We continue our review of the UConn men's basketball roster with sophomore co-captain Amida Brimah.
After winning the national championship with the Huskies in 2014, Brimah underwent shoulder surgery that sidelined him for the summer, a critical period for a college basketball player, particularly a big man who needs to get bigger. While Phil Nolan put on nearly 25 pounds of muscle, Brimah returned to the floor looking like the lanky freshman he had been one year prior.
Despite the surgery, expectations were high for Brimah entering his sophomore year. Brimah was named a co-captain, along with senior Ryan Boatright, who recommended Brimah for the position. This was a big jump for a soft-spoken underclassman, but one Brimah was expected to embrace.
On the floor, Brimah was called upon to take his game to another level. As a freshman, he averaged 4.1 points, three rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 16.2 minutes per game. Those numbers had to improve, especially with Brimah taking over the starting center position from Nolan.
Brimah also needed to cut down on fouls, which were excessive in 2013-14. He was whistled for 116 fouls as a freshman, nearly three per game and a rate of 7.2 fouls per 40 minutes played. Some of those whistles may have been harsh, but Brimah immaturely played himself onto the bench too many times.
Brimah's game improved drastically in most areas as a sophomore. His scoring average improved to 9.1 points per game – partially aided by a 40-point explosion against Coppin State in December. Brimah has developed into a fantastic shooter. It should be simple for a 7-footer to have his way at the rim, but he has developed a consistent hook shot and baseline jumper. Brimah had an effective field-goal percentage of 67.4, which was fourth in the nation, according to Ken Pomeroy.
Brimah had a 122.6 offensive rating – an individual metric for offensive efficiency used by Pomeroy – in 2014-15, which was 49th in the nation. That was an improvement from 114.9 (313th in the nation) in 2013-14.
Defensively, Brimah was a brick wall. After blocking 92 shots in 40 games as a freshman, he blocked 121 in 35 this season. Only Illinois State's Reggie Lynch (15.17) had a better block percentage (blocks/opponent 2-point field goal attempts) than Brimah (14.96).
UConn led the nation in blocked shots for nearly a decade straight, so the fact that Brimah is already fifth all-time with 213 is remarkable. With (potentially) two years left, he trails only Josh Boone (222), Donyell Marshall (245), Hasheem Thabeet (417) and Emeka Okafor (441) on the all-time list. Only Okafor (4.3) and Thabeet (4.2) have blocked more shots per game than Brimah (2.8).
The foul situation improved for Brimah this year. He only committed 99, bringing his per-40 average down to 4.3. Unfortunately, several came at inopportune times (see SMU), but Brimah had better awareness of his surroundings.
The one knock on Brimah is the rebounding. A 7-footer should have no problem pulling down rebounds, but his 4.4 average put him third on the Huskies behind Daniel Hamilton (7.6) and Kentan Facey (5.2). Boatright, who is generously listed as a 6-footer, averaged 4.1, pulling down 16 less rebounds (139) total than Brimah's 155.
The numbers improved in 2014-15, but there is still another level that Brimah has not gone to yet. Part of that can be blamed on last summer's surgery. He missed an entire summer in the gym. There has been no indication that Brimah has any injuries to deal with, so he should be hitting the weights on a regular basis.
Imagine Brimah, the dominant inside force that he already is, with another 20 pounds of muscle. UConn fans should be expecting a bigger, more dominant center next season.
Being bigger will not be enough though. Those numbers – 9.1 points, 4.4 points, 3.5 blocks – are a nice improvement from freshman to sophomore year. But Brimah is an upperclassman now. He is the returning captain. He needs to give more.
He will give more.