After deciding to stay with the program for his final year, Adams has the most weight on his shoulders out of anybody. He’s been with the program longer than anyone else on the team and has the added responsibility of being a leader on and off the court. Though his start to the season has been less than ideal, Adams has repeatedly been called the best player on the team by Hurley and it’s true. He’s been the team’s leading scorer for the last two seasons and averaged 38 minutes per game last year. He’s a quick finisher at the rim, a slick ball handler and, if he can improve his 3-point game, he can live up to the hype placed on him since his freshman season and elevate to the next level.
It’s try number three for Gilbert, who has only played nine games total in his two years at UConn. Dan Hurley has been quick to praise Gilbert as the season approaches, emphasizing his quickness, agility and ball handling skills. He’s just as crafty as Jalen when it comes to finishing at the rim and he’ll make for an effective backcourt partner. He and Adams has been highly touted since the two of them were freshmen, and if Gilbert can stay healthy, the potential is there for an elite one-two combo. Gilbert is quiet, but he leaves it all out on the court.
There are few players on the roster with more to prove than senior Eric Cobb. After transferring from Chipola College, Cobb had a disappointing junior season, averaging just 1.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in eight minutes per game. But when given consistent playing time, he showed promising rebounding and passing instincts. Cobb slimmed down 60 pounds from the beginning of last season and it has paid dividends in the offseason, as Hurley has repeatedly praised his development. With no clear pecking order in the frontcourt, the door is wide open for Cobb to play big minutes and make a large impact.
While he didn’t get consistent playing time last season, Carlton’s 4.4 points per game, 3.7 rebounds per game and average of 15 minutes per game was a pleasant surprise for UConn. His strength lies mainly on defense, where he has potential to do damage on the boards with his 6-foot-10 stature. He showed glimmers of being able to hold his own with more elite teams in the conference last season, and he will only get better with more minutes. With Sidney Wilson suspended from play for the time being, expect Carlton to crack the starting lineup for a while.
If Hurley elects to go small, especially in the absence of Sidney Wilson, graduate transfer Tarin Smith could see big minutes this season. Smith was the Atlantic 10 Sixth Man of the Year at Duquesne last season, averaging 12.4 points and 3.2 assists in 28.5 minutes per game. Smith is best as a pass-first, score-second facilitator, which should work well in Hurley’s system and as a nice complement to the scoring ability of Adams, Gilbert and Vital. His experience is a valuable addition to a team still searching for its identity and he should see plenty of playing time while the team finds its way.