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Nahiem Alleyne’s resurgence could take UConn’s offense to another level

The Virginia Tech transfer has struggled this season but could provide a huge spark off the bench come conference play.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Nobody on the UConn men’s basketball team is probably more excited about the Huskies’ finals week break than Nahiem Alleyne.

After joining UConn from Virginia Tech this summer and expecting to be a key part of the Huskies’ offensive perimeter attack, Alleyne began the year in the starting lineup, but made way to the bench after the Phil Knight Invitational as Andre Jackson returned to full health. Since then, his minutes have declined, including a season-low 10 minutes in UConn’s home win over Oklahoma State.

While some of Alleyne’s decline in playing time can be attributed to the emergence of Jackson as one of the top players in the country — Jackson ranks fourth nationally in’s Bayesian Performance Ranking (BPR) — and the rise of Joey Calcaterra, Alleyne also just hasn’t gotten shots to fall.

The Buford, Georgia native’s effective field goal percentage is at 44.7 percent this season, well below his career mark that normally hovers around 48 percent. From 3-point range, Alleyne has been even worse. He’s shooting 27.3 percent from deep on 33 attempts, and prior to a pair of outside makes in UConn’s win over LIU, went more than four games without a 3-pointer for the first time in his career.

Alleyne’s shot may be slightly unorthodox, but the former Hokie’s performance from deep this year so far is well off the mark of his career numbers. As Alleyne entered the portal this summer, he was widely regarded as one of the better shooters available and one of the top shooters in the ACC. Alleyne shot 37.3 from beyond the arc last season on 166 attempts, and finished amongst the top 25 in 3-point percentage in ACC play all three seasons at Virginia Tech, owning a career 38.7 percent mark from deep. For comparison, just two UConn players last season — RJ Cole and Tyler Polley — took over 140 attempts from beyond the arc last season, and neither shot higher than 35 percent.

With the 3-point shot uncharacteristically not falling, Alleyne has managed to adapt and find other ways to contribute. He’s shown the ability to get to the hoop with either hand, and is shooting the ball inside the arc better than ever at 48.5 percent, nearly 10 percent better than his career average. He’s also done a good job at limiting turnovers in a backcourt that struggles to do so, ranking second amongst all guards in turnover percentage. Even with his perimeter struggles, he’s still managed to post an offensive rating slightly over 100 and just below his career average. Combine this with an improved effort on the defensive end — he’s in the midst of posting his best defensive BPR rating ever, per EvanMiya — and Alleyne is still a meaningful contributor to this UConn team.

As UConn headed into its finals week break with a blowout win over LIU, there was a concerted effort to get Alleyne going and regain some confidence. With the game already taken care of, the offense worked to get Alleyne some open shots and the senior converted, hitting two of his three 3-point attempts. He finished with day with 11 points on 4-6 shooting from the floor and posted his first positive offensive rating since the win over Oregon on Nov. 24.

Even though Calcaterra, seemingly created in a lab by Hurley to fill the void of a microwave bench scorer, has been incredible through the first 11 games, it will be difficult for the San Diego transfer to continue to shoot nearly 57 percent from 3-point range all season. If Alleyne can return to his usual form, he can offer a similar skillset with a little more size and better defensive chops, adding yet another weapon to an already deep bench.

Whether it was a blip in confidence or adjusting to a new role in Dan Hurley’s offense, the hope is that the final half of the LIU game combined with a few days off is enough for Alleyne to reset and return to his usual 3-point shooting prowess. If so, Hurley and UConn would become even deeper and give themselves a better chance of making the Huskies’ first deep run in March since 2014.