STORRS, Conn. --- As Alterique Gilbert looks forward to the 2017-18 basketball season, he figures he’s already got an advantage. When he starts – make that, restarts – his college career, this time he’ll do it with two preseasons and 2½ games of actual college experience under his belt.
The frustrations of last year -- when a torn labrum in his left shoulder ended his 2016-17 season just before halftime in the season’s third game -- have faded, replaced by the eager anticipation of getting back on the court. And that anticipation has only been heightened since he was fully cleared for all basketball activities.
Back on campus for summer session, Gilbert (Richmond, Va.) is also back in the gym at the Werth Center for workouts with his teammates.
“I feel great, 100 percent, no ill effects at all,” said the redshirt freshman guard, who underwent shoulder surgery last November to repair the damage. “I’m just working on my craft, getting better every day.”
Gilbert, a former McDonald’s All-American and Mr. Georgia Basketball out of Miller Grove High School (Lithonia, Ga.), had earned his way into the Huskies’ early-season starting lineup last season with his lightening quickness and ability to get to the basket. After averaging 10.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 3.0 steals through UConn’s first two games, he had already scored 10 points in the first half at Loyola Marymount when he dove for a loose ball and absorbed a hard hit that dislocated his left shoulder.
Just like that, after a mere 87 minutes of playing time, his season was over.
“Sure, it was hard to just watch last year,” Gilbert said. “You’re on the sidelines. You want to help your teammates, especially going through tough things with them, but you feel like to can’t help. That’s hard. But we got through it. We didn’t finish like we wanted to, but we got through it.”
Gilbert didn’t waste time feeling sorry for himself.
“I feel like I learned a lot just sitting and watching,” he said. “Just observing, you see a lot that’s going on. I watched a lot of film. I picked up a lot of small things that will not only help me, but help the team.”
So will what he went through last preseason, as well as the limited playing time he had before the injury, according to UConn assistant coach Ricky Moore, who is working with the Husky guards.
‘It definitely helped that he went through preseason and got a chance to play a couple of games, even one on a road,” Moore said. “Just having that time last year with his teammates, he knows what to expect now coming into this preseason. We expect him to be more of a voice on the team this year, without all the older guys we had last year. We expect more from him.”
“That experience helped me a lot,” Gilbert said. “Just to get in there and feel the speed of the game, how things are run and making adjustments. Just building chemistry with my teammates definitely helped. This year, I feel like I’m ahead of the game.”
Moore has seen no change in Gilbert’s physical talents.
“I don’t see any effects from the injury,” Moore said. “He still has to get used to going up and down in the workouts, but I think his shot is going to come along the more shots he gets up. I don’t think anything’s different. He still has that quick change of speed. Everything seems to be the same. He’s ready to go.”
Even more than ready – so much so that his doctor had to put the brakes on for a few weeks this spring.
“Yeah, the doctor did have to slow me down a little,” Gilbert said with a smile. “I’ve just been so anxious. It feels like I’ve been waiting forever, but now it’s here. As soon as he gave me the word, I was in the gym right away.”