All UConn men’s basketball fans are probably wondering the same thing in regards to the outgoing transfer news:
“Is it over yet?”
With transfer students no longer having to sit out a full season, the landscape of college basketball has shifted into a chaotic one, complete with over 1,300 DI men’s ballers across the country looking for greener pastures to date. What once was uncommon is now the norm, as college basketball endures this new “free agency” period.
While this process is ravaging teams across the nation, the Huskies are no exception to that, with five players already announcing their departures from Storrs: scholarship athletes Corey Floyd, Rahsool Diggins, Akok Akok and Jalen Gaffney, as well as walk-on Matt Garry. Add that list alongside the graduating seniors RJ Cole, Tyrese Martin, Tyler Polley and Isaiah Whaley, and Connecticut has dropped nine players from their 2021-2022 roster.
“By the time I’m done answering this question, there’ll probably be a couple more guys in [the transfer portal, leaving UConn],” said Huskies head coach Dan Hurley with a chuckle.
While the biggest losses are still the departures of the four seniors, who lead all leaving players in minutes from last season, both Akok and Gaffney have starting experience, particularly Akok. The rising senior started 24 of his 25 games his freshman year and led the American Athletic Conference in blocks with 2.6 before an Achilles injury sidelined him for the rest of the year. Akok developed his three-point shot over the offseason, and had some big shots for the Huskies this year from beyond the arc, leading the team in three-point percentage with .464.
As for Gaffney, the rising senior struggled to find his footing this year amongst a very talented roster. Of the nine guys who saw minutes in every game they were healthy, Gaffney was last in minutes per game with 12.8. Among those players, he finished last in field goal percentage and second to last in three-point percentage with .346 and .295, respectively. In that group of nine, the guard ended the season with the highest rate of fouls per minute played, and second in turnovers per minute played behind Adama Sanogo.
Diggins, a top-60 recruit from last year according to 247Sports, didn’t see the court a lot his rookie season. He appeared in just nine games for the Huskies this past year, many of them early on in blowout home contests. Diggins got an average of 5.1 minutes in those games, but only shot 10 times in those nine games, sinking three of them.
One interesting transfer is Floyd, who reclassified from the class of 2022 to the class of 2021, joining the Huskies a year early. It was announced early in the season that he would be redshirting his freshman campaign, putting him out of commission for the year. He leaves Storrs without playing a single minute for UConn.
The (seemingly) last domino to fall by way of the transfer portal for the Huskies was senior Garry, who has an extra year of eligibility. Garry, a walk-on, played very little in his time at Connecticut but was a fan favorite, as home crowds loved to chant out “We want Garry” when the Huskies had a comfortable lead, egging on Hurley to put him in the game.
“It definitely hurts to see some guys go, but I know that at the end of the day, we’re going to bring in some really good guys— we’ve got a lot of good recruits, and Coach Hurley and the rest of the coaching staff are going to do their job of bringing in the right guys and the right type of people so that we can have the best year so far [since he’s been there],” says rising junior Andre Jackson.
As much as the five recent departures may be unfortunate for the team, here is the most important thing to remember: The core of UConn’s long-term plans is still very much intact. The Huskies are bringing back a key starter in Jackson, who improved his game over the course of the season. A top-five center in the country in Sanogo will be back. Budding star Jordan Hawkins will look to make a big sophomore season leap, and top-60 recruit Samson Johnson is still in the building as well. The frontcourt, losing former Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Whaley, picks up top-50, 7’1’’ Donovan Clingan and four-star power forward Alex Karaban. There’s still plenty to be excited about, and that’s before mentioning new addition Tristen Newton, who fellow DC writer Evan Rodriguez wrote about on Friday. With the lack of filled roster spots, expect the Huskies to be even more active in the portal as the offseason continues.
Another note: I don’t think any departures of these transfers reflect on Hurley’s character as a coach. With the new NCAA offseason system, players across the country are looking for better opportunities elsewhere. With people like Akok and Gaffney, things just didn’t work out as planned. While they contributed to a very good team this year, they can probably find more playing time with a different program.
Look at former UConn center Josh Carlton, who earned All-AAC First Team honors this past year with Houston. Despite his quality play, he probably would have sat behind other very talented players in Sanogo and Whaley if he had stayed in Storrs. If players like Sanogo, Jackson or Hawkins were to leave — which as of now there’s no indication of that — that’s when the proverbial alarm could sound.
“We don’t have a lot of players, as many as you need, probably, to start a season — but the ones we have are really good,” Hurley said. “We love the core that we’re bringing back — there’s not a lot of schools in the country that wouldn’t want to trade their best four for our best four right now.”