By PAT EATON-ROBB
STORRS, Conn. (AP) _ Connecticut’s basketball season got off to its traditional, if unofficial, start Wednesday with the annual Husky Run, a 3.4-mile race around campus.
Former coach Jim Calhoun started the run as a way to transition his players from preseason conditioning to practice, and it has grown to include not only the team, but other students, faculty and fans.
Junior forward DeAndre Daniels finished first among players for the third consecutive year, in 19 minutes and 52 seconds.
He is among eight players returning from a team that went 20-10, but was barred from the NCAA tournament. Daniels said with those academic sanctions behind them, the Huskies are anxious for Saturday’s start of practice.
“A lot of us didn’t even watch the tournament, it was so heartbreaking that we couldn’t play in there,” he said. “We knew we should have been in it. It made us hungrier now, and we’re working even harder to get there.”
The NCAA changed its practice rules this year, allowing drills to start two weeks earlier than normal. Teams will have 42 days to fit in 30 practices. The old rules allowed 24 practices over a 30-day period.
Coach Kevin Ollie said that will mean some more rest and recovery time, but not on Saturday.
The intensity of Connecticut’s first practice has become the stuff of legend, with a trash can set up in the gym for players who made need to vomit. It’s another Calhoun tradition that Ollie, now in his second year, plans to keep alive.
“We’ve been doing that forever and they’re going to have to earn it to get that jersey on,” he said. “It’s not going to be a walk in the park.”
Forward Tyler Olander, suspended from the team after being charged with drunken driving this month, remains away from the team, despite having that charge dropped this week. He pleaded guilty to driving without a license.
Athletic director Warde Manuel said he and Ollie will meet in the next week or so to discuss Olander’s situation. But Ollie said his former captain needs to prove he belongs back on the team.
“I would like him to play, but it’s really on him,” Ollie said. “I’m evaluating him each and every day. So it can change today or it can last when we are playing the last game in the Final Four.”
Shabazz Napier, Olander’s roommate, said he expects his friend to return soon. He said Olander, who doesn’t have a driver’s license, was put in an awkward position the night of his arrest. Olander felt he had to drive the car to prevent another person from driving drunk, Napier said.
“People think he made a bad decision, I think he made the right decision,” Napier said. “Sometimes you get put in these pickles because you want to help people.”
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