Say what you will about Jon Rothstein and his tweets, but he’s a gold mine of college hoops information. So when Men’s Basketball head coach Dan Hurley joins Rothstein on his #CollegeHoopsToday podcast, it’s a must-listen for UConn Huskies fans.
With UConn at the epicenter of the college basketball world in the past week, Rothstein asked how Hurley plans on keeping this current team focused in its last year in the American.
“Any time these guys look distracted, I can show them the clips from our last game vs Houston where we got annihilated,“ Hurley said. “My hope this year is to coach a team with a major chip on its shoulder. We have to be incredibly determined to make a better account of ourselves. We expect to be better. The American is a great league, so we’re going to take an ‘us against the world mindset.’ There’s an awkwardness to playing in a league when you’re on your way out, with the way fans and other teams interact. We have to turn all that into fuel.”
I always love listening to coaches giving player-by-player roster breakdowns, because so much of it becomes recycled coach-speak. But Danny really did have something unique to say about every individual player on the roster. Here are a few that stood out.
James Bouknight: The athleticism of JR Smith, and the ability to be an effortless scorer like EC Matthews.
Akok Akok: He gives us the ability to defend the way we want to. He gives you the length and athleticism to get in passing lanes and protect rim. On offense, he can give you three-point shooting and straight-line drive ability. He can cut and play above the rim too. He’s got great physical tools and just needs to gain more experience.”
Tyler Polley: got some love as a player most likely to take that next step, with Hurley praising his shooting and potential to be a good defender.
Alterique Gilbert: Noted this was ‘Rique’s first summer to get in the weight room, work on his condition, and go live. That gives him a shot to find his old McDonald’s All-American self.
Jalen Gaffney: Potential to be a big time, big time player.
RJ Cole: Will help us bring it all together next year.
And don’t let all the Big East buzz fool you in thinking Danny is punting on this year. When asked what the Huskies need to do to set the bar higher in 2019-20, he cited three things:
- How close the triumvirate of Alterique, Christian Vital, and Josh Carlton can get to an all-conference level. Hurley correctly noted that teams with the most players on those end-of-season awards typically tend to also be the best in the conference.
- Getting the freshmen up to speed and contributing quickly. A no-brainer, but given how young this team is, absolutely on the nail. There’s a case to be made that this freshman class will be asked to do the most right away since the now-heralded 2010-2011 class that rallied behind the newest Boston Celtic.
- Getting big jumps from the group of Brandon Adams, Tyler Polley, Sid Wilson, and Isaiah Whaley.
Hurley was on the nose in describing next year’s team as a bit of a wild card. It’s certainly not a coincidence that Hurley used the phrase “chip on our shoulder” twice in the conversation. The path is there, and the future is bright once again for Husky fans.