Down goes Tyler Polley. Down goes Akok Akok. And yet the UConn men’s basketball team is cruising into the American Athletic Conference tournament winners of five straight. How did the Huskies maintain their momentum despite losing two key rotation cogs? Senior captain Christian Vital and freshman James Bouknight. The New York City duo were rewarded for their efforts today, representing UConn on the first and third all-AAC teams, respectively.
Vital — UConn’s leading scorer at 16.4 points per game — is the first Husky to achieve such honors since Jalen Adams in the 2016-17 season. He leads the conference and is in the top 10 nationally in steals (2.5) and free throw shooting (89.9). He’s also UConn’s best rebounder at 6.4 rebounds per game.
Over his four-year career, he’s poured in over 1,700 points, 650 rebounds, 250 assists and 200 steals. That’s good for a steady presence in UConn’s record books; he’s currently 10th all-time in points, third in steals and second in 3-pointers made.
In the final 12 games of the season, Vital is playing like a kid who knows the finish-line to his storied career is fast approaching, averaging over 20 points per game. That’s resulted in two-straight weeks of the AAC Player of the Week award, but as he said following UConn’s upset of No. 21 Houston last Thursday, he’s not done yet.
Bouknight — who has been named AAC freshman of the week twice this year — is averaging 13 points per game, 15.3 in conference play, and 17.8 and 5.6 rebounds over the last 10 games. He’s emerged as a steady shot-creating complement to Vital, and oozes potential for next year. Plays like this have become a regular occurrence:
Individual awards will be announced Wednesday, but expect both players to be heavy contenders for a slew of them, including Vital for Player of the Year and Bouknight for freshman of the year. The Huskies will kick off the AAC tournament Thursday, March 12 with a 3 p.m. tip-off against Tulane.