Saturday, October 15, 2011

Survive and Advance: UConn's First Practice

Survive and advance may not just be an apt slogan for March Madness. It could also describe getting through UConn’s first official practice of the year.

Here’s what some players thought of Saturday’s practice, which began at Guyer Gym and ended nearly 3 ½ hours later in Gampel:

Shabazz Napier: “Today was one of the hardest practices I’ve been a part of. I hate it when I’m out there, but I love it right now.”

(Here's my story from today's practice. What a difference a year makes, eh?)

Andre Drummond: “It was good. It was longer than I expected. I saw the practice schedule and was like, ‘This doesn’t look too bad.’ But looks are deceiving. There was more running than I thought there’d be.”

Ryan Boatright wasn't used to getting manhandled the way he did during the infamous box-out drill: "In high school, nobody really bullied me like that. Here, it’s crazy. But it’s for the best, you just work through it ... Now I know I’m not in high school, I can’t do what I want, just coast in practice. I have to give 110 percent, full-speed all day."

Alex Oriakhi: “I thought it was good for the freshmen to get used to the speed. I’m definitely used to it, it’s just tiring … Overall, I think (the freshmen) did a pretty good job. I tried to give them a heads-up on how it would be. They gave effort, that’s all they can really ask.”

Towards the very end of practice, the Huskies had to complete a suicide sprint in 28 seconds. They failed (that is, a couple of players failed) once. Then again. By this time, many players were clearly winded, and Jim Calhoun started to get a bit irked.

“You’ve had six months to get in shape,” he shouted. “There’s no damn reason why you shouldn’t be in shape.”

They ran it again, and this time everybody finished inside of 28 seconds (barely). Practice was over.

“We were in a little too much in a survival mode as opposed to ‘go’ mode,” Calhoun noted. “We’re trying to get them where they’re ready to fight and get through a tough practice.”

He pointed out some bright spots: “Niels Giffe … Shabazz led us very well. DeAndre Daniels had a good day, Andre Drummond did some good things.”

Michael Bradley didn’t participate. He suffered a severely sprained ankle about three weeks ago and was limited to just shooting around at a side basket and riding a stationary bike – a lot.

“I think he was about in Sturbridge,” Calhoun said of Bradley’s pedaling. “He might have reached Boston somewhere by the end of practice.”

The Huskies hope Bradley is able to get back out on the court by mid-week.

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