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A challenging start for the Huskies

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: theday.com

Published September 28. 2013 8:00PM   Updated September 28. 2013 8:16PM

As a former player under Jim Calhoun and in his second stint on the UConn coaching staff, Glen Miller has seen his share of first practices.

Saturday's opening workout was particularly grueling.

"It was tough, really tough," Miller said.

The day started with walk-on tryouts at 8 a.m. Practice began at 9:30 a.m. in Guyer Gym, with players wearing gray t-shirts, a first-day tradition. The workout ended three and a half hours later in Gampel Pavilion.

"I like the intensity, that's one good thing," coach Kevin Ollie said. "When they came over (to Gampel), I told them it was second half but I think it was overtime. We did a lot in Guyer and they fought through it. I was proud of them today."

Freshmen Terrence Samuel, Amida Brimah and Kentan Facey, transfer Lasan Kromah and Rodney Purvis, a transfer sitting out this season, all experienced their first UConn workout.

"I was impressed with their work ethic but they've got a long way to go for them to even touch the court," Ollie said of the freshmen.

UConn's veterans set a good example for their younger teammates.

"First day is always intense," sophomore Omar Calhoun said. "Coach Ollie, he's always going after it, so we went hard. We've just got to rest our bodies and get ready for tomorrow."

In recruiting news, Rakim Lubin, a 6-foot-7 forward from Gadsden, Ala., made a verbal commitment today during his visit to UConn, according to @OntheRadarHoops on Twitter. He watched practice from the Gampel Pavilion stands. 

Lubin transferred to Buford High School after attending Gadsden High.

Some interesting tidbits from practice:

-- Brimah missed about the last 10 minutes of practice after hurting his left shoulder during the box-out drill.

The injury happened when Napier and Brimah collided when chasing down a loose ball along the baseline. Brimah hit the floor hard, landing face-first, and stayed down for a few minutes. Team trainer James Doran checked out Brimah who eventually walked off the court.

Miller expects that Brimah will be okay.

"James will evaluate him tomorrow and check his range of motion," Miller said. "He should be all right."

-- The coaching staff paid attention to every detail, even standing on the basketball court corners to prevent the Huskies from cutting in while running laps.

"You can't do anything lackadaisical," Samuel said.

-- It was a running joke that Jim Calhoun never knew a walk-on's name until he handed him his jersey on Senior Night.

It is too early for Ollie to know their names just yet. But he expects them to play with roughly same intensity as the scholarship players. He made a point to introduce himself to a walk-on during the box-out drill.

"I don't know what you are doing, or what your name is yet, but you've got to pick it up," Ollie said.

-- Expect to hear Ollie say the following on a regular basis this season: "We've got to hit first."

Ollie wants his players to initiate contact in any rebounding situation. UConn ranked near the bottom of the Big East last season in rebounding.

-- Samuel, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound guard from Brooklyn, said he's added muscle since arriving at UConn.

He likes how he looks.

"I believe I did," Samuel said of adding muscle. "Every time I go in the dorm, I look in the mirror.

-- Calhoun, who had off-season hip surgery, is ahead of schedule in his recovery. He participated in Saturday's workout. He said that he should be ready to go for the season opener.

-- Senior Tyler Olander, who remains suspended indefinitely, did not practice.

-- No update on Facey's eligibility status. He hasn't heard anything from the NCAA.

"I'm still waiting on that," Facey said. "Hopefully, everything works out in my favor."

-- The coaching staff is in unfamiliar territory with the extended practice time before the season opener on Nov. 8. UConn also will be playing in the new American Athletic Conference.

The Huskies are allowed 20 hours per week for practice.

"You have to approach it differently," Miller said. "You have to have more days off. I like it because it allows you to get more in early."

 

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