clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Majok's college career, UConn incomplete

No one knows for sure why Ater Majok is leaving.

My best guess is that the former Sudanese refugee -- who once nearly bolted to the NBA without ever having played a game in the States -- no longer has the patience to wait around for a payday to send back to his family (which has moved from its home in Egypt back to Sudan, according to the Courant). It's also possible - unlikely, but possible - his departure could somehow be tied to the response the school is set to give to the NCAA's allegations of major recruiting violations.

But for now, at least, it is still a mystery.

What is definite, though, is that Majok's loss will hurt. And much more than most may think.

Statistically, his first season was bad. Terrible, even, especially when considering the hype surrounding his arrival two years ago. After sitting out all of 2008-09, and missing the first semester of 2009-10, Majok finished with averages of 2.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and nearly a turnover per game, while averaging 14.6 minutes of court time. Hardly the debut campaign most had expected from the five-star prospect that, at one point, was a virtual lock for the NBA draft's first round. In fact, his first season was so disappointing, more than a few have begun to toss around Ajou Ajou Deng comparisons - especially in the wake of news of his departure.

But just as recruiting and draft analysts were a bit ahead of themselves in predicting big things for Majok, so too are those willing to label the 6-foot-11 forward a bust.

Deng, the brother of former Duke star and current Chicago Bulls standout Luol Deng, was a disappointment, for sure, based on the grand expectations that were thrust upon him. But we were at least able to see exactly what type of player he was. Deng exhausted all of his eligibility (albeit in a different uniform for half the time). We know how to accurately grade his performance -- and the marks certainly aren't good.

But we can't put a grade on Majok. He's still an "incomplete."

And while Deng, as far as I can remember, never flashed much of anything, Majok at least provided some hints of what could have been a special player.

His offensive game was rough, to say the least. Despite having the benefit of about a year under Jim Calhoun's wing, Majok had developed virtually no post moves, his wiry frame made it difficult for him to make a difference on the offensive glass, he couldn't shoot free throws (9-for-22) and his faceup game was decent, at best.

But on defense? My, lord, were there flashes. With the wingspan of a 7-footer, Majok was the best shot-blocker on the team, finishing tied for the team lead in blocks per game (1.6) with Alex Oriakhi despite playing 10 fewer minutes a night; stretch his court time to 40 minutes, and that average jumps to an even 4. In an upset victory over then-No. 1 Texas, Majok was downright dominant on defense, blocking four shots and controlling the paint like Thabeet. And on switches, he flashed the ability to defend guards and quick forwards almost as easily as big men - he's that athletic.

Start him at center next season next to Oriakhi and you have a younger, more-athletic Thabeet-Adrien Redux. Or bring him off the bench at PF with Okwandu at C and you have two 7-footers controlling the paint (and probably scoring minus-20 points, but still) without sacrificing the ability to match up with strech-4s.

But (sigh) those pipe dreams will now never come to fruition.

For the most part, the results weren't there yet. Hell, they might not have been even this season. But the tools were. And for an incredibly green team expected to struggle mightily next season, the Huskies need all the talent they could get.

But once again, UConn, like Majok's career, is incomplete.