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UConn men’s basketball’s freshmen struggling to break in to the rotation

Jordan Hawkins has been the only first-year player to see much meaningful playing time.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Heading into his fourth season as head coach, Dan Hurley put together his best recruiting class yet at UConn, bringing in four players — Jordan Hawkins, Samson Johnson, Rahsool Diggins, and Corey Floyd — as part of a recruiting class that was ranked 10th-best in the country.

The Huskies are on pause following COVID-19 issues, but so far we have not seen much of the freshmen. Here’s how this highly-touted class has performed through the first 13 games of the season.

Jordan Hawkins

Hawkins is the only freshman that has seen any significant run this season. He’s played in 11 games, starting four, with most of the starts coming during Tyrese Martin’s absence due to injury.

After missing the start of the season with an ankle injury, Hawkins debuted with a bang, reaching double-figure scoring in two of his first three games. His best performance of the year came against Auburn in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, where he dropped 16 points and hit all three of his 3-point attempts, giving the Huskies a much-needed boost off of the bench.

Following an 11-point game against Grambling, Hawkins hasn’t done much in Big East play, scoring just one point in 22 minutes. He’s also been prone to turnovers and been inconsistent on both ends, but has flashed more than enough potential to show that he will likely be a centerpiece of future Huskies’ teams.

Samson Johnson

After emerging as arguably the most impressive freshman during the preseason, Johnson has played 52 minutes on the season — 20 of which came against Grambling after the Huskies lost Adama Sanogo to injury.

While Johnson has looked a little lost on the court at times, he put together a pretty solid performance in that extended opportunity, scoring six points along with three blocks and six rebounds, four offensive.

Johnson is a talented player but was regarded as more of a project offensively. Nonetheless, he’s already shown impressive shot-blocking ability and has good shooting form, allowing him to stretch the floor and shoot threes. With Akok on the roster, Johnson is a duplicate skillset right now — albeit still a valuable one. He’s played in just seven games and is averaging 2.6 points and 1.7 rebounds per game.

Rahsool Diggins

Outside of Richie Springs and the walk-ons, no player has seen the court less than Diggins, who was once the highest-rated player in this recruiting class. While the Huskies’ backcourt has been solid with RJ Cole, Martin, Andre Jackson, and Jalen Gaffney, it appeared as though Diggins could have gotten more minutes, particularly in blowout games against bottom-tier teams, but he has rarely left the bench.

Diggins has appeared in five games this season and none since the win over Grambling on Dec. 4, where he played 12 minutes, nearly one-third of his season total. He’s scored seven points on the year. Jalen Gaffney has struggled early in conference play (five turnovers, two total points in 21 minutes in two games), but Hurley has still not looked Diggins’ way.

The Huskies will lose Cole after this season to graduation, and Martin could leave too if he opts to use his COVID year elsewhere or go pro. That could potentially open up playing time for Diggins next season, but would still leave him competing with Gaffney, Floyd, and perhaps some transfers. For now, it looks like Diggins must be in the doghouse for some reason or has some glaring weakness preventing him from seeing more time.

Corey Floyd

Floyd was originally a class of 2022 recruit who enrolled a year early, eventually making the decision to redshirt. So he will not see the court this year.

Next year, Floyd should at least be able to spell Jalen Gaffney, Diggins, and the rest of the backcourt and serve as a spark plug off the bench.

Dan Hurley has shown he is more than willing to get players onto campus ahead of schedule if it’s feasible for both the player and the program. Rumors have swirled lately that big man Alex Karaban, one of Hurley’s two 2022 recruits in addition to 7-footer Donovan Clingan, may follow Floyd’s footsteps and enroll early, joining the team at some point this season.

UConn was lucky not to be too dependent on any of these freshmen for the success of this year’s team. However, I think many Husky fans would agree that they’d have expected to see more of Diggins by now and would have expected one person to be standing out a bit more.

Right now the standout player is Hawkins, by far, but his impact has been limited as well. His versatile scoring ability offers a lot to a UConn team that has struggled offensively at times. If he can be a more consistent contributor on that front, it would mean a lot for the trajectory of this year’s Huskies.