One step forward, two steps back. That's been the M.O. for the UConn men's basketball team in recent months, whether it's their inconsistent play during the 2011-12 season or uncertainties on their roster. The latest defection: sophomore forward Roscoe Smith is reportedly transferring.
As it stands, come the 2012-13 season, the Huskies will be down five players, none of whom they lost to graduation. In addition to Smith, Alex Oriakhi and Michael Bradley have also transferred, and Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond declared for the NBA Draft. All but Bradley were either starters or significant contributors last season.
UConn, which is barred from postseason play in 2013 because of low APR scores, has Omar Calhoun and R.J. Evans as their only recruits. They're among four finalists for Florida high school big man Bradley Hayes. Through it all, 69-year-old coach Jim Calhoun has remained true to himself. Which is to say: defiant, motivated, and apparently no plans to retire.
"For 25 years we haven't had a losing season and we're not going to start now," Calhoun told the Hartford Courant on Saturday, after Smith's intentions to transfer became public. "We're having bumps in the road. We have work to do."
As he's stated previously, Calhoun plans to coach despite turning 70 next month. "I have two years left on my contract. Right now, I'm doing what I do."
Which must now include unearthing recruits that every other program in the country missed in the hopes of keeping UConn competitive next season. Or, instead of using scholarships on stopgap players, the Huskies could decide to stick with what they have and hope for the best in 2012-13.
"We've spent hours talking about this," Calhoun said. "Do you sacrifice to maybe get three more wins next year? Certainly, we want to have a winning season, but I think now, more than usual, we're looking toward the future."
The last time the Huskies had a losing season was 1986-87. But Calhoun is at the stage of his career where nothing surprises him.
"We've been through bumps like this before. When Jerome Dyson and Stanley Robinson left and people were asking, 'What are you going to do?' We had a freshman coming in named Kemba Walker," he said. "I'm not predicting that. Right now, it may not look [positive]. We just have work to do."
As for why Smith has joined Oriakhi and Bradley in transferring, a source tells the Courant's Dom Amore that the Baltimore native wanted to play small forward instead of power forward.
"With Oriakhi, who has since committed to Missouri, gone, and small forward types Omar Calhoun and R.J. Evans coming in, Smith was most likely to play power forward," Amore wrote over the weekend.
Apparently, that was enough to convince Smith to leave. If he does transfer, he will likely have to sit out a year before playing.