf sat on the sidelines as a spectator and despite his physical size and skills for a big man logged time in only 15 games and took only nine shots in two years.

This year, Wolf was pushed into action out of necessity.  He’s the only kind of size on the UConn team and anything he gives is a bonus.

In one of the surprises of UConn’s season, the little-used Wolf has became an integral part of the rotation.

Wolf has gone from bench warmer to rotation player this season and is averaging 3.6 points and 3.3 rebounds in 13 minutes in 18 games, with three starts.

Those are modest numbers for Wolf, but since the New Year the 7-footer has played in over 10 minutes in six of seven games including 19 on Sunday against Rutgers when he had three blocks in the second half.

Wolf’s impact in the win over Rutgers can’t be ignored. He clogged the lane with his body and just having his long arms and size out there helps anchor the UConn defense. In 19 minutes, the plus/minus of Wolf on Sunday was +20. It’s not a coincidence.

With a team that’s next biggest player is Tyler Olander at 6-8 225-pounds, any kind of productive size is a godsend.

“His size, and he don’t jump, but he puts hands up and it is effective,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “Enosch is always in the right spots early. That’s what I am trying to Tyler to do. Enosch is like ‘I know I am not the quickest of foot, so I have to get over there early.’ Tyler (Olander) is starting to get, but Enosch is always in a good position to come up and get 3 blocks is huge. Just to have a presence in there is good.”
Wolf has worked his way into the rotation now and he splits time with Olander evenly. Wolf has a nice shooting touch and has showcased a 10 to 15 foot jump shot as well as an ability to clear out space on the offensive glass and to set picks. He’s shooting 61.5 percent from the floor and knows his limits and doesn’t do too much. He’s had some breakout games including 12 points and nine rebounds against North Carolina State in December and eight points and seven rebounds against DePaul.
Those aren’t huge numbers, but considering almost zero was expected of him coming into this season, his play is an integral part of UConn’s 13-5 start.
Ollie gives Wolf the credit.
“He did a lot of work, I give him all the credit getting his body in shape,” Ollie said. “He came out (from Germany) in horrendous shape from the tapes we’ve seen. I don’t know what happened, but he came out of shape and he knows that. He worked tremendously hard to get his weight down and conditioning up to play extended minutes.
“I find myself playing 20-22 minutes, and he is giving us a lot of spark in a lot of games. I give him a lot of credit to sticking with it …when things didn’t give him the sign to stick with it, he kept playing.”
Wolf is going to need to continue to log those kind of minutes at center with Olander undersized and freshman Phil Nolan not physically ready to play at this level.
On Thursday against Providence (10-10, 2-6), he will matchup with 6-10 245-pound forward Kadeem Batts, who is averaging 14.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.
Husky notes:
* Point guard Ryan Boatright sat out the end of practice as tendinitis in his knee started to flare up. It’s a season-long issue with Boatright and he isn’t expected to miss Thursday’s game at Dunkin’ Donuts Arena.
* This is the 71st meeting between Providence and UConn with the Huskies holding a 42-28 all-time edge. The Huskies are 16-14 at Providence. The Huskies are 4-12 in their last 16 games against the pesky Friars.