UConn men ready for ‘secret scrimmage’ at Virginia

STORRS — Dan Hurley slowly made his way across the Werth Family Champions Center floor on Thursday afternoon, his shoulders slouched and his pace hindered by a sore back. His wife, Andrea, was out of town, and Hurley had fallen asleep on the couch, resulting in the discomfort.

Despite his condition, Hurley pushed the UConn men’s basketball team through a practice that left him less than satisfied. He singled out players like Alex Karaban, Tristen Newton, and even Donovan Clingan, who was unable to practice due to a foot sprain, for criticism.

With a shrug, Hurley jokingly blamed Clingan for his back pain as well.

Hurley has a reputation for being an excellent motivator and he has some props to help him out. On the sidelines of the practice gym were cardboard cutouts of five different trophies that the Huskies will be competing for this season: the Empire Classic, the Jimmy V Classic, the Big East-Big 12 Battle, the Seattle Tip-Off, and the Big East regular-season championship.

“We’re fully focused on winning championships and winning, period,” Hurley said, pointing to the cardboard trophies. “Those are our targets. We want to win as many trophies as we can, because that’s what our program is all about.”

This isn’t the first time that Hurley has used cutout trophies as motivation. In previous years, he carried around cutouts of the AAC tournament trophy, the Big East tournament trophy, and various regional championship trophies. Last season, the Huskies finally won the national championship.

“If I feel like we’re not playing up to the standards of the real trophy, I’ll take my shoe and throw it at the cutout, or hit it with a ball, or even kick it,” Hurley explained. “So, by the time we go for the real trophy, it’s going to be beat up.”

Next on UConn’s agenda are two “secret scrimmage” games. The Huskies will face Virginia and Harvard in closed-door scrimmages that are not open to the media or the general public. Hurley considers these scrimmages to be the most valuable of the team’s 30 practices, as they simulate game pressure and allow the team to test different strategies.

Hurley is looking forward to seeing how his team performs under pressure and how they translate their practice performances into game situations.

Although these scrimmages are informal, Hurley still demands a high level of play and is known for his strict coaching style. It was evident in Thursday’s practice as he criticized the team for their handling of mistakes.

But Hurley believes that his coaching style has evolved over the years. He no longer picks fights just for the sake of causing a reaction, but instead focuses on the things that will make the team lose. He emphasizes execution, behavior, attitude, IQ, and togetherness.

Clingan update

Donovan Clingan, who was sidelined due to a foot sprain, was back in the gym on Thursday, working on his shooting and other court skills. Although the goal is for him to be ready for the season opener on November 6th, it is not set in stone.

“We want to make sure he’s fully healthy in the long run,” Hurley said. “He’s making progress and has set a date for his return to practice.”

Hurley did not disclose what that date is.


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