NCB On The Trail: Connecticut Huskies

To return to the NCAA tournament, a team needs contributions from both returning players and incoming recruits. Here's a look at UConn and its chances of dancing again in 2015.

Quick references:
2013-14 roster
2014 recruiting

Possible 2014-15 starting five:
G: Ryan Boatright
G: Rodney Purvis
F: Daniel Hamilton
F: DeAndre Daniels
C: Amida Brimah


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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.

Now that we have reached in the championship game, I would definitely say Connecticut. When Kevin Ollie took over this program on a full-time basis, there was a bit of uncertainty about him as a coach and as a recruiter because he was new to both fields. Anytime you have on-the-court success it opens doors for the next line of recruits. They now consider you and your program and will listen to you. This magical run for Ollie solidifies to the public and -- more importantly -- to the UConn program that he and his staff should get some nice residual benefits from future recruiting classes.
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When we analyze and evaluate the skill set of today's basketball player, we speak quite often about their ability to drive to the rim and finish as well as knocking down 3-point shots.

What has been forgotten and not emphasized enough from coaches and workout coaches is their middle game. The ability to score the ball inside the arc and before one gets to the rim in tight quarters is a true gift. I would love to see today's player really work on their middle game to be a more well-rounded scorer.

Let's take a look at which ESPN 100 prospects possess the all-important middle game in the senior class.


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ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Hoop Exchange in partnership with Source Hoops featured the Florida Spring Exposure Series 11th/12th-grade edition that took place at Barnett Park Orlando Magic Center this weekend. This prestigious event showcased some of the best high school talent the Sunshine State has to offer.

Here are a few players who caught our eye.


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Biancardi's Breakdown: JaQuan Lyle 

February, 17, 2014
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video JaQuan Lyle (Evansville, Ind./Huntington Prep), the highest-rated uncommitted perimeter player left in the ESPN 100, is in high demand as Kansas, Providence, Oregon, UConn, Memphis and Oklahoma State are in heavy pursuit of the Indiana native. He is one of the few players left in the 2014 class who could come in and contribute immediately to a major college program.

Let’s take a look at the latest on his recruitment, how his game has grown and what he can do to reach his potential.


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Daniel Hamilton (Los Angeles/St. John Bosco) is one of the nation's best scoring guards, but at times, he can be a volume scorer and not a productive scorer. The Connecticut commit is ranked as the No. 2 player in the West behind Stanley Johnson (Fullerton, Calif./Mater Dei) and the No. 31 prospect in the ESPN 100.

Let's take an in-depth look at what this shooting guard does well and what he need to work on:


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Nike Extravaganza recap 

February, 3, 2014
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The 19th annual Nike Extravaganza was quite possibly the best collection of talent in its tenure. When you have Duke-bound Jahlil Okafor (Chicago/Whitney Young) going head-to-head with Arizona-bound Stanley Johnson (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei), that is about as good as it gets. Add in USC-bound Jordan McLaughlin (Etiwanda, Calif./Etiwanda) putting the St. John Bosco defense on skates and recent ESPN 100 entree Elijah Stewart (Los Angeles/Westchester) scorching the nets, it further solidifies the claim that the event was loaded.

A load in the paint

Jahlil Okafor (Chicago/Whitney Young)
2014, C, 6-foot-10, 270 pounds
Status: Signed with Duke
Okafor didn't get many touches because of Mater Dei's collapsing zone. Once teammate and Saint Louis signee Miles Stewart started draining 3s, it opened up some breathing room for him to operate. He gathered most of his stats on offensive rebounds and utilizing those magnetic hands he possesses. At this level, he can dominate with his length, strength, and post skills. However, Okafor has limited lift and he struggled at times corralling rebounds despite having a significant size advantage.


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UConn ready to run and gun 

December, 18, 2013
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It was just about one year ago that Kevin Ollie had the “interim” removed from his title as the Connecticut head men’s basketball coach, a decision that had as much to do with a potentially critical 2015 recruiting class as it did his strong start on the sidelines.

Fast forward 12 months and Ollie has Connecticut exactly where it is accustomed to being, right in the thick of the national college basketball landscape. Going into tonight’s game against Stanford (9:00p.m. on ESPN2), UConn is 9-0 and a consensus top 10 team in the country.


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Four-star Class of 2015 prospect Prince Ali (Pembroke Pines, Fla./The Sagemont School) ended his recruitment Monday, selecting the Connecticut Huskies over finalists UCLA, Georgetown, Nebraska and Illinois.

Ali is a fast-rising, versatile wing and an excellent early pickup for coach Kevin Ollie. He's a nice fit on both ends of the floor for the Huskies.


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#AskCoachB: Who does UConn add?

October, 23, 2013
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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.



Heading into this class, UConn needed one player at every position. The Huskies got Daniel Hamilton early and spent time with him all summer. They really wanted and invested a ton of time on Abdul-Malik Abu but missed and got Rakim Lubin, a three-star forward, instead. They pursued several point guards, including Josh Perkins and Jordan McLaughlin before getting Sam Cassell Jr. out of the junior college ranks. Underrated Canadian big man Ray Kasongo is still on the board. He has visited UConn and could be the big man the Huskies add. The Huskies could also go after another perimeter guy such as JaQuan Lyle. Rodney Purvis, the best player on the UConn roster, will not play this season after transferring from NC State and his athletic ability and attacking style will be a big addition next season. Purvis’ college experience should also benefit the Huskies and their influx of new talent in next year’s class.

#AskCoachB: Package deals?

September, 23, 2013
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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.



Maybe it's an aberration or maybe it will become a trend in college recruiting, but count Cliff Alexander and JaQuan Lyle as the latest who talk about going to school together. This talk all started when Lyle decommitted from Louisville.

A recent quote from Alexander on Twitter:



Another pair of top players, Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones, have been planning the same scenario and have been on the same page for months about their intentions and the recruiting process.

Lyle has visits set up with Arizona, Kansas and Memphis, and he visited UConn this past weekend.

Alexander and Lyle will be visiting Kansas and Memphis together, and it's worth noting that Alexander's girlfriend will be on the Jayhawks women's basketball team as a freshman this season, which is one reason why Kansas has been such a high mention.

Alexander already has visited Arizona and DePaul and will also be heading to Illinois for an official visit. Michigan State is still in the race, as Alexander has been there unofficially and includes them on his list.

Memphis is right in the thick of the race and they just made a home visit last Friday. Cliff told me that he and his mom love Tigers coach Josh Pastner.

Look for both to make their decisions after the early signing period to give Lyle time to sort things out and to let the dust settle after the early signing week. Alexander told me he should be ready sometime in December.
ESPN 100 SF Terry Larrier (Bronx, N.Y./Phelps School) made a verbal commitment to VCU on Monday night following his official visit this weekend. Larrier, ranked No. 59 overall and No. 15 among small forwards, was widely expected to choose between VCU and Connecticut, but was also considering Florida, Florida State, and Miami among others.

The commitment punctuates what was a breakout season on the spring and summer travel circuits, as Larrier came into his AAU season without a single high-major offer but ultimately wound up with his choice of BCS suitors after a strong showing with Team Scan on the EYBL circuit.


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ESPN 100 PF White picks Georgetown 

September, 15, 2013
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ESPN 100 power forward Paul White (Chicago/Whitney Young) ended his recruitment on Sunday, committing to Georgetown while on an official visit. He picked the Hoyas over finalist Miami (Fla.), where he visited last weekend, along with Arizona, Connecticut, Minnesota and hometown DePaul.

The four-star White is a great get for Georgetown coach John Thompson III. A talented and skilled forward ranked No. 57 overall, he fits the Hoyas' style on both ends of the floor.

Why did he pick Georgetown and what will he bring to the Hoyas? Let's break it down.


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Starting 5: Point guard debate 

August, 20, 2013
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Editor's note: Every week in "Starting 5," we'll roll out five stories, themes and nuggets from the basketball recruiting world to set the table with the stories that need to be told and give you a leg up on the watercooler conversations around the office.

This week we look at three point guards using different lenses, what plans KU has for Late Night in the Phog, the recruiting revivals at UConn and Minnesota plus reduced lists from bigs Paul White and Makinde London.


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ESPN 100 SG Rashad Vaughn names 11

July, 31, 2013
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Shooting guard Rashad Vaughn (Golden Valley, Minn./Findlay Prep) has narrowed his school list down to 11, according to a tweet from the ESPN 100 prospect.

Vaughn will decide among Baylor, Iowa State, Kentucky, North Carolina, Connecticut, Kansas, UNLV, Arizona, Georgetown, UCLA and Minnesota.

The senior is currently ranked No. 11 overall in the 2014 class.

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