The 2010-2011 season is officially in the books and that means that the Huskies' next basketball game won't come for another six months. But the coaches and players will begin preparing for that moment soon, probably later this week. Recruiting never ends, and there are always weights to be lifted and jump shots to be taken.
Given that Kemba Walker is almost certainly headed to the NBA, UConn's fate will be left in the capable hands of a relatively young group that grew up the last six weeks of the season. By now, the names are familiar: Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz Napier, Alex Oriakhi, Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, as well as guys like Niels Giffey and Tyler Olander, who could see expanded roles in the future.
But college basketball, by nature, is transitory. Players enroll, if you're lucky, they stay for four years and contribute, and the really good ones leave early for the NBA.
With all the player movement, most teams are often only as good as their next recruiting class. UConn's incoming class doesn't rank among the top 25 in the nation. Some of that might be due to the lingering NCAA investigations that finally concluded earlier this year, and some of it, no doubt, could be attributed to the Huskies' underwhelming 2009-2010 season. The NCAA sanctions will suspend coach Jim Calhoun for the first three conference games next season, and the Huskies lose a scholarship for a three-year period.
As recruiting expert Dave Telep wrote in February, "This means that more invited walk-ons make the team. Losing the scholarship certainly reduces the overall number of available bodies, but it does not represent a major problem for an elite program."
As it stands, UConn has one recruit signed for next season, 6-2 point guard Ryan Boatright. With Walker leaving, the Huskies will certainly need depth at the position, and preferably a player who can both handle the ball and score points when needed.
It sounds like Boatright fits the bill. Last week, he was named Co-Mr. Basketball in Illinois. Details of his senior season via the Chicago Tribune:
Boatright...averaged 32 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals per game. He scored more than 50 points in a game twice this season, including 63 against Proviso West, and helped East Aurora to a 24-6 record. The Tomcats' season ended against Glenbard East in the East Aurora Sectional final, two days after the team knocked off No. 1 Benet in a sectional semifinal.
Boatright only weighs 165 pounds and adding bulk to his frame will be a priority in college. But his ESPN scouting report sounds familiar: "Boatright is a lead guard that can score although he has the ability to get others involved. He is super quick and his handle is flawless. He must continue to work on getting others involved which he is very capable and is talent is undeniable."
No one is expecting Boatright to show up in Storrs and be the next Kemba (not even Kemba did that). But it is reasonable to think that he can progress through his first season like many of these Huskies' freshmen just did. Their contributions proved to be invaluable, and with a supporting cast, no one player -- freshman, sophomore, whoever -- will be burdened with carrying the load.