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Jackson ‘a natural leader,’ Hurley says

UConn men’s basketball head coach Dan Hurley gave an injury update and discussed the status of his rotation heading into the Xavier game.

NCAA Basketball: Central CT State at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a middling loss to Seton Hall – which is tied for seventh in the Big EastUConn men’s basketball head coach Dan Hurley is looking for an uptick in energy from his roster.

“I think there’s another level of desperation that we’ve got to get to,” Hurley said.

Andre Jackson’s leadership

Freshman Andre Jackson was at the top of Hurley’s list to help bring that energy, along with Adama Sanogo and Akok Akok. Hurley called him a natural leader as well.

“He’s had the loudest voice in practice, really for the last several days, really since he’s been thrown into the mix here coming off the injury,” Hurley said of the freshman.

In his two games since returning from a broken bone in his left wrist, Jackson has impressed enough to earn a starting nod Saturday against Xavier, Hurley said. Between the injuries UConn (8-5, 5-5 Big East) is faced with and Jackson’s standout performances lately, it’s a move that makes sense.

Jackson has been one of the few bright spots over the past two games, with a pair of highlight-reel jams and hustle plays on defense.

He gained confidence on the ball during UConn’s 80-73 loss to Seton Hall as the game progressed. He handled the ball well and flashed some potential as a floor general, waiving his teammates to spots and running the ball up the floor.

“I don’t think I’ve had a captain,” Hurley said. “When I was at Rhode Island I had 10 captains, so I’ve never really given that mantle to a player but his enthusiasm and his attention to detail, his passion for the game. He’s a pretty impressive guy in that way, for a young player too.”

Medical update

Hurley kicked off his press conference with some medical updates.

Sophomore Akok Akok is back from a shin injury and will play against Xavier. Within reason, Hurley said how well he performs will dictate his minutes.

The Huskies’ star guard James Bouknight, will once again be out – missing his seventh straight game after elbow surgery. He has been cleared for practice, but not yet for game action. Hurley added that he will be back “at some point,” for those speculating his time at UConn is over.

“We’re following the advice of the medical people on this, the surgeon,” Hurley said.” He’s back in practice and is not cleared for games yet, but he’s looking better, looking stronger.”

Additionally, two UConn starters, senior Isaiah Whaley and junior Tyrese Martin, are dealing with ankle issues. Whaley injured his ankle during the first half against Providence but is expected to play against Xavier Saturday. Martin rolled his ankle in a shooting drill and has missed two days of practice. His condition is more up in the air and he will be a game-time decision.

“Both [Martin] and [Whaley], I think, are likely to play and soldier on,” Hurley said. “[Martin] is more concerning than [Whaley].”