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Dan Hurley talks roster moves, injury updates and more

Hurley: “There will be an infusion of players that are new but we have a great core.”

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

How about some basketball to distract you from no basketball? UConn men’s basketball coach Dan Hurley caught up with the UConn media on Thursday to dish about its latest transfer pickup, the roster setup, and more. Here are some excerpts from the talk:

What does Tyrese Martin bring to the program?

“He fits the profile of the the type of player we’re looking to bring to the program. He has the physical size, strength, and is very athletic. He’s a multi-positional player that could guard and play four spots. He’s a guy offensively who is a tremendous finisher in transition and will get better as a three point shooter and ball handler. He has the type of work ethic and makeup in terms of commitment level we’re looking for, as far as having big audacious goals as a player. We all have those.”

“The other thing with Tyrese is during a time where its hard this time to get to know each other, we know each other well from years back in the prior recruiting process. When we were able to start talking to him, it was a relationship that had a foundation, and that helps during this time.”

On what the roster setup looks like right now:

“We have a really good mix. We return a number of rotation players that played well for us and have multiple years of experience. Then, the additions of RJ (Cole) and Richie (Springs) — they understand how we’re trying to play, they understand our culture. There will be an infusion of players that are new but we have a great core.”

Do you anticipate anyone else coming into the program?

“Yes, definitely. We like where we’re at, but we want to continue to add the right type of talent. We’re not playing fantasy basketball. It’s never about accumulating guys that have the most stars or who impress the most scouting service people. We’re looking for talent, but more importantly guys who will fit into our culture we’ve been building the last two years. Guys that can fit into a program that has a lot of momentum.”

With Akok Akok and Tyler Polley coming off surgeries, are you reluctant taking a transfer that has to sit a year?

“Absolutely. We’ll know more within the next month or so about that,” Hurley said, referring to the NCAA’s potential decision to allow all players one opportunity to transfer without sitting out. “Tyler has progressed very well. Not doing it at the facility may slow his progress but we have the expectation that he’s able to help us next year. His play style won’t be hampered from the recovery, either. Our preference for that scholarship is someone that could help us now but not at the expense of lowering our standards in terms of talent and culture.”

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Is Richie Springs good to go for next year?

“Yes. We’re excited about Richie. Right now, he helps us more at the four spot. He’s young, still developing physically. He does one thing that’s very hard to teach and that’s rebound out of his area and trace the ball. He does that incredibly well on the offensive end and can do it well on defense too. He’s a quick jumper and very athletic, so the year was very good for him, just like it was for Akok.”

What the last month has been like:

“It’s been hard. That part really stinks. We’re used to seeing our guys every day, interacting with them, seeing them at meals, study hall, the office. It’s the secret sauce of the program; those deep connections. That part has been very hard. We’re doing zoom calls weekly to catch up, but we’re talking more about personal growth and maturity. Then we do a WebX call a week about basketball and break down a Big East opponent. We look at their roster and style of play to prep for next year and keep them engaged. This has hurt a lot of programs though. That’s the part of the job that I love the most, and it’s really bad right now.”

Does it impact team chemistry?

“It hurts programs like ours that are dependent on development, instead of being a transnational program. The cornerstone of what we do is build relationships and a culture. When you can’t work closely, it hurts us. We have a number of players across the board that need time with us to keep building their body, developing their skillset. The longer this goes on, the less the opportunity we can take a step as a program. We also lose time with getting freshman ready to play. It affects all programs, but look how it hits us; we ended with a lot of momentum. We want to build on that.”

Akok Akok’s progression back from injury

“He looks great. His surgeon says it couldn’t look any better. His range of motion is much improved, and he’s off the crutches in the boot. He can work on a treadmill with a contraption. Whenever it’s time for him to be ready to go, he’s going to surprise people.”

What do virtual visits look like?

“The first few are surreal. All programs are different, but the strength of our recruiting is getting them on campus. We’re not the fastest talkers, we don’t have the best sales pitch to kids. Where we win is when they step on campus, meet us, spend time around us, and get a feel for how players feel about what we do. We try to do our best to get that across in our virtual meetings.