Hurley’s success on recruiting trail paying dividends for UConn
Storrs – During his recruiting search earlier this year, coach Dan Hurley targeted some veteran transfers.
Hurley had some major holes to plug, particularly the backcourt spots left by the loss of point guard R.J. Cole and wing Tyrese Martin, two of the team’s top scorers and respected leaders.
Judging from the results through three games, Hurley filled his needs on the perimeter.
Tristen Newton (East Carolina), Hassan Diarra (Texas A&M), Nahiem Alleyne (Virginia Tech) and Joey Calcaterra (San Diego) all have contributed to No. 25 UConn’s 3-0 start prior to Friday night’s game against UNC Wilmington at Gampel Pavilion.
“Being able to get that group in here during the late signing period last year, I told them that I’m very thrilled that they’re here,” Hurley said on Thursday.
The four newcomers are settling into their roles and kept UConn undefeated through three games despite the absence of injured starters Andre Jackson, Jordan Hawkins and Samson Johnson. Each have had at least one double figure scoring game.
Newton, who’s been tasked with running the team at point guard, had the 12th triple-double in program history in Tuesday’s win over Buffalo (in 22 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists). He’s tied for first on the team in assists (5.0), and second in scoring (14.0) and rebounding (7.3). He’s also regularly gotten to the free throw line, with team highs in attempts (31) and conversions (24).
Allenye’s biggest contribution has come at the defensive end. He’s been asked to guard the opposing team’s best player. He’s averaging 10.3 points and shooting 38.7 percent.
“He’s made some winning plays for us the last couple of games at the defensive end of the court,” Hurley said. “What he did in the first half against BU, he guarded Buffalo really aggressively and had a huge free throw rebound up 17 with three minutes to go in the game. … He’s doing a lot of these types of things, like dog type of plays that are allowing us as coaches to try to build him up and get the confidence going.”
Diarra, who played prep school basketball at Putnam Science Academy, is an energy guy and a playmaker. He’s averaging 6.7 points and a team-high tying 5.0 assists.
Calcaterra, whose nickname is Joey California, has been UConn’s top 3-point weapon, sinking a team-best six out of 11 attempts and averaging 8.7 points.
With close to a full squad available with the return of Hawkins and Jackson, two guards, Hurley has a good problem in trying to find time in his rotation for all his perimeter players.
Depth shouldn’t be an issue this season.
“The talent on our team is definitely there,” redshirt freshman Alex Karaban said. “For us to win by 20-plus in all three games speaks a lot to how strong our team is and how much we trust each other and how much we don’t have to rely on just one single player. We have the depth.”
Karaban a spark
His career off to a terrific start, Karaban is just scratching the surface of his all-around abilities.
Karaban, a 6-foot-8 forward, slid into a starting role after sitting out last season.
“I think I’ve done well,” Karaban said. “I think I’ve fit in well. Getting over that learning curve was important for me. I think I’ve done that pretty well. As long as I stay consistent.
Karaban entered Friday’s game averaging 11 points, four rebounds and 2.7 assists. And those statistics don’t tell the full story of his play.
“He’s a really good player and has the potential to be a great player here,” Hurley said. “He does so many little things that probably go unnoticed until you watch film a second or third time. There’s so much nuance to what he can do for you. And as he gets physically stronger, he becomes a better and smarter defender, a physically stronger rebounder.
“The best thing that he does is play basketball. But the best thing he’s known for, his shooting, really hasn’t started yet.”
Karaban is 11 for 23 from the field (47.8 percent), including 4 for 14 (28.6) from three.
“I want to shoot the ball better,” Karaban said. “I don’t know why my shot hasn’t fallen yet. If I can shoot the ball better, then I’ll be very happy with everything.”
News and notes
Hurley has faith that UConn will be a good perimeter shooting team this season. The Huskies just haven’t shown it yet, sinking just 21 of 68, or 30.9 percent, from 3-point range. ... Up next: UConn hosts Delaware State (1-3) at 5 p.m. Sunday at the XL Center in Hartford.