UConn's Calhoun excited by young team
STORRS, Conn. -- Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun didn't participate in this year's Husky Run, but he sure looked like he could have.
An enthusiastic Calhoun watched Wednesday as his players completed a course that runs a little more than three miles (but not exactly 5K) that traditionally marks the end of preseason workouts. This weekend, basketball practice begins.
Calhoun reminisced about making similar runs with his Northeastern teams in the 1970s and early '80s along the Charles River, when he would start about three-quarters of a mile ahead of the players and challenge them to catch him over the course of the race.
"They always thought they could catch me," he said. "The mathematics said they would have had to run a 3:38 mile for 4 miles to catch me, but they never caught on. And, I was in really good shape at the time."
A couple decades and three bouts with cancer later, the 67-year-old Calhoun is still in good shape.
He will begin his 38th season as a basketball coach on Saturday, his 24th at UConn. Calhoun said he's excited by his young team.
UConn lost three starters, including 7-foot-2 Hasheem Thabeet, the second player taken in the NBA draft, from last year's team that went 31-5 and made it to the Final Four, losing in the national semifinals to Michigan State.
But they have several experienced players returning, including senior swingman Stanley Robinson and what is expected to be one of the nation's top backcourts in sophomore speedster Kemba Walker and senior sharpshooter Jerome Dyson.
Calhoun acknowledges there are question marks. How will 6-11 Ater Majok play when he becomes eligible in December? How will the team replace Thabeet's blocks, A.J Price's floor leadership or Jeff Adrien's rebounds?
"I think we have more kids that can do things with the basketball," Calhoun said. "I have no idea how that translates. To have a better record would be really a stretch, but to have a really good record, and be really good by February would not be a stretch. We could be really, really good when it's all said and done."
Calhoun, who has led Connecticut to three Final Fours and national titles in 1999 and 2004, missed the Huskies' first NCAA tournament game in March after being hospitalized for dehydration. He also was hospitalized after he suffered broken ribs in a bicycle crash during a charity event in June.
Calhoun was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005 and has a career record of 805-342, good enough for sixth place on the NCAA Division I career wins list. He is negotiating a long-term contract expected to keep him at UConn for several more years.
Looking refreshed on Wednesday, Calhoun said he's eager to start practice. It's a feeling shared by his players.
"Everybody on the team can run, everyone on the team can jump, everybody can shoot," Majok said. "It's going to be a fun year."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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