We might be small in stature, but we're a basketball state

Perhaps it’s the size of our state that gives us the inferiority complex. Maybe we just lead the league in miserable. Whatever the reason(s), the sporting rhythms of Connecticut rarely mobilize into esprit de corps for our kids. Nah. We’re always quite guarded when grading their talent(s), seemingly unable to fathom the reality that Connecticut’s size belies the quality of its — basketball, in this case — talent.

This much was evident Tuesday night when no self-respecting channel surfer could avoid state high school alumni, indicating that, among other things, we really produce some kids who can play here and the vexing question of why none of them are at UConn.

The cast:

Jared Wilson-Frame, Pittsburgh: Windsor High grad who had 12 points (four 3-pointers), seven rebounds and three assists in Pitt’s loss at BC. Frame averages 12 points and five rebounds per game at a school in the nation’s best league. (New London folks may remember him playing for Windsor during a memorable double-overtime loss to the Whalers in the 2012 Class LL quarterfinals).

Tremont Waters, LSU: Notre Dame of West Haven grad who had 15 points, five assists and three steals as the Tigers won at Kentucky. Waters, about whom Dick Vitale gushed, averages 16 points and six assists per game.

Steve Enoch, Louisville: Norwalk High grad and UConn transfer had 14 points in the Cardinals’ stunning loss to Duke, featuring a blown 23-point lead. Enoch, who looks like a totally different player, averages nine points and five rebounds in a much tougher league.

Mike McGuirl, Kansas State: East Catholic grad had five points and two assists in 18 minutes during KSU’s win over Texas. McGuirl doesn’t play as much as he’d probably like (15 minutes per game), but would likely play more in many other programs.

Mustapha Heron, St. John’s: Sacred Heart grad who scored 28 points for the Johnnies against Butler. Heron averages 15.6 points per game.

I’m thinking this: Is there anybody out there who doesn’t believe that aforementioned five wouldn’t drill the current UConn starting five, even with a healthy Jalen Adams?

Throw a 15-yarder on me for piling on if you want. Maybe you’re right. But sitting there Tuesday night watching five of our kids thrive elsewhere again calls into question what, exactly, Kevin Ollie did here after he won a national championship with Jim Calhoun’s players.

Did he recruit Connecticut?

Did he care?

I mean, what is Chris Mack doing for Enoch at Louisville that wasn’t done here? Jimmy Dykes, who did the color commentary on ESPN Tuesday night, even said he thought Enoch’s game translated well to the NBA. And he transferred … why?

I don’t get the sense that Waters, Heron, Wilson-Frame or McGuirl were very interested in State U, either.

Now I get that 1) recruiting is inexact; 2) sometimes, the Ryan Gomes of the world get away; and 3) if Dan Hurley were here three or four years ago, some of those kids would have given UConn more serious consideration, if not outright signed. It’s just hard to watch five in-state kids thrive elsewhere, while we watch a team that’s not very good, all while trying to convince ourselves that Tulsa and Tulane are worth watching.

Talent levels in Connecticut aren’t as high this year, mostly because of prep school plundering. On average, though, our high schools produce better kids than for which they’re given credit. The guess here is that Hurley will try significantly harder to keep our kids home. Of course, whether they’re interested in playing East Carolina on a Tuesday night in January is another question.

Not many other states our size can say they have five kids on television any night during the college season all thriving for their teams. It’s great to see, really. Connecticut produces a number of kids playing well at Division II and III levels, as well.

We really are a basketball state, you know.

Maybe it’s time we began to appreciate it.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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