Arguably the biggest problem for the UConn Huskies last season (removing their being ineligible for postseason play, of course) was their lack of size and depth in the post. DeAndre Daniels performed admirably as an “undersized” four as a sophomore, posting averages of 12.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game game. But outside of Daniels there wasn’t much production from the front court, with the Huskies’ perimeter play able to do enough to lead Kevin Ollie’s team to 20 wins.
Freshman forward Kentan Facey is one of the additions expected to help UConn in this area, but the school had no idea when the Trelawny, Jamaica native would be eligible to play. In the midst of his move from Jamaica to Long Island, the NCAA wondered if Facey’s eligibility “clock” had already started due to his passing a standardized test while in Jamaica that could be considered equivalent to graduating from high school.
On Friday Facey and the school received good news from the NCAA, which has cleared the 6-foot-9 forward and given him a full four seasons of eligibility. Facey gives UConn an athletic big man whose shot-blocking ability (4.5 bpg to go along with 14.8 points and 13.0 rebounds per game as a high school senior at Long Island Lutheran) is one of his best assets.
“I am so pleased and excited that everything has worked out for this outstanding young man,” Ollie said in the release announcing the decision. “It’s great to see him go through this situation and persevere. He just kept working very hard and believed in our university.
“I can’t say enough about what a model student-athlete Kentan has been in spite of the situation he was facing,” Ollie continued. “He never let circumstances distract his positive image of himself and that’s just a testament to his strong character. We are very excited that he will be with us this year and beyond.”
UConn’s interior returnees (removing Daniels and wing Niels Giffey) are senior Tyler Olander and sophomore Phil Nolan, with the former needing to rebound from a disappointing 2012-13 campaign. Seven-footer Amida Brimah should also be in line to earn playing time after 15.7 points, 11.6 rebounds and 7.5 blocks per game at Archbishop Carroll HS in south Florida.
UConn’s strength is still on the perimeter, with Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright once again leading the way, but if they’re to be a player nationally the front court will need to step up. Adding Facey to the equation will help in that regard.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.