College basketball analysts and experts love teams with experience. A team full of seniors represents the ultimate college basketball team for many. The Connecticut Huskies, however, are defying the odds.
Led by New York native Kemba Walker, the Huskies have shown what they are capable of at the Maui Invitational by knocking off Michigan State and Kentucky. Their supporting cast consists of Alex Oriakhi, Charles Okwandu, Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, Donnell Beverly, and five freshmen.
To be perfectly honest, that supporting cast does not sound like one of an elite team. But when you have Kemba Walker, it seems as though anything is possible. FOXSports.com senior basketball writer Jeff Goodman summed up the Huskies’ success in 140 characters on Twitter: “Huge difference with UConn this year is leadership. Jerome Dyson & Stanley Robinson wanted NO part of leading a year ago. Walker is big-time.”
With Walker leading the way and taking care of a majority of the scoring, the rest of this young squad has been able to figure out their roles in the meantime. Freshman Niels Giffey is the perfect example. In the first couple of games, Giffey looked nervous and found himself only settling for outside shots and having trouble connecting. In the last two games, Giffey was diving on the floor for balls, passing the ball with a purpose and taking shots when Walker found him open. As a result of knowing his role, Giffey ended up logging starters minutes in both games with 26 and 33 in each game respectively.
After what the world saw in Maui, the odds of Walker staying for another year in Connecticut are highly unlikely. Luckily, he’ll be able to leave his leadership behind for next season. It already appears that Shabazz Napier has been taken under Walker’s wing. Napier has had moments of brilliance for the Huskies thus far, and he will only continue to get better.
One UConn fan told us, “He reminds me of Kemba Walker when he was a freshman. His confidence level is so high. I could see his career path turning into a similar one to Walker’s. The scary part is that he is already a better shooter than Walker was at this point in his career.”
Napier isn’t the only future bright spot on this team. Jeremy Lamb and Roscoe Smith have the combination of length, athleticism and shooting ability to become Big East stars. While Giffey and Tyler Olander don’t have the same high ceiling as Smith and Lamb, they too could turn out to be lethal players because of their great fundamentals. Combine that with prodigy Ryan Boatright coming next year, and UConn has finally put together a team to reckon with once again.
But that is not all. If Jim Calhoun can clear up the recruiting violations issue, this team has the potential to strike gold. Andre Drummond, the tenth best player in the nation according to High School Hoop, lives in Connecticut. With UConn in his backyard, it is very likely that this team that Calhoun will have put together will intrigue him. It is a big “if,” but if they can land Drummond, expect UConn to continue its dominance in college basketball.
What do you think?
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