The News-Times

Dan Hurley hopeful this is Huskies’ lone pause

Coach targeting a return for Jan. 8 game at Seton Hall

- By David Borges

Dan Hurley has a “bad beard” growing in, and his hair is spiking up and growing out a bit, too.

Those are among the most benign results of the bouts with COVID-19 that Hurley and nine players on the UConn men’s basketball team are currently experienci­ng while the program is on a pause.

“Obviously, pausing again and that feeling of being isolated and away from your team and the season, your purpose starts to weigh on you,” Hurley said via a Zoom call with reporters on Thursday evening.

Hurley said he began feeling symptoms around Christmas Eve, into Christmas Day. Several of his players returned to campus that night following a threeday break experienci­ng symptoms, with nine of them ultimately testing positive — most with symptoms, some asymptomat­ic.

The symptoms for all of the players and coaches have been relatively mild, per Hurley.

Ultimately, UConn’s scheduled game at Xavier on Dec. 28 and its slated bout on New Year’s Day in Hartford against Butler have both been canceled. Just like that, the joy of a tough road win at Marquette on Dec. 21 and a much-needed holiday break has morphed into the same chaos and confusion that muddled so much of the 2020-21 season.

“When we land after winning at Marquette, (we said) ‘See you guys in a couple of days,’” Hurley recalled. “Eighteen Big East games, Big East tournament, potentiall­y the NCAA tournament — the best part of the season’s ahead of us. Then, you go on a pause. There’s a sense of getting through the first six weeks, 13 games, that we were kind of in the clear with this. It’s just a humbling reminder.”

So when will UConn (10-3, 1-1 Big East) play again? Xavier’s slated Jan. 4 bout with Georgetown was also recently canceled, but it doesn’t appear likely UConn’s trip to Cincinnati to play the Musketeers will be reschedule­d for next week. Several of UConn’s COVID-positive players would be getting out of quarantine right around

Tuesday, so to ask them to jump on a plane and play a game a day or two later would seem unlikely.

“Those things are not reasonable,” Hurley noted. “It’s not fair to these kids that are players. There’s potential for injury.”

Rather, Hurley is hoping his team’s next game will be its scheduled Jan. 8 bout against Seton Hall at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. At least that’s what he’s telling his players.

“This should be our last pause, hopefully,” Hurley said. “I’m telling everyone that this is our last pause, and we’re gonna be able to play it out the rest of the way. I think that’s what’s keeping everybody going.”

Obviously, the Big East office will have something to say about that. Hurley said he has not had any contact with commission­er Val Ackerman or executive associate commission­er Stu Jackson over the past week. That’s athletic director David Benedict’s job.

But he did note that the league “wanted a ton of informatio­n leading into these last two cancellati­ons. We tried in every way possible to make them aware that we were down to being below the threshold of seven available players.”

“They’ve got to make the best decisions, both from a Big East standpoint, but also a player-wellness standpoint,” Hurley said of Ackerman and Jackson. “This is where they’ve got to step up and do their job.”

Recently, numerous reports stated that the Center for Disease Control has altered its quarantine window for asymptomat­ic, COVID-positive patients from 10 days to five. Hurley hopes the NCAA and Big East will ultimately adhere to the same guidelines, but realizes that it would likely take a while, given that they’d have to be approved at the university and state levels, as well.

Last season, college players who tested positive weren’t tested again for

another 90 days. Hurley wasn’t sure if that guideline remained intact.

“But,” he noted, “if you have had it, you should have a runway of, hopefully, a couple of months where you don’t have to be tested.”

The Big East’s recentlyre­vised COVID-19 cancellati­on policy states that if a team can’t field at least seven scholarshi­p players and one coach, the game will be canceled, with an attempt to be made up later in the season.

And so, Hurley is targeting Jan. 8 against his alma mater as his team’s return to the floor. He’s almost certain that the Huskies won’t be at full strength for that game, as some of the positive COVID tests have been staggered over the past few days, and those players won’t be cleared for Jan. 8. For that matter, Hurley also believes his team won’t be at full capacity for its following scheduled game, on Jan. 12 against St. John’s at Gampel Pavilion.

But, barring any setbacks, Hurley expects to have at least seven healthy,

scholarshi­p players for those games. And one of those players should be a healthy Adama Sanogo.

Sanogo, the 6-foot-10 sophomore center, missed four straight games with an abdominal injury before returning for limited minutes (13) in the Marquette game. Still on a minutesres­triction, it appears he would not have been deemed one of the seven healthy scholarshi­p players UConn needed for the Xavier and Butler games.

“The one silver lining is that Adama, by the time next week rolls around, could be looking at being fully cleared without restrictio­ns at some point next week,” said Hurley.

Sanogo had just one practice prior to the Marquette game, and the team hasn’t had the chance to practice since it returned from Christmas break.

“He’s got to find a way to build up his strength and cardio, so that he can be a full-go guy for us,” said Hurley. “Hopefully at some point next week, or into the following weekend.”

UConn’s entire roster

and coaching staff has been double-vaccinated, and several have received booster shots. Currently, about a half-dozen healthy players have been lifting weights in small groups and working out with the healthy members of the coaching staff. On Saturday or Sunday, some players could come out of quarantine but may not immediatel­y go back to playing live. Others, who tested positive a couple of days later, will remain quarantine­d.

But Hurley believes the two canceled games have a great chance of being made up. And on Jan. 8, an ostensibly clean-shaven Dan Hurley will lead the Huskies — or at least most of them — on the floor to face Seton Hall.

At least that’s what Hurley hopes.

“We hope this will be our only disruption,” the coach noted, “and we’ll be be able to play (the season) out.”


Hurley noted that his wife, Andrea, and sons Andrew and Dan Jr. have also come down with COVID-19. Andrew is a sophomore walk-on for the Huskies.

Hurley wouldn’t comment on the prospect of Class of 2022 forward Alex Karaban possibly enrolling early at UConn for this semester. Karaban has been considerin­g the possibilit­y for a while now, and it appears likely that he will join the team in the coming weeks, but won’t play this season.

 ?? ?? Hurley
 ?? Jessica Hill / Associated Press ?? UConn coach Dan Hurley reacts during a game against CCSU earlier this season. The coach said he’s hopeful the Huskies can return to the court in time for its Jan. 8 game against Seton Hall.
Jessica Hill / Associated Press UConn coach Dan Hurley reacts during a game against CCSU earlier this season. The coach said he’s hopeful the Huskies can return to the court in time for its Jan. 8 game against Seton Hall.

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