UConnReport - UConn Hoops Newcomer Notebook: No. 1 Alex Karaban
{{ timeAgo('2022-06-22 11:09:53 -0500') }} basketball Edit

UConn Hoops Newcomer Notebook: No. 1 Alex Karaban

Just over 10 months ago, the UConn Huskies men’s basketball team locked in their second and final commit of the 2022 class when they added Alex Karaban. Five months later, the 6’8’’ wing decided to forgo his final semester of high school and join the Huskies early.

Karaban, a 4-star recruit played for three different high schools before coming to Storrs, starting locally at Algonquin Regional High School in Northborough, MA. He then moved North to play for New Hampton in NH, where he was named New Hampshire Gatorade Player of the Year his junior season, thanks to a stat line of 25.8 points per game and 8.7 boards per game.

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Last summer, Karaban further raised his stock with a standout performance at the Nike EYBL Peach Jam with Expressions Elite, where he scored 18.4 points and grabbed 7.4 rebounds on his way to a 3-2 record and an All-Peach Jam Second Team selection.

For the first half of his senior season, Karaban was enrolled at IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL, but never played a game due to a broken wrist. Before he recovered fully enough to hit the court, the wing decided to start college early with a redshirt semester at UConn.

Karaban at the Pangos All-American Camp
Karaban at the Pangos All-American Camp (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

THE SCOUTING REPORT

Based on his exceptional size for his skill set, Karaban projects to play the three or the four as a Husky, which is a perfect fit with UConn’s recent attrition. Since the end of the season, Isaiah Whaley, Tyrese Martin, Akok Akok and Tyler Polley all departed either to go pro or to transfer. This leaves the starting three, four and sixth man slots wide open for Karaban.

Karaban hangs his hat on exceptional three point shooting and his overall offensive efficiency. In his last season at New Hampton, he shot over 60% from the field, which is especially impressive given that everybody on the court knew he was the best player in the state. Also notable is Karaban’s rebounding ability, which will be useful with the departure of three of the Huskies’ top five glass crashers. Although he isn’t known for his playmaking abilities, the wing is still solid in the department for his position and isn’t prone to turnovers.

Defensively, Karaban has a ton of potential and has proven he can make the flashy plays, but discussed his need to maintain consistency in an interview with the Hartford Courant earlier this month. “I feel like the ability always to go 100% is a hurdle I need to get over,” he noted. “In high school, I mean everyone has, especially me; I took a bunch of plays off. So just going 100% and making sure my defense is always on point.” On a Dan Hurley coached team, defense in practice is the way to get minutes, so staying locked in will be critical for the freshman as he hopes to show off his offensive repertoire under the spotlight.

COMPETITION FOR MINUTES

Throughout the preseason, Hurley has been pushing the idea that UConn will be trying to run a faster paced, four-out, one-in rotation. This is perfect for a player like Karaban, who fits the mold for this situation. With Adama Sanogo likely continuing to play over 70% of the team’s minutes at center, Karaban will be competing for the small forward and (more likely) the power forward slots.

Also looking for minutes in those two spots are Andre Jackson, Jordan Hawkins, Samson Johnson and Richie Springs. Jackson was a consistent starter last year and showed flashes of greatness, averaging seven points, seven boards and three assists. Hawkins was one of the first reserves to come off the bench and lacked consistency, but it would be easy to argue that he has the highest offensive ceiling on the team with his smooth jumper. It’s unlikely that Karaban will be able to swipe a starting spot from either Jackson or Hawkins. Johnson, in the words of Hurley, has “wall potential” (referring to the wall in the Werth Practice Center where UConn’s lottery picks are listed), but had virtually no impact last year, playing just 68 minutes, 47 of which came in games that the Huskies won by more than 20 points. Hurley’s confidence in Johnson makes it seem like there will be strong competition between him and Karaban for minutes this year, despite his lack of success to find the court so far. Lastly, Springs is entering his third year of eligibility and has played a career total of 41 minutes, so he likely won’t be much of a factor in the battle.


THE BOTTOM LINE

After looking at Karaban’s competition, he should be able to make an instant impact as a rotational player. Without injuries, it seems unlikely that he’d make his way into the starting lineup, but will provide valuable bench minutes. If his three point shot is as effective in college as it was in high school, Karaban will be hard to take off the floor with his size and defensive potential. If all goes right, he will develop in his supporting role this season, and excel next year if the Huskies are able to send any of Hawkins, Sanogo or Jackson to the NBA.

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