UConn women’s basketball officially announced its 2020 recruiting class on Wednesday after receiving a National Letter of Intent from each player. The Huskies bring in a well-balanced class both talent-wise and positionally with guards Paige Bueckers (the No. 1 player in the class) and Nika Muhl (not ranked), wings Aaliyah Edwards (No. 26) and Mir McLean (No. 21) and center Piath Gabriel (NR).
“I think we’ve got a good mix of inside, outside, middle,” head coach Geno Auriemma said in the release. “When you look at our team now, we’re young in some ways. We’re inexperienced in some ways. We don’t have the kind of size that we’ve had in the past...I like how we’ve been able to package a lot of different things into five different players. Not one of them is remotely like the other one, and that’s a really neat thing.”
It’s ranked as the No. 2 class in the country behind Oregon by ESPN. UConn has now also signed the No. 1 prospect in four of the last six years (Bueckers, Christyn Williams, Megan Walker, Katie Lou Samuelson).
Here’s a quick breakdown of each player:
G Paige Bueckers - 5-foot-11 - Eden Prairie, Minnesota
Bueckers isn’t just the top player in her class, she’s regarded as one of the top high school prospects in some time — either the best since A’ja Wilson or since Breanna Stewart, depending on who you ask.
She committed to the Huskies just ahead of the Final Four this past year. Bueckers cited UConn as her dream school and tries to model her play — and attitude — off former Husky great Diana Taurasi.
Auriemma on Bueckers: “The thing that is impressive to me about Paige is how unselfish she is and her ability to get everyone involved in the game and her knack of getting to the basket. She’s going to add, to us, a bigger guard that can impact the game, whether she’s shooting it or passing it. It’s important for us to get kids that are talented and unselfish and can score, and Paige has been able to do all those things.”
G Aaliyah Edwards - 6-foot-2 - Kingston, Ontario
The final player to join the class, Edwards committed to UConn shortly after visiting for First Night in October. The Huskies had a leg up on its competition from the start considering she plays AAU ball for Kia Nurse Elite — Canada’s only EBYL team founded by former UConn star Kia Nurse.
Edwards has spent time with the Canadian National Team, earning 33 appearances across all levels and 11 games with the senior national team.
Auriemma: “Playing for the Canadian National Team has given Aaliyah a tremendous amount of confidence and a lot of exposure to really good basketball at a really high level. She’s tough, she’s aggressive, she goes all out all the time. She can become an amazing defender for us, she can become a scorer that scores from a lot of different places. I think we’re getting a really mature, experience player that can play a lot of different positions for us.”
F/C Piath Gabriel - 6-foot-5 - Manchester, New Hampshire
The first New England prospect to commit to UConn since Molly Bent, Gabriel brings much-needed size to the Huskies. She wasn’t very highly rated — ESPN listed her as a three-star prospect and the No. 23 forward in the class — but Gabriel still held offers from the likes of Louisville, UNC and Pittsburgh, among others.
While she’s a good rebounder and shot-blocker, her offensive skill set is raw and will need to be refined to make an impact at UConn.
Auriemma: “The first time I saw Piath play, I was impressed by how hard she works. How hard she runs the floor. How willing she is to mix it up in the lane. There’s some things offensively that she needs to work on that I think we can help her with. Of all the big kids that I saw this season, she really impressed me with her work ethic. I think Piath is probably going to be the biggest surprise of all the kids coming into college next year.”
F/G Mir McLean - 5-foot-11 - Owings Mills, Maryland
For the second year in a row, UConn is arguably getting the most athletic player out of high school in McLean. She can get her hand six inches above rim according to her AAU coach and shares more than a few similarities with former Husky Gabby Williams.
Left: Gabby Williams' recruiting profile scouting report.— Daniel Connolly (@DanielVConnolly) July 1, 2019
Right: Mir McLean's scouting report.
They're seriously almost identical. pic.twitter.com/tsoIK5ma5Z
In fact, Williams is the player who got McLean interested in UConn in the first place.
“I really started watching them two years ago when they had Gabby. I would hear, ‘Oh, UConn won again. They won again,’ and I’m like, ‘Goodness gracious!’” she told Press Box Online. “So I started watching and it started to be apparent why they were winning and how they were winning, and I kind of liked that.”
Auriemma: “Mir is just a different kind of athlete. She’s a little bit like Aubrey [Griffin] in that she can get to places on the floor that most players can’t. She can get the balls off the rim that most players can’t. She competes as hard, if not harder, that anybody that I’ve seen. We needed to get a lot quicker and a lot more athletic, and having Mir, we’ve done that.”
G Nika Muhl - 5-foot-10 - Zagreb, Croatia
Muhl is the second European player to commit to UConn in as many years, joining Poland native Anna Makurat. The Croatian was between Louisville, Oregon, Ohio State and USF before the Huskies started recruiting her late and turned the process upside-down.
In the end, Muhl couldn’t say no to the chance to play for her favorite team growing up.
“I knew so much (about UConn). I followed them since I was little,” she said at the Final Four. “That was actually my dream club when I was little. I followed them, always watched Geno’s videos, late night shows, watched the games so yeah I think I knew pretty much everything about them.”
While she isn’t rated by ESPN, Muhl is a pass-first point guard regarded as one of the top European prospects for her age.
Auriemma: “What I like about Nika is she just has this incredible passion for the game. She has a certain toughness about her that comes from playing in a really competitive environment over in Croatia. Along with Paige, she’s another player that I think gets a lot of satisfaction out of getting someone else the ball and not necessarily focusing ons coring. I just love her enthusiasm and passion for the game and how tough she is physically and mentally. I think the fans are really going to like Nika.”