A year ago, UConn's program was in upheaval. Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond were leaving for the NBA, and Roscoe Smith and Alex Oriakhi had transferred. Then there were the impending NCAA sanctions and the uncertainty surrounding Jim Calhoun's future as coach. Now Kevin Ollie has things back on track, even with the Big East being repurposed as the American Athletic Conference.
In fact, there's every reason to expect the 2013-14 Huskies to return to the NCAA Tournament (they would've qualified last March if not for the aforementioned sanctions) and a large par of that is due to the return of three of their best players: Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels.
Napier announced the news last week but the decision to return was a foregone conclusion to his teammates.
“I knew he was coming back," Boatright said via the Hartford Courant's Dom Amore. "Shabazz is Shabazz, but I’ve been around him long enough, I know how to read him.”
Niels Giffey echoed those sentiments: “I knew he was coming back. You live with these guys, you know what’ s going on.”
Daniels, the lithe 6-8 forward with range, had become a favorite of NBA scouts late last season because his game would translate well to the next level. Still, the sophomore thought it was in his best interest to return to Storrs for at least another year.
“I sat down with my family and we decided the best thing was for me to stay here and get better,” Daniels told Amore. “Get better as a player, better as a person and get a step closer to getting my degree.”
Boatright, meanwhile, admitted to being disappointed that he wasn't NBA-ready, but also acknowledged coming back for another year was in everyone's best interest.
“It was tough,” he said, “I really had my mind set on going, that’s what I really worked for this year. … But I didn’t want to put myself in a harder situation than it’s got to be. It’s not like I’m a senior and I’ve got to go. I had the opportunity to come back and make it a better situation. …
“I pretty much heard the same thing from everybody,” Boatright continued. “It’s a little different coming from the coaches because obviously they want you to come back, but Coach Ollie had the best interests at heart for me. He told me the best decision was for me to come back, and I took that, I took it back to my mom and we made the decision.”
And now the Huskies go from being a young, inexperienced team in 2012-13 to a veteran group with plenty to prove in 2013-14.