STORRS - Kenya Hunter was anxious to return to work, apparently. So much so that his boss wasnât at first sure if it was the appropriate thing to do.
Hunter, an assistant coach on the UConn menâs basketball team, had missed all seven of the Huskiesâ games prior to Wednesday after taking a leave of absence from the team to deal with an undisclosed medical issue. But Hunter was back on the job Wednesday night at Gampel Pavilion and was on the bench for the Huskiesâ 80-62 win over Iona.
âHe came in with his doctorâs note (Wednesday) and I was like âWhatâs going on?â I tried to authenticate it. It looked like his wife wrote it,â UConn head coach Dan Hurley joked.
Taliek Brown, UConnâs director of player development, had been serving as an assistant coach in Hunterâs place during the absence.
Hurley praised Brownâs work while also expressing relief that Hunter was back, too.
âKenya is a real professional coach. Heâs excellent with the bigs and heâs got a great way about him,â Hurley said. âReal calm, real poised and real smart professional coach. It balances off some of my insane emotional outbursts.â
MEDICAL LEAVE, PART II
While Hunter has returned, the other team playing in Gampel Pavilion Wednesday is still waiting for a member of its coaching staff to come back from a medical leave.
Iona head coach Tim Cluess has been absent for all of the Gaelsâ games this season for undisclosed medical reasons, and associate head coach Tra Arnold has guided the team in his place.
âCoach is dealing with a medical issue right now,â Arnold said. âI talk to him quite often. Heâs good-spirited right now. I think heâll be back soon.â
AL STANDS TALL
UConn point guard Alterique Gilbertâs 10 assists and just one turnover Wednesday night were impressive, and Hurley admits that the UConn coaches were partially to blame for the junior not having such a breakout game earlier.
âI didnât do a very good job of coaching him at that position early in the season,â Hurley said. âI think heâs made adjustments but as a staff I think weâre not letting him down the way early on we really didnât have him playing to his strengths.â
Needless to say Hurley was pleased with Gilbertâs performance against Iona.
âI love where itâs going with him. Heâs so focused on his leadership and trying to make people around him better,â Hurley said.
THE BOUK ON JAMES
UConn freshman James Bouknight had just two points in his first-ever game in Gampel Pavilion. He had at least 13 points in each of his previous three games.
Hurley was asked before the game if Bouknight was in line for more playing time in the near future but the coach said that wasnât going to automatically happen.
âHis defense has kept his minutes down, the fact that he wasnât available to us to game plan, and the fact that we have a deep team,â Hurley said.
Bouknight played just 14 minutes on Wednesday, in part because UConnâs starting guards were playing well.
âIf he played on last yearâs team his minutes would have been a lot different at this point in the season,â Hurley said.
Iona center Tajuan Agee is the nephew of Arthur Agee, the latter of which was featured in the 1994 documentary âHoop Dreams.â âŠ Tyler Polley had 12 of his 14 points in the second half, thanks in part to some choice words from the coaches at halftime. âWe got after him a little bit at the half, nothing crazy,â Hurley said. âŠ UConn has used the same starting lineup in all eight of its games. âŠ Vital missed a free throw with 3:38 to play in the game, snapping a streak of 20 consecutive makes. He has missed only twice in 33 attempts from the line this season.