HARTFORD – UConn forward Terry Larrier is working his way back from a torn ACL that cost him the entire 2016-17 season, and it takes time to shake off the rust.
Maybe it’s gone after one game. After a 3-for-14 performance against Providence, Larrier shined in exhibition game No. 2, leading the Huskies with 17 points (8-for-10 shooting) against Merrimack as he moved his offensive game closer to the paint.
“I’m just glad to see the ball go in for him. He’s doing a great job coming in, working,” UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said after the game. “It’s a work-in-progress, every step he’s just getting better and better and better.”
Larrier settled for long jumpers against the Friars, but worked out of the high post Monday, finishing at the rim and even dishing out three assists.
“He had a couple bad turnovers throwing it against the defense, but when he was poised, he made some really good decisions,” Ollie said of Larrier’s playmaking.
Ollie talked about his Larrier’s positional fit at the four-spot in the three-guard lineups running a five-out offense, a numerically dense way of saying that he would spend time on the perimeter as a power forward. Larrier did some strong work breaking down Merrimack’s zone defense.
“Sometimes that might be the best line-up out there with me at the four, depending on who we’re playing. I’m definitely versatile enough to do that, and I don’t mind playing it,” Larrier said.
Larrier used his size Monday night.
“They were smaller than we were, so I was just using my height to my advantage, getting in there, getting easy baskets,” Larrier said.
The frontcourt opposition will grow in size and skill as the Huskies trek through the regular season, but Larrier will get more comfortable as he works back from injury. Monday was a nice step towards his potential at full strength.
“Every game, I’m taking my time, slowly getting my groove back. I’m just looking forward to having a good season,” Larrier said.
A WHALE OF A TIME
Ollie calls him the Yes Man, but he’s not the main character of a lifeless Jim Carrey flick or a post-apocalyptic AI program.
He is Isaiah Whaley, and he is a 6-foot-8, 190-pound freshman forward that put up 10 points and five rebounds in just eight minutes of action Monday, as well as two thunderous putback dunks that brought the crowd at the XL Center to its feet, if only briefly.
“That’s how I was raised,” Whaley said of Ollie’s nickname. “My mom raised me to always say yes, and if it was a no, then it was a problem.”
Ollie’s high praise went deeper than the 10 points and the five boards.
“Some of the stuff on the stat sheet didn’t show up, like showing out on pick-and-rolls, being active with his hands up, he was just all over the place,” Ollie said. “He’s going to keep getting better and better and better.”
Asked who he modeled his game after, Whaley said Anthony Davis initially, before shifting to Dennis Rodman when he saw what this UConn team needed.
“[Like Rodman], I’m trying to be a high-energy guy. Just bring rebounding and athleticism and everything.”
Tyler Keating is the sports editor for The Daily Campus, covering men’s basketball. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @tylerskeating.