STORRS – Ventured up to Gampel for some pick-up game action, the players getting together for about an hour with special guest Kemba Walker. The fall semester has just begun, here are some notes and quotes …
*Two of the sophomores have come back looking like completely different players. When Leon Tolksdorf came out on the court, it was worth a double-take. After a summer back home, playing with Germany’s under-20 national team, he’s lost about 15 pounds and really looks chiseled at 6-foot-8 and about 220.
“I put on 10 pounds of muscle last year,” he said, “and I decided to reduce my body fat. I do feel quicker, and I want to be able to play the three as well as the four.”
Tolksdorf, who was captain of his team, played in 25 games, averaging 22 minutes, 8.4 points and 5.8 rebounds. “It was great to get that game experience again after not playing much last year,” he said.
Going into Year 2 at UConn, Tolksdorf feels more confident, better prepared. The same is true for Phil Nolan, who is going in the other direction on the scale.
“I’m continuing to hit the weight room and put on weight,” he said. “That’s the goal. … and I grew an inch. I’m 6-10 now.”
Nolan came on late last season, and played with the East Coast All-Stars in the Four Nations Cup in Estonia in July.
“I learned a lot of new things,” he said, “I learned how they play international basketball. They play a little dirty – a lot of elbow.” Nolan is up to about 216 pounds, about 15 more than last year, and he wants to get to 225 by the start of the season.
“The coaches have been staying on me, telling me they expect a lot of me this year,” said Nolan, who figures to push for a starting job. “If I can get to 225, I can do some special things. I’m ready.”
*Freshman Terrence Samuel, after filling the NCAA academic requirements, is enrolled and on campus and found himself playing with Kemba Walker, who was on campus working out Tuesday. “He’s fast … but he’s cool,” Samuel said
Samuel explained that the NCAA had not accepted a math class he had taken during his time Victory Collegiate High, part of Brooklyn’s South Shore complex. He was one-half credit short of the 16 he needed. So he took two math classes during the summer, completing them to the NCAA’s satisfaction. He was cleared last week.
“I was worried, because I didn’t know what the NCAA would do,” he said, “but at the same time I knew I was only a half-credit short.” Now that he’s at UConn, “it’s the greatest feeling in the world,” Samuel said.
*Another New Yorker, Terry Larrier, a 6-foot-7 small forward from the Bronx, was on campus for a visit Tuesday. He’s a top Class of 2014 recruit, and it was probably fortuitous for UConn to have Walker, also from The Bronx, on hand. The coaches were showing him around Gampel in mid-afternoon.
*The NCAA has changed its practice schedule rules. Teams will start about two weeks earlier, and but have the same number of practices – meaning more off days in between. Tentatively, UConn will have the Husky Run on Sept. 25, its first practice on Sept. 27. First Night, though, will remain at its tradition mid-October time frame, scheduled for Oct. 18.
*Niels Giffey is still in Germany, playing with his national team in the Euro Basket tournament. Giffey, recovered from his fractured finger, has started all three of the preliminary games, playing 22 minutes with two points and eight rebounds against Bosnia-Herzegovina, 26 minutes with eight points and five rebounds against Macedonia, and 17 ½ minutes with three points against Greece. Germany has lost all three. Giffey should be back on campus early in September to begin his senior year. … Look for the NCAA to take a few more weeks, perhaps a month, to decide on Kentan Facey’s eligibility. Meantime, he is in school and practicing, out for the pickup game. … Tyler Olander, still recovering from his broken foot, and Omar Calhoun, who had hip surgery, are close, but not yet ready to participate full bore. … Players listened to a talk on sports medicine before taking the court. … The pick-up game had to be short, with volleyball practice scheduled for 5 p.m. – a reminder of how much easier these things will be when the basketball training facility is ready next year.