Both Christian Vital and Alterique Gilbert agreed the feeling before the start of tonight’s season opener against Colgate is very different than that of last year.
“That whole last year… I’m just in a different state,” Vital said Thursday following practice. “I feel 100 percent ready to get into tomorrow. I wish our game was tonight.”
“I know what it feels like to have the game taken away, so I’m more appreciative for the game now,” said Gilbert, who played in only three games last year before a season-ending shoulder injury. “I’m very excited and I’m grateful to be here.”
As UConn prepares to take on Colgate tonight at 7 p.m. at Gampel Pavilion, the circumstances around the start of last year versus this year are worlds apart. Last year, the team had high expectations and loads of talent to work with. This year, there are several question marks surrounding the Huskies, but the team feels ready.
“We’ve had some spirited practices. Guys are focusing on the task at hand,” head coach Kevin Ollie said. “We gotta stop their 3-point shooting. They’re a great 3-point shooting team, and they got a great point guard in (Sean) O’Brien, and then (Will) Rayman, a sophomore on the wing is a really, really terrific player.”
Rayman and O’Brien were Colgate’s top performers last season. They averaged a combined 13.5 points per game on 45.3 percent shooting from the floor and 40.1 percent shooting from 3-point range.
The Raiders finished 10-22 in the Patriot League last season, but they have 13 players, including their five starters, returning for this season.
“They’ve definitely played more than our guys, we got a lot of new guys. We’re looking forward to the challenge. We’re going to come out and play some juice,” Ollie said. “The thing that I love about our team this exhibition is we’ve been getting a lot of steals, we’ve been playing up, we’ve been dictating the tempo, and that’s what we want to do tomorrow.”
Ollie still hasn’t firmly decided on a starting five, but that might be a more difficult task than it was a week ago. Junior guard Jalen Adams, who led the team in scoring last year, was issued a misdemeanour summons after leaving the scene following a scooter accident Wednesday night. Ollie suspended him from practicing with the team Thursday, and his status will be evaluated on a day-to-day basis by Ollie going forward. It is unclear if he will get the start tonight.
Graduate transfer David Onourah is unavailable. He is still dealing with a hip issue he suffered a few weeks ago in practice that caused him to miss all three exhibition. Ollie said he hopes to have him ready for Stony Brook on Nov. 14.
The status of Sidney Wilson’s eligibility is still undetermined. There is no deadline for eligibility to be granted, so Wilson might be cleared to play during the season, but Ollie doesn’t expect the NCAA to reach a decision anytime soon.
“The NCAA is dealing with a lot of stuff right now,” Ollie said. “So I don’t think Sidney is on the top (of the list).”