UConn news and video from Saturday's practice

We should know a lot more about UConn in the next few weeks.

The Huskies (12-5, 2-3) have an opportunity to make a strong move in the conference standings. Four of their next five opponents own losing conference records.

After hosting Rutgers (3-4 Big East) Sunday, UConn plays at Providence(2-6), home against South Florida (1-6), and on the road against St. John’s(4-3) and Seton Hall (2-4).

First, UConn is looking to snap a two-game losing streak on Sunday. Rutgers also is fighting to stay in the upper half of the league. The Scarlet Knights have dropped three of their last four.

Here’s a rundown from today’s practice at Gampel Pavilion:

-- The hot topic was junior Shabazz Napier’s sore left shoulder. He’ll play but he’s still dealing with some pain.

Napier took most of the week off, returning to practice on Friday. He participated in all the drills Saturday expect the rugged box-out battle.

“Hopefully, I’ll wake up tomorrow morning feeling much better,” Napier said. “It just hurts in the morning. … I don’t even know what’s really wrong except my rotator cuff. I know there’s a lot of pain some days when I wake up. That’s the only thing that’s affecting me.

“When I loosen it up, it feels good. When it goes cold for five minutes, it’s like the pain is just sore. It’s not as bad as it is in the morning, but it’s just so sore it affects me sometimes.”

Coach Kevin Ollie said that he’ll continue to take a cautious approach with Napier and follow the advice of team trainer James Doran.

“If he can go out there and play, I don’t want any excuses,” Ollie said. “That’s what I said in Pittsburgh. …. If you’re out there, we want you to go 100 percent. If you’re not, I’m going to take you out.”

Napier had trouble dribbling with his left hand in the loss at Pittsburgh on Jan. 19. He’s spent extra time this week doing a lot of two-ball dribbling.

Check out the attached video of Napier talking about his injury.

 -- UConn ended practice with a spirited box-out drill. The Huskies took turns battling practice players for rebounds. Freshman Omar Calhoun had a tough time.

As punishment for poor rebounding, Ollie had the Huskies run. They did a lot of running.

When asked if he’s happy with the progress in the rebounding department, Ollie responded: “No. You’ve got to hit first and go get the basketball. That’s the only thing rebounding is -- desire and heart. You’ve got to go get it.

“That’s the only way we’re going to win games in the Big East.”

-- Reserve R.J. Evans of Salem took some extra free throws after practice ended. Assistant coach George Blaney offered him some advice.

“It’s just something that I’ve got to work on,” Evans said. “I’ve got to knock down free throws in the game, something that I’ve been struggling with. I’ve been working after practice every day with coach Blaney. Coach Ollie and coach (Glen) Miller have been giving me some tips.”

Evans is shooting 3-for-11 from the foul line.  That’s a drop-off from his Holy Cross days when he converted 56.8 percent in his final season.



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