Kevin Freeman 'elated' over UConn return
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Kevin Freeman 'elated' over UConn return

Kevin Freeman is back, again.

The former UConn basketball star was hired earlier this week to serve as an assistant coach on Dan Hurley’s staff, marking the third time he’s committed to the Huskies. His first official day on the job was Friday.

“It was something I knew I wanted,” Freeman said, via a Zoom call. “I wanted to be back at my alma mater under coach Hurley.”

Despite knowing all the shortcuts around campus from four years of playing in Storrs, Freeman slowly rolled into campus Friday morning.

“I took the long way today,” he said.

When Freeman left for Penn State in 2018, he was looking to get his feet wet in the assistant coach ranks, especially with recruiting which was an assignment he was not able to do at UConn as the director of basketball operations.

Flash forward two years and Freeman has made his mark on the recruiting front by helping the Nittany Lions piece together two strong classes, including the 21st-ranked class for 2021 that's highlighted by four-star center Elijah Hutchins-Everett.

“I kind of got thrown right into the fire (at PSU),” Freeman said. “(Coach Chambers) showed me how to start a recruit and how to finish.”

In addition to bringing in players, Freeman has helped to develop the big men in the Nittany Lions’ program. Senior forward Lamar Stevens was first-team All-Big Ten this past season.

“He’s been at a program where they really coach their players and he has his fingerprints all over the frontcourt,” Hurley said.

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When Hunter opted to leave to become co-associate head coach at the University of Indiana a few weeks ago, Hurley already had Freeman’s name on his shortlist.

Freeman’s work at Penn State was one factor, but Hurley also was impressed by their brief relationship together at UConn.

“What won him the job in my eyes really was the way he handled himself professionally in that month or two he was here when I first got the job,” Hurley said. “He was interviewing for this opportunity every day.”

Freeman had the opportunity to remain at UConn as the DOBO when Hurley arrived, but the head coach wanted an experienced assistant coaching staff - Tom Moore, Kimani Young, and Hunter - to get the rebuild rolling here.

The popular Freeman has a lengthy history with the Huskies, winning the program's first national title in 1999 under Jim Calhoun, and was on Kevin Ollie’s staff for the 2014 title.

“I think from a recruiting standpoint, one of the things that stands out about Kevin is he’s great with people,” Hurley said. “He’s a great communicator and he’s a very genuine person. A high, high-quality guy.”

In terms of being a strong recruiter for him, Hurley says Freeman checks all the boxes.

“He’ll be a natural I think in terms of connecting with people,” Hurley said. “I just think his UConn experience, his UConn story, what he achieved as a player and what it’s turned into in his life.”

And in terms of his life back at UConn, Freeman is all in once again.

“I just want to add value to what they have already done,” he said. “I want this to be home for my family - I’ve moved enough.”

In addition to hiring Freeman, Hurley also promoted Kimani Young to associate head coach, which is a role that’s been empty the past two seasons.

“Kimani is one of the best assistant coaches in the country,” Hurley said. “He's an incredibly well-rounded guy. He’s got the skill set to be a successful head coach someday.”

INJURY UPDATES

Junior Brendan Adams (foot) was added to the injured list when he returned to school. Hurley expects him to be ready for the start of the season ... Adams joins freshman Andre Jackson (knee), senior Tyler Polley (knee), and sophomore Akok Akok (Achilles’ tendon) on the restricted list ... Jackson and Polley have been doing a lot of shooting but have not been cleared for team activities. He expects Jackson back full-time next month and Polley for the start of the season ... Akok continues to do “mostly stationary work” with a timetable return for the end of 2020/early 2021.

NOTES

The Huskies, who have reported zero COVID-19 positive tests, continue to hold practices four times a week for one hour on campus as the school year has begun. With talk of the season possibly starting in late November at “bubble sites,” Hurley said the plan is to increase the workload around the middle of this month ... Hurley also said he hopes to hear something from the NCAA on Tyrese Martin in the next week or two. Martin is trying to be cleared right away after transferring from the University of Rhode Island.