UConn sophomore forward Jamal Coombs-McDaniel was arrested on marijuana possession charges Thursday. The university released a statement saying "We are aware of the arrest of Jamal Coombs-McDaniel but beyond that have no further comment at this time."
The Huskies, three weeks removed from a national championship, are a team in transition. And Coombs-McDaniel's run-in with police is a microcosm of that. Since winning the NCAA Tournament on April 4, UConn has seen Kemba Walker leave for the NBA, coach Jim Calhoun dodge questions about his future in Storrs, and former assistant Andre LaFleurbolt for Providence. And then there are the academic issues, which could cost the Huskies a scholarship. That, coupled with the NCAA sanctions handed down in February for recruiting violations, means that UConn could have just 10 scholarship playersfor 2011-2012, including recruit Ryan Boatright.
To put it more succinctly, next year's team might looking nothing like the squad that just won 11 consecutive games that culminated in a national title.
As for the expectations, Coombs-McDaniel was to be a big part of sustaining the program in the post-Kemba era. His first two years in Storrs can conservatively be described as inconsistent, both on and off the court. The Hartford Courant's Paul Doyle encapsulated perfectly Coombs-McDaniel's UConn career in this piece prior to the Final Four:
[His] career has been marked by clashes with Calhoun and stretches when he couldn't get off the bench. In fact, he talked of transferring when his minutes evaporated early in the season. But it was during some long talks with [Alex] Oriakhi — his roommate at home and on the road — that convinced Coombs-McDaniel to stay. "He just tells me, you know how [Calhoun] is," Coombs-McDaniel said. "You're not going to win that battle."
But when Coombs-McDaniel did get off the bench he made people take notice. He dropped 25 on the Friars in a Feb. 13 win, and three nights later, he added 23 more against Georgetown. I've just been real confident," Coombs-McDaniel said at the time. "I've been playing a lot more as well. The guys have a lot of confidence in me. And I've just been knocking down shots."
And then, just as quickly as he came out of nowhere, Coombs-McDaniel lost his touch. Some of that can be blamed on a sore left knee, one that eventually required surgery on April 7. Nonetheless, he went scoreless in three of UConn's final NCAA Tournament games, and managed just two points in the final against Butler.
But despite his differences with Calhoun, the coach appreciates what Coombs-McDaniel brings to the team. "He's one of those guys that's a junkyard dog in a sense he scores in different ways," Calhoun said at the Final Four, according to the Courant. "You don't need a lot of those shots to go in, you need the threat of a guy who can make those shots [and] that makes a big difference."
The problem now is that Coombs-McDaniel's future is unclear. And while the Huskies have the personnel to be a factor in the Big East and on the national stage next season, their margin for error is thin. Put differently: a lot has to go right for UConn to come close to repeating the 2010-2011 success. So far it's been just the opposite.