The Huskies, fresh off a national championship, are in transition. One of the best players in program history, Kemba Walker, has left for the NBA. 68-year-old coach Jim Calhoun has been noncommittal about his plans to return for another season. And UConn lost one of its best recruiters when assistant coach Andre LaFleur bolted for Providence.
And while the Huskies are ranked No. 5 in ESPN.com's very early preseason poll, the 2011-2012 team will still be young and without much depth. That said, incoming freshman and Mr. Basketball in Illinois, Ryan Boatright, should lessen the impact of losing Walker.
But having just one recruit can be a risky proposition. What if he doesn't pan out? Or gets injured? It's why recruiting is such an integral part of building a big-time program. The list of names LaFleur brought to Storrs is long and distinguished, and the results confirm as much. It's also why teams like Kentucky, Duke and UNC are perennial contenders. Year after year, they have top-ranked recruiting classes, and 2011 is no different. (Also worth noting: St. John's has a top-5 class, which could trigger a swift change in the Big East's balance of power.)
The Huskies do have an ace in the hole, though, and his name is Andre Drummond. One of the best high school basketball players in the country, Drummond is scheduled to be a college freshman in 2012. He is currently unsigned but is highly sought after by, well, just about everybody. But UConn appears to be the front-runner. There were even rumors that Drummond might graduate early and be eligible this fall.
Turns out, that's not true according to his coach, Jere Quinn. "According to Andre, there's no chance. And I believe what Andre tells me," Quinn said Thursday via the Connecticut Post.
That's not necessarily a bad thing; the Huskies will be thin in the frontcourt next season, but if Tyler Olander improves as much this summer as he did from November to April of his freshman campaign, he will add valuable depth. And Alex Oriakhi has a chance to be an all-around impact player, not just a shot-blocker.
None of this matters if Drummond doesn't end up in Storrs. As it stands, however, the Huskies sound like his top choice by a wide margin.
From the Hartford Courant's Mike Anthony:
...UConn is the only team [pursing Drummond right now]. Then again, every team wants, or will want, Drummond, who is still not yet through his sophomore year at St. Thomas More. He's the top-rated player in the class of 2012 and surely a one-and-done, probably the first overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft.
It's just that UConn is the only program Drummond is clearly interested in right now. After, or during, his junior season, I'm sure he'll come up with a list of schools…. I hear that he really wants to play for Jim Calhoun, who would have to stick around a minimum of three more years for that to happen.
Anthony adds that landing Drummond is important for the program because, "There's a chance the Huskies won't get Cory Joseph or anyone they're interested in. They will move on. They will bounce back. Losing out in the Drummond sweepstakes would be a crushing blow. It's a ways off, but so much time has already been spent on recruiting him. To see him leave home for another school would be a killer because, already, it seems like he's sort of an extended member of the family."
Quinn told the Post's Neill Ostrout that "No one's talking to us. We're not allowing it. When he's ready, we'll listen," and that "[Drummond's] such a good poker player, I'm not even sure who he's interested in."
For the sake of UConn's future, they're no doubt hoping Drummond ends up a Husky. Worst case: Providence lands him. That would really sting.