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Springs looking forward to playing for Huskies

Richie Springs is taking full advantage of his extended free time by improving his body and mind.

He's working out regularly, trying to add some weight so he's physically prepared for this upcoming basketball season when he'll be eligible to compete for the UConn Huskies.

He's reading more books, like many others since the coronavirus pandemic shutdown.

"I've been doing a lot to get myself better," said Springs, who's from Brooklyn, N.Y., but right now staying with his father in Pennsylvania. "That's the good thing about this time. I don't look at it as time to just sit around and do nothing. There's always something for you to do to improve yourself whether it's learning a new skill or getting your body in shape."

Coach Dan Hurley encourages his players to be well-rounded. He runs a book club for his team.

Springs' favorite book — "Why the Best are the Best: 25 Powerful Words That Impact, Inspire, and Define Champions," by Kevin Eastman, a member of the Boston Celtics coaching staff during the 2008 NBA championship season — was recommended by Hurley.

"I never realized how much you can learn and improve yourself just by reading books and I will definitely continue," said Springs during an interview Monday via text message.

It's been a learning experience for Springs, a 6-foot-9, 230-pound forward, since he committed to UConn last summer.

Prior to arriving in Storrs, Springs went to MacDuffie School in Granby, Mass., along with current UConn teammate James Bouknight. He enrolled at UConn instead of going the post-graduate route.

Springs sat out last season as an academic redshirt and practiced with the Huskies. While he says it was difficult practicing without playing games, he benefited from being in the gym and weight room. He also grew to understand the program's playing style, philosophy and culture under Hurley.

It was a worthwhile investment in his future.

"It's going to be an advantage for me in the upcoming years," Springs said. "I learned so much valuable information from coach Hurley and the staff that I would not have learned if I decided to stay in high school. This extra year also put me ahead of a lot of incoming freshmen in terms of how the college level is played and what to expect.

"I feel like I made improvement on my offensive skill set and physicality. Most importantly, I feel like I've made an improvement on the defensive end as well. I still have a lot to prove and I feel like I haven't cracked the surface of everything I can do on the court. The ceiling is still high for me."

Springs will battle for a place in a crowded frontcourt rotation. He faces some stiff competition with Josh Carlton, Isaiah Whaley, Tyler Polley and Akok Akok returning and the addition of promising newcomer Adama Sanogo.

Both Polley and Akok are making comebacks from injuries, with the former expected to be ready by the season opener and the latter likely needing until December to fully recover from a torn Achilles tendon.

"Richie gives us a guy who could play four or five," Hurley said. "He's still a young player. He could have been in prep school. He came in and enrolled early. He's a live body and one of the better offensive rebounders that I've been around. And he did have a full year with us. He's a live frontcourt body that we think has got a great, great future as he matures."

Rebounding is an area that Springs could make an impact in his first season on the court.

While Springs is still developing physically, he's a quick jumper and athletic. He also has good instincts for rebounding, according to assistant coach Tom Moore.

"I think we could have put him in a game this year if he would have been eligible and he would have rebounded," Moore said. "The rest of the stuff, he's catching up and he's got a lot to learn. But he's got a knack for reading the way the ball is coming off the rim and going to get it with some strength.

"He's got a second jump and he's got toughness for his age, too. I do think once we smooth out and refine his offensive game a little bit and give him a little bit more direction where we see him playing as well, if he gets more clear on his role, he'll get ready quickly for us."

Springs has the proper mentality to rebound as well. He embraces doing the hard work under the basket. He's not concerned about scoring at this early stage of his UConn career.

His ultimate goal is to eventually be the best rebounder in the Big East Conference.

"Rebounding is what I do best and I want to be able to perfect this skill throughout my career here," Springs said. "If I'm not playing well in a game, I will turn all my focus to rebounding. I don't care if I end a game with zero points and seven plus rebounds. For me, I think rebounding is more valuable than any stat."

Until making his debut, he has plenty of time to continue to improve his basketball skills as well as work on his body and mind.

He can't wait until his first UConn game.

"It's going to be incredible," Springs said. "We're on the way up to bringing the old UConn back. The atmosphere next year is going to be amazing no matter who we play. I'm going to be a little nervous at first but I'll be ready to give it my all."

g.keefe@theday.com

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