Wednesday, August 7, 2013

UConn is Finally Free of APR, Nate Miles-Induced Penalties

We all know that UConn was banished from the postseason play last season as a result of poor APR scores in the past. But while that was the harshest penalty the program suffered, it wasn’t the only one.

The Huskies were also restricted on the practice floor last season as part of their APR punishment. And they were limited on the recruiting trail, too, a final remnant of the sanctions delivered from the Nate Miles saga. Now, all of those punishments have been lifted – much to the delight of Kevin Ollie and his coaching staff.

Last season, the Huskies were docked four hours of practice time -- from 20 to 16 -- per week as part of their APR penalty. The extra time was required to be spent instead on “academic activities.”

While having four fewer hours of practice time per week would seem to put a team at a competitive disadvantage, it actually served as somewhat of a benefit for UConn. For one, the team was able to concentrate more on its studies, and by all accounts the Huskies are doing much better in the classroom.

On the court, the fewer hours of practice actually helped keep UConn fresh during the grind of the regular season.

“We learned a lot from last year, where we couldn’t practice all the time,” Ollie explained. “We had 16 hours where it allowed us to take a couple of days off here and there. It really helped our guys be energized and had their bodies in good shape to perform when it counts.”

He’ll take that into consideration this season as the Huskies – and all men’s college basketball teams – will actually have more days to practice this season. New NCAA rules allow men’s teams to begin practice 42days prior to the official start of the regular season (which is Friday, Nov. 8). Teams can hold 30 practices over those 42 days, beginning on Sept. 27. (UConn is still expected to hold its First Night festivities in mid-October as usual, though nothing's official yet).

Ollie will try to balance the lack of restrictions and more practices overall with keeping his team fresh.

“I’m also going to work the guys hard and get them prepared for a tough season,” he promised. “We’ve got an out-of-conference season that’s second-to-none, and I’m very proud of that. We’re going to have to perform on a big stage, and we’re going to have to perform right away, because Maryland is no pushover team.”

The Huskies kick off their season on Nov. 8 against the Terrapins at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. UConn will also face Florida, Boston College, Stanford, Washington and possibly Indiana in non-conference games.

The Huskies’ staff has also been hampered by recruiting restrictions over the past three seasons, stemming from the violations involving Miles. The staff was limited by 40, from 130 to 90, in off-campus recruiting days for the 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13 recruiting periods. The Huskies had used up all their recruiting days by the time this past April’s “live period” rolled around, and weren’t able to get out on the road.

And so, when July’s three live periods came along, the Huskies were re-invigorated.

“It was hectic, but it was good,” Ollie said. “We saw some great, great prospects. Now, we’re just trying to get some guys up on campus to finish the deal. It was real good to be out on the road, because we weren’t able to go out in April. Everybody else was a little lethargic, and we were all energized because we weren’t able to go out in April.”

Freed from the shackles of any more APR or Nate Miles-induced penalties, UConn will certainly be re-energized – on the practice floor and the recruiting trail – moving forward.

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