A wise poet once said: “spaceships don’t come equipped with rear-view mirrors.” It’s never a good idea to check on how your exes are doing. But sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you can’t help but see them around.
In the case of the three transfers that left in UConn’s darkest offseason, that of 2017, they’re all doing extremely well.
Between March and April of 2017, 6’11 center and Norwalk native Steven Enoch, 6’9 power forward Juwan Durham, and 6’7 small forward Vance Jackson announced they would be leaving the program. In the blink of an eye, the Huskies lost their front-court of the future to Louisville, Notre Dame, and New Mexico, respectively.
Spoiler alert, the following not for the faint of heart.
After sitting out a year, many guffaw’d Enoch for heading to a Louisville program in such disarray. Many more also wondered how a player not known for his defensive prowess at UConn would handle the intensity and defensive schematics of Rick Pitino. Well, Pitino, erm, fled the country, and with Chris Mack now at the helm, Steven Enoch has been unlocked. The big has started 14 games this year and averages just under 20 minutes per game.
What’s more is how his size impacts the game. He thrived against a team like North Carolina with a mammoth front-line, dropping 17 points and 11 boards. He’s come off the bench lately for the Cards, but brings a different weapon for Mack that most teams have been unable to contain.
Overall, he’s averaging 9.3 ppg and 5.1 rpg on the season, but this next part will really twist the knife: he’s shooting threes. While not at a rapid rate, Enoch is 9-of-21 from downtown, a respectable 43% clip. His inside-out presence off the bench makes a suddenly-figuring-it-out Louisville team even more dangerous, and some overzealous Cardinals fans bragging about his NBA draft prospects.
Next up there’s Juwan Durham, also plying his trade in the ACC, for Notre Dame. Durham was an intriguing member of “Top-Five,” a self-appointed nickname given to the 2016 recruiting class widely seen as top-10 nationally. A talented player shaking off the rust from two serious knee injuries, Durham didn’t find the court much his freshman year at Storrs and bolted for South Bend. On a struggling Notre Dame team, Durham is a shot-blocking savant; averaging 3.1 bpg, good for third in the nation if his minutes per game (14.6) qualified. Here’s a little clip of the notoriety his swatting skills have generated across the media landscape:
It’s been a productive day so far in Coral Gables—@NDmbb’s @JuwanDurham shows why he’s one of the country’s best shot blockers...at my expense. pic.twitter.com/UCtn3t3HdI— Mike Couzens (@MikeCouzens) February 6, 2019
Lastly, there’s Vance Jackson, currently of the New Mexico Lobos. For one year at UConn, Jackson was a productive member of “Top-Five,” stepping in at small forward when Terry Larrier went down. He averaged eight points and almost four rebounds per game for the Huskies that year, and looked like a promising piece going forward.
Vance and people in his camp didn’t see eye-to-eye with Ollie’s vision for his son though, and out west he went. After sitting out a year and putting on some muscle, he now averages 12 ppg and 7 rpg for New Mexico as the team’s second leading scorer. While the Lobos aren’t very good (10-12 in the Mountain West Conference) I caught one of his west coast games in a bout of insomnia. What I saw was a year-older version of what he showed glimpses of at Storrs: a big wing that can score both off the dribble or catch-and-shoot consistently.
It’s a moot point whether the successes of these players away from the program highlights Ollie’s inability to develop players. What can’t be debated is that all three bring something that would be welcome additions on this year’s team: Enoch’s post presence, Durham’s shot-blocking, and Jackson’s scoring. It’s hard not to imagine what might have been if this group was able to stay together with the talents of Jalen Adams, Alterique Gilbert, and Christian Vital alongside them.
With that sad trip down memory lane over, time to go watch Jalen Gaffney highlights.