If losing star guard Jalen Adams for 4-6 weeks wasn't enough, head coach Dan Hurley has also been unable to deploy G Alterique Gilbert, who missed his fifth game in a row in Thursday night's loss to No. 9-ranked Houston.
Gilbert has been out nearly three weeks now with a sore left shoulder that came after a collision during the Huskies' win over Wichita State on Jan. 26. And, of course, it had to be the same shoulder that Gilbert has had surgery on twice in his freshman and sophomore seasons at UConn.
So, naturally, that type of injury would cause a player -- along with coaches and staff -- to be extra careful about rushing back onto the court. And while Gilbert has been sitting stagnant on the pine, he had to watch Adams, who is a senior, go down when the team needed him most.
The Huskies are not expected to make the tournament this season, not after losing yet again to bring their record to 13-12. But next season is a different story, and Adams is supposed to pass the scoring torch off to Gilbert for his senior year. After looking at what happened to his teammate, though, there's a reason why Gilbert has been hesitant about suiting up again.
He did make strides on Wednedsay, where he practice 20 minutes without any restrictions. But, as one would expect, Hurley wouldn't bring him back right away despite there being success in the practice session. Instead, Gilbert will continue to work with the UConn staff to come back 100 percent healthy.
"We've got positional coaches, I meet with him every two days, we have a sports psychologist, we have a team of people here to support these guys mentally and emotionally during the season," Hurley told The Hartford Courant's Mike Anthony. "This is the first week that he's looked healthy enough to move freely on the court, through shooting drills and skill work. He was hurt, physically and mentally. We've had some conversations to build him up. We've also had, 'When you're ready to go, get out there, you're fine.' Probably 90 percent pats on the back and once you feel like he's healthy, now you're like, 'Hey man, get out there and do your thing. You're good.'"
In his junior season, Gilbert is averaging a career-high 13 points, 3.8 assists, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game for the Huskies.