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    UConn Men's Basketball
    Wednesday, March 22, 2023

    Hurley's new-look Huskies play exhibition basketball game Friday

    Storrs — Expect the UConn basketball team to look different Friday night.

    Sure the roster, with 10 returning players, is basically the same from the last year's second straight losing season.

    But there's a different attitude. A different energy. A different vibe.

    First-year coach Dan Hurley is injecting his fiery personality and demanding coaching style into the Huskies, whose makeover is far from complete.

    UConn is eager to show off its improvements Friday night when it hosts Division II Southern Connecticut State University in its only exhibition game (7 p.m., Gampel Pavilion).

    "We hope to play well," Hurley said after Thursday's practice. "We hope to play incredibly hard. We hope to move the ball well. We hope to play at a high level. We hope to win and get their confidence."

    Grad transfer Tarin Smith has noticed some positive changes in the Huskies in recent weeks.

    "I've seen a change in our personality," Smith said. "The changes that coach wants us to make, we're still making them. But I've definitely seen an improvement in things like urgency and toughness. We're going to keep working hard the whole year but we look forward to showing it tomorrow.

    "It will just come out in the way we play. You'll see it from how we run offense and how we execute and how we hustle."

    UConn may look different in backcourt, too, with the senior guard Jalen Adams' status up in the air. Adams practiced on Thursday. He was benched for Saturday's closed-door scrimmage against Harvard due to a violation of a team rule.

    Hurley said Adams' status Friday will be a game-time decision. "Still kind of working through that," he said.

    Hurley won't have his full roster at his disposal.

    One spectator will be redshirt freshman Sidney Wilson. UConn announced on Wednesday that Wilson had been "suspended from game competition due to a violation of university policy that occurred during the 2017-18 season." No word on the length of the suspension. Wilson did practice on Thursday.

    Hurley is holding his players to a high standard, especially Adams, his star guard.

    "Culture is something that you've got to fight for every day," Hurley said. "Our culture is not where it needs to be overall. When you win 30 games in two years, it's not just a talent issue. ... It's the culture, the commitment level, the work ethic, doing the next hard thing or just handling your business."

    Grad transfer Kassoum Yakwe, a 6-foot-7 forward expected to be in the frontcourt rotation this season, is still working his way back from a foot injury. Yakwe is doing skill work in practice. He should be ready to play limited minutes in the season opener next Thursday.

    Southern Connecticut, coach by former UConn star Scott Burrell, should provide decent competition for a Division II program. The Owls are picked to win their division.

    "The Division II teams that play in the Northeast-10, they're good teams," Hurley said. "They have good players. They have a couple of Division I transfers, athletic guys. Scott obviously will have his guys ready to play coming back home for him. They'll be juiced up."

    "We'll treat it like it is a game. ... It will be interesting to see how our guys handle it."

    Hurley will take a hard look at his available players in the only tune-up before the season opener. Players are still battling for a jobs, especially in the frontcout. He's been encouraged by the play of guard Alterique Gilbert, who's making a comeback from another shoulder surgery.

    The Huskies will basically run a vanilla offense, not wanting to provide any game film for Morehead State, the season opening opponent.

    They'll make their share of mistakes at this early stage of the season. But there will be no excuse for any lack of effort and energy.

    "We just talked about it, we've got to be locked in," Hurley said. "We're not good enough at anything for us to roll the balls out and sleep walk through it, or else we'll have a real low point tomorrow if we're not fully engaged."

    Before the game, Burrell, who played at UConn from 1989 to 1993, will be inducted into the Huskies of Honor.


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