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UConn Men’s Basketball Positional Preview: Forwards

The Huskies have some talented, but raw, bigs.

/UConn's Josh Carlton (25) during the Columbia Lions vs UConn Huskies men's college basketball game at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, CT on November 29, 2017.
/UConn’s Josh Carlton (25) during the Columbia Lions vs UConn Huskies men’s college basketball game at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, CT on November 29, 2017.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

As long as everyone stays healthy, there’s a good chance the UConn backcourt quickly becomes one of the most talented units in the American Conference and possibly the country. However, if Dan Hurley and the Huskies want to put together a winning season for the first time since the 2015-16 season, UConn will need its big men to step up this season and provide help in the post and on the glass.

Small Forwards/Wings

Sidney Wilson - Redshirt Freshman

Wilson is the last big recruit Ollie landed at UConn, literally snagging Wilson out of St. Johns to come play in Storrs. While Wilson didn’t get a waiver to play right away last season like so many other transfers manage to swing these days, he now has four years of eligibility under Hurley.

The 6-foot-7, 177-pound Wilson is a wing with exceptional athleticism that has drawn comparisons to Stanley Robinson. Wilson was a four-star recruit according to Rivals and ranked No. 71 in the class of 2017.

With so many key players from last year’s team coming back, it’s hard to see how this team can be much better if Wilson fails to make an impact. Hurley has said that Wilson sometimes looks like the best player on the court this summer, and this team will be better on both ends if Wilson can turn into a consistent contributor.

Tyler Polley - Sophomore

Like so many freshmen, Polley had a up-and-down first year at UConn, but still finished with a solid stat line. After starting the season opener, Polley faded before picking things up again in conference play. The lanky 6-foot-8 forward is certainly an intriguing piece for this team, especially as a 3-point shooter. Last year, Polley shot 41.7 percent (15-36) from the 3-point line last year and was even better (50 percent) from deep in conference play.

While Polley may never be a menace on the boards or an ultra-athletic slasher, he can still provide a ton of value to this year’s team as a 3-and-D player, maximizing his shooting ability and length.

Power Forwards/Centers

Eric Cobb - Senior

Unless you live under a rock, you may have heard that Eric Cobb has lost a lot of weight in the offseason. Aside from this transformation, it really does seem like Cobb has moved on from his issues with former head coach Kevin Ollie and dedicated himself to having a successful senior season.

So far, it looks like that hard work is paying dividends. The 6-foot-9 Cobb scored 14 points for the Huskies in their secret scrimmage against Harvard, and Hurley later told reporters that the Jacksonville, Florida native was the Huskies’ best frontcourt player against the Crimson.

Cobb showed flashes of being a quality passer and rebounder last season, and the hope is that a fresh start with Hurley and a better physique will let those skills shine more often.

Josh Carlton - Sophomore

Carlton was a pleasant surprise for UConn last season, averaging 4.4 points and 3.7 rebounds in just over 15 minutes per game. While he wasn’t exactly lighting the world on fire, he had stretches where he showed some ability to make an impact on the boards on both ends and could do some scoring in the post. As the tallest player on the Huskies at 6-foot-10, another big step from Carlton gives the Huskies some size and strength in the post.

Kassoum Yakwe - Graduate Transfer

Yakwe comes to UConn for his final collegiate season after three seasons at St. Johns. The 6-foot-7 Mali product made an immediate impact in Queens, averaging a Big East-best 2.5 blocks per game as a freshman and finishing second as a sophomore.

Yakwe didn’t see much time on the court last season, but his shot-blocking ability is something the Huskies haven’t had since Amida Brimah graduated after the 2016-17 season.

All Yakwe needs to do to be a valuable asset to this team is be the shot-blocking machine he was as an underclassman. If he can combine that with his 45.7 percent shooting percentage and 71.4 percent free throw percentage from his final year at St. Johns, this UConn front court could get a lot better in a hurry.

Isaiah Whaley - Sophomore

Although Whaley played just 14 minutes per game last season, he still managed to showcase some raw talent and athleticism worth getting excited about. He led the team in blocked shots with 30 and finished second in offensive rebounds with 34, using his energy and athletic ability for a ton of easy buckets and put-backs.

The 6-foot-8 Whaley teamed with Carlton to put up some of team’s best numbers defensively in terms of raw plus/minus last year, and while there’s a good chance those two won’t see much floor time together this year, the ability to mix and match “Pork Chop” with a more athletic Cobb and a hopefully legitimate shotblocker in Yakwe should help the Huskies improve on the defensive end.

Mamadou Diarra - Redshirt Sophomore

Diarra is similar to Whaley in the sense that both are high-energy athletic power forwards who love to do work on the boards. After missing his true freshman year in 2016-17 due to chronic knee ailments, Diarra returned in limited minutes last season and made an impact right away on the boards, averaging 2.5 boards in just 10 minutes per game, including a double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds) in just 20 minutes against Columbia.

Diarra’s knees have once again cost him some time, as the 6-foot-8 New York native tore an MCL during the offseason and won’t be back until December. Once he returns, he has a legitimate chance to become a solid rotation player and work his way into the starting five.

Kwintin Williams - Senior

We know Williams is very good at dunking. We don’t know much else. Williams had a few spurts where he injected energy into a lifeless UConn lineup, such as a four-point, eight-rebound performance against Wichita State and a seven-point, seven-rebound game against Memphis.

Williams’ athleticism is unrivaled at UConn and there’s a chance that he’s the best raw athlete in the country. However, until he proves to Hurley that he can provide more than just incredible, highlight-reel dunks, he likely won’t see too much action. We’ll probably see Williams almost exclusively in garbage time, win or lose, so here’s hoping he caps off his UConn career with some big-time in-game dunks and dunk contest title after the Final Four.