By PAT EATON-ROBB, Associated Press Writer
STORRS, Conn. (AP) _ Connecticut forward Alex Oriakhi and the rest of his teammates are not paying much attention to the NCAA investigation that has enveloped the men’s basketball program.[photogallerylink id=14588 align=right]
Speaking after the annual Husky Run, a three-mile jaunt around campus designed to get the team ready to open practice this weekend, Oriakhi said the investigation is merely a distraction for a team that still has high hopes for the coming season.
“I just play basketball, work out and try to get myself better,” Oriakhi said. “Thinking about that isn’t going to help, so I don’t think about it.”
UConn officials are heading to Indianapolis on Friday for a hearing before the NCAA committee on infractions.
Last week, the school released a report admitting major recruiting violations and imposing its own sanctions, including two years’ probation and the loss of one scholarship each of the next two seasons.
Coach Jim Calhoun did not attend the run on Wednesday, the first public event since that report was released, leaving associate coach George Blaney to field questions about the probe and how it has affected the program and its leader.
“He’s handled it great,” said Blaney, who acknowledged that the investigation has taken up a lot of Calhoun’s time.
“He’s as upbeat as ever about this team.”
The Huskies go into Friday’s first practice with a roster that includes six freshmen, and lower than normal expectations after an 18-16 season that ended in the NIT.
Senior guard Kemba Walker, the team’s captain, expects to surprise a lot of people.
“Last year we came in all big-time and stuff,” Walker said.
“It’s humbling for us this year. We’re just going to go out and play basketball, win games and have some fun.”
Roscoe Smith, a heralded 6-foot-8 forward from Baltimore, said he’s excited that he will get to contribute this season, and said he didn’t come to Connecticut to lose.
“I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people because of our work ethic,” Smith said. “A lot of people are overlooking us and questioning our ability to play this game. So, I think we have a chip on our shoulder, each and every one of us.”
For the record, senior walk-on Kyle Bailey was the first player to cross the finish line in the Husky run, completing the not-quite 5K course in 21 minutes, 12 seconds.
The overall winner was 20-year-old junior Jim Rosenberger, who finished in 17:25. The mechanical engineering major also won the event last season, and gets a UConn warmup suit for his effort.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)