The UConn men’s basketball team had its Blue/White scrimmage earlier this week, offering fans a long-awaited glimpse of this year’s team. But before that, head coach Dan Hurley took 20 minutes to speak to reporters, and in that timespan, he provided a lot about the 2022-2023 Huskies.
On the team toughness, defense
“You see potential, but you also see the question marks the team will have to answer. Can we play with that toughness? I have not liked the defensive end of the court. I like the offensive end. The toughness question looms, especially because of the reputation for how we show up on game night in terms of playing with that passion and relentlessness. We’re developing that still.”
“We’re also tinkering with ball screen defense relative to losing maybe the best ball screen defender in the country in Isaiah Whaley. Ball screen defenses are pretty much 80 percent of what you deal with. Isaiah just blew up the other team’s ball screen offense, so we’ve got to improve there.”
On Jordan Hawkins making the leap
“The pedigree is there. We felt like he was a sure thing as a recruit. Our eyes told us last year in practice when he would have days where he would be the best guard on the court, maybe not consistently, but he would have days where he was the standout player.”
On Andre Jackson’s leadership
“Andre is just our identity. He’s the leader of the team with Adama Sanogo, but he’s a tone setter and we miss his toughness, his direction out there. He plays with such force, and we need him back.
“He makes people around him better because of the way he leads, and the guys will be more comfortable playing their game and being themselves when he’s back. He’s a unifier and he builds up the people around him that he goes to war with on game night. And if you’re not with him he doesn’t want to be friends with anybody on the other team. It’s going to suck when he leaves.”
On Donovan Clingan’s development
“The scrimmages were good for him. I think it identified the things where he’s going to have a chance to be successful. And then the areas where he’s got to be a lot more dialed in, playing well inside-out. Obviously, it all starts with being an effective screener, being good enough in ball screen defense and in rim protection and being agile enough to be able to use his size.”
“Things like pre-catch post defense, pre-catch post offense, rolling and running to the front of the rim and posting up the hill. It’s a checklist of things you do when you’re a freshman to make you playable. And then you go from playable to solid. And then you go from like solid where Jordan is now by the time you’re a sophomore.”
On Hassan Diarra, Tristen Newton, and guard duties
“Hassan has that aggressive attacking mentality. Your eyes get drawn to him because he’s all over the court. He has to reel it in, if he could take care of the ball.”
“With Tristen, it’s about getting him to be more aggressive. We really need him to be that second perimeter scorer.”
“We could definitely [play the two together]. We need the scoring from Tristen. Jordan is ready to fire, he’s super aggressive. So getting Tristen off the ball and playing him with Hassan — we need Hassan’s spirit. We need how hard he plays, the passion, the Big East, northeast attribute. That’s the way we built the program.”
On Samson Johnson and Alex Karaban at the four spot
“I got some good advice to stop talking about the NBA and my players. I’m not going to prognosticate that way, but Samson has a high ceiling. Alex being hurt helped him because he was able to play through mistakes in the first scrimmage, where I might have pulled him quick. It was good for him to process things quicker on the court. Once he can do that, he can unleash his talent. He as much physical ability as anyone I’ve had here.”
“I love the four spot right now. We’ll experiment maybe with playing Samson and Alex together with Samson at center, because those two guys make a real difference from an offensive standpoint. Samson brings different things to both backboards, with his athleticism, slashing, and above the rim play. Our fours are young but they’re talented.”
You can catch the whole interview below:
The Huskies tip off the 2022-2023 season on Monday vs. Stonehill at 7:30 p.m. from the XL Center.