UConn basketball newcomers adjusting to life as Huskies
Storrs — They may be starting to understand their new UConn teammates on the basketball court.
What exactly each other is saying is another thing.
"It's real different," said Kwintin Williams, one of eight newcomers on the UConn men's basketball roster. "The lingo is real different. Everybody talks different. It's hard to understand everybody's slang and stuff. But we eventually get it right.
"It's a little bit of mixture of everything."
Such is life when you're part of a large and diverse group. They all have their own story to tell about their journey to Storrs.
Williams, who's from Anchorage, Alaska, had never been east of Oklahoma before arriving at UConn. Antwoine Anderson and David Onuorah are graduate transfers, looking to finish their college careers on a successful note. Eric Cobb is happy to be back playing on the Division I level after spending time in the junior college ranks.
Tyler Polley is living out a dream playing at UConn. Fellow freshman forwards Josh Carlton and Isaiah Whaley have southern roots, coming from Miramar, Fla., and Gastonia, N.C., respectively. Sidney Wilson was a big fan of the program long before he committed to St. John's and then decided to recently transfer to UConn.
But the newcomers share at least one thing.
"Everybody is different and everybody has a different background," said Anderson, who played at Fordham. "But the biggest thing is our passion for the game that keeps us together and keeps us connected in a way."
The new Huskies met with the media Thursday at the Werth Family UConn Basketball Champions Center in Storrs.
The fact they're all experiencing the transition together makes it easier.
"It's been good just being able to talk to other people and have similar experiences," said Onuorah, a transfer from Cornell. "I'm just trying to learn and get better every day. ... We're all trying to learn how to play with each other and figure things out. At least I'm not the only one."
Polley, a 6-8 forward, admits he's a quiet guy. Being around all his new teammates has brought him out of his shell.
"At first, it was kind of tough for me," Polley said. "But through the weeks, it's been great. I've opened up. We're really bonding with each other. I consider these guys my brothers. I'm really enjoying their company. It's been awesome."
Their crash course in UConn Basketball 101 also includes the program's history.
Every morning before working out, Whaley pauses for a couple of minutes and imagines his picture up on the practice facility wall next to other UConn greats. Williams draws inspiration from looking at the banners, including the four from the national championship seasons.
"It's somewhere I want to be and somewhere I want to go," Williams said. "There's a lot of guys that have done it here from UConn."
Williams, a supremely athletic 6-7 forward, is the dunk artist of the newcomers. You can find his high-flying moves all over the Internet.
"He's been showing us glimpse of his head being above the rim," Anderson said. "It's a little scary at times."
But Anderson revealed something else about Williams.
"He won't tell you, but I just blocked his shot yesterday in open gym," Anderson said. "He tried to dunk on me. I've got a 43-inch vertical just like he does."
Several newcomers will be counted on to contribute right away this season.
The Huskies bring back only two players, Jalen Adams and Christian Vital, that were regulars last season. Alterique Gilbert, Terry Larrier and Mamadou Diarra all are returning from injuries.
Competition will be fierce for playing time, especially in the frontcourt. Judging by size alone, the 6-9, 280-pound Cobb is a contender.
"There's no guaranteed minutes, as coach was saying," Cobb said. "Everybody has to come in here and work every day to get that starting spot. ... You can't get comfortable or it's going to get taken from you. You've got to stay alive and keep on grinding."
The first-year Huskies are full of confidence and enthusiasm. They share a common vision and a hunger to bring the program back to the national spotlight.
"Playing for this program, it's an honor," Polley said. "I just really want to be a part of something special here."
News and notes
• Wilson is hopeful that he'll get a waiver from the NCAA to play this season. "It's a tough process. Hopefully, the NCAA rules in our favor," he said. "If not, I can't complain about the decision that I made." ... The American Athletic Conference will release its men's basketball schedule Friday morning. ... The annual Husky Run is set for Wednesday, Sept. 27. The Huskies will hold their first official practice on Saturday, Sept. 30.