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UConn Men’s Basketball: Jalen Adams is the Huskies’ X-Factor For Success This Season

The senior leader will dictate the Huskies’ success in Dan Hurley’s first season.

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut at Houston Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

As we prepare for the official start of the 2018-19 basketball season, there’s a lot to look forward to. How will Dan Hurley fare as the new head coach? What kind of player will freshman Brendan Adams become? Can the Huskies right the ship and return to their post-season dominance?

While all hold equal importance, there is one story line that should command more attention than any other. Can Jalen Adams become a true leader and set this program up for future success?

Adams is entering his senior year as the biggest star on the roster. He led the team in scoring and assists the past two seasons and has been the face of the Huskies for just as long.

Unfortunately, UConn posted a combined 30-35 record during his reign, and being the face of a losing team does little to instill confidence. It’s hard to rise to a leadership role on stats alone, and you can’t do it on coolness and likability either.

“People are just drawn to Jalen because of his personality. He’s a cool guy and a guy that a lot of people like,” Hurley said. “Now what he’s got to add to that coolness that everyone likes is that sometimes he’s got to be willing to have his teammates not like him.

“He’s got to understand that he’s not running for UConn class president.”

In other words, Adams has to be willing to lay down the law when necessary. He needs to get after his teammates and be both the stick and the carrot this year. But more importantly, he needs to do all these things to show the young guys how it’s done.

Let’s face it, the Huskies aren’t expected to win a national championship this year. This is the beginning of a rebuild, with a new coach at the helm and what appears to be one heck of a recruiting class on the way. So what value does a senior provide to the long-term goals of a team like this?

It’s the intangibles.

What Kemba Walker was to Shabazz Napier and Shabazz Napier was to Ryan Boatright; that’s what Adams must be to the future leader of this team. It’s as much about changing the culture as it is about winning, and that starts with Jalen Adams.

If UConn goes all the way in a year or two, Adams won’t get credit for it. He’ll likely be remembered as a talented player during a down-era, but that may not be an accurate representation of his legacy.

Adams can still affect change in a big way. If the Huskies can substantially improve on an atrocious 2017-18 season, he can bring the fans back. If the underclassman can learn how to carry themselves like winners, he can solidify their future. And if those young guns become leaders, the Huskies can keep this train rolling for decades to come.

Of course, he could win it all this year. Kemba Walker did it with three freshman and a sophomore in 2011. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Dan Hurley needs a spark for his first year in Storrs and Jalen Adams could be that guy.