UConn basketball returns with fans despite tech malfunctions  

The UConn basketball teams introduce themselves to the student body through friendly competition in Gampel Pavillion on Oct. 15, 2021. While there normally is a concert prior to the players entering the court, this years event did not have one. Furthermore, many students left after one of the baskets could not be set up after player introductions. Photo by Kevin Lindstrom/The Daily Campus.

There are many needs for University of Connecticut students throughout their time at school. One of these primary needs is basketball, and with the stands remaining empty at Gampel Pavilion last year due to COVID-19, students were forced to live without basketball in Storrs. But in 2021, the time has come for basketball to return. 

The wait is finally over for UConn basketball fans as the team returned to Gampel Pavilion Friday to play in front of student fans, the first time since the 2019 season. 

“The noise coming from Gampel as you’re getting ready to walk over there, the anticipation and the excitement that fans bring to sports are what makes it special,” said Dan Hurley, coach of the men’s basketball team. 

“Tonight is for [the freshmen] and for our players to just be kids. Sometimes it just gets lost,” said Geno Auriemma, head coach of the women’s basketball team.  

Judging by the raucous noise coming from Gampel Pavilion, students certainly missed the game of basketball in Storrs. Lines went down the street before the game even started as fans couldn’t wait to get inside and keep the arena shaking. Despite the event being limited to only students, Gampel was still almost painfully loud.  Events throughout the arena and a built-in block party kept students engaged right up to game time and brought basketball excitement back to Jim Calhoun Way.  

Players could certainly be seen having fun throughout the event. This was perhaps most apparent in the Huskies’ player introductions. One by one, players were introduced to the sounds of cheers, loud music and the support of teammates. The women’s basketball players had the most fun with these introductions, and players like Amari Deberry could be seen dancing their way through the stage.  

Both the men’s and women’s coaches certainly were excited for the fans to see the new team in action with fresh and returning players coming to grace the memorable hardwood of Gampel Pavilion. 

“It’s a separator with teams, and it’s a separator with athletes; who’s got the stomach to play when the lights are bright, and you got a packed house?” said Hurley, referencing players playing with fans in the stands. “Players all manage their nerves a lot differently.”  

Unfortunately, the team was not at full strength for the game. Rahsool Diggins and Tyler Polley were unable to play in Friday’s matchup for the men’s basketball team due to separate injuries sustained before the game. 

For the women’s team, Aubrey Griffin has been out for the team due to a sprained ankle. Auriemma commented on how Griffin could impact the team this year. 

“Aubrey’s in a unique situation,” said Auriemma. “She’s one of those kids that can play a lot of places on the floor and has to find her comfort level right now.”  

This was certainly not the only part of the night that did not go as planned. The main storyline of Friday’s scrimmage was not a major play injury sustained during the game, or a less than anticipated attendance for the game, but a malfunction of a basketball hoop that put a wrench in Friday’s events. This caused the women’s basketball team only to see time on the hardwood in a half-court scrimmage while the men engaged in an exciting dunk contest, judged and commentated by the women. 

Despite technical difficulties, the night still went on. Fans watched in awe as players like Matt Garry, Andre Jackson and Jordan Hawkins threw down jaw-dropping dunks that had fans out of their seats asking for more. These feats of athleticism could certainly give UConn a peek into future highlights during the year against opposing teams. 

In the only legitimate scrimmage of the night, the women’s team put on a show and showed fans how it’s done. Olivia Nelson-Ododa was the star of the show, as the senior was lights out from beyond the line even in a scrimmage setting and put up 13 points. Sophomore sensation Paige Bueckers added 6 points and showed a small sample of the greatness she put on display in 2020.   

The night was not perfect by far, but the fans certainly did not need it to be. Even with the groan of fans leaving due to the absence of a men’s scrimmage, the night was filled with hysteria and delight. With the excitement of player introductions, energetic music throughout the arena and general fan support, Gampel Pavilion is once again the home of the students and the familiar battleground environment that Husky players adore.  

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