When former Eastern Carolina University guard Tristen Newton headed into the transfer portal, he immediately became one of the hottest transfers on the market for plenty of programs across the country. Popular programs like Gonzaga and USC all competed for the chance at grabbing the high-scoring athlete in what was undoubtedly a tough battle.
Yet, in the end, Newton chose one school out of many to be his home for next year. That school was the University of Connecticut.
And for good reason. UConn just lost three guards to the transfer portal with the most recent loss being former redshirt guard Corey Floyd Jr., who was expected to see plenty of playing time next season. Along with the losses of talented guards R.J. Cole and Tyrese Martin, the team desperately needed additional guard play and Newton is the first step toward reestablishing strong guard play for the Huskies next season. He enters with the ideal opportunity to play huge minutes for an NCAA tournament level team in the competitive Big East conference.
“I feel as if there’s no reason [UConn] shouldn’t be one of the best teams in the country,” Newton told ESPN after his commitment on Wednesday.
Teammate Andre Jackson echoed Newton’s statement on Thursday, saying, “I really think we’re going to have one of the best backcourts in the country, if not the best.”
A quick look into the skill set of Newton demonstrates the potential of someone who can thrive in a basketball environment like Storrs. Whether it’s his ability to score at three levels, or his incredible ability to share the ball with teammates, it is a puzzle piece fit.
Even before Newton entered college and showcased his talent in the AAC, he demonstrated a knack for scoring the basketball in high school. A 37.4 points per game average in his senior year gives a quick glimpse into the type of impact that Newton can provide for an NCAA Division 1 program.
Fast forward to 2022, he’s coming off a year in which he averaged 17.7 points in an AAC conference that housed two NCAA tournament teams in Memphis and Houston. Newton was recognized last season for his impressive play with an All-AAC second team selection. Not only was his play then downright impressive, but even more so when examining the other parts of his game that make him stand out on paper.
For instance, take his 34.4 assist rate in 2022, which KenPom ranked No. 24 in the entire country. Newton now receives additional weapons in Connecticut with strong shooter Jordan Hawkins, All-Big East talent Adama Sanogo, and the athletic talent of Jackson. The variety of weapons that Newton now has to distribute the ball will have the potential to open up plenty of additional scoring opportunities for UConn.
“I just love the way he fits in with Jordan [Hawkins] and Andre [Jackson],” said Hurley on Thursday. “It was important that the point guard that we brought in could facilitate because Jordan has got an explosive year ahead of him.”
His defense has the potential for the most growth under coach Dan Hurley. While Newton is already a solid defender with an average of 1.4 steals per game, he has great size and mobility for a 6-foot-5 guard. The Huskies have already seen guards like Cole develop their defense tremendously in Connecticut. Under a talented development coach like Hurley, the sky’s the limit for Newton.
“The ability to switch on the perimeter, the athletic ability, and the length is exciting. It allows you to do more things, even play more zone [defense],” said Hurley.
In 2022, UConn saw many of its guards have better shooting numbers from the 3-point line and Newton definitely has the potential to raise his own shooting from beyond the arch. With a crowded frontcourt headed by Sanogo, that’s sure to cause opposing defenses plenty of problems along with additional opportunities from beyond the arch. There’s definitely a possibility of Newton becoming even better in that area of his game.
Throughout his basketball career, Newton has proven that he has the work ethic to further his game to new heights. Even in high school, when the transfer was not receiving major offers, Newton put in the work to get to his current position, a position that now offers him a true chance at contributing to a strong college program with the Huskies. In his college career, the transfer guard has shown that he’s willing to put in the work for results, as shown by a jump in his statistics from his sophomore to junior season. Under a tough program like UConn, coach Hurley has been known to push his players to their limits and further their total game. That’s only good news for a player of Newton’s caliber.
Yankees outfielder Reggie Jackson once said, “I’m the straw that stirs the drink.” Could Newton fit that criteria for UConn next season? With a huge role in store in what is sure to be another exciting season of UConn men’s basketball, that may just be the case.