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    Saturday, August 20, 2022

    UConn’s Hurley enjoying the intensity of summer workouts

    UConn basketball coach Dan Hurley has increased the intensity of summer workouts in preparation for the upcoming season. (AP Photo/Stephen Dunn)

    Storrs — There’s an intense battle going on during UConn basketball summer practices.

    Coach Dan Hurley is challenging his players to elevate their level of toughness.

    With so many newcomers on the roster, Hurley’s biggest concern is team toughness.

    “You’ve got to understand how tough you need to be in the Big East,” Hurley said after Thursday afternoon’s team workout in the Werth Center.

    That’s why Hurley has dedicated recent workouts to developing that critical area.

    How does he do that?

    “You create practice plans to expose them to very challenging situations,“ Hurley said. “And then when they want to give in or be soft, you fight with them and don’t allow them to be. It’s a tough process. … You kind of fight for their souls a little bit.

    “When they want to go under a screen or to not be connected defensively to the man that they’re guarding at the point of attack, and they give in and give an inch or more, you demand that they not do that the next possession or the next eight possessions or the next 10 possessions because our games are going to come down in our league and when we play our high leverage games, there are going to be one or two possession games.”

    “So, one or two possessions of being soft and weak-minded gets you beat.”

    UConn was certainly involved in its share of tight battles last season.

    Last year, the Huskies had 10 games decided by five points or less, and they lost seven.

    The outcome didn’t always come down to toughness but it was definitely a factor.

    After focusing on player development and allowing newcomers to get acclimated to their new college basketball home at the start of the summer workouts, Hurley has moved on to the next stage of development.

    Intensity has especially picked up this week, the second to last week of workouts.

    Returning players like Adama Sanogo, Andre Jackson and Jordan Hawkins understand the level of toughness required to survive and thrive in the Big East and against high level non-conference foes.

    “The three guys that have been through the battles with, they get it,” Hurley said. “They have to lead and demand that from their teammates without scaring them off right now.”

    Newcomers, including transfers Tristen Newton, Joey Calcaterra, Nahiem Alleyne and Hassan Diarra, as well as freshman Donovan Clingan and redshirt freshman Alex Karaban, are getting an education.

    “We’re working on our toughness right now, just being as tough as possible and giving that maximum effort each and every day and every possession,” said Calcaterra, a graduate transfer who played four years at University of San Diego.

    Alleyne, a Virginia Tech transfer, is loving the competitive atmosphere.

    “I feel like ever since I’ve been here, I’ve been getting better every single day,” he said.

    Practices generally start out with individual workouts and then live scrimmages take up the majority of the time.

    “We go an hour and probably 55 minutes is live,” Hurley said. “And there’s no fouls, or very few fouls. And there’s a lot of intense coaching and demanding of players to compete a certain way. So, we’re just preparing these guys for that environment and trying to make the game as easy for them as possible by making practice as hard as possible.”

    Hurley is getting the Huskies ready for what lies ahead.

    He only has one more week left with his players – the second summer workout session ends Friday, Aug. 12 – before they head home for a two-week break.

    “It’s going to be four one-hour practices like we would normally practice in October to send a message and set a tone for the mindset we want these guys to return with in (late) August,” Hurley said of next week’s practice plan. “Summer time, it’s about individual improvement. We’re transitioning now to building our team and establishing roles and responsibilities and hopefully play at a championship level this year.”

    Hurley clearly likes the roster that he’s built.

    There’s talent and depth in both the backcourt and frontcourt. Players have responded well to his coaching demands.

    The intensity level will be turned up even more when the Huskies return to campus and resume workouts.

    “I think that’s why players come to play for me and come to play for this staff and program is because they want to be challenged and they want somebody to take them where they can’t get themselves,” Hurley said.

    g.keefe@theday.com

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