The timing couldn't have been worse. Ryan Boatright, who returned for his senior season to help UConn defend its NCAA title, missed the Huskies' first-round NIT matchup against Arizona State on Wednesday night because of an injured left shoulder. It was the first game he had missed in his four-year career.
The Huskies, without Boatright's leadership -- not to mention his 17.4 points-per-game average -- lost, 68-61.
Weeks ago, as the Huskies continued their up and down season, Boatright predicted that the team would need to win the AAC Tournament to get back to the Big Dance. He also said that he didn't return to Storrs for one more season to not play in the NCAAs. UConn lost in the AAC Tournament finals and ended up in the NIT, and Boatright hinted that if this had in fact been the NCAAs he would have been on the court.
"Definitely, definitely," he said after the Huskies lost to the Sun Devils, via the Hartford Courant. "It's my last year, if I told you I wouldn't, I'd be lying to you. But it wasn't the NCAA Tournament."
Boatright also conceded that the shoulder injury left him less than 100 percent.
"If I couldn't be that player, there was no point in me being out there," he said. ... "In talking to everybody and to coach, he thought it would be a good idea for me not to get out there [if] I couldn't be the player I am or possibly risk hurting if even more. ...
"It was extremely tough," Boatright continued. "I was contemplating five minutes in, if I wanted to go in there and throw my uniform on. Man, it was rough. Speaking with everybody I needed to speak to, the coach, the trainers and doctors, they came to the decision I needed to sit out. All I can do is honor that."
Coach Kevin Ollie confirmed as much after the game.
"Boat made the decision, him and James [trainer Doran]," he said. "The pain was just too excruciating when they were trying to do things in the training room. He just couldn't go today. You know Boat is a warrior. If he was able to go, he definitely would have been out there."
Ollie also reflected on Boatright's four years in Storrs, the latest in a long line of great point guards to come through the program.
"He had a great career. I know there are going to be some great things for him in the future," Ollie said. "I think he grew up as a man and as a basketball player. He has a lot of pride to get better. I know he wanted his team to go out on a better note and I imagine he wanted himself to go out on a better note, but God is preparing him for something great. That kid has grown a lot. He has bright future. Boat wants it, and he's going to do whatever it takes to get it."