Huskies Ready for First Exhibition

STORRS – Freshman phenom Andre Drummond may or may not make his debut in a University of Connecticut uniform Wednesday night when the No. 4 Huskies play American International College in the first exhibition game of the men's basketball season.

It all depends on the mask.

Drummond, the 6-10 center from Middletown who could be the top freshman in the nation this season, suffered a broken nose and a concussion in practice last Friday. He is slowly on his way back and has been cleared to return to action as soon as he can tolerate the mask he will wear for 6-8 weeks to protect his nose.

Coach Jim Calhoun said that answer should come around 2:30 p.m. when the Huskies have their pregame shoot-around. Drummond was fitted for the mask on Monday but it was not ready for practice on Tuesday. He is expected to pick up the mask at noon and then give it a test during the shoot-around.

"He'll complain like everyone else does," Calhoun said. "Richard [Hamilton] hated it – until he made money off it. Emeka [Okafor] hated it. Alex hated it. You can go through the whole list."

Calhoun said Drummond did participate in non-contact drills Tuesday, including skeleton offense and shooting drills. The plan is to give Drummond some work if the mask is comfortable, but Calhoun doesn't plan on starting him against AIC (7:30 p.m., Gampel Pavilion, WTIC-AM 1080, UConn Radio Network).

These announcements are always subject to change with Calhoun but he said Tuesday he plans on starting Jeremy Lamb, Alex Oriakhi, Tyler Olander, Shabazz Napier and freshman DeAndre Daniels. Calhoun also promised that walk-on Brendan Allen, a freshman from Windsor, who actually collided with Drummond in practice when the injury occurred, will get some playing time. Forward Michael Bradley is out until early December as he recovers from ankle surgery, but center Enosch Wolf has recovered and will be in uniform.

The defending national champions began practice on Oct. 15 and the players admit the start of the season has snuck up on them a bit. A couple of early exhibition scores did get their attention. One was Arizona's 69-68 loss to Division II Seattle-Pacific and the other was a 110-80 victory for St. John's over C.W. Post.

Napier said the Huskies want to run on offense and show how good they can be on defense.

"I watched St. John's play C.W. Post and they gave up 80 points," Napier said. "I mean, it's a win but any time you give up 80 points to a Division II team, you don't win. I'm going to tell the guys that the best effort for less is if they score 35 points or less. That will be tough, but we're able to do it if we play UConn defense."

Asked if Napier's goal is realistic, Oriakhi said, "Why not? That's the thing we're really capable of. Our defense has been superb. The coaches have been doing a great job on our shell defense and make it so we rotate and help one another."

Oriakhi said it would be nice to have Drummond and the entire team available for the exhibition against AIC, Calhoun's alma mater. But the Huskies are hoping this first outing will allow them to learn about themselves and they want to do that regardless of who is playing.

"I want to see how good our defense could be," Oriakhi said. "Our defense was pretty good last year but I think we're more athletic this year. Our defense has been good in practice.

"I'm very excited. After we won it [the 2011 national championship], I told myself I'd love to do that again. It all starts tomorrow and I'm very excited."

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