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Hurley, Huskies determined to make most of a difficult situation

These are extremely challenging and scary times everywhere, including the college basketball world.

There is no playbook or blueprint to follow.

"Obviously, unprecedented times," UConn coach Dan Hurley said during a conference call on Thursday.

The coronavirus pandemic has greatly impacted everything from daily communication to training to recruiting, but not completely stopped the college basketball world from spinning.

It's already been an active offseason that started sooner than expected due to the cancellation of postseason play.

Redshirt junior Alterique Gilbert is planning on transferring to another program with a year of eligibility remaining. He's leaving after an injury-plagued UConn career.

Hurley anticipates more roster changes, possibly one or two additions during the spring recruiting season. The coaching staff is reaching out to players in the transfer portal to try to strengthen the team.

When asked about redshirt sophomore Sid Wilson's status, Hurley responded in general terms, preferring not to comment on "specific guys that haven't made any decision about where they want to be."

"I expect to have conversations with these guys over the next week, week and a half," Hurley said. "Stay tuned on any movement."

All this is happening with UConn looking to build off a program-turning season and preparing for its return to the Big East.

"There's so much excitement brewing around the program right now," Hurley said. "We just want to hopefully get past this difficult time as quickly as possible, continue to do a great job in recruiting, continue to engage our fan base and get them ready for one of the most anticipated seasons in awhile around here."

The health crisis has disrupted the daily routine, forcing Hurley, his coaching staff and players to make changes.

Hurley met with his staff earlier this week before hunkering down at home. He's regularly in touch with his players; about a third of the team is still on campus. And he communicates with incoming recruits Andre Jackson and Javonte Brown-Ferguson through FaceTime.

The plan is to start using the Zoom app for daily staff meetings.

"We'll just try to do the best that we can," Hurley said.

For now, workouts won't be impacted much. This time of year, the Huskies usually do some light shooting and strength work before ramping things up in May.

But it's hard for them to plan the summer calendar. And they won't be able to spend time together as a team, something that Hurley believes is important to a program's growth.

"Obviously, we made an important step this past year because we just had more time together as a program to get better," Hurley said. "The longer this goes on, the less time we're going to have to spend with the players where the program can continue to evolve and improve.

"So we're just going to have to figure out a way to do it creatively and just stay in touch."

Two Huskies particularly having to adjust on the fly are Tyler Polley and Akok Akok, both recovering from injuries. They're making encouraging progress.

Polley, who suffered a torn ACL in early January, is on track to return for the season opener in November. Akok will take longer to come back from a ruptured Achilles tendon that happened in mid-February. He's determined to be ready for UConn's Big East opener, Hurley said.

At this point in their recovery process, Akok needs access to UConn's facilities more than Polley, who can do his exercises his home in Miramar, Fla., and talk to team trainer James Doran via Skype or FaceTime.

"He could do that at home because of where he's at in his recovery," Hurley said of Polley. "If things were to shut down, and (Akok) wouldn't have access to the training room and trainers, that would be tricky and difficult for him because he needs that person to person help with his rehabilitation because of what he's doing at this juncture based on the timeline. Akok really needs to be on campus and he needs access to the training room and a trainer."

Hurley isn't only concerned about his players' physical health.

He's keeping track of their well-being and making sure they're in a good place. He's constantly texting them, suggesting podcasts and book recommendations.

While at home, Hurley is establishing a daily routine that includes exercise, meditation, prayer, reading, journaling as well as coaching duties like film study and calling recruits. He's also cherishing the time he's spending with his family — wife, Andrea and sons, Drew and Danny.

"Just giving myself very, very structured days so I don't focus on just obsesssing over the coronavirus and how it is affecting our daily lives," Hurley said. "You've got to try to turn something that's really, really horrible into an opportunity to pause and be still and to try to grow personally a little bit from this and spend a lot more time with family and connecting with people that you love, and also try to find a way to do good for others if you can."

g.keefe@theday.com

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