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Santa Hurley? UConn to stay on campus over holiday break, Andre Jackson injured

Four notes from UConn head coach Dan Hurley’s pre-Christmas press conference.

UConn Men’s Basketball head coach Dan Hurley
UConn men’s basketball head coach Dan Hurley in his first season with the program in 2018. Hurley said he wouldn’t yell during the team’s Christmas practice.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Standing at a svelte 6-foot-2 with no facial hair in sight, Dan Hurley isn’t the prototypical image of Santa Claus you see on television. This Christmas, however, he’s giving his team a gift – he said he’s going to give them a break from the yelling in practice on Dec. 25. He said he might even don a red cap as well, if they’d like him to.

The team isn’t going home for Christmas

UConn men’s basketball made a collective decision to stay on campus this Christmas break, Hurley said. None of the athletes will be going home for break. They will be getting Dec. 22 to 24 off, before returning to practice on Christmas, he said.

“It’s tough, it’s really hard for these guys,” Hurley said on the player’s mental health. “Even something as simple as having the game the other day, which is a brutal loss, but not having your typical family that you can huddle up with and friends that can give you that pick me up.”

They are going to have a meal together on Christmas Eve and a socially distant holiday celebration on Christmas Day after practice. Hurley said they will try to get some player’s parents and close family to come see them from afar.

Jackson injured

Freshman Andre Jackson broke a bone in his left wrist and will be out indefinitely, the team announced Wednesday afternoon. Hurley said it was unclear when exactly he broke his wrist and that the team was still reviewing film to try to figure out when it happened.

“[Jackson]’s a tough kid and he didn’t really feel the pain until coming into the facility the next day for the COVID-19 test,” Hurley said.

Jackson had yet to find his footing on the roster, averaging just under five minutes per game in each of UConn’s last three contests. The two COVID-19 pauses have hurt his development to this point, Hurley has said a few times this season, and this puts a further damper on the prized recruit.

Through four games he has averaged one point, 1.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game for the Huskies in limited minutes.

Updates on Polley, Akok

Hurley said senior Tyler Polley is back in action after missing the last game because he had yet to clear COVID-19 protocols. He will be doing fully live action during their Christmas practice.

“[Polley]’s shooting is something we’re going to need going forward,” Hurley said.

The Florida native hasn’t put up the same production he did last season before injuring his knee. He started off the year strong, with a 14-point, seven-rebound performance against CCSU, but hasn’t scored since.

Before his injury last January, Polley averaged almost 10 points per game with 3.2 rebounds per game on 41.7% from the field and 40.5% from deep in 2018-19.

Hurley also said that Akok Akok is could be back within a few games if everything goes well. He is currently recovering from a mild hamstring strain suffered in early December. He missed the end of last season with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Adding Akok to a roster that just took the No. 9 team in the country to overtime will be a huge boon for the Huskies. They are the third-ranked blocking team in the nation and will be even better with the 6-foot-9 blocking machine.

Akok averaged 2.6 blocks per game last season with a 9.7% block percentage – that mark would have put him second in the Big East had UConn played there, behind just Seton Hall’s Romaro Gill’s 13.3%.

UConn adds in postponed Big East games, packed January ahead

The Big East announced a wave of makeup games and tip-times for the Huskies, who will now play nine games in January.

UConn does not play their next game until Dec. 30 against DePaul, giving them some time to regroup after their difficult loss to Creighton on Sunday. Starting Dec. 25, they will have up to 10 days to practice in their next 11 days.

“We’ve gotta take advantage of all this practice time,” Hurley said.

They will have an average of two days of rest in between every game in January, giving them little practice time to reset if the team begins to falter.