STORRS, Conn. (AP) — The competition to earn playing time is already in high gear at UConn, where eight newcomers have joined the Huskies.
So far, it’s been just pickup games, limited workouts with coaches and on Thursday, their first media session.
But 6-foot-9 freshman forward Josh Carlton says everyone knows they have a chance at playing time and everyone is looking to impress.
The roster includes just two players who saw significant action during last year’s 16-17 campaign — guards Jalen Adams and Christian Vital.
Two others, Terry Larrier and Alterique Gilbert are back after sitting out most of the season with injuries.
There are four freshmen — forwards Carlton, Tyler Polley, Sidney Wilson and Isaiah Whaley. They join junior college transfers Eric Cobb and Kwintin Williams and graduate transfers Antwoine Anderson and David Onuorah.
Wilson, who transferred from St. John’s after summer school, is seeking an NCAA waiver to play this season.
UConn head coach Kevin Ollie and his staff have been productive on the recruiting trail in the Class of 2016, as they’ve reeled in commitments from three players considered by many to rate among the top 100 players in the class. One of those three is point guard Alterique Gilbert, a native of Georgia who spent the summer playing for the CP3 All-Stars alongside talented players such as elite power forward Harry Giles.
Gilbert, who’s joined in UConn’s 2016 recruiting class by forwards Juwan Durham and Mamadou Diarra (VCU transfer Terry Larrier will be eligible to play in 2016-17 as well), will be a key figure for a program that will at the very least lose grad student Sterling Gibbs and senior Omar Calhoun from its perimeter rotation at the end of the 2015-16 campaign.
Above are Gilbert’s highlights from this summer, with Courtside Films putting together the video.
Four-star 2016 recruit Juwan Durham commits to UConn
Juwan Durham, a top-30 prospect in the Class of 2016, verbally committed to Connecticut and head coach Kevin Ollie on Tuesday evening. He announced the decision on Twitter.
“This was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made, but I’d like to announce that I will be committing to the University of Connecticut,” he tweeted.
The 6-foot-9 Durham joins fellow power forward Mamadou Diarra and Alterique Gilbert, a four-star shooting guard who committed to the Huskies in July.
Durham, a Tampa Prep (Florida) product, is rated as the No. 27 overall recruit in the rising senior class by Rivals.
Being outside college basketball power conferences hasn’t stopped Ollie on the recruiting trail (of course, the 2014 national championship didn’t hurt). Durham is the second four-star commit in a two-month span, and is joining a list of sought-after recruits continuing to head to Storrs.
Since joining the American Athletic Conference, UConn has landed two five-star commits — Jalen Adams and Daniel Hamilton — and another four-star prospect in Steve Enoch. That doesn’t include Ollie’s success in landing transfers, like Rodney Purvis in 2014 and Terry Larrier this spring. Ollie also bolstered his 2015-16 roster with the addition of graduate transfers Sterling Gibbs and Shonn Miller.
UConn continues to bring in strong guard prospects under head coach Kevin Ollie as four-star Class of 2016 point guard Alterique Gilbert pledged to the Huskies on Saturday, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. The 6-foot-1 Gilbert is regarded as the No. 39 overall prospect in the 2016 class, according to Rivals, and he’s had a very strong spring playing in the Nike EYBL with Team CP3.
Gilbert gives the Huskies a guard who can make plays getting in the paint on nearly every touch and he’s improved his decision-making as a point guard this spring. More scoring guard than true point guard, Gilbert averaged 15 points, 4.9 assists and 4 rebounds per game with CP3 this spring. A positive in his EYBL campaign was limiting turnovers, as Gilbert only averaged 1.9 per game while he was also solid on the defensive ending, getting 1.6 steals per game.
Joining Gilbert in UConn’s Class of 2016 is three-star big man Mamadou Diarra. Attending basketball powerhouse Miller Grove High School in Lithonia, GA, Gilbert averaged 19 points and six assists per game as a junior.
The Huskies were able to hold off Gilbert’s other finalists of Illinois, Louisville, Syracuse and Texas.
Four-star point guard Alterique Gilbert to announce college decision Saturday
Gilbert, who put together a good spring with the CP3 grassroots program on the Nike EYBL circuit, has taken just one official visit and that was to UConn. According to 247Sports.com, the Huskies are the favorites to land a commitment from Gilbert.
UConn will lose at least two perimeter players at the end of the 2015-16 season in Sterling Gibbs (graduate student by way of Seton Hall) and Omar Calhoun, with Rodney Purvis and Sam Cassell Jr. both being juniors. Sophomore Daniel Hamilton and freshman Jalen Adams are also key pieces in the perimeter rotation. Adding Gilbert to the mix would be a welcome boost for a program that under Kevin Ollie has been willing to play multiple players capable of initiating the offense at the same time.
Las Vegas Thursday Recap: Skal Labissiere, Stephen Zimmerman perform well
One of the positives of grassroots basketball is the fact that the nation’s top talents tend to have more opportunities to hone their craft against other skilled players, and for the top big men that also means the chance to play against similarly-sized players. While there are some high school and prep leagues that don’t lack for size, more times than not during the high school season a player can find himself double and triple-teamed by smaller teams due to their inability to put a bigger defender on that elite talent.
That’s something 2015 center Skal Labissiere ran into on multiple occasions this past season, with Labissiere noting that the summer provides a greater challenge – and more room in which to operate.
“I like playing during the summer more, because I get more one-on-one matchups,” Labissiere told NBCSports.com, and he also noted that the players he faces during the summer provide a greater challenge. “Because in the league we play in [during the school year] I get double and triple-teamed a lot.”
Labissiere matched up with another top 2015 big man on Thursday in 7-footer Stephen Zimmerman, and both displayed some of the skills that have left coaches across the country impressed. Labissiere was productive in the post offensively, and defensively he displayed the ability to serve as a help-side defender at the rim. Zimmerman displayed greater aggression in the post, at one point using two powerful dribbles to get through Labissiere to the basket, while also displaying the passing ability and shooting range that makes him arguably the most well-rounded big man in the class.
And just as importantly, the moments in which he spent too much time on the perimeter were non-existent. However this is something Zimmerman stated that he continues to work at, and with teammate Ivan Rabb participating in USA Basketball’s U-17 camp this weekend the Las Vegas native has more room to operate on the low block.
“I try to do everything I can on the court to help my team,” Zimmerman told NBC Sports. “I think I need to work on being more aggressive, but I feel like it will come.
“Not being so passive,” Zimmerman added. “I’ll catch the ball at the high post sometimes and instead of attacking I’ll look for the pass. That’s not what my team needs. But I think I’ll get better at it [in time].”
Isaiah Briscoe outplays Jalen Brunson in NJ Playaz win: One of the four games at The 8, which was held at Impact Basketball Academy, matched up the Mac Irvin Fire and Playaz Basketball Club out of New Jersey. And while this particular event draws attention from fans due to the presence of coaches who are also (for the most part) current NBA players, there are also quality individual matchups to consider.
This one featured point guards Jalen Brunson (Fire) and Isaiah Briscoe (Playaz), with Briscoe getting the better of Brunson as he led his team to the win. Briscoe’s an incredibly tough customer who has no issue whatsoever with contact, and he was a very difficult matchup in ball screen situations due to his ability to make reads without being hurried. Brunson was quiet for much of the game, but that won’t do anything to diminish his status as one of the best point guards in the 2015 class.
Elijah Cain performs well for NJ Playaz: Briscoe wasn’t the only solid performer for the Playaz in that win, with 2015 wing Elijah Cain also displaying the ability to both attack the basket off the dribble and knock down perimeter shots. Cain’s an interesting case in that he made the decision prior to the start of last season to reclassify back into the 2015 class. And according to Cain, basketball wasn’t the primary reason for his decision to make that move.
“Most people don’t know this, but the decision was made more for my age and maturity and not for basketball,” Cain told NBCSports.com. “I just wanted to mature because I’m young for my class.”
Among the schools Cain mentioned as being most active in his recruitment, Memphis and Delaware were among the programs who were in touch before his solid performance at the Peach Jam with Virginia Tech, Charlotte, USC and Xavier reaching out afterward.
Alterique Gilbert has the makings of a very good point guard: The 8 also provided the opportunity to watch 2016 point guard Alterique Gilbert ply his trade for CP3, with the Los Angeles Clippers floor general serving as one of the coaches. Gilbert can be a handful for the opposition in pick and roll situations, something that played itself out on multiple occasions Thursday. But there are still improvements to be made, especially when it comes to the reads Gilbert makes in those situations. And it helps to have a resource like Paul, who isn’t on the bench solely to make a “celebrity appearance.”
“He’s helped us out throughout July,” Gilbert told NBCSports.com. “He’s very supportive of us and I respect that. A lot of NBA players will make a team but they aren’t really involved with their program, so I like that he’s really hands-on.”
And when it comes to the improvements he’s looking to make in his game, Gilbert isn’t focusing solely on his offensive skill set. There’s also the understanding of the need to improve defensively and as a leader, with Gilbert citing the importance of communication on the defensive end of the floor as something he’s become more mindful of. Gilbert stated that he’s recently received offers by Texas A&M, Memphis, Miami, Maryland and Georgia.
Jarred Vanderbilt another intriguing 2017 prospect: Wednesday provided the opportunity to watch two of the best prospects in the 2017 class in Troy Brown and DeAndre Ayton, and on Thursday 6-foot-8 forward Jarred Vanderbilt took the court for the Houston Hoops. Vanderbilt was solid if not spectacular in his team’s close win over Seattle Rotary Select, using his slender frame to get to the basket on multiple occasions. Given his class there’s plenty of time for him to develop physically in order to better deal with contact when in traffic, and he’s only going to receive more attention from programs as he does.