There is a Napheesa Collier sized hole in the UConn frontcourt this year. The duo of Megan Walker and Olivia Nelson-Ododa look the most poised to step up and fill the gap. Here’s the breakdown of this year’s forwards:
Evelyn Adebayo - Redshirt Senior
Adebayo, a graduate transfer from Murray State, was one of the best off-season acquisitions by Auriemma in the offseason. She has been tabbed as one of the four best returning rebounders in NCAA women’s basketball this season. At 6-foot-2, she adds some much-needed size to UConn’s roster.
Adebayo averaged a double-double at Murray State last season, and ranked among the top five defensive rebounders in the league with 9.5 defensive boards per game. In her exhibition debut for the Huskies, Adebayo tallied six rebounds in just 13 minutes on the court. She did, however, struggle to finish on the offensive end.
Batouly Camara - Redshirt Senior
Camara has been held back by injuries throughout her time with the Huskies and this year is no different, unfortunately. Camara missed UConn’s first exhibition game and underwent a left knee scope that will keep her out six-to-eight weeks.
Camara’s injury is a blow to the front court depth of this UConn team. In the small set of healthy minutes we’ve seen from Camara in past seasons, she’s a strong defender and intensifies the Huskies’ presence on the glass off the bench.
Kyla Irwin - Senior
Irwin has seen limited minutes in her three seasons thus far for the Huskies. She did notch two starts in her junior season and proved to be a solid option off the bench to step into the Huskies’ rotation with minimal disruption.
Irwin has been hesitant to shoot the ball when on the court in her first three season. In Sunday’s exhibition, however, she scored 11 points — more than she has in any regular season game in her career — going a perfect 3-3 from three. If she can continue to add some offense for UConn off the bench, she may see some more minutes in her senior season.
Megan Walker - Junior
After averaging a solid 12.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game in her sophomore campaign, the Huskies will look to Megan Walker to make another big jump in her junior season. In order to replace the production of the Katie Lou Samuelson/Napheesa Collier front court duo, Walker will need to contribute even more on both ends of the floor this season.
As a sophomore, Walker proved to be a strong perimeter threat in the Huskies offense and finished the season shooting nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc. She also has the ability to drive inside and the athleticism to come away with the rebound despite standing at only 6-foot-1.
Walker’s performance in UConn’s opening exhibition game was dominant and exactly what the Huskies will need from her all season long. She scored 28 points on efficient 10-of-15 shooting. On the defensive end, she added a team-high six steals which helped lead UConn to 43 points off turnovers.
Olivia Nelson-Ododa - Sophomore
Nelson-Ododa will step into the starting lineup for UConn after averaging under 14 minutes per game last season. In her new role, the Huskies will need her to be a consistent offensive weapon while also having a strong presence on the glass.
Fortunately for UConn, Nelson-Ododa picked up some additional experience this summer playing with Team USA in 3x3 basketball, as well as the FIBA AmeriCup. Particularly in the AmeriCup, she had the opportunity to play alongside some of the best in the world and showed a strong presence on the offensive glass for Team USA.
In UConn’s opening exhibition game, Nelson-Ododa had her way inside, totaling 16 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, five blocks and four steals. However, Jefferson didn’t have any players on their roster that compete with her inside in terms of size. Time will tell if Nelson-Ododa can sustain her strong presence in the paint against a more sizable opponent.