After arriving on campus in the summer of 2019, James Bouknight has pushed the UConn men’s basketball program forward quite a bit in two short seasons.
The New York native is the brightest star the UConn men have seen in some time. He’s a dynamic talent and a projected lottery pick — something UConn hasn’t had since 2012. His presence made Storrs a more attractive destination for other recruits and his head coach credits him for being a catalyst to the renewed excitement around the program.
Both Bouknight and UConn achieved what they said they would do for each other, Dan Hurley said. Bouknight is going to hear his name called early on draft night and as a new/old member of the Big East, UConn is back to marquee status. It certainly helped to have a superstar, even if it was during two seasons that saw fewer games than normal years, including one with no fans.
After the loss to Maryland, Bouknight said he felt a desire to come back. He eventually made the decision to leave but said it wasn’t easy.
“Hurley has been like a father figure for me away from home,” Bouknight said. “He gave me a second chance. He’s coached me to an extent like no other coach has coached me. I learned so much from him and he’s taught me so much in my time here. Thank you isn’t even enough to say.”
He shared similar sentiments for assistant head coach Kimani Young.
“[Young] just believed in me from day one,” Bouknight said. “Like on my worst days, he’s there for me, on my best days he’s happy for me. Leaving them, it definitely hurts, but they know it’s for the better. They’re gonna be with me no matter what.”
It was an honor to coach this great Husky!! He did so much these last two seasons to help restore the UConn brand...Today is a great day for James and for our program!— Dan Hurley (@dhurley15) March 31, 2021
The sophomore seemed emotional talking about his departure. He said the relationships that he has with his teammates and coaches are the most important takeaway for him.
“You could tell he’s going to miss this place because he’s kind of just been lingering for the last week or 10 days like a guy who’s going on to something big,” Hurley said. “Man is he gonna miss his time here because it’s been a blast. And it means something to him.”
The culture of this program has shifted under Hurley, and with Bouknight’s help, that is part of his legacy. He’s one of the most talented individuals to ever play for UConn.
“That means a lot, to be one of those names of the greater players that played here,” Bouknight said. “That means everything to me.”
Bouknight said the bar is back to being set at making the NCAA Tournament for this program.