Over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to take an in depth look at the 2013-14 UConn men’s basketball team and cover everything from the rosters to the schedules and everything in between. But before we get started, I wanted to take a moment to look past this season to examine how the team is positioned going forward and where the program’s newly signed recruits fit into the big picture.
This year, UConn will be returning virtually its entire roster from last year. The only difference is backup point guard R.J. Evans will be swapped out for freshman Terrence Samuel, and the team will also be adding two promising young big men in Kentan Facey and Amidah Brimah.
But after the season is done, UConn will lose Shabazz Napier, Niels Giffey, Tyler Olander and Lasan Kromah to graduation, and possibly several underclassmen to the NBA. All told, most of the 2014-15 starting lineup will be filled with fresh faces, but thanks to the efforts of Kevin Ollie, his coaching staff and Jim Calhoun before him, the future is looking bright.
For the sake of this exercise, I’m assuming that both Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels are going to go pro after this year, but Omar Calhoun will stay. Daniels has NBA talent and should be ranked highly on most draft boards if he has a big year, and even if Boatright is a borderline prospect by year's end, I still think he’ll leave if there’s a chance he can help earn money for his family.
- Omar Calhoun – Jr., 6-6, 199 lbs, SG
- Rodney Purvis – RSo. – 6-4, 203 lbs, PG
- Terrance Samuel – So. – 6-4, 190 lbs, PG
- Sam Cassell Jr. – So. – 6-4, 195 lbs, PG
- Daniel Hamilton – Fr. – 6-6, 175 lbs, SG
Over the past few years, UConn has consistently maintained a solid stable of guards in its backcourt, and that doesn’t look like it’s going to change going forward. Given the team’s projected makeup, it would seem likely that Ollie will stick with the three-guard lineup that UConn has used recently, though it’s impossible to say at this point who will wind up starting.
Calhoun would seem to be a lock, he started consistently as a freshman and would presumably be the team’s best returning player if he continues to improve this upcoming season. I would also imagine Purvis will be the team’s starting point guard, he reportedly transferred from N.C. State specifically so he could play the point, and with as much talent as he has, Ollie can’t afford to keep him out of the lineup.
After that, it’s anyone’s guess. Hamilton is extremely talented and would make a great complement to Calhoun on the wing; Samuel will have a chance to show what he can do this year, and with another offseason to improve he could prove to be a big surprise; and Cassell should provide versatility as a combo guard who can play either position, giving Ollie the ability to get more creative with his lineups.
One thing that stands out to me too is how big UConn’s backcourt is going to be. All five players are at least 6-foot-4, and other than Hamilton they’re also all 190 pounds or more too. If nothing else, UConn isn’t going to find itself overpowered by many other teams, no matter who Ollie decides to put on the court.
- Kentan Facey – So. – 6-8, 200 lbs, PF
- Amidah Brimah – So. – 7-0, 217 lbs, C
- Leon Tolksdorf – Jr. – 6-8, 218 lbs, SF
- Phillip Nolan – Jr. – 6-10, 212 lbs, PF
- Rakim Lubin – Fr. – 6-8, 245 lbs, PF
We really haven’t seen a lot of any of these guys yet, but I’m confident that whenever Facey gets his eligibility issues with the NCAA cleared up, he will be a beast on the court and probably the team’s starting power forward. Brimah might need to bulk up a little bit, but he would obviously be the guy you would hope emerges as the team’s rock in the low post.
I will say that I’m very interested in seeing how Phil Nolan progresses this upcoming season, because his performance will probably dictate how UConn’s frontcourt is structured in the future. If Nolan can emerge as a consistent rebounder and a solid defender, he might become an integral piece of the team’s rotation as well.
As far as Lubin goes, the thing that jumps out to me the most is his size. Right now he would weigh in as UConn’s biggest player by a wide margin, and while I can’t comment on his skill level or tendencies, he strikes me as a guy who could potentially become a Jeff Adrien type of player. We’ll just have to wait and see though.
Then there’s Tolksdorf, who offers UConn a unique blend of size and three-point shooting and could become a versatile weapon off the bench. I think it’s a stretch to predict that he’ll start many games over the next two years, but I can easily see him becoming a Swiss Army knife that Ollie can use in a variety of different situations.
Devin Robinson – Fr. – 6-8, 180 lbs, SF
The highly touted swingman is scheduled to be on campus for First Night on Oct. 18, and if Ollie could score a commitment from Robinson that weekend, it would be a huge boost for the frontcourt and provide the team with perhaps its best option at small forward. Robinson is also considering Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, Indiana and Florida.
Update: Scratch that, according to reports, Robinson has cancelled his First Night visit and is no longer considering UConn. So that's a shame.
Melvin Swift – Fr. – 6-7, 205 lbs, PF
Swift is another potential big man that UConn is looking to bring in to add depth to the frontcourt. He is ranked as a three-star prospect by Rivals and is also drawing interest from Baylor, LSU, UMass, Penn State, St. Joseph’s, Texas A&M and Xavier, according to ESPN.com.
Ray Kasongo – Fr. – 6-9, 235 lbs, PF
This one is starting to look more unlikely given recent reports that UConn is no longer recruiting him, but Kasongo had previously listed UConn as one of his top two choices (along with Oregon) and if he were to change course and sign with the Huskies, he would provide UConn with an extra burst of athleticism and depth for the frontcourt. He would also probably be an early favorite to win the 2014 First Night slam dunk competition, assuming the school decided to bring it back.