Husky Hoopla: Men’s Basketball Projected Starting 5

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RJ Cole

After finishing the season as the second leading Huskies scorer and with a disappointing loss to Maryland in the NCAA tournament, Cole is back for revenge and in a bigger role as the lead guard on a deep UConn lineup. The fifth-year Huskies’ point guard was a consistent playmaker in 2020 and while Cole’s assist numbers may dip slightly due to an increased scoring output, his assist numbers will continue to be great. Cole’s defense looks to be solid this year, especially with what we saw during last season, including 1.2 steals and solid perimeter defense. The key for Cole is efficiency, and it remains to be seen how he will play when defenses are more focused on him and not former teammate James Bouknight. Whether he’s pulling up from the three-point line or driving in for a tough finish at the rim, efficiency will be key. 

Adama Sanogo

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the leader of the frontcourt for UConn. Sanogo, a 6’9” sophomore, can easily be great for this team and with what we saw last year during his time with the Huskies, improvement is inevitable. Sanogo uses his soft hands and physicality to grab easy buckets and with an average of 7.3 points per game in 17 minutes, he has great potential for improvement. The Preseason All-Big East Honorable Mention will look to further improve upon a solid rebounding year that saw him grab 4.8 rebounds per game. With the addition of Akok Akok back into the rotation, this Huskies frontcourt has great potential with Sanogo leading the charge. The big storyline is if the big man will be able to stay on the court and out of foul trouble, especially in crucial game situations where he can grab second-chance opportunities for the team.  

Tyrese Martin

This season should be a big one for Martin, a senior returning for his second year as a Husky after transferring from Rhode Island. He played a pivotal role in this offense his junior year, averaging over 10 points per game and a team high of 7.5 rebounds per game. Martin is also tough defensively, playing and defending one of three positions at any given time. Head coach Dan Hurley has noted Martin has been the most consistent guy this preseason along with RJ Cole — an excellent sign with the absence of James Bouknight this year. The Preseason All-Big East Second Team honoree appears ready to take the next step in 2021, hoping to help lead this squad to a second NCAA Tournament appearance in as many years. 

Akok Akok

Akok probably has the most anticipated return out of anyone on the Huskies team this year after a lingering Achilles injury sidelined him for most of last season. He played in only seven games in 2020, with only a limited impact in each. We’ve seen his potential based on his incredible freshman campaign, as he was one of the top shot blockers in the nation when he went down. He was a key starter for that 2019 team, averaging 5.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. While not a true perimeter threat, he has been known to hit a few big shots alongside his massive blocks, giving the Huskies sparks of life in critical situations. Now fully healthy, he’s ready to show the world what they’ve missed out on, one “Akok Block” at a time. 

Isaiah Whaley

How nice is this post defense going to be? Take an elite shot blocker in Akok Akok and then add the Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year in Whaley to give a lethal combo down low. Whaley, a graduate student, enters his fifth year in the program as a proven talent. While he’s never been a top scoring option, Whaley is a perfect complimentary piece for this offense, using his strength and athleticism to get buckets when needed. Last year, he was top 15 in the nation in blocks per game and set career bests in points and rebounds per game with 2.6, 8.0 and 6.2, respectively. Look for Whaley to do even more for the team this year, as his stats have improved every year since coming to Storrs in 2017. 

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