UConn men’s basketball is at a critical offseason following the Huskies’ early exit against New Mexico State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. While the Huskies rebounded from losing star guard James Bouknight a season ago and posted their best year yet under Dan Hurley, UConn is losing Tyrese Martin, Tyler Polley, and Isaiah Whaley, with others possibly leaving as well.
Here are the biggest storylines to keep an eye on this offseason.
RJ Cole has a decision to make
While Martin has already decided to forgo his extra year of eligibility, Cole has yet to make a decision. If he chooses to stay in college, he could return to the Huskies or be eligible to play at a different school immediately. UConn has the scholarship space to accommodate Cole, but players using their extra year don’t count towards the scholarship total anyways.
UConn would almost certainly welcome back Cole, who averaged 15.8 points per game last year. His return would give the Huskies one of the best duos in the Big East once again with him and Adama Sanogo.
However, an extra year may be a tough sell for Cole, who will turn 23 in August and has already been in school for five years after sitting out for a season when he transferred from Howard under the old transfer rules.
If Cole doesn’t come back, UConn does have some options in the backcourt with Jalen Gaffney and Rahsool Diggins presumably returning and Corey Floyd Jr. coming off his redshirt year, but they would likely look to the transfer portal to shore up their depth.
Kimani Young likely does, too
Young’s name has come up for head coaching openings and his performance during the Huskies’ win over Villanova after Hurley was ejected only added to the interest. He was rumored to be in the mix for the UMass job, but with that position finally filled, he likely will have a lot of opportunities.
Hurley has said that he expects coaches like Young to leave when they are ready and start their own programs elsewhere. It looks like Young is ready, which would leave a big opening on this staff.
Hit the transfer portal
The departures of Polley and Whaley leave obvious holes that need to be filled in the Huskies’ rotation. While Whaley’s departure may be able to be patched up internally through some combination of Akok Akok, Samson Johnson and possibly freshmen Alex Karaban and Donovan Clingan, UConn will certainly be in the market for a bigger guard/wing player that can shoot it from deep.
The Huskies were at their best when the likes of Martin, Polley, and Jordan Hawkins were connecting from long-range, allowing Sanogo to operate 1-on-1 in the low post. Hawkins certainly could make the leap to becoming a consistent scorer next year, but at minimum UConn still needs more shooters.
If Cole leaves, they’ll need to add a ballhandler as well. Gaffney showed promise early in his career but was turnover prone in limited minutes this year, and may benefit more as a second guard that’s able to play off the ball rather than distribute.
Welcome Donovan Clingan to campus
Donovan Clingan, the highly sought-after 7-foot-2 center fresh off of a state title at Bristol Central, arrives on campus as part of a freshman class that also includes Alex Karaban and Corey Floyd Jr, who are both already on campus.
Clingan has the size and skill to be a contributor as a freshman but will need to make an adjustment to playing at the high-major college level from the CT public leagues. It may not happen immediately but his potential is sky-high.
Clingan has the most hype of an incoming freshman in recent memory due to his local ties and big statlines. His development and what kind of role he assumes as a freshman will be interesting to keep an eye on.