UConn in the Pros: UConn athletes shooting for the stars

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Andre Drummond, Brooklyn Nets 

Due to become an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of this season, Drummond has drawn recent attention by looking forward to his upcoming free agency. According to Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News, Drummond said, “If we’re all being honest, I’m only here [with the Brooklyn Nets] ‘til the rest of the season.” Though he’s been a bright spot for the Nets since his acquisition from the Philadelphia 76ers on Feb. 10, Brooklyn already has other options at the center position in LaMarcus Aldridge, Nic Claxton and Blake Griffin while also having little room to make moves due to having the league’s second-highest payroll. Later on, Drummond clarified what his comments meant when he told the media “Would I love to be here? Absolutely. Can I control that right now? No,” claiming that the initial comments were misinterpreted and had cast a negative light on his time with Brooklyn. Despite the off-court drama, Drummond has continued to play well on the hardware, recording eight straight games of double-digit scoring. In his last game, a 130-123 victory for the Nets over the Detroit Pistons, Drummond stuffed the stat sheet with tallies of 14 points, 13 rebounds and a plus-minus of +12. In his prior game, Drummond was even better, recording 20 points, 17 rebounds, three steals and three blocks in a tough loss to the Charlotte Hornets. With a record of 40-36, Brooklyn currently sits in playoff position as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference with its next matchup scheduled for tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks. 

Also in the NBA… 

The Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gay has been providing a steady veteran presence in his first season with Utah. Despite seeing inconsistent minutes, Gay has performed handsomely when his name is called, including a solid 11 points and three rebounds on a perfect four-four on field goals, including three-three on three-point attempts, in only 16 minutes in Monday’s game versus the Los Angeles Clippers. On the season, Gay is averaging 8.2 points and 4.4 rebounds per game on 41% field goal percentage while Utah, with a record of 45-31, is tied with the Denver Nuggets for No. 5 in the Western Conference as of Wednesday. With the Sacramento Kings, Jeremy Lamb has also provided a steady veteran presence while seeing inconsistent playing time. By the time this article is published, the Kings will have already taken on the Houston Rockets Wednesday night, though as of Wednesday afternoon, Lamb’s most recent performance included six points on 2-4 field goals to go along with one block, one steal, and one assist in a loss to the Miami Heat on Sunday. This year, Lamb is averaging 7.1 points per game on 37.3% field goal percentage. The Kings, meanwhile, have been amongst the NBA’s worst teams all season, playing to a record of 27-49 through Wednesday, good for 13th place in the Western Conference. 

UConn Men’s Hockey 

Fresh off a trip to the Hockey East championship game and one of the best seasons in program history, members of the UConn men’s hockey team have been busy signing professional deals. 

Team captain and senior Jachym Kondelik inked a two-year entry-level contract with the NHL’s Nashville Predators — the team Kondelik was originally drafted to in the fourth round of the 2018 NHL Draft — for the 2022-23 season. In addition to Kondelik, junior Vladislav Firstov signed a three-year entry-level deal with the Minnesota Wild of the NHL, who also selected Firstov in the second round of the 2019 draft. 

In the ECHL, senior Ryan Wheeler came to an agreement with the Iowa Heartlanders and graduate student Jarrod Gourley signed with the Adirondack Thunder. In addition, senior Jonny Evans, senior Carter Turnbull and graduate student Kevin O’Neil all agreed to terms with the South Carolina Stingrays. The latest Husky to be signed, graduate student Darion Hanson, agreed to a deal on Monday with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the AHL.  

UConn Men’s Basketball 

Although they aren’t professionals yet, two veterans from the UConn men’s basketball team, R.J. Cole and Tyrese Martin, announced their decisions to pursue professional basketball by declaring for the upcoming 2022 NBA Draft. 

Cole, a graduate student from Union, New Jersey, just concluded his second season with Connecticut after transferring from Howard University following the 2018-19 season. Widely considered to be the leader of the Huskies, Cole led UConn in scoring this season, averaging 15.8 points per game over 33 games played. Cole also led Connecticut in total assists, made three-point field goals and free throws, and was second in total steals. His season high in points came back on Nov. 26 when Cole recorded 26 points in a hard-fought overtime victory over the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams. 

In an Instagram post uploaded on Monday, Cole thanked his family, parents, teammates, coach Dan Hurley and his coaching staff, and the fans of UConn basketball for all their support during his tenure with the Huskies. Cole noted one of his dreams “has always been to be a part of the UConn family,” calling his time with Connecticut “unforgettable.” Cole also made sure to show his appreciation for the devotion of UConn’s fans, as he notes that “there’s a reason this is the Basketball Capital of the World. The way [that] the fans Bleed Blue here is on a different level, special in fact and I loved every second of it.” 

Martin, a senior from Allentown, Pennsylvania, has also just finished his second season in the Huskies’ program after transferring from the University of Rhode Island following the 2019-20 season. Over 29 games this year, Martin averaged 13.6 points per game, the third-highest average amongst Connecticut players. A true talent as a shooter, Martin also concluded the season fifth amongst the Huskies in field goal percentage and second in three-point percentage. On Jan. 20, Martin tallied a season-high 27 points on an elite 11-for-17 field goals in what was a blowout victory for UConn over the Butler University Bulldogs. 

Though Martin has already evolved greatly as a basketball player in his time with Connecticut, he will need to further improve before making the jump to the professional level. According to CT Insider, one NBA scout views Martin as “maybe a G-League or two-way guy,” at the professional level. The same scout noted that “[Martin]’s a good athlete, he’s strong, he’s tough, he knows how to play … I’m not saying he’s a lock for the NBA, but he’s the type of guy, to me, that might figure it out and make a team.” 

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