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UConn men’s basketball redshirt freshman Alex Karaban hopes to use early arrival to his advantage

The UConn men’s basketball team is entering the second and final week of its second summer session before the team takes a 10-day break and returns to Storrs for the fall.

Head coach Dan Hurley has been preparing the team, especially the newcomers, for the pressure he expects to come from a strong Big East Conference in 2022-23. Among the transfers, Nahiem Alleyne came from Virginia Tech, Joey Calcaterra from the University of San Diego, Tristen Newton from East Carolina and Hassan Diarra from Texas A&M.


Donovan Clingan and Alex Karaban are the only two freshmen on the roster preparing to play college basketball for the first time. But unlike Clingan, who is a true freshman, and the other new faces, Karaban had a head start.

The 6-foot-8 forward was named the Gatorade New Hampshire Player of the Year following his 2021-22 season at New Hampton School in which he averaged 25.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.9 blocks per game while connecting on 60.3% of his field-goal attempts. He spent a post-grad year at IMG Academy in Florida and left early to join the Huskies during last year’s spring semester.


Karaban couldn’t play, but he worked out, traveled with the team and went to every game from January until it ended in March — a form of torture for any hyper-competitive athlete.

“It was super difficult not being able to play last year,” Karaban said after practice last week. “When we were down in close games, I always wanted to get out there and just help the team win. But it just felt weird because I would understand if I was injured, but I wasn’t injured, so it just felt weird, but I’m excited to play again.”

It’s been a year and a half since Karaban last played in a game.

His path, coming to UConn a semester early, is one that Akok Akok took when he came to UConn during the 2018-19 season before making an immediate impact as a freshman in 2019-20. Akok transferred to Georgetown following last season.

“I would do this decision again and again,” Karaban said. “I think being around a veteran team last year and just really competing against Isaiah (Whaley) every day, just getting better and getting over those freshman hurdles. I’m learning a lot more, figuring out my problems and stuff unlike freshmen who just came to campus now. I think I’m getting ahead of other freshmen in the Big East.”

Karaban said he has lost 20 pounds while gaining muscle since joining the Huskies in January and feels lighter on the court.

His role, one that he’d like to define as an “X factor” type of player who can come in and make some 3s to help the team win, is likely to come off the bench. He noted “superstars” on the team, such as Jordan Hawkins, Adama Sanogo and Newton, and thinks he’s best suited to help in a smaller role this season.

Hurley noted that Karaban has been competing over the summer to potentially start for the Huskies, but at the minimum he’ll be a “big player” for the team.


“He’s such a good shooter and a smart player, and a skilled player. He wants to be really good, really bad. Work ethic off the charts. He’s going to have a big impact on the team,” Hurley said. “He’s a hard worker. He’s blue collar. He understands basketball concepts, picks up terminology quickly, so it’s easy to make adjustments with a guy like that when he’s on the court because he understands the game well, and it’s not the case for every player.”

Karaban’s presence as a known shooter on the floor could help stretch opposing defenses, and, as he said, relieve some of the focus on Sanogo.

“I’m just excited to get back on the court. Just keep going after seeing what last year’s team was, I’m just super excited to get back out there,” Karaban said.