Freshmen receive a lesson on 1st day of UConn practice

Some news and notes from Saturday’s opening practice with the UConn men’s basketball team:

FRESHMEN FOLLIES: Terrence Samuel was ready for a good soak when it was over before embarking on an afternoon agenda that entailed lunch, some TV and a much needed nap.

Kentan Facey just wanted to dive head first into an ice bath.

It’s was welcome to UConn basketball day for the Husky freshmen, and after four hours of practice, they couldn’t wait for a break. The day actually began at 8 a.m. with walk-on tryouts before practice started at 9:30 in Guyer Gym, prior to move over to Gampel Pavilion for the finish.

“It was the hardest practice of my life,” said Samuel, who figures to enhance an already deep backcourt this season. “I’ve never been so winded.”

Samuel added he’d be ready to go back to work tomorrow after getting a long rest. As for Facey, he can continue to practice with the team, but there was no update on his eligibility for the season. A decision from the NCAA is expected soon.

“I’m waiting and still working with the compliance office,” Facey said.

A third freshman, Amida Brima, also took part in workouts, but his day ended a little early with what appeared to be a sore left shoulder after a hard fall. Trainer James Doran worked with him a bit off the court, but there was no official word on his injury.

After one workout, head coach Kevin Ollie was not about to hand any of them a starting job just yet.

“It takes different freshmen different times, and they sure don’t have it now,” said Ollie, who noted how long it took former Husky Jeremy Lamb in his first year. “They have a long way to go, but we’ll push them to that and I don’t expect them to know the intensity and how hard we go and what we demand from our players.  It’s a learning curve and the sooner they get it, the sooner the better, then they’ll be able to play.

“If they don’t get it we have a deep team and they won’t play.”

A GOOD FIRST STEPPED: Overall, Ollie seemed pleased with the Huskies first day in the gym, which was spent working on defense and rebounding in particular.

“We went hard for a couple hours,” Ollie said. “We wanted to really concentrate on physicality, hitting first, rebounding and also pushing pace. We want to do that. We have a deep team this year, and I think we will be able to get out and run, play different styles.

“Today was just gut check time. Everybody stepped through, everybody made it. … They are going to be a good team. They are going to have to challenge each other, they are going to have to play hard and that’s what we are striving for every day.”

One of the luxuries Ollie has this season from last is a veteran group, which includes senior guard Shabazz Napier and Niels Giffey along with juniors Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels.

“It’s less teaching,” Ollie said about his second year. “Some of the guys (know the drills) and the veteran guys, I didn’t have to tell them that, so it took some time away where I could do other things. That’s great. When we install our offense, probably the veteran guys will know that offense and we are going to add some layers to it that I couldn’t add last year. Layers to practice that I couldn’t add last year.

“We are going to add some different things and our veteran guys are going to know the foundation and we’ll build off of that. I don’t have to breakdown everything, I can just say ‘veterans, get up’ and they show them how (it’s done).”

Even though the Huskies can now practice 20 hours per week – they were limited to 16 hours last year due to NCAA sanctions – Ollie is not one to waste time.

“I’m more efficient with my time, that’s something I can’t get back,” he said. “They give me that time and it’s precise to me, and if I’m teaching the same things over and over again, it’s less time. I can’t hold them in here four hours, it’s against the rules.”

BENCHWARMERS: The lone Husky to not participate in the first day of practice was senior forward Tyler Olander, who remains suspended from the team. … Ollie said the Huskies were in “uncharted waters” this season playing in the AAC with new schools and travel schedules, so he will adjust the team’s practices accordingly to make sure they have fresh legs.


William Paxton