While NCAA seasons ended with our previous school year and will soon pick up again, there were plenty of Huskies who kept themselves busy over the summer. You may remember some big stories, such as James Bouknight getting drafted in the NBA or several former Huskies winning gold at the Tokyo Olympics, but in case you missed these or others, here is a quick recap of an eventful summer for UConn athletes.
One of the biggest questions of the summer was the landing spot for now-NBA athlete James Bouknight. After a breakout freshman season in 2019, followed by near dominance his sophomore year, Bouknight knew it was time to head to the league, declaring for the draft after UConn’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2016.
Expert analysts had him all over the place, with his pure scoring ability placing him as high as a top-five pick in some mock drafts. In the end, the Charlotte Hornets drafted him with the 11th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, hoping to pair Bouknight with budding star LaMelo Ball in the backcourt.
In the annual NBA Summer League, Bouknight was solid, amassing over 16 points per game on .450 shooting. The coolest story from his summer, though, was when Hornets owner and basketball legend Michael Jordan called Bouknight after an off night to give him some pointers. With lots of young talent around him and the greatest of all time on speed dial, Bouknight could be looking at a bright future in the NBA.
Huskies at the Olympics
UConn Nation was busy in Tokyo this summer.
Most notably, the USA Women’s Basketball team, filled with UConn alumni, cruised their way to a gold medal for the seventh straight time. Team USA went undefeated in Tokyo, winning by no less than nine points in each contest. Former Huskies Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Napheesa Collier, Breanna Stewart and Diana Taurasi all contributed to this top squad. Stewart led all Huskies with 15 points per game while grabbing 10 rebounds per game. She was on the court more than any of her teammates, averaging over 31 minutes each game.
On the opposite side of the tournament bracket, Husky Gabby Williams earned a bronze medal with Team France. In the bronze medal game, she led all scorers with 17 points against a tough Serbia team.
While you were watching USA Women’s Basketball utterly dominate the competition, you may have missed another former Husky take home gold in women’s soccer. The 2008 grad Stephanie Labbé was a brick wall for Canada along the way to the program’s first gold medal. The goalie was crucial for the team’s success, not only by starting throughout the tournament but by having some key saves in the final’s penalty shootout.
Despite fellow UConn Baseball standout George Springer having a solid year with his new team in Toronto, no baseball alum had a better 2021 than Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes. Over the past few seasons, Barnes had been a very middle-of-the-pack reliever, with tons of flashes of potential bogged down by inconsistency. This year, he was able to flip the switch, being the most consistent pitcher on the team for most of the year.
His successes culminated in his nomination to the American League All-Star Team, Barnes’ first in his big-league career. Soon after, the Red Sox decided to give him a contract extension, locking up what would have been the best reliever in the upcoming free agent market. While he has struggled, alongside the rest of the team, as of late, Barnes will look back on 2021 as his most successful season to date.
At the age of 30, Philadelphia Union goalie Andre Blake continues to be at the top of his game. An undisputed top-five keeper in the MLS, Blake has registered eight clean sheets in just 17 starts this season. His 53 saves have helped propel the Union to third in the Eastern Conference. The 2020 MLS Goalkeeper of the year ranks among the top five in the league in save percentage and clean sheet percentage.
Just recently, Blake was added to the MLS All-Star team, the third nod in his eight year career. He now is the only three-time All-Star in Union history. The 2014 No. 1 overall pick is racking up the accolades en route to an attempted second straight Supporter’s Shield for Philadelphia.