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After years on the road, Kevin Freeman ready to make UConn his home

Head coach Dan Hurley also provided some updates on UConn’s injured players and Tyrese Martin’s waiver situation.

New UConn assistant coach Kevin Freeman with former head coach Jim Calhoun. Freeman joined the Huskies for his first day on Thursday. (Ian Bethune - The UConn Blog)
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

New UConn men’s basketball assistant coach Kevin Freeman is used to traveling. Throughout his playing career he made stops in Italy, Greece, Australia, South Korea, China, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Spain after he left Storrs.

If there’s anyone who knows long drives and travel times, it’s him. Even so, Freeman said he took his time on the drive into work Friday morning.

He went the long way back to campus in his first day with the Huskies.

“I know probably every short cut to get onto campus,” Freeman said. “I took the long way today, so I could really observe and take it in, feeling the emotions of what it was like to get back.”

Freeman was overwhelmed with joy and when he pulled into campus, it sent him back to his first go around at UConn, when he was just 18 years old.

He was expecting to be back with head coach Pat Chambers at Penn State for this upcoming year, but now that he’s back at his alma mater, Freeman wants to make Storrs his home for a long time.

“I’m going be honest with you, I want to be blessed in the sense of being on this staff for a very long time,” Freeman said. “I want this to be home. Home for my family, we’ve moved enough. I’ve traveled overseas, I’ve done a lot. I want to make this my home basketball wise.”

Freeman spent two years at Penn State as an assistant coach working with its big men. He was also sent all over the country recruiting for them as well. Before his time with the Nittany Lions, he spent 11 years playing professionally overseas and then seven years at UConn working in basketball administration for former head coaches Jim Calhoun and Kevin Ollie. There were also a couple of months overlap with head coach Dan Hurley’s tenure before Freeman left for Penn State.

The way Freeman handled himself when Hurley first came to UConn won Freeman the job, Hurley said. The head man later said he was the first person he thought of when he found out that former assistant Kenya Hunter was leaving to join Archie Miller in Indiana.

“He was interviewing for this opportunity every day when we first got here,” Hurley said. “I saw how well respected he was, how well liked he was with the players and just got the chance to see his work ethic and his communication skills.”

Hurley pointed to Freeman’s people skills and character when asked about his ability to recruit — which is an area Kenya Hunter shined in, securing commitments from center Javonte Brown and 2021 guard Jordan Hawkins. Freeman had acknowledged there were questions about his ability to recruit when he first arrived at Penn State, but he did mention that he has secured at least one recruit — without naming who — while with Chambers.

Freeman’s ultimate goal is to get back to the national tournament and bring more Big East Championship banners to the rafters at Gampel Pavilion.

He won an NCAA Tournament in 1999 when he played at UConn under Calhoun, where Freeman was voted the Most Outstanding Player at that tournament. He was also here for UConn’s last two banners in 2011 and 2014 while working in basketball administration.

Team updates

After commenting on Freeman’s hiring, Hurley offered some team updates as well.

He said he thinks that a bubble scenario would be the “most likely” way to play the season but has been largely been in the dark on whether it is due to happen or not.

“For me, what feels the most likely to me right now relative to being able to play the season, is the bubble concept,” Hurley said.

Having one place, with specific protocols and testing for everyone involved, makes the most sense in Hurley’s eyes. The NCAA announced in August that they were targeting mid-September for an announcement clarifying the men’s and women’s basketball schedules.

Hurley said Akok Akok, Andre Jackson and Tyler Polley have not been cleared for basketball activities at this point and have been focused mainly on stationary work. Hurley also said that Brendan Adams has been dealing with a foot issue, but should be ready for the start of the season.

Akok injured his Achilles tendon against Memphis in February. Polley tore his ACL weeks before in practice and Jackson had a minor knee issue this offseason that he is rehabbing.

“Tyler looks really good, Akok is able to do stationary work – shooting – and he’s running. The guys look good, recovering well,” Hurley said.

URI transfer Tyrese Martin’s waiver situation could be coming to a head in the near future, potentially even in the next week or two. There has seemingly been an uptick in waivers lately, with Memphis’ Landers Nolley, Iowa State’s Tyler Harris and Stony Brook’s Tykei Greene, among other, getting immediate eligibility in the past week, according to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports.