As the 2017-18 UConn men’s basketball team took off at Gampel Pavilion to kick off the annual Husky Run, redshirt junior forward Terry Larrier stood off to the side and watched his teammates participate. Coming off an ACL tear last year, Larrier is in the unique position of being a leader for a team he’s barely played for.
“It’s definitely been a little difficult,” Larrier said to media while the run was taking place. “But with the coaches and the guys we have here, it’s really coming together real good. I’m looking forward to good things this year.”
Larrier only played four full games last season before injuring himself against Oklahoma State. After sitting on the sidelines for two years in a row, Larrier is focusing on one simple thing: playing.
“I’m just looking forward to playing, that’s really all I want do to, just play basketball,” Larrier said. “The toughest part [of my rehab was] the time, just sitting out and being away from the game for so long, but I learned patience.”
If chemistry seemed to be a problem last season, Larrier made it clear that the new group of guys are already “really close.” As a result, he doesn’t think the style of the team will change, but the defense will be more active compared to last season.
“I think defensively, we’ll definitely get after it more,” Larrier said. “A lot more man-to-man instead of some zone we played a little last year, but I’m just looking forward to getting out there, playing defense and running the floor.”
Junior guard Jalen Adams sung high praise for Larrier, saying he will be “amazing this year” after sitting on the sidelines.
“He’s been going crazy on his rehab, so I’m just excited to have him back,” Adams said.
Adams said this team feels a lot newer to him, considering the only player he’s played a full season with is sophomore guard Christian Vital. He only played the first two games with Larrier and redshirt sophomore guard Alterique Gilbert before both of them suffered season-ending injuries.
Though it’s hard to detach from last year, Adams said his new band of teammates are “ready to work” and are always in attack mode during practices.
“I think last year, we started out slow and we got the identity of being soft and teams were trying to initiate the contact early,” Adams said. “This year, I kind of want that to be our identity. I know we have talent, but I also want us to be a physical team.”
Vital echoed a similar sentiment.
“The identity is that we’re going to be the hardest working team on both ends of the court,” Vital said. “Everybody, from the top of the roster to the bottom of the roster, is going to hold everyone accountable on defense and on offense.”
Coming in fourth in the Husky Run, head coach Kevin Ollie was as jubilant and excited as ever to start fresh with a new group. Ollie said he and his five returning players learned a lot from last year’s season, and this year will be about learning from those mistakes.
“It’s going to be a little bit of patience by myself,” Ollie said. “And I’m just going to lean on my five guys who came back to have great leadership, because winning starts in the locker room. I can stand on my head and reach all I want to, but if those guys aren’t buying in and they’re not taking ownership of their team, it’s going to be hard.”
A big part of last year’s disappointing season seemed to be the lack of familiarity between all the new players. Even with eight new faces joining the roster, Adams doesn’t think this year’s team will suffer a similar fate.
“I can tell from being here in the summer with these guys, they’re ready to work,” Adams said. “I don’t really have no worries about having another season like last year. I know this team and this group of guys is ready to do something special.”