Pol­ley’s shoot­ing has im­pressed his coach

Stamford Advocate (Sunday) - - Sports - By David Borges david.borges@hearst­medi­act.com

STORRS — When Dan Hur­ley met up with Tyler Pol­ley for the first time after tak­ing over as UConn’s head coach, he had to re­mind Pol­ley that it wasn’t ac­tu­ally the first time they had met.

“The first thing he said to me was, ‘I re­cruited you, Tyler,’” Pol­ley re­called. “I was like, ‘Oh yeah, you did.’ I didn’t get to know him that well when he was re­cruit­ing me at Rhode Is­land.”

Hur­ley had watched Pol­ley play about a half­dozen times when Pol­ley was at the Sage­mont School in Florida and Hur­ley was head man at URI. Still, it was one of URI’s as­sis­tant coaches who had the most con­tact with Pol­ley, be­fore both sides de­cided to am­i­ca­bly part ways.

“Po­si­tion­ally, we ended up go­ing in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion,” Hur­ley re­called. “And his list of schools were a lit­tle bit above the At­lantic-10.”

Still, Hur­ley got a good feel for Pol­ley’s shoot­ing abil­ity and all-around skills. Last year, Pol­ley was UConn’s top 3-point shooter, hit­ting 41 per­cent from be­yond the arc over­all and 50 per­cent (11-for-22) in con­fer­ence play.

Now, as Pol­ley’s head coach, he’s get­ting to like them even more. Those skills were ev­i­dent on Satur­day, as Pol­ley knocked down numer­ous long-dis­tance shots in a prac­tice free and open to the pub­lic at Gam­pel Pavil­ion. A cou­ple of days ear­lier, Hur­ley noted that Pol­ley was prob­a­bly the team’s best shooter, and that if the sea­son be­gan to­mor­row, the 6-foot-8 sopho­more would likely be UConn’s start­ing power for­ward.

“As a stretch four, he brings a lot to the ta­ble, drag­ging that four-man away from the bas­ket,” Hur­ley noted. “Also, play­ing against the four, he’s got a much bet­ter chance of a shot-fake or quick-rip­ping and beat­ing a four-man than he does beat­ing a three right now be­cause he’s not a great ball­han­dler. At the of­fen­sive end, he brings a tremen­dous amount of value as a stretch four. The de­fen­sive end is where he’s got to work — re­ally, at both spots.”

Ah yes, de­fense — the part of the game where any coach worth his salt, Hur­ley front and cen­ter among them, puts the most em­pha­sis. It’s an area where Pol­ley clearly needs to im­prove.

“He’s got to work on his lat­eral quick­ness to be able to play perime­ter de­fense,” Hur­ley said. “And, ob­vi­ously, he’s got to work on the phys­i­cal­ity and re­bound­ing we would need if we were to try to play him at the four. But shoot­ing like that is gonna open up the court for Jalen (Adams) and (Al­terique Gil­bert) and Chris­tian (Vi­tal). And we’ll get one-on-one in the post for Josh (Carl­ton).”

Pol­ley gets it, not­ing that “play­ing more with a mo­tor and be­ing ag­gres­sive on de­fense is what I’m strug­gling with right now.” He also knows that his rather spindly frame (he’s listed at 200 pounds) needs to get a lit­tle thicker, some­thing he tried to do over the sum­mer through work­outs, weightlift­ing and eat­ing more. He knows he can get big­ger and stronger, too. After all, his dad, Tommy, was a star line­backer at Florida State who played five sea­sons in the NFL and is now an as­sis­tant coach at East Coast Prep in Mon­terey, Mass­a­chu­setts.

“I know it’s there,” he promised. “I am a cou­ple inches taller than him, but I know it’s there.”

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