One to watch: Ike Azotam

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It’s a tough year for hoops in the Nutmeg State. The Connecticut Huskies, just two years out from a stunning national title run, have been gutted by APR problems, banned from postseason play and losing top players as a result.

That doesn’t mean the state has nothing to look forward to, however. Quinnipiac made a strong move toward local and national relevance in 2007, when they hired a rising UConn assistant by the name of Tom Moore. Moore’s progress at the small school in Hamden is a study in institutional patience. The school provided Moore with a cozy new facility — the 3,000-ish capacity TD Banknorth Sports Center — and he did the rest, recruiting well and turning the Bobcats into annual NEC contenders. Moore recently signed a contract extension that will allow the noble experiment to continue.

One of Moore’s greatest weapons is Ike Azotam, a 230-lb. junior from Boston who has blossomed into a legitimate double-double threat early in his career. Azotam has attracted some attention this summer, being named a starter at power forward for the Connecticut Hoops Dream Team alongside three Huskies, and tabbed as one of the best players in the NEC by league aficionados.

Azotam’s biggest question mark is maturity. He was arrested along with teammate James Johnson following a September 2011 fight on the Quinnipiac campus, but was allowed to play the entire basketball season, posting averages of 15.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and one block per game. For the Bobcats to take the next big step — a first-ever NCAA tournament berth — Azotam must not only play up to his potential on the court, but begin to show signs of upperclassman leadership off the court.

Moore and Qunnipiac will need Azotam in top form if they’re to unseat Long Island as the reigning NEC champs, and hold off the rising Wagner Seahawks. That makes Azotam (@NoMikeJustIke on twitter) one to watch.