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UConn MBB coaching staff concerned about starting the season too fast following 14-day quarantine

The school has just six days to practice before their first scheduled non-conference game on Nov. 25.

The UConn men’s basketball coaching staff during a game against the Iona Gaels at Gampel Pavilion last season.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

After taking a two- or three-day break for the holidays, players are sluggish. Hand-eye coordination slows, the cardio typically isn’t where it normally is, according to Dan Hurley, head coach of UConn men’s basketball. It takes a couple practices to get back to the normal standard of play.

Now imagine how things are going to be after taking a full 14 days off. UConn is in the middle of a two-week hiatus after an unnamed player tested positive on November 5 for the coronavirus.

“I’ve never been in this situation before, as a high school coach the longest break I had with a team was three or four days,” Hurley said on a Zoom call with media Thursday.

Staff concerned about starting too fast

UConn’s coaching staff is concerned about how the two-week break will affect players, Hurley said.

“We want to try to put ourselves in position to be as close to full strength for the most likely part of our season and the most important part of our season, which is Big East play,” Hurley said.

The team is due back in action on Nov. 19, leaving just six days to ramp back up before their first non-conference game.

“Missing two weeks of practice takes weeks to recover from,” Hurley said. “We’re very concerned about the welfare of our guys in returning.”

Hurley said there is a “high risk” of injuring someone if the team were to resume the intensity of practices they had been doing before the positive test.

He specifically mentioned that the quarantine is a “major disrupter” to the progress of sophomore Akok Akok and junior Brendan Adams, who are on their way back from injuries.

Akok had been progressing toward full action in practice after getting in some 3-on-3 work in, but that will likely have to be adjusted after the pause in workouts. He has been rehabbing since February when he tore his Achilles tendon early in a game against Memphis.

Adams has been dealing with a foot problem since at least early September. Hurley said he would likely be doing 5-on-5 work right now had the team not had a positive test.

For now, Hurley said they are considering all options on how to proceed, including adjusting their planned non-conference schedule. He called the school’s schedule a “fluid situation.”

Hurley confirmed that the school has a game scheduled for Nov. 25 but declined to say who it’s against. It has been reported that the game will be with CCSU. The game contracts have yet to be signed so they declined to comment on it now but hope to give more clarity next week, according to men’s basketball SID Phil Chardis.

Players allowed to do limited solo work

While all team activities are currently restricted, Hurley revealed that players can do some limited work by themselves in the gym. He likened it to as if they were on an outdoor court shooting around.

“There’s obviously a lot of challenges to keep these guys anywhere near the level of fitness that you would need to play a basketball game for 40 minutes,” Hurley said.

Players are allowed to go to the practice court one at a time for individual shooting and dribbling work. They can go with their roommates, as long as they are on opposite ends of the court and they use just one basketball per session.

They also have access to the weight room for strength work, as long as there are no coaches in proximity to the players to allow for social distancing.

Team members can also do some conditioning work with strength and conditioning coach Mike Rehfeldt as long as he’s instructing them from the balcony, they stay on the court and they don’t pass half court, Hurley said.