As usual, UConn's first practice of the season consisted mostly of running, running and more running. The Huskies started practice in Guyer, doing almost nothing but running, then finished the last hour or so in Gampel Pavilion. There, we saw some very spirited box-out/rebounding drills.
At one point, Kevin Ollie shouted at freshman Rakim Lubin, telling him, "The only way you're gonna play is to get some rebounds!"
“He thought I was going too soft against my teammates," Lubin explained afterwards. "But I didn’t want to hurt anybody. Once he told me if I don’t go harder against my teammates I was gonna have to run, I had to get in there and get rebounds.”
In all, Lubin came out of his first UConn practice pretty well.
“Rebounding drill’s not too tough," the 6-foot-8, 265-pound frosh said. "I was able to get my three and get out of there every time. The rest of those guys, it looked pretty tough.”
“He got through it pretty well," said Ollie. "He used his physicality, played very well, played hard. He got winded a couple of times, like everybody did, but he didn’t give in or quit. That’s a good mark for a UConn basketball player, when he has that will.”
Said Ryan Boatright: “Rock surprised a lot of us. He worked extremely hard.”
Another frosh, Daniel Hamilton, had an impressive battle with 7-foot Amida Brimah, grabbing several boards and getting his entire team to cheer wildly for him. After that sequence, however, Hamilton looked pretty gassed and could seemingly barely move for a few moments.
A tough first practice, as always -- particularly for the freshmen and newcomers. But overall, a good one. Here's some of what the Huskies had to say afterwards:
Boatright says running and getting out on the fast break is a key emphasis this season:
Not surprisingly, Sam Cassell, Jr. said he's never been on a team with so much talent in the backcourt.
“We want to be a better fast-breaking team than we were last year. We want to get more easy buckets. We can’t have Shabazz bailing us out with 35-footers at the end of the shot clock. We want to definitely run a little bit more, get our athletes out in space where they can create for themselves and for others.”
(can team be a strong perimeter-shooting group again)
“I hope so. They’ve got to work. We lost a lot of great shooters, everybody knows that. DeAndre and Neils and Shabazz were our three best 3-point shooters and those guys are gone. We’ve definitely got to have some people step up. I like my team, I like how hard they’re playing, I like how they compete. Hopefully Amida establishes himself in the low post more so we can go down low. Phil, we can go down low, Rock and Kentan -- all those guys got better. So, hopefully it gives me an option to do that a little bit more.”
(on competition for playing time)
“Coach (Calhoun) used to bring a different point guard in every year. You learn from the best.”
“My dream is to have four guys who can get it off the backboard, push it and be a point guard. That’s what I’m recruiting for ... Let’s go, let’s push it, let’s play fast-break basketball. I don’t want to call a lot of plays. I can if we need to ... but I want us to use our athleticism.”
“It was probably one of the hardest practices a lot of these guys have ever been to. Everybody went hard, and we got better today.”
SAM CASSELL, JR.
(on competition among guards)
“It’s a good thing. All our guards are different, we all play different. It’s gonna help me in practice, because I have to guard these guys -- some of the best guards in the country. So, in the game, it’ll be easier for me.”
“(Ollie) wants me to be a leader, help them develop. He knows me as a vet and understanding what it takes to be a champion, that I’ll be able to help everytone, as well as me being able to be explosive on offense and challenge people defensively. He wants me to keep working, challenging myself, and not taking plays off. I feel like that’s embedded in me. We kind of have the same mindset coming into he season.”
“I can definitely shoot the ball, everyone knows that. I’ve been working on that, as well as every other part of my game. I should be able to do more than hit 3’s -- hit mid-range shots, find people, finish at the rim and affect games defensively, as well.”
“It was a real tough practice, but we were prepared for it all preseason, so I was able to get through it ... I knew what to expect coming into it. I didn’t see the weight vests, we just saw the weight vests this year. But it was fun.”
“We have a lot of guards with different dimensions to our game. We can always switch things up. Sam is a pretty good shooter, me and Terrence are pretty much fast guards along with Boat. Speeding the game up and getting guys involved for open shots and things like that, we’ll be pretty good. Omar’s shooting the ball really, really well. We’ll be fine.”
“I know for a fact, there’s not many teams that really have a genuine love and care for each other as much as we do. We really want to show that each and every day. Even if you guys weren’t in here, we still would’ve been in here picking guys up, because that’s what we do. We take that back to our apartment, in the locker room, everywhere.”
“Guys don’t have to play 30, 40 minutes a game. We’ve got a lot of different guys who do different things. We can switch the game up a lot. Competition for playing time, that’s really not a huge issue, because we’re all on the same team and we have one goal: to win games. Whoever’s rolling that day, we’ve just got to go with that.”
Labels: Daniel Hamilton, Kevin Ollie, Omar Calhoun, Rakim Lubin, Rodney Purvis, Ryan Boatright, Sam Cassell