When first hired, the common concern with UConn men’s basketball head coach Kevin Ollie was that he could not recruit on the same level that Jim Calhoun had. Well, a National Championship, more than a few top-100 recruits on the horizon and a loaded 2015-16 squad has helped quiet those whispers.
However, Ollie may do his best recruiting on transfer players. Rodney Purvis, a transfer from North Carolina State, is poised to take the reigns as the Huskies primary scorer this year. This offseason, Ollie brought in forward Shonn Miller from Cornell and point guard Sterling Gibbs from Seton Hall. Both are expected to start on opening night and look to play major roles for this team.
Our men’s basketball beat writers debated who would have a bigger impact this upcoming season:
Elan-Paolo DeCarlo: I’m most excited about the arrival of Sterling Gibbs. As we all know, UConn has always been a guard-orientated school. It’s a clear relationship. When UConn has an elite level guard, they’re an elite level team. Kevin Ollie the player, Khalid El-Amin, Ben Gordon, Kemba Walker, Shabazz Napier. The addition of Gibbs, who averaged 16.3 ppg with the Pirates, gives UConn the type of explosive scoring guard they’re accustomed to. Gibbs was named 2nd team all Big East. It’s fair to predict that level of play again from the 6’2” guard in his first year in Storrs.
Matt Zampini: The Huskies will without a doubt rely on Gibbs to run the offense this season and they’ll need him to be productive to be successful. But I think that Shonn Miller could have a bigger impact this season. Although vital, I think a lot of people over-emphasize the point guard position just because of how dominant Kemba and Shabazz were in their respective seasons.
Amida Brimah (a 7-foot center) averaged 4.4 rebounds per game, Kentan Facey and Phil Nolan (both 6-foot-10-inch forwards) averaged a combined 7.1 rebounds last year. This has to change. And I think Miler, at 6-foot-7, 222 lbs., should be able to give UConn a boost in that area.
Plus, as Ollie said in his interview with CBS Sports, Miller is versatile. Although his percentage wasn’t good last season, he can shoot the three, take people off the dribble. Ollie hopes Miller can provide a similar role as to what DeAndre Daniels did two seasons ago.
DeCarlo: There is no question that front court depth was a major issue for the Huskies last season and Miller will address that hole. But we cannot forget that the offense struggled to run with any creativity and fluidity.
Ryan Boatright monopolized the ball and the whole team ran through his isolation attacks. Bringing in Gibbs, along with Jalen Adams, should see Ollie open up the offense. I envision UConn at their most successful this season when they go small.
A lineup of Gibbs/Adams/Purvis/Hamilton/Brimah would be able to push the pace and allow UConn to play a brand of up-tempo basketball that is rarely seen in Storrs. What Gibbs offers this team goes way beyond his statistical value. His versatility, being able to play on or off the ball, coupled his pure athletic gifts, gives UConn a dimension they lacked a year ago.
Zampini: I think we both could agree that both Gibbs and Miller will bring leadership to this team. Both are graduates students and have been playing for four years. It’s hard to say actually which player will have a bigger impact, just because I think both are going to have different roles on the team.
Ollie said already that he wants to get out in transition this season and I think that with Miller on the floor, Ollie will still be able to do so. We saw Miller running the length of the court with ease in first night for some athletic dunks. Plus, Miller could score inside or outside in the half-court offense, he can run the pick-and-roll and spread the floor. His versatility should also add an element to the offense that UConn didn’t have last season.