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.
Jim Calhoun, the Hall of Fame coach, may be making a return to college basketball in the state of Connecticut.
According to Dom Amore, the longtime UConn reporter for the Hartford Courant, Calhoun, 75, may be lured out of retirement to take over the Division III program at the University of St. Joseph’s in West Hartford.
“I’ve got a couple of other things in the works, one involving basketball, which I’m intrigued by,” Calhoun said. “It’s coaching.”
But this appears to be serious. St. Joseph is starting a Division III men’s basketball program, to begin play in 2018, and posted an opening for a head coach in late June. Calhoun would only say that the school was local, but sources confirmed it is St. Joseph. A decision could come within a week.
Up until review in 2016, St. Joseph’s had been an-all female institution. The university will admit male students in the fall of 2018.
Calhoun has been linked to jobs since his departure from UConn. In 2014, days after Steve Donahue was relieved of his duties at Boston College, a report surfaced that Calhoun, a native of Braintree, Massachusetts, had an interest in the opening. He later dismissed that report, stating on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio, ““No, I’m not interested. … I have not talked to the people at BC. BC has not talked to me. You could imagine that with all my Boston ties a lot of people have called me.”
Calhoun, who has not coached since 2012, won 873 in his career. His first head coaching job was at Northeastern before turning UConn into a national powerhouse, winning three national championships. He was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005.
Since leaving Storrs, he has worked as an analyst for ESPN.
With more than a handful of departures this offseason, New Mexico is set to have a new-look roster for the 2017-18 season. On Monday, Paul Weir, now at the helm of the program, landed a player who should make an impact in the three remaining seasons of eligibility he has left.
Vance Jackson, who spent this past season at UConn, decided to make the move from Storrs to Albuquerque, picking the Lobos over Rutgers, San Diego State, TCU, and Washington.
The 6-foot-8 rising sophomore will have to sit out next year due to NCAA transfer rules before resuming his collegiate career in the fall of 2018.
“The coaches — they trust in me,” Jackson told Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal last month during his official campus visit. “We’re on the same page. They see a vision.”
Weir, who led New Mexico State this past season to a NCAA Tournament appearance in his one and only season as head coach, succeeded Craig Neal in April.
This offseason has been headlined by transfers, though, those mostly were about players leaving the program. Jackson is the second transfer to land at UNM with Akron’s Antino Jackson electing to use his final season of eligibility with the Lobos. Antino Jackson is a graduate transfer, allowing him to play immediately next season.
Vance Jackson, who was rated as the No. 80 overall player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, averaged 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game while shooting just under 40 percent from three for the Huskies as a freshman.
UConn added to its incoming freshman class on Thursday evening, landing a commitment from three-star forward Isaiah Whaley.
The news was reported by virtually every major recruiting insider. He made the decision after on an official visit to the Storrs campus. He had recently taken trips to Miami (OH), New Mexico and Saint Louis.
Whaley is a 6-foot-8 power forward from Mt. Zion Prep. He joins a recruiting class that includes four-star forward Tyler Polley, and three-star big men Josh Carlton and Eric Cobb, a junior college transfer.
With Amida Brimah and Kentan Facey both exhausting his eligibility this past season, in addition to Steven Enoch and Vance Jackson both transferring out of the program, Kevin Ollie is bringing in new-look frontcourt for the 2017-18 season.
UConn’s streak is over.
The Huskies’ run of 111 consecutive victories and four-straight NCAA tournament championships came to an end Saturday with a 66-64 overtime loss to No. 2 seed Mississippi State in the Women’s Final Four.
It all came crashing down around them at the buzzer in the extra frame when Morgan William hit a 15-footer as time expired.
The Bulldogs led for much of the game and nearly lost it in controversial fashion when they were whistled in overtime for a questionable flagrant foul, but they resisted UConn’s comeback attempt with the buzzer-beater.
Mississippi State knew what it was like to play UConn in the tourney, too. It lost to the Huskies by 60 points last year and most thought this year wouldn’t be close either. UConn coach Geno Auriemma didn’t buy that.
“You know what? When stuff like this happens, it kind of makes me shake my head and go, `You know how many times this could have happened and it didn’t happen?'” Auriemma said. “The fact that it never happened, that doesn’t mean I went home thinking it’s never going to happen. I knew this was coming at some point.
“I’m just shocked that it took this long to get here.”
The Huskies hadn’t lost in 865 days.
It’s the end of an unbelievable run for UConn (36-1), and the curtains came down in a way befitting a streak of such huge proportions.
Miss State will play South Carolina, a winner against Stanford in the other semifinal, for the title on Monday.
Another former Big East Rivalry will be renewed soon.
Villanova and Connecticut are set to resume a home-and-home series next year, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Rothstein.
The Huskies will host the first game of the series with the return game coming in 2018, though exact dates and venues have not yet been set.
Since the Big East split in recent years, the two teams have met once, in the 2014 NCAA tournament when the Huskies went on to win a national championship.
UConn played Syracuse earlier this year while the Orange also took on St. John’s and Georgetown in a rematch of former Big East rivals now spread across the realignment landscape.
While the new iteration of the Big East is as strong as its best since the basketball schools bolted – with the Wildcats the defending champions and Creighton and Xavier both having big years – it’s encouraging to see that the classic matchups of the old Big East aren’t being completely abandoned in this new era of hoops, not only for nostalgia purposes but because they remain some of the best brands and programs in the sport.