We recently spoke with UConn assistant coach Dwayne Killings to discuss a variety of topics. Killings is going into his second season with the program after joining the Huskies from Temple.
Here is part one of a two-part interview:
How has the transition gone at UConn and do you feel settled into the program at this point?
Killings: “It’s going pretty good. The timing last year right at the start of the July period, you know everything moves really fast in July. Then I got a chance to get to know the kids and the university when I got settled in in August, which has been great.
I think UConn is a special place and there are really good people that are invested in the university, invested in the program. They want to see us win and it’s great to feel that energy and feel that kind of connection amongst the people that really care about the program.”
Even though you know players out there, was it rough to be thrown into the mix during a live period at a new place?
Killings: It’s a lot because you are trying to figure out exactly where the team is at and what Kevin (Ollie) and the staff want to get accomplished from a recruiting standpoint. That was how everything started out last year, but I thought we did a pretty good job identifying the right kid and getting our guys ready to rock and roll when the season started last year. And then unfortunately we had some injuries.
On the recruiting front, how has it been to sell the UConn program coming off a rare losing season?
Killings: “I think people are still really excited about the program. They’re always listening and I think the program itself has a lot of cache, so does Kevin.
Kids are really intrigued about the opportunity to play for Kevin and learn from him, play for the program and represent this university and the people who have come before. I think there’s a lot of pride that goes into the opportunity to wear an UConn uniform. Walk in the same footsteps as the Ray Allens of the world, the Rudy Gays of the world.”
Do recruits ask you about what happened last year?
Killings: “ I think people are well aware we had an off year. You are taking about guys, Terry Larrier, Alterique Gilbert, those are household names. Terry has a really good reputation, and you are doing a lot of your recruiting in the northeast, so a lot of people are connected not only to the program but to the individual kids. … People were aware of what we were battling last year.”
How do you handle it as a coach and a program when you have been recruiting a guy for a while and then he picks another school?
Killings: “At the end of the day, I think that’s why you call it recruiting. We are not selecting guys, we are recruiting guys. You do the job as best you can and that’s showing the university to young people and getting them to understand what this opportunity is like.
It’s a first-class facility, it’s a first-class program. I think our administration supports our program. We always try to get the kids around the people that really care about this university, the campus, and then kind of tell our story. It’s about building relationships that we have built before they even come on campus, that’s the most important part, because there has to be some trust there.
Then you go through everything and you get them out here for a couple days. Honestly, I think it’s a tough decision in those kids’ lives who are 17, 18, 19 years old and decide what college you are going to go to because in reality when these kids pick a school, they are picking somewhere that’s going to define their life. Those guys in the locker room are going to be their brothers for life. The men that are going to coach them in reality they are going to be, they are going to reflect who we are as people and coaches. I think that’s part of the process and they have to make a decision. We can control what we can control, we control the controllable if you will, as far as all the things we do with our time, our passion, and our energy. But they have to make a decision.
“We’ve all been through it. It would be great if you recruit three kids and they all decide to come, but that’s not the reality of the business. … We have to find the best person that fits the program and also help us compete at a high level.
The mentality, and I think it’s the first thing that struck me when I walked in here, you see four national championship banners on the wall. That’s the goal, that’s the mindset in finding the right kid who can play to that and also the right kids who want to be a part of that because again we are not selecting, we are recruiting.”