With the college basketball season just around the corner, the hype is building for the Huskies, who have recently been placed at No. 24 in the AP Preseason Top 25. They are projected to finish second in the Big East Conference only to powerhouse Villanova, and have two Big East Preseason Second Team members in RJ Cole and Tyrese Martin. Furthermore, the team boasts the ninth best recruiting class in the nation. This team is loaded with talent despite losing NBA lottery pick James Bouknight. Without their former top scoring option, there is plenty of room for players to break out into stardom. But which ones will? Our team of writers have their takes:
Player: RJ Cole
Response: I feel like this is the popular pick, but I’m obligated to go with RJ Cole as my choice. Cole, in his junior year and first time playing at the University of Connecticut, was absolutely phenomenal even with NBA guard James Bouknight on the team taking shots away from him. The point-guard put up 12 points, a steal and shot a respectable 38% from 3. Cole also reduced his turnovers significantly from his time at Howard and overall looked like a better player on the court. The one concern with Cole was his shooting percentages, which increased as the season progressed last year. If the senior guard can carry that momentum into this year, where he will be a big option for the Huskies, he’s about to have a breakout year.
Player: Jalen Gaffney
A player that absolutely oozes potential, Gaffney has a real chance to breakthrough this year. The 6-3 junior took a nice jump in efficiency last year, despite being held to a limited role with the huge presence of James Bouknight. He went from 26% to a nice 36% on 3s and increased his scoring by over 50% from his freshman to sophomore year. If he is able to assert himself into the rotation as at least a sixth man, he can really make a mark this year with the huge scoring gap to fill. With his improved strength, deep ball and opportunity this year, Gaffney should really be put in a nice position to succeed. All he has to do is be a bit more assertive when he’s on the court and he won’t have a ceiling.
Associate Sports Editor
Player: Adama Sanogo
I’m gonna go with the obvious answer and pick Sanogo, already tabbed as a Big East Preseason Honorable Mention player this year. While Bouknight went down for a big part of last year’s conference play, Sanogo became a key post scoring option for the Huskies, scoring double-digit points in seven different contests, including four of the team’s last five games. Shooting efficiency was a key part of his success last year, shooting a fifth-best in the Big East .554 field goal percentage. Sanogo’s skills progressed even further as the season went on, earning himself a spot on the Big East All-Tournament team as well as the Big East All-Freshman team. Already a borderline star, Sanogo is on the verge of being an elite scorer for this UConn offense. There is a void left by Bouknight, and who better to fill it than the most successful freshman from last season?