Dear Highly Sought-After High School Basketball Recruit,
Congratulations. You find yourself in the enviable position of being recruited by some of the very best programs in America. I’m sure phone calls (legal and illegal) are being made every day from the biggest names in the sport. This is the most important choice of your career. Make the right one, and you can find yourself a national champion with the pedigree to have a long, storied career in the NBA. Choose incorrectly and, unfortunately, it can go very badly.
There is only one choice that makes sense for all the right reasons: The University of Connecticut.
Follow my advice. Come to Storrs. Brave the cold winters. It will all pay off in the end. Here’s why:
NBA Placement: Whether it is for one season or four, college is a step in the journey, not the destination. The skillset you have will translate to the NBA if you play your cards right. Why not attend a college with one of the best traditions of sending players to the league? There have been 35 former Huskies to suit up for an NBA franchise, with 28 of them joining the league since 1990. This group includes Ray Allen, a future Hall of Famer and all-time leader in made three-pointers, two-time FIBA gold medal winner Rudy Gay, NBA champions Caron Butler, Rip Hamilton, 2005 Sixth Man of the Year Ben Gordon and a host of others.
UConn has built a strong reputation as a hotbed of NBA prospects. Thirteen Huskies have been selected in the lottery since 1994, including four players chosen in the top five. Few schools have been better in the NBA Draft lottery era.
Winning: Do you understand how winning ultimately helps every individual the most? Can you play unselfishly to achieve team goals? If the answer is no to both, move along. UConn doesn’t want you.
Here in Storrs, the focus is on hanging banners. With four NCAA National Championships in the last 16 years, the University of Connecticut is one of the two or three most successful programs in the modern era. With championships in 1999, 2004, 2011 with Jim Calhoun, and 2014 with Kevin Ollie, the Huskies have proven the ability to build winning teams. Leading UConn's 2014 championship run helped Shabazz Napier get selected in the first round of the NBA Draft.
Want to know just how dominant UConn is on the national scene? Since 1980, Syracuse, Kansas, UCLA and Indiana have won a total of four championships. Or, the same amount UConn has in half the time. If you want to win, you come to UConn. The Huskies have an additional Final Four appearance and 5 additional Elite Eight appearances since 1990.
Team Building (AKA Point Guard, Wing and Big Man U): UConn's history of consistently excellent point guards, wing players, and big men is remarkable. Point guards Shabazz Napier, Kemba Walker, AJ Price, Marcus Williams, all the way back to Khalid El-Amin have carried a tradition as confident leaders who maintained complete control over big moments in big games. Jalen Adams is the next to grab the torch from another UConn great, Ryan Boatright.
Having a good point guard is akin to having a good quarterback in football in that it benefits all players. UConn's wings and big men over the years can attest to that.
Former UConn wings Jeremy Lamb, Stanley Robinson, Rudy Gay, Caron Butler, Rip Hamilton, Ray Allen, etc. benefitted from partnerships with some of the best playmakers in college basketball over the past two decades. Big men Hasheem Thabeet, Hilton Armstrong, Josh Boone, Emeka Okafor developed from unheralded recruits into first round NBA Draft picks with the help of these playmakers, a feat which Amida Brimah may complete in the coming years as well.
Adding to the Scrapbook: Look at the history of UConn and you’ll see a lifetime's worth of clutch moments. You think Ray Allen arrived in the NBA and started drilling game-winners without practice? Watch him hit a floater in the lane in the 1996 Big East championship game to beat Allen Iverson’s Georgetown team. Rip Hamilton was hitting monster shots in the 1999 NCAA tournament before he shot the Detroit Pistons to the 2004 NBA Finals. How about the last two UConn national championships, 2011 and 2014. The stars of those teams only go by one name: Kemba and Shabazz. You make big shots in Storrs, you’ll never be forgotten. They will be in every montage ever made. You’ll be immortalized. Don’t believe me? Just watch.
Kevin Ollie: When the old Big East broke apart, many across America doubted that UConn could survive and maintain their place at the table. Those skeptics forgot about our secret weapon: Kevin Ollie.
UConn has the best young coach in America, and that may be selling him short.
He’s one of the best coaches in America, period. In three seasons, he boasts a winning percentage of .682. He’s undefeated in NCAA tournament play. He’s rejected the multiple chances to jump to the NBA, turning down offers to coach the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers and other rumored opportunities. He wants to be at UConn.
Kevin Ollie became a starter at UConn in the early 90's the same way he held down a roster spot in the NBA for 13 years, by being the smartest, hardest-working player on the court. Kevin Durant famously credits Ollie with turning around the culture at Oklahoma City. He may be the most universally loved and respected person in the game of basketball.
Kevin Ollie can help you win, can teach you how to become a pro, and legitimately cares about you as a person. As if you needed more, his players also all love each other. Have you genuinely seen a group of guys who like each other the way these Kevin Ollie UConn teams have? There is no finer man to play for in college basketball.
Like I said earlier, you are in an enviable position. You have numerous options as you make the most important choice of your life, and those options are some of the very best basketball programs at some of the best universities in the world. There are no doubts you can find success no matter where you choose. But why not go to the place that significantly increases your chances of doing that?
That place is the University of Connecticut.