HOUSTON — Nine minutes before Saturday’s second national semifinal is scheduled to tip off, Connecticut center Adama Sanogo is going to eat.
It won’t be much. Maybe just some oranges and coconut water, but he will get something in his stomach. And that’s going to be a lot better than what Sanogo had to deal with last weekend at the West Regional in Las Vegas.
“I’m not trying to think about it,” he said. “The more you’re thinking about it, the more it’s hard to do it.”
Sanogo, a native of Mali who has arguably been UConn’s best player during the NCAA men’s tournament, is Muslim and currently observing Ramadan, a month where he is not allowed to eat or drink from sunrise to sunset.
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With sundown scheduled for 7:40 p.m. local time on Saturday, he will have just enough time to get some nutrition in his body before taking on Miami.
“It’s definitely hard, but it’s my faith,” Sanogo said. “This isn't something I didn’t start doing (until) this year. I’ve been doing it since I was in high school. I used to do it during AAU.”
The Final Four schedule is certainly more conducive than last weekend when Sanogo essentially wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything from 5 a.m. until after UConn finished playing in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games played in PDT and admitted to having some fatigue (even though he didn’t play like it).
But in the meantime, UConn is doing whatever it can to accommodate Sanogo’s schedule and getting as much in his body during the time he is allowed to eat. Given that Ramadan began March 22 and ends April 20, it has been crucial to UConn's success in the NCAA Tournament that he can adapt.
“From after the sun goes down to 5 a.m. the next morning, I eat a lot of food with protein,” said Sanogo, who is one of the strongest players in the country at 6-foot-9, 245 pounds. “My strength coach he makes sure I drink a lot, hydrate a lot. I wake up at 5 a.m. and drink a lot of coconut water to make sure during that day I stay hydrated during the day. That’s my plan right now.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Adama Sanogo manages Ramadan fasting and Connecticut's Final Four run