UConn basketball's competitive streak on display at Husky Run
Storrs — It's already evident that a fierce competitive streak runs through the UConn men's basketball team.
The Huskies took the annual 3.1-mile Husky Run very seriously.
It mattered to senior Amida Brimah, a 7-footer who relied on his long stride, strong conditioning and competitive spirit to be the first UConn player to cross the finish line near the Worth Family UConn Basketball Champions Center.
Brimah, who won the event as a sophomore, posted a time of 21 minutes, 59 seconds. Strength and conditioning coach Travis Illian was the overall winner at 21:53.
"This is how we start our season and another way of how we compete against each other," Brimah said. "It's just like a mental competition. Whoever is mentally tough wins the whole thing."
The Husky Run is a tradition that coach Kevin Ollie warmly embraces.
"It's all part of bonding, being together and all about pushing each other," Ollie said. "You've got to police yourself out there, because there's easy places where you can cheat and curve in through campus. ... We've got a quality group here. It's just part of the steps when we get tired, we've got to have mental discipline to get over that tiredness and push through and break through and compete.
"The person that you compete most with is the man in the mirror. This is kind of what that's all about where you're just pushing yourself through it."
Before the runners finished, sophomore Jalen Adams predicted that Brimah would be the first player. Adams sat out due to a sore hip.
"He's seen me do it before," Brimah said when told of the prediction. "And I'm African, too, so it's in my blood."
It's notable that UConn's frontcourt players set the pace. Freshman Vance Jackson, a 6-foot-8 forward, finished behind Brimah in 22:07, followed by 6-10 senior forward Kentan Facey (22:48) and 6-11 sophomore Steve Enoch (22:51).
It also was a good sign that 6-11 freshman Juwan Durham participated in the run. Making a comeback from a second knee injury, he was just fully clearly to play last week.
The coaching staff plans on taking it slow with Durham.
"I love that kid," Ollie said. "He's going to be phenomenal for us. He's got a great attitude."
Not counting Ollie, a former UConn point guard who finished in 22:38, freshman Alterique Gilbert (24:19), one of six newcomers, was the first backcourt player to finish.
Ollie took notice.
"A little disappointed not to see any guards up there," Ollie said. "But we'll get those guys in tip-top shape. But it was great to see the big (men) pushing themselves."
With the addition of a talented five-member, top 10-ranked recruiting class and promising transfer Terry Larrier, the Huskies will be more athletic and versatile this season.
Ollie plans to take advantage by cranking up the fast break.
"That will be a big part of our basketball development as a team how fast we can run and how we can compete on the fast break," Ollie said. "Our goal this year is to get 18 points (per game) on the fast break, so I'm going to be really trying to push those guys to that goal each and every night."
The Husky Run didn't go off without a hiccup.
Freshman Christian Vital, a St. Thomas More graduate, took a wrong turn and ended up running a longer distance.
Just another learning experience for a first-year player.
Saturday's legendary first practice will be a baptism by fire.
"First practice is always tough," Brimah said. "It's always a shock to a freshmen."
Gilbert is looking forward to the challenge.
"I'm prepared," Gilbert said. "We definitely learned a lot over the summer. More than anything, it's a mental process."
News and notes
The 43-year-old Ollie, who ran the race as a player, was fourth overall Wednesday. The last time he ran in 2014, he finished third in 21:25. "I know the race a little bit and I've been practicing a little bit, too, during the summer months," Ollie said. ... Adams isn't concerned about his sore hip. "I got banged up a little bit during practice. It's nothing too serious. I just want to rest so I'm fresh, 100 percent for Saturday's first practice." ... As is tradition, UConn will begin Saturday's practice at Guyer Gym.