There’s finally some good news on the injury front for UConn men’s basketball. According to Jon Rothstein, Alterique Gilbert has been cleared for all basketball-related activities and Terry Larrier is expected to be cleared at the end of August.
Gilbert dislocated his left shoulder against Loyola Marymount on Nov. 17, which resulted in a torn labrum that required surgery. Larrier went down with a torn ACL just a game later against Oklahoma State on Nov. 21.
The injures were a major reason the Huskies’ season went off the rails, as Larrier averaged 13.5 points-per-game and 5.0 rebounds-per-game, while Gilbert averaged 10.3 points-per-game. Both were expected to be key contributors.
UConn finished with a 16-17 record, its first sub-.500 finish since the 1986-87 season when the Huskies mustered just a 9-19 record. Let’s take a look back on that season.
In 1986, the Huskies were in the midst of a four-straight losing seasons. Head coach Dom Perno was fired after the 1985 season and a young head coach from Northeastern by the name of Jim Calhoun was brought in.
At the time, UConn was still the doormat of the Big East, finishing with a winning record just once in conference play. They were a very young team, as future stars Tate George and Steve Pikiell were only freshmen and Cliff Robinson and Phil Gamble were only in their sophomore seasons.
The season kicked off with a nail-biting 58-54 victory over UMass. Close games would become a hallmark of the season as 17 games would be decided by 10 points or less.
The good news is that things only went up from there for Jim Calhoun and his team. UConn would win the NIT in 1988 with the same core as the 1986 team and the Huskies would make a run to the Elite Eight in the 1990 Dream Season that featured “The Shot” by Tate George.
Unlike the Huskies in 1986, however, the current UConn team is set up to be compete much sooner. Despite the rash of transfers, Gilbert and Larrier bring major firepower to pair with star guard Jalen Adams. If the new pieces can come together quickly with this strong core, Kevin Ollie and the Huskies should be able to recover quickly from last year’s disappointment.