Tuesday, September 02, 2014

UConn's Abrams had wild ride during 2013 season

When it came time to request players for interviews for today's press conference, I put in three players - Graham Stewart because I plan on writing a story on the large number of Xavier High products dressing for Saturday's UConn/Stony Brook game, Junior Joseph who I felt was the most impactful of the reserve defensive players against BYU and Kamal Abrams because I wanted to tell his story about the bizarre way he was sidelined until the fifth game of the 2013 season.

Well, it turns out that Abrams' story is compelling for other reasons. UConn coach Bob Diaco mentioned the adversity Abrams dealt with during preseason camp as one of his best friends was killed in an altercation in Abrams' hometown of Dover, Delaware. That is the focus of my story in tomorrow's paper. I also did visit the freak mishap resulting in Abrams injuring his knee in the warmups before the 2013 season opener.

"That blew my mind. I had really worked my butt off during camp and I had gotten coach's trust and it kind of messed me up mentally," Abrams said. "Everything happens for a reason and I was able to perform Friday night for my brothers.

"I didn't really feel like myself until the last three games. It was tough, everything I did in the preseason got wiped out because I was out for four weeks and I felt like everything I did got wiped out and I didn't come back (to 100 percent) until the end of the season. I can't really complain, I am blessed here being able to continue to play and having fun.

"In this sport in life, you are always going to deal with adversity. I tried to take every single thing and look at it as a positive. Basically I told myself not to give up, keep on fighting and everything will be fine. I give credit to the coaching staff we have this year to training us, getting us prepared for the season. They have done a wonderful job."

Abrams had four catches a season ago. He almost topped that in the 2014 season opener with three receptions for 38 yards. He had an outstanding 24-yard reception, ripping the ball away from BYU safety Skye Povey for a career-high 24-yard gain.

"It felt great. I was taking the mindset of going in there and coming up with it some how," Abrams said. "It was a great play by Casey on 3rd and 12 for a first down."

Recently UConn coach Bob Diaco said that Abrams improved as much as any UConn player from the end of spring practice until the start of the season. Diaco's face lit up when I asked him in today's press conference about Abrams' development.

"He has had an incredible amount of adversity in this camp," Diaco said. "It has been a strain personally, he has been through a lot. I am not going to disclose it. If he feels compelled to at some point then let him but considering how far he has come, how much work he has done and how much better he is in all aspects with the juxtaposition of the personal strain, it has been really impressive and you have to believe that is going to continue because what you put into it you are going to get out of it. He put a lot in and he is going to get a lot out."

Abrams' teammates are also thrilled to see the way he bounced back from a difficult 2013 season to put himself back into position to make an impact this season.

"His mental game has gotten better, he has made huge gains in the weight room," UConn senior quarterback Chandler Whitmer said. "He has always had hands and play-making ability but he is finally putting it all together. I am happy that he is making plays.

"That (the injury minutes before the season opener) has got to be tough. I know he was pretty upset but credit to him, he came back, he worked hard and knew he had another opportunity this year to go out and make plays. He did that throughout camp and he did that in the game and I think he will do that and continue to get better."


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