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    Friday, July 19, 2024

    Karaban and fellow newcomers excited to make their UConn debuts

    UConn's Samson Johnson, Donovan Clingan and Alex Karaban, from left, watch a contest during First Night events for the UConn men's and women's basketball teams on Oct. 14 in Storrs. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
    In this March 11 file photo, UConn coach Dan Hurley reacts to a call during the first half of the team's game against Villanova in the semifinals of the Big East tournament in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

    This is the day that Alex Karaban has been eagerly waiting for since arriving in Storrs.

    He’s as excited as a kid at Disney World to make his UConn basketball debut on Monday against Stonehill College.

    He just doesn’t want to let his emotions get the best of him.

    Coach Dan Hurley suggested the Calm App to Karaban, who sat out last season as a redshirt.

    “I’ve been doing a lot of yoga and a lot of meditation,” Karaban said. “Coach (Hurley) is telling me all the time to stay calm. I’m going to try to stay as calm as possible, but not being on the court for two years definitely has a certain level of pain inside of me that I want to release.

    “I’ve been waiting to release it for so long.”

    There’s a good chance that Karaban, a 6-foot-8 redshirt freshman forward from Southborough, Mass., will be in the starting lineup against the Skyhawks, a former Division II program making a Division I debut.

    Karaban is far from the only newcomer that will wear a UConn uniform for the first time.

    Transfers Tristen Newton, Hassan Diarra, Nahiem Alleyne and Joey Calcaterra all could see action on the perimeter and freshman center Donovan Clingan will be counted on to play an important reserve role in the frontcourt.

    “I’m very excited,” Newton said. “Intense practices, long summer. I’m just waiting to get out there and have fun.”

    The Huskies are dealing with some injuries.

    Co-captain Andre Jackson is sidelined with a broken pinky finger. He could be out for as many as five games. He’s progressed to the point where he’s shooting the ball and participating in non-live defensive drills.

    “We’re desperate to get him back,” Hurley said.

    Clingan missed a couple of days of practice at the end of last week due to an undisclosed injury. His status is day-to-day.

    While Karaban declared himself “basically 100 percent” healthy on Saturday, he sat out of practice for about a week earlier in preseason with a left ankle sprain and then twisted his other ankle early last week. He practiced with the team over the weekend.

    Karaban is considered a strong perimeter shooter with a high basketball IQ. He just wants to contribute in any way that he can to help the Huskies have a successful season. His goal is to be “an impact player.”

    He benefited from working out with the team and learning the Hurley Way while sitting out as a redshirt. He’s battling with sophomore Samson Johnson for playing time at the power forward spot.

    “He’s like the perfect type of player that you want in this program,” Hurley said. “He’s all about his education and his career and winning. The byproduct of that is then they do tend to put a lot of pressure on themselves because they’re so dialed into the right things.”

    “So, we’ve just got to try to get him to calm down so he can go out and do on game night what we see in (practice) every day.”

    This early in the season, it’s hard to game plan for an opponent like Stonehill.

    The Skyhawks have some experience with four fifth-year players and two graduate players on their roster. They’ll try to make up for their size disadvantage by making perimeter shots.

    “It’s a tough thing to get ready for,” Hurley said. “You’ve got to overwhelm them with your athleticism and your length and your discipline. You’ve got to have discipline. We’ve spent a lot of time preparing for what we’re going to see from them offensively. They’re unique.”

    The Huskies will be out to make a statement of their own and begin to set a tone on defense and in the toughness department, two concerns of Hurley’s.

    Hurley ramped up the intensity in practice the last few days to prepare for the opener.

    “We know it’s not going to be as easy as we may think it will be,” Karaban said. “We want to lay our toughness down and we want to impose our culture right away from day one and be like, UConn is here. We’re super excited.”

    Karaban is not only super excited for the season opener, he’s super optimistic about UConn’s season.

    “I think we can be a national championship team…,” Karaban said. “We have the talent level. We have a great coaching staff. The only thing that can stop us is ourselves. If we don’t bring it every day, we’ll fall short of expectations.

    “But I really think we’re a national championship team.”

    Hurley is fine with Karaban making that bold statement.

    “My expectation is that his class will win a national championship here, that’s the goal,” Hurley said. “That’s what we’re all here for. I’m thrilled to hear that and I’m thrilled that that’s what he’s talking about and not an individual award.”


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