The first day of practice is never fun, except if you’re a highly touted recruit sitting in the seats at Gampel Pavilion sharing some laughs while the Huskies run, run and run some more. The recruits shared a few laughs together during the three-hour session. Why not? Geno Auriemma wasn’t barking orders at them. Not yet, anyway.
The session lasted approximately three hours, ending at 11:54 a.m. Geno had to be off the court at noon because the men’s team was coming over from Guyer Gymnasium. From there, the Huskies hit the weight room before hitting the lunch spread. As first days go, it was good enough for Geno, especially when he saw how well the new and improved Kaili McLaren was moving up and down the floor.
“There were some moments that you saw that were significantly better than last year,’’ he said. “There’s always going to be areas you’re going to want her to make quicker progress in. But I think, all in all, the fact that she feels more confident, the fact that she feels better that makes her that much more important to us.’’
Kaili was admittedly out of shape last season, which left her out of the rotation too many times when UConn could have used her inside presence and her passing. So rather than accept her diminished role she went out and did something about it.
But as everyone knows talk is cheap (How many people have bought a treadmill and never used it longer then two weeks?) Kaili’s talk turned into action this off-season. She dedicated herself. She ran. She lifted weights. She altered her diet. Everything that was said about Kaili’s transformation is true. It’s remarkable.
I’m told that she has lost 60 pounds since last season. The coaching staff can’t say enough about her. She has become a feel-good story that people will want to cheer and urge her on in her quest to continue to shrink.
“I’m always working to get in better shape,’’ she said. “I’m definitely not the most fit person on the team, or anywhere for that fact. I definitely need to get in better shape, lose a couple more pounds. Just getting down to a certain weight where I know I feel good and I can do everything.’’
There are plenty of players to keep an eye on this season. Make sure you keep an eye on Kaili. She is off to a great start. The finish is looking like it will be even better.