Polley’s shooting has impressed his coach
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.”