EAST HARTFORD - One wouldn‚Äôt expect a college basketball player who has seen the court in just nine games over his first two seasons to be the most enthusiastic competitor during preseason workouts.
But that‚Äôs what Alterique Gilbert has been for the UConn men‚Äôs basketball team recently.
‚ÄúSometimes when you‚Äôre like a junior or senior you become old and stale some days. ‚ÄėI‚Äôve been there, done that. I‚Äôve had hundreds of college practices,‚Äô ‚ÄĚ UConn coach Dan Hurley said Saturday. ‚ÄúBut not Al. It‚Äôs like he‚Äôs young and hungry right now. A lot of energy, talking, real grateful to be back out there playing.‚ÄĚ
The reason for that enthusiasm, obviously, is based on the idea that the former McDonald‚Äôs All-American was essentially robbed of two seasons by injuries. Gilbert is just about recovered from his third major shoulder surgery, his second since arriving at UConn.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm blessed to still be able to play this game,‚ÄĚ Gilbert said after participating in an autograph-signing session with his teammates before UConn‚Äôs football game Saturday at Pratt & Whitney Stadium. ‚ÄúSo each and every day I come out with the same mindset.‚ÄĚ
Gilbert, whose absence coincided with a pair of painfully sub-par seasons in Storrs, has made significant strides since the start of the brief workouts the Huskies are allowed to participate in with Hurley and his staff before the season officially begins.
‚ÄúThe first day, you could see so much progress from Day 1 to four or five workouts in,‚ÄĚ Hurley said. ‚ÄúYou‚Äôre dancing around gingerly with the ball. Now he‚Äôs getting downhill and attacking the rim. He‚Äôs got a lot more confidence in it.‚ÄĚ
There would seem to be some concern about Gilbert working too hard as he continues to get closer to 100 percent healthy.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs about knocking off that rust. We have to get him enough reps where he can knock the rust off what‚Äôs gone on the last couple of years, but not give him too many reps where we‚Äôre exposing him too much,‚ÄĚ Hurley said.
While he was watching UConn and URI play football Saturday, Hurley was also showing a highly sought-after recruit what UConn has to offer. James Bouknight, a four-star shooting guard from New York, took an official visit to UConn over the weekend.
The 6-foot-4 Bouknight is a standout at the MacDuffie School in Granby, Mass. He averaged 19.3 points per game last season as a junior.
Hurley is not allowed under NCAA regulations to comment on recruits before they have signed with the school, but he spoke in general terms Saturday about the Huskies‚Äô plans.
‚ÄúWe have needs that we have to address. We think we‚Äôre involved with the right type of kids that could move the needle here,‚ÄĚ Hurley said.