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    Saturday, September 23, 2023

    No. 25 UConn has impressed former Husky Donny Marshall

    UNC Wilmington center Victor Enoh (12) fouls UConn's Alex Karaban (11) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, in Storrs, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

    As a former Husky, Donny Marshall has closely followed the progress of the UConn men’s basketball program throughout the years.

    Marshall thinks very highly of this year’s team.

    A college basketball analyst for Fox Sports, Marshall has been part of the broadcast team for three of UConn’s first four games, including Friday’s 86-50 victory over UNC Wilmington at Gampel Pavilion.

    “I know in the last 10 years they haven’t had a team with this size, this depth and this athleticism,” Marshall said before Friday’s game. “And that’s awesome. It’s awesome for the fans, it’s awesome for the league and it’s awesome for (coach) Danny (Hurley). I don’t want to see his head explode on the sideline.

    “It’s awesome for the assistants, too, because they work so hard to put these guys together. In this day and age of the transfer portal, it’s awesome to have a collection of guys like this together that are actually starting to really sync. … They’re good. It’s exciting for everyone in this state.”

    No. 25 UConn (4-0) has steamrolled its competition, winning by an average margin of 29 points. The return of starters Jordan Hawkins and Andre Jackson on Friday lifted the Huskies to another level.

    Next up is Delaware State (1-3), which visits the XL Center in Hartford on Sunday (5 p.m., FS1).

    It’s UConn final tuneup before traveling to Portland, Ore., to play in the Phil Knight Invitational, which features a loaded field. The Huskies face Oregon in the tournament opener Thursday night.

    First, they have to take care of Delaware State, which lost to Villanova only by 10 points (60-50) on Monday.

    So far, the Huskies have received contributions from nearly everyone on the roster, with six players averaging eight points or more.

    Marshall believes UConn benefited from competing the first three games without Hawkins, who played nine minutes in the opener before a concussion sent him to the sidelines, and Jackson, who made his season debut Friday after recovering from a broken pinky finger. It gave the four transfers and two newcomers an opportunity to find their footing with their new team.

    “We actually see the silver lining of those two guys being injured,” Marshall said. “Now, for Danny, you hope that those injuries are now behind you. … Those (new) guys benefited so much.”

    Marshall, who made a habit of out-working and out-willing opponents during his career (1991-95) and ranks 39th on the program’s all-time scoring list with 1,197 points, has seen his share of successful UConn teams. He helped the Huskies win two Big East championships.

    He’s also seen his share of great Husky players, including teammates Ray Allen and Donyell Marshall.

    So, who stands out on this year’s UConn team?

    “Alex Karaban,” Marshall said. “Running, jumping, dunking and shooting is one thing, we just assume that you should be able to do that when you get here, at least at some level. But it’s his demeanor, the way he plays and the way he handles himself after a big play, and the way he communicates with other guys at such a young age.

    “... He’s special to me. His size, obviously, his skill and his demeanor. You can tell he’s primed to be a leader.”

    Karaban, a 6-foot-8 redshirt freshman forward, has scored in double figures every game, averaging 11.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists.

    Marshall also has been impressed with 7-foot-2 freshman center Donovan Clingan (8.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.5 blocks), who’s had to adjust defensively playing much smaller, quicker opponents in the first four games.

    Clingan will continue to grow from playing against teammate Adama Sanogo in practice, according to Marshall.

    “You’re playing with one of the top five best big men in the country every day in practice,” Marshall said. “That’s invaluable for Donovan.”

    Marshall also talked about the pro potential of Hawkins and Jackson.

    Poised to have a breakout season, Hawkins scored a career-high 20 points in his return to the rotation on Friday.

    He’ll have to deal with the weight of expectations this season and block out any outside distractions like social media.

    “You just have to do all those things that coaches tell – close things out, close your ears, blinders, focus,” said Marshall, who played five seasons in the NBA. “He definitely has the potential to be a pro. I think he’s a pro. I don’t know if he’s an NBA pro, but he’s definitely a pro.”

    And Marshall is a big believer in Jackson. He loves the junior’s athletic ability and court vision.

    “From his freshman year, when his shot was ugly or he wouldn’t even look at the basket, I was telling people on air, at work, on the golf course, how special he was going to be,” Marshall said. “I already knew. I’ve been around a little bit and I played against not good ones but great ones, he has everything to be great. And now we’re seeing it.”

    Of course, the Huskies are far from perfect.

    As Marshall pointed out before Friday’s game, the Huskies haven’t shot the ball well from 3-point range or from the foul line.

    “At first sight, they have size, athleticism and you think, too, there’s no weaknesses,” Marshall said. “But as an analyst, you dig a little deeper and you see, gotta make our free throws, gotta be a better 3-point shooting team, which I think they will be. They have some good shooters.”

    After Marshall made that point, the Huskies went out and shot 10 for 22 from 3-point range and converted 20 of 23 free throws against UNC Wilmington.



    Location: XL Center, Hartford

    Tip: 5 p.m. (FS1)

    Records: UConn 4-0, Delaware State 1-3

    Last game: UConn beat UNC Wilmington, 86-50, Friday; Delaware State lost at Columbia, 70-65, Wednesday

    Probable starters; UConn, 6-5 sr. guard Tristen Newton (12.5 pts, 6.3 rebs, 4.8 assists), 6-4 sr. guard Nahiem Alleyne (9.8 pts), 6-5 so. guard Jordan Hawkins (10 pts), 6-8 r-fr. forward Alex Karaban (11.3 pts, 4.3 rebs), 6-9 jr. forward Adama Sanogo (20.3 pts, 8 rebs)

    Delaware State, 6-2 so. guard Corey Perkins (2.0 pts), 6-5 fr. guard Aaron Lemon-Warren (2.3 pts), 6-6 fr. guard Jevin Muniz (7.3 pts), 6-11 sr. forward Brandon Stone (15.8 pts, 7.8 rebs), 6-11 r-so. center Raymond Somerville (6.5 pts, 2.3 rebs)

    Noteworthy: Series: UConn leads 2-0, winning last meeting 79-49 Dec. 2008 in Storrs. … Hornets led for the first 26 minutes before losing 60-50 at Villanova on Nov. 14. … Member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, Delaware St. coming off a 2-26 season. … Top reserve: 6-1 so. guard Khyrie Staten (15.5 pts). … Only win this season came vs. Immaculata University (104-67). Have committed 62 turnovers in four games. … Hot: Sanogo 14 for 16 from the foul line. Cold: Newton shooting 30.3 percent (10 for 33) from the field. … Newton and Joey Calcaterra tied for team lead in steals with five. … Huskies looking to start the season 5-0 for the second straight year. … UConn scored 85, 86, 84 and 86 in the first four games. … Injury update: Samson Johnson (foot) out. … Up next: UConn visits Oregon in Portland at 8 p.m. Thursday in Phil Knight Invitational.

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