Today: Apr 23, 2024

Sports Commentary: Top-flight recruit helps UConn reload again

PAT LONGOBARDISports Writer

After the Connecticut Huskies basketball team magically rolled to their third national championship in April, the gigantic shoes vacated by Kemba Walker looked too big to fill.
UConn made a big step toward filling that void when the No. 2-rated recruit in the nation, Andre Drummond, verbally committed to join the Huskies.
Drummond, the 6-foot-11 center from Middletown, who spent the last three years at St. Thomas More Prep, is considered a one-and-done player—a potential top pick in the NBA draft.
With this recruit, UConn will be a serious threat to do what UCLA, Duke and Florida have done—win a second consecutive national championship.
They return the majority of their roster ready to make another run like freshmen sensations Jeremy Lamb and Roscoe Smith, and forward Alex Oriakhi. Some of last year’s players have the big game experience on their resume and another year under their belt.
Despite UConn being limited to scholarships due to recruiting and academic penalties, one player gave Drummond his scholarship and applied for financial aid.
If Drummond ends up leaving after this season for the NBA, he will need to make his impact felt like scouts have envisioned for one of the elite Division 1 programs in the country. UConn will be a favorite this season with North Carolina, Ohio State, Kansas, Duke and Kentucky.
UConn will need to keep the same philosophy as last season – play for 40 minutes – and some guys need to step up and make big plays like Walker did.
Maybe a guy like Drummond can come in and be that guy to identify himself and take over the team like Carmelo Anthony (Syracuse) or even John Wall (Kentucky), who also were one-and-done. For Drummond to go to college, it was a good move. In today’s world, players who play at the college level tend to do better in the pros.
Drummond will also take a little more pressure off himself by wearing No. 12, instead of initially wanting No. 15, Walker’s number.
Head coach Jim Calhoun’s decisions to return this season must have also played some role in Drummond’s decision. There have been continuous talks about when the Hall-of-Fame coach will call it quits. His return is also a big step for UConn. With a defending champion and a big time recruit coming in, this could be one of Calhoun’s last chances to make NBA stars out of players like Drummond, or even Lamb or Smith.
UConn athletics has been in quite a whirlwind lately — their first BCS bowl game, getting a new head football coach, winning a national championship, searching for a new athletic director, and now landing a big recruit. Some people are comparing Drummond to that of Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire. If Drummond makes it to that level of play, the UConn roots will stay in good hands.

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