UConn ready for First Night and opening practice
Doors at Gampel Pavilion will open at 4 p.m. for First Night.
Before the basketball teams are introduced, the Huskies’ women’s volleyball team will host Cincinnati in a Big East match. The basketball portion of the evening will start at 7 p.m. with the highlight being the dunk competition. Ryan Boatright will look to defend his title while teammates Omar Calhoun and Phil Nolan and UConn women’s freshman Breanna Stewart will also compete.The evening is one for the fans to see a lighter side of the players and for stars like UConn junior guard Bria Hartley; it is an enjoyable way to head into the first day of practice the following morning.
“It is a night of fun and we have a good time,” Hartley said. “I know when I was a freshman. I was really excited. You are nervous coming out of the tunnel and all this other stuff. I think they (the UConn freshmen) are really going to enjoy it. It is a good experience, especially your first one.”
UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma admits to be as excited to get started as he has been in a few years after seeing a productive preseason for his squad.
“I haven't really seen them a lot up until this point,” Auriemma said. “I will get a chance to see them on Saturday but what I have seen in preseason during September I really like. There is a certain work ethic that they have, a certain competition they have and that doesn't always exist. Sometimes players just want to get through the preseason. This group seems to approach every workout with a sense of purpose. I could tell that from the very first day. I have always looked forward to the season but I am really, really looking forward to this season.
“You can tell a lot about your team on the first day. Sometimes it is just too hectic. Sometimes you have to say things too many times to get things done and some years you just kind of get through it pretty quickly and everybody does it exactly the right way. I always go into the first day more of a wait and see, I want to see what it looks like. The three freshmen (Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck) aren't really freshmen. They have played a lot of basketball and they’ll play so much on this team that they already feel like they have been made a part of it. I hope it doesn't take a long time for them to feel comfortable.”