STORRS, Conn. (AP) -After failing to make the postseason in 2007 and losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season after point guard A.J. Price went down with a knee injury, UConn is expecting to return to its place among the nation's elite this season.
``We feel that we should have been there last year, and to have A.J. go down in the tournament and the team struggle, it was a disappointment,'' guard Jerome Dyson said Wednesday after the team's 3.3-mile Husky Run, held in advance of Saturday's first practice. ``We feel like anything less than the Final Four this season is a disappointment, because that's how good we feel we are.''
Coach Jim Calhoun eased concerns when he declared he is cancer-free after radiation treatment for skin cancer, his third bout with the disease.
Price, injured in the loss to San Diego, is recovered from knee surgery and is expected to play.
Also back is 7-foot-3 Hasheem Thabeet, who entertained thoughts of turning pro.
.5 points, 5.8 assists last season), Dyson (12.5 points) and senior Craig Austrie (8.7 points) are in the backcourt, while senior Jeff Adrien (14.8 points, 9.0 rebounds) and Thabeet, last year's Big East defensive player of the year, are up front.
It's a core going into its third season together.
``A lot of people are grown up,'' said Thabeet, who ranked third in the nation with 147 blocked shots last season. ``We know what we need to do when we get out there and we're going to take advantage of that.''
Juniors Jonathan Mandeldove and Gavin Edwards, and sophomore Charles Okwandu are expected to see minutes down low. UConn is hoping recruit Ater Majok, a 6-10 forward from Australia, will be in school for the second semester. Point guards Donnell Beverly and freshman Kemba Walker are expected to compete for time, giving Calhoun the option of giving Price minutes at shooting guard.
The biggest question for the Huskies will come at small forward.
Junior Stanley Robinson, last season's starter, is out until at least December because of academic and personal problems, and highly touted freshman Nate Miles, a 6-7 swingman, was expelled from school this month.
e expulsion.
``The young man was the best offensive player in the program,'' Calhoun said. ``I'll just leave it at that. He was the best offensive player in the program.''
Dyson, who sat out nine games last season on a drug-and-alcohol related suspension, will be asked to fill Miles' spot, as the Huskies go to a three-guard offense.
``I've played taller guys before,'' Dyson said. ``I'm tough enough to handle myself down there a little bit.''
Calhoun admitted he has been tired recently, but blamed that on staying up late to watch his beloved Boston Red Sox play.
Price said he's fully recovered from his torn ACL, and is looking forward to leading the UConn break.
``I feel fast, I feel strong,'' he said. ``I see us working out very well, and playing at a pace that other teams are not going to be comfortable playing at, because we're used to playing very fast.''
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