Jalen Gaffney built for Big East battles after offseason transformation
Pictures of a ripped Jalen Gaffney have been circulating on social media in recent weeks, making it clear that he's been hard at work during the offseason in preparation for his second year at UConn.
The 6-foot-3 guard has transformed into ‘Jalen 2.0’ and expects to better handle the wear and tear of another college basketball season, whenever that may be. Having been listed at 175 pounds last season, he's now bulked up to a stocky 185.
“I’ve been working on my body a lot with (strength coach Mike Rehfeldt),” Gaffney said. “He’s helped all of us. Just eating right, sleeping better, and having a better routine to have my body ready. I was getting poked around a lot last year and I wasn’t playing at a weight (that worked). I’m trying to get to 190, I’m at 185 right now, and I think it will help my game a lot.” Despite adding the weight, Gaffney says he’s “just as quick and fast, too.”
UConn head coach Dan Hurley likes what Gaffney has shown him over the summer.
“Jalen, he’s got more athletic, faster, and more explosive on the floor and he’s fifteen pounds heavier,” Hurley said. “Last year ... he kind of looked like a teenager in college starting at the point. This year he looks like a man, like a grown-up, so it’s impressive.”
Hurley added, “He’s displayed it in the gym ... and the way he’s carried himself on the court. There’s a lot more confidence that comes from you knowing you’re not going to physically get handled out there.”
The Huskies have plenty of options in the backcourt with sophomore James Bouknight back along with junior Brendan Adams and redshirt junior R.J.Cole, who sat out last year as a transfer. Also in the mix are freshman Andre Jackson and possibly transfer Tyrese Martin, who is awaiting an NCAA decision.
In Cole and Gaffney, the Huskies have two solid options at the point who figure to see time together on the court - something that was common during the Jim Calhoun-led Husky teams that won three national titles. Kevin Ollie also did it with the combination of Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier.
“Me and Jalen together - that's probably an amazing thing,” Cole said. “We’re both playmakers, we’re unselfish … he played amazing last year especially down the stretch.”
After a slow start to his freshman campaign due to an ankle sprain, Gaffney moved into the starting lineup against Temple on Jan. 29 and remained there - with the exception of Senior Night against Houston. The Huskies were 8-3 (9-3 overall) with Gaffney running the show and were riding a five-game win streak going into their final American Athletic Conference. He averaged 6.3 points and 3.6 assists in the last 12 games with a combined 21 turnovers.
“It was definitely a learning experience,” Gaffney said. “I came in with high expectations (but got off to a slow start). As the season went on I definitely started playing better, especially with the role I was given at point guard. I think I can build on that."
Gaffney’s teammates witnessed a change in him during last season as he grew more accustomed to the college game.
“I always knew coming in he was a good player,” Bouknight said. “I think for him it was just a confidence thing, and when he found his confidence, he started playing really well, and it helped the team - it helped everyone. This upcoming year I just want Jalen to just be that solid point guard for us.”