With First Night looming this Friday, it’s time to start thinking about basketball season here at UConn, and all of the new bells and whistles each new season brings. Both the men’s and women’s teams are looking to replace departing contributors with new ones, and to do so there is a large freshman class here to shoulder the workload. With that in mind, our roundtable question this week is: Who is the most exciting freshman joining either of the UConn basketball teams for this upcoming season?
Mariana Dominguez: The most exciting freshman entering the UConn basketball program this year is definitely Crystal Dangerfield. The 5-foot-6 point guard will have big shoes to fill this upcoming season as she is predicted to run the point, a position previously held by UConn alum Moriah Jefferson. The top-rated point guard out of high school, Dangerfield was a McDonald’s All-American, a three-time Gatorade Player of the Year in Tennessee and won the Morgan Wootten Award which goes to the McDonald’s All-American who best exhibits character and leadership on the court, classroom and community. In high school, Dangerfield averaged 16.9 points per game and 2.8 steals per game. While still only being a freshman, she is perfectly capable of handling the offense and can even hit the three-pointer when called upon. As the season unfolds it will be interesting to see what Dangerfield can contribute to the Huskies’ success.
Ian O’Connor: Although there is a lot of intrigue surrounding the freshman class for the UConn men’s basketball team, everyone’s eyes should agreeably be focused on Crystal Dangerfield. Not only does she have a great name, but Dangerfield was ranked No. 1 among point guard recruits by ESPN. She faces the tall task of replacing Moriah Jefferson, and with the departure of Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck, Coach Geno Auriemma will be looking to see who steps up this year. Dangerfield is more than capable of filling the void. As a point guard, it may take some time for her to take control of UConn’s offense, but she has a similar skill set to that of Jefferson. Dangerfield was named the 2016 Morgan Wootten Player of the Year, joining the elite company of Katie Lou Samuelson (2015), Breanna Stewart (2012) and Maya Moore (2007), all previous UConn women to receive the award.
Austin Mirmina: Everyone loves a shooter. Vance Jackson, a sharp-shooting small forward from Napa, California, will be the freshman to watch for UConn men’s basketball this season. Jackson ranked No. 78 in ESPN’s Top 100 recruits of 2016, committing to UConn after seeing his former high school teammate Daniel Hamilton excel with the Huskies. Basketball scouts have touted Jackson as a highly accurate jump shooter, maybe the next Rashad Anderson, and at 6-foot-8, he has the height to make a difference on the boards. If Jackson can improve other elements of his game, like attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line, he will be a key contributor in 2016. Look for Jackson’s silky smooth jumper to be on display when the Huskies begin their season with an exhibition game against the University of New Haven on Sunday, October 30, at the XL Center in Hartford.
Josh Buser: UConn men’s basketball is known for its outstanding guard play and Alterique Gilbert is next in line. Ranked at No. 30 in ESPN’s Top 100, Gilbert will fill the hole left by Sterling Gibbs’ departure last season. Gilbert and sophomore Jalen Adams could combine to become one of the most dynamic backcourts in the country this season, reminiscent of the great Shabazz Napier/Ryan Boatright backcourt that was so exciting to watch during the 2014 National Championship run. The rest of UConn’s “Top Five” 2016 class will be great as well, but Gilbert is the guy who should get Huskies fans excited the most.
Stephanie Sheehan: UConn has always taken lots of pride in having phenomenal tandems of guards; Kemba Walker/Shabazz Napier and Napier/Ryan Boatright come to mind. So why should this year be any different? Alterique Gilbert will be the most exciting freshman, if only for the sole reason that the dynamic between him and sophomore Jalen Adams will be one of the most exciting backcourts in all of college basketball to watch. He’s ranked No. 30 in ESPN’s Top 100, and being paired with a guy like Adams will allow him to excel quickly. Sterling Gibbs was great and all, but the combination of him being a graduate transfer and it being Adams’s first season translated to less-than-sufficient playing time for Adams and a weird chemistry on the team overall. If Gilbert lives up to expectations (which I fully expect him to), him and Adams could become an inseparable pair of guards that could do amazing things in their UConn career. And who knows… maybe there’s a really nice looking trophy in both of their futures…
Mariana Dominguez is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Ian O’Connor is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at ian.o’firstname.lastname@example.org.
Austin Mirmina is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus and can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Josh Buser is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.