UConn men’s basketball freshmen getting used to campus, college life

·4 min read

Rahsool Diggins, one of the UConn men’s basketball team’s newest recruits, is still adjusting to college life. The cooking, living on your own, being away from family — all of the hurdles a normal college student has to go through on their journey into adulthood.

Diggins said he and fellow freshman Jordan Hawkins, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, went grocery shopping for the first time last week and didn’t know what to get.

“I didn’t know what to grab,” said Diggins, a 6-2 point guard. “I grabbed a bunch of snacks, a bunch of stuff I didn’t need.”

Since they did not come prepared with a list or a plan, the duo each called home to see what they should get. Diggins said he does not know how to cook any real meals, but he can do breakfast foods like eggs as well as some chicken fingers and maybe some burgers.

He said college life is “completely different” from what he is used to and that he misses his mom, who calls him every day.

“I think it’s harder on her,” Diggins said. “I’m used to being away from home a little bit, but when I’m home, actually, I tend to annoy my mom on purpose so I think that’s what she misses. She doesn’t have anybody that’s annoying her right now, everybody is just leaving her alone.”

Hawkins said having freshman forward Samson Johnson and Diggins with him during the process has been important, considering they are all going through the same things.

Johnson, a 6-11 forward who can play in the post and shoot from the outside, said the adjustment has not been as big of a deal to him so far and he’s been trying to “go with the flow.”

Now that the trio of Diggins, Hawkins and Johnson — who all room together — have been on campus for a bit, they have all started to see what it means to be a player for a program like UConn. Looking up into the rafters and seeing the banners has had an impact.

“It means a lot to me, because UConn is a national championship program,” Johnson said. “You don’t come here and take it easy.”

Hawkins said he looks up into the rafters and tells himself he can be one of those guys.

This is coach Dan Hurley’s highest-ranked recruiting class, with each player in the top 60 of most boards. Each are ranked closely together in 247sports.com’s top-100, with Hawkins at No. 48, Johnson at No. 53 and Diggins at No. 56.

The three all committed within a few weeks of each other, kicked off by Diggins in July 2020. Hawkins and Johnson quickly followed after that.

“This is a very special group of freshmen we have,” Hawkins said. “I’ve played against Rahsool a bunch of times, knew he was special. Samson is going to be a special player. I think I have a chance to do something. It’s been great playing with these guys so far, learning their games.”

Now nearly a year later, they have all had their first few weeks of practices, which are known to be quite intense under Hurley.

“He threw me in the fire right away, since day one,” Hawkins said. “He wants me to be a contributor on the team. So, I’ve been learning, taking everything in, soaking everything in, asking questions.”

Hawkins, who looks to be a shooting threat from the wing, said the practices were “chaos” at first but he has adjusted to them.

During the summer, however, Hurley is a bit more relaxed than he is in the fall. He even told Diggins to take up meditation — although that is not quite his speed just yet.

“This is summer Hurley right now, it’s not calm, but it’s summer Hurley so I guess it’s calm for him,” Hawkins said.

Diggins said he feels he is getting better and improving on his game. He feels he’s shooting better, getting stronger and defending well.

“As hard as we work, there’s no way we shouldn’t be prepared when the season comes,” Diggins said. “Not a lot of programs are doing this, having everyone come up for Summer 1 and Summer 2, so that should put us ahead of a lot of programs.”

Hurley also assigned the team to read the book “Winning” by author Tim Grover, a personal trainer and speaker who has worked with thousands of athletes, including Michael Jordan, Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant.

“They say winning is a mentality, winning takes everything you put in and gives it back to you,” Johnson said.

Hawkins said the team is working on the book, chapter-by-chapter, and they sometimes have a book club-type meeting to discuss their main takeaways.

Mike Mavredakis can be reached at mmavredakis@courant.com.

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