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Newton is excited about joining the Huskies

Storrs — Newcomer Tristen Newton says his basketball experience so far at UConn is a lot different than he's used to compared to his previous program.

Different in a good way.

For example, a faster pace.

Also, the Huskies play in a high level league.

"Big East has great basketball, one of the best leagues in the nation," Newton said after a team workout Wednesday in the practice facility. "I feel like the team that we're building, we're going to be one of the best teams in the nation."

UConn is in its first summer workout session, so Newton is still getting to know his new teammates and coaching staff.

A 6-foot-5 guard from El Paso, Texas, Newton previously played at East Carolina before entering the transfer portal. He's one of four transfers — Joey Calcaterra (San Diego), Hassan Diarra (Texas A&M) and Nahiem Alleyne (Virginia Tech) are the others — to join the program in recent months.

"They're all veteran players," coach Dan Hurley said. "The new guys that we brought in, the transfers, all have experience. They pick things up quickly and they've played a lot of basketball. So, it's more so just understanding our culture, how we guard, how we play and relationships."

Newton and Diarra are the only two transfers on campus right now. Calcaterra just committed on Monday and Alleyne will be in attendance for the second summer workout session that begins on July 1.

Newton, who committed to the Huskies in April, watches a lot of basketball in his free time so he was already familiar with the UConn basketball program and Hurley's style before coming to Storrs.

He also played against the Huskies back in Feb. 2020 as a freshman at East Carolina, finishing with 25 points, six assists and five rebounds in a loss.

"That was probably my best game my freshman year," Newton recalled. "They were playing hard defense. I've liked their style ever since then. I knew it was going to be the right fit."

Since arriving at UConn, Newton hasn't really checked out the campus. He spends most of his time either in the practice facility or his dorm room. His roommate is Jordan Hawkins.

Sleepy Storrs suits him just fine.

"I didn't need all the parties and the city stuff," Newton said. "This is a good, calm environment where I can focus on basketball."

During the recruiting process, Newton, a highly-sought after transfer, was bombarded with coaches calling him. Some coaches reached out after seeing his impressive statistics as a junior — 17.7 points, 5 assists and 4.8 rebounds — but didn't know much else about him.

That turned Newton off.

Hurley knew all about Newton and his background. Newton took his only visit to UConn and committed right after the trip.

Newton quickly built a bond with the UConn coaching staff. He's felt a good vibe from them right from the start. He loves Hurley's fire and energy.

"Ever since the first phone call, I knew that they cared about their players," Newton said. "They're players' coaches. They're going to push you hard and want the best for you. That's what drew me here."

As far as his role, Newton's not sure yet. He just wants to help the team win

Hurley believes Newton will benefit from being in the UConn program.

"Tristen is the type of guard that I just enjoy coaching — diligent worker, can score and can create and a really, really good feel," Hurley said. "College basketball is going to see the best version of him. He's got resources at his disposal in terms of what he can do physically in the weight room, becoming a better and stronger athlete.

"He's what we expected. He's a great kid on top of that, too."

It's setting up to be an interesting year for the Huskies, who've revamped the roster, adding six new players overall.

Newton has been impressed with returning guard Andre Jackson's leadership.

"Andre was the first one to reach out to me," Newton said. "As soon as he saw my visit was set, he was the first one to reach out to me," Newton said. "He wanted to get in the gym the same night that I was in town. I love that about him and the rest of the team. Their work ethic is crazy. They're going to push me, too, to be better."

Growing up with his father in the military, Newton became accustomed to moving around. He was born in Florida, moved to Kentucky, then California and then Texas. Then he played in North Carolina and now he's in Storrs.

News and notes

Expect at least one more addition to the roster in the next few weeks. "We'll be at 12 (scholarship players) by summer (session) two (July 1)," Hurley said. "There's a chance we get to 13 if there's some players that have high upside that we can bring in here." ... Hurley has altered the workout plan for his team's first summer session after watching the Huskies wear down toward the end of last season. The Huskies are focusing on individual skills and player development. ... Incoming freshman Donovan Clingan, who graduated from Bristol Central on Wednesday, has made a good impression. He worked hard on getting in shape. Hurley: "He's 265 this week. He sent me a picture from an award that he just got at a dinner the other night in Bristol, I thought it might have been from his sophomore year of high school because he looked so lean." ... Hurley on promoting Mamadou Diarra from graduate assistant to director of player development: "Mo is a special guy, special personality, understands the game, great with people. He's going to be excellent." Mamodou's brother is newcomer Hassan Diarra.

g.keefe@theday.com 

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