After not posting a top-40 ranked recruiting class by ESPN rankings for the past two seasons, Hurley’s recruiting class is ranked tops in the American Athletic Conference and 17th in the country.
The trio of James Bouknight, Jalen Gaffney and Akok Akok is the highest-rated UConn class since Kevin Ollie pulled in a top-10 class in 2016, but most of those players left the program.
Bouknight and Gaffney promise to be the next generation of the UConn backcourt. For a program as guard-dominant as the Huskies, these two top-100 prospects have the potential to become the backbone of the program for the next few years.
But scholarships, if there is one more to offer, are “precious,” Hurley said. The Huskies need depth at center, but he would not want to make a four-year commitment to a player just to fill a short term role.
“We still have needs, one glaring need is somebody to play behind Josh [Carlton],” Hurley said. “But what’s the greater need? Filling a role behind your starting center or continuing to add the type of quality that’s going to lead to championships? … If we have a scholarship, what direction do we go?”
Diarra, a redshirt junior forward, will no longer play for the Huskies due to “multifaceted, complicating patella femoral pathologies,” according to a release sent out by UConn on Wednesday. However, Diarra will remain with the team this season as a student assistant coach.
“Unfortunately, Mamadou has endured some difficult circumstances physically since he arrived at UConn,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said in the release. “We cannot, in good conscience, ask him to continue attempts to rehab to the point where he could compete at this level, knowing it could severely impact him later in life.
"In terms of punishments, there are plenty. Here’s what the NCAA dished out on Ollie and UConn:
Two years of probation for the men’s basketball program.
A three-year show-cause sanction for Ollie.
Elimination/vacation of records for games in which certain UConn players played, but have retroactively been deemed ineligible.
Reduction of one scholarship, from 13 to 12, for the upcoming 2019-20 season. (UConn self-imposed this penalty.)
A $5,000 fine (UConn self-imposed).
Recruiting limitations: one-week ban for unofficial visits and any kind of digital or phone communication toward recruits in 2018-19 (already imposed by UConn) and a two-week ban on unofficial visits for the upcoming season; four fewer recruiting days in 2018-19 and 2019-20; and “a one-visit reduction from the permissible number of official visits in men’s basketball during the rolling 2018-19 and 2019-20 two-year period.”
Dan Hurley returned to work on Wednesday, less than two weeks after surgery to correct a herniated disc and spinal cord compression. The experience was eye-opening, he says.
“I’ve been on a great run, going from high school coach to coach at UConn in 10 years," Hurley said, in a conference call with state reporters after practice. “My toughest adversity was bouncing back from a tough loss, which pales in comparison to feeling that your health is failing. I’m going to have a so much better a perspective on my purpose and what the essence of my purpose is in my life on this earth — how important my faith is to me when it was reinforced, how important my family is to me when it was reinforced, how important I am to my players. My true purpose as coach came into much clearer focus for me.”
This was among Hurley’s messages Saturday on the first day of practice. The help he promised has arrived, yes, but they will need time. E.C. Matthews, probably his most heralded recruit at URI, didn’t start until several games into his freshman season, Hurley noted.
“We’re asking them to play defense at a level they’ve never had to play it,” Hurley said. "We’re asking them to be fundamentally sound, catch the ball with two hands, all the little details that are going to be the difference between winning and losing. I understand this process. I know how they’re going to be coming in here and how to bring them along. … Older guys have to take pressure off them.”
“The slights that don’t really exist, he probably could do without those. He creates things in his mind to get himself riled up. He’s one of the hardest playing guys you’ll ever coach, and his good things far outweigh the things that you’d like to correct. But you want to make that more toward the team. The team is being slighted as opposed to I am being slighted, because you go into a locker room, everyone wants to hear, we, we, we, in that locker room after practice, rather than me, me, I. He’s much better with that now, much, much better. Me and him are going into the season in a good space. … That doesn’t mean I’m not still going to have to coach some things out of him at certain times.”