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October 22, 2012
UConn has Loaded Backcourt
In high school, oftentimes the end is not called, "Graduation," but a, "confluence." The word confluence embeds the meaning of one period ending and another beginning - one river flows into another, creating a new body of water. This is exactly where UConn basketball finds itself; however, we are unable to see how long and large this new body is.
On September 12, UConn changed forever. Arguably the greatest program builder in college basketball history retired. Whether for personal, health, or professional reasons, Jim Calhoun walked off with four final four appearances and three national championships. He left tied with Bob Knight and only behind Coach K, Adolph Rupp, and John Wooden.
As he left with all his accolades, UConn is forced to move on without a definitive vision of the future. New coach and ex-Husky, Kevin Ollie, comes in with only a one-year deal - told to prove himself for a longer contract from Athletic Director, Warde Manuel. In his one year audition (but do not call him an interim), Kevin Ollie inherits a team banned from playing in the NCAA tournament, not allowed in the Big East tournament, and bringing back only one full-time starter. As mentioned above, the outlook is bleak, not necessarily from a point of negativity, but from a haze of question marks in what the future brings.
Simply looking at the roster, UConn brings back a load of objective talent in the 1-2-3 positions. Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright are proven commodities. These two figure to be the team's leaders on and off the court, generally dominating the ball. Last season, Shabazz seemed to hold the ball at the top of the key too often, waiting for teammates to make cuts that never happened, then dishing for a Jeremy Lamb jumper or hoisting from deep himself. This season, he needs to look to get teammates more involved, getting into the lane and creating easy buckets. Boatright has athleticism UConn has never seen before. His quickness and ability to get into the lane will be paramount. Boatright reminds Husky fans of a young Kemba, having all the talent, but not the size to get too deep into the lane. Boatright's watching some Kemba Walker tape from his breakout season would open up the necessary recognition that it is not necessary to get all the way to the rim and into the teeth of the defense every possession.
In addition to these two, UConn brings in top recruit, Omar Calhoun, and fifth-year transfer, RJ Evans to the backcourt. Calhoun (no relation to Jim) is in the mold of the great UConn guards of old. He is an all around player with the ability to shoot from three, dribble drive, and get into the lane. As a freshman, he will be relied upon heavily for points, minutes, and stops. Evans is not much of a scoring threat, but he is built like a fullback and has quick defensive feet. His physicality and effort will enamor Ollie and bring him in to defend opposing lead guards. Between these four, UConn should have one of the top backcourts around.