UConn faces major rebuild weeks after winning 5th NCAA title

By PAT EATON-ROBB

Associated Press

Published: 04-20-2023 6:11 PM

STORRS, Conn. — UConn men’s basketball coach Dan Hurley is facing a major rebuild of his team just 17 days after guiding the Huskies to the program’s fifth national championship.

Since winning the title on April 3, seven Connecticut players with eligibility remaining have announced plans to either leave the program or at least test their options.

Hurley met with reporters Thursday after a workout with his remaining players and said the roster turnover was something he expected.

“This is what elite programs face,” he said. “They face players leaving early for the NBA. They face players going through the draft process, maintaining eligibility. Obviously, there’s usually major staff changes, which to this point we’re fortunate to be intact there. But it’s a reality of being an elite program and that’s where we’re at. We’re going to be dealing with this every year.”

Four Huskies have declared for the NBA draft.

Hurley confirmed that s tars Jordan Hawkins (16.3 points per game) and Adama Sanogo (17.8 points and eight rebounds) have closed the door on their college careers.

But starters Tristen Newton (10.1 points, 4.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds) and Andre Jackson Jr. (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists) are retaining their college eligibility and have until May 31 to decide whether they want to stay in the draft pool or return to Storrs for another year.

Hurley said he hopes both players end up on NBA rosters next season, but said getting either back would go a long way toward helping UConn compete for a sixth title.

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“It’s hard to recruit with that type of uncertainty,” Hurley acknowledged.

The Huskies also will lose reserve guard Nahiem Alleyne (5.5 points), who came into the program last year after spending three seasons at Virginia Tech. He has transferred to St. John’s, where he will play his final year under Rick Pitino.

Little-used players Richie Springs, a 6-foot-9 junior, and Yarin Hasson, a 6-9 freshman, also have entered the transfer portal.

Hurley said that in order to get and retain top players in the future, the Huskies NIL collective is going to have to do a good job in capitalizing on this season’s national title and getting players opportunities to make money from marketing their names, images and likenesses while in school. But he said he hopes that doesn’t become a primary recruiting tool.

“I want players to want to play for me,” he said. “I want players to want to play for this historic program. I want players to want to be part of our culture. I want players to see this as a place where they can develop and become an NBA player, where the big, big life-changing opportunities are.”

Hurley said he expects five players will be returning, including 7-2 freshman center Donovan Clingan. The Connecticut native impressed last season as Sanogo’s backup, averaging 6.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and blocking 68 shots, He has said he will return for his sophomore season.

The Huskies also have a top recruiting class of five players coming in, led by 6-6 point guard Stephon Castle, a McDonald’s All-American from Georgia. It also includes 6-7 wing Jayden Ross and 6-4 guard Solomon Ball from Virginia, 6-7 wing Jaylin Stewart from Seattle, Washington, and 7-foot center Youssouf Singare from New York.

Hurley confirmed the Huskies are active in the transfer portal and he doesn’t expect next season’s roster to be set for some time. He urged the fan base to keep the faith.

“Everyone is just going to have to occasionally look up at the (championship) banner or the trophy any time that they start to lose patience and lose their minds,” he said.

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