Clinics help UConn men’s basketball team bond

UConn’s Andre Jackson works with kids at the Bleeding Blue fo Good ProCamp Saturday at the Cardinal Shehan Center in Bridgeport. (Gavin Keefe/The Day) Buy photo prints
UConn’s Donovan Clingan, left, and Tristen Newton chat with Bleeding Blue fo Good ProCamp campers Saturday at the Cardinal Shehan Center in Bridgeport. (Gavin Keefe/The Day) Buy photo prints

Bridgeport — Andre Jackson lingered inside the Cardinal Shehan Center after Bleeding Blue for Good ProCamp ended on Saturday, posing for photos with kids and signing autographs.

His UConn basketball teammates had already left the court.

Jackson was clearly having fun.

He used to be a camper, so he understands the importance of events like Saturday’s clinic with the elementary kids.

“I see the different emotions on different kids’ faces,” Jackson said. “I remember being a kid, I would find myself in a situation and I would be sad because I was facing something else that people might not know. It is good to be around children and to brighten their day in any way possible.

“These children go through a lot of things that we may not be aware of. It’s good to be there as a source of inspiration. When you’re young, you have all these dreams and goals, but it’s hard to really feel like you can get out of the situation you’re in.

Jackson remembers the impact an Albany Academy basketball camp had on him when he was young.

He admired his camp coaches and ended up going to high school there.

Now, Jackson hopes he can be an inspiration to others.

“One of those kids might end up growing up wanting to go to UConn because maybe they saw someone who inspired them when they were 10 or 11,” Jackson said.

The clinic also served an additional purpose for the Huskies.

This provided another team bonding experience.

With eight new players on the roster, including Alex Karaban who only trained with the team last season while sitting in a red shirt, the Huskies are trying to spend as much time together as possible to help create team chemistry.

“On and off the field, we always do something together, all of us,” said rookie Donovan Clingan. “With all these transfers and the young guys, me a freshman, we have a really strong bond and everyone gets along really well, and that’s important.”

The regular season opener – Nov. 7 against Stonehill College – will be here soon. The first night is scheduled for Friday, October 14.

After being limited to just four hours a week, UConn will be allowed to extend their time on the court starting Tuesday’s first official practice of the 2022-23 season.

The Huskies are eager to step up a gear.

“I can’t wait,” Jackson said. “First training of the year, it’s going to be really hectic and full of energy. We’ve been pretty tough all summer and this fall, so I’m not really nervous about it. I’m just excited.

“We have a good group of guys. It will be better once we have more hours in the week. Four hours a week is hard to pull out all the stops and try to keep everything as sharp as possible. I think once training starts the mood will definitely change and everything will be a lot more focused.

Clingan, the former Bristol Center player, has high hopes for the coming season.

“It’s going to be a good year,” Clingan said. “We have a really talented group that works hard. I can not wait to be there.

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