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Dan Hurley previews UConn’s 2020-21 roster

The head coach broke down his roster for the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.

UConn men’s basketball’s James Bouknight and Jalen Gaffney during UConn’s matchup against Memphis last February. Both are expected to make a major impact this upcoming season.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

With just 40 days left until the first possible college basketball game, we’re starting to learn more about the Huskies teams that will be taking the floor this season.

After the Legends Classic was officially moved to Mohegan Sun, head coach Dan Hurley joined a virtual luncheon with the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce and broke down the roster for members at the annual event.

Here are some of the highlights:

Point guard situation

It looks like it’ll be a two-horse race for the starting lead guard in the UConn offense between Jalen Gaffney and R.J. Cole, Hurley said, though he is also comfortable playing the two point guards together.

Cole is redshirt junior who transferred last offseason from Howard but sat out the year due to NCAA transfer rules. Hurley said Cole spent the last year working on his “physicality and conditioning,” according to the Hartford Courant’s Dom Amore.

“He doesn’t over-dribble, he’s got tremendous vision and he gets the ball to people on target and on time,” Hurley said about Cole, per Amore.

Hurley sang similar praises for Gaffney and also noted he’d play a pivotal role in his second season after improving his size and athleticism this offseason. He could potentially be the team’s “biggest surprise.”

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

The Bouknight Rises

Bouknight is the key to this team’s success and if he preforms like he’s capable the ceiling is high for this year’s squad, especially with the supporting cast around him. That “3-11” depth is something Hurley pointed to as a strength.

“If everything breaks right for us, he can be as good as any guard in the country this year,” Hurley said, via the Hartford Courant. “He’s got so much game, so much skill and so much competitiveness and passion; it’s like he sees where this thing could go for him right now and he is tracking on it, big time.”

The team’s second-leading scorer from last season will shoulder the load on offense in concert with the aforementioned point guards. Strong guard play has led to a bit of success for UConn in the past, to put it lightly.

Hurley praised Bouknight’s advancing maturity level as well.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Big men

Hurley listed two names for who could start, Bouknight and Isaiah Whaley. The senior wing took a massive step forward at the end of last season and is poised to have more playing time this year to build on his successes.

“He was outstanding defensively, as good a ball screen defender as you’ll see, tremendous instincts as a shot-blocker and an underrated passer, ball handler in the elbow areas,” Hurley said, according to the Courant.

For a team that had maybe one consistent big man at any given time just a year ago, the team’s current situation is a significant improvement. UConn added three more big men this season in addition to Whaley, Josh Carlton and Akok Akok, who’s returning form a ruptured Achilles.

Freshmen Adama Sanogo, Javonte Brown and redshirt freshman Richie Springs will all be options for Hurley to support the already-established, older players.

“He’s going to be a special player at UConn,” Hurley said about Sanogo, according to the Courant. “He’s a rare individual in terms of his work ethic, his character, his daily approach.”

Hurley added that it might be difficult for Springs to get into the rotation, mainly because of the depth at the position. He also said that Brown is still figuring out how to “maneuver his body,” which is entirely understandable for a player who’s over 7-feet tall and just 18 years old.

All three of the holdover big men from last season have been working on their bodies, with Carlton shedding pounds, Whaley adding muscle and Akok rehabbing from injury. All three drew immense praise from Hurley.

Akok is coming along well and is on track to go live with the rest of the team in late November, Hurley said, according to the Courant.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Other notes: