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    Thursday, May 30, 2024

    Hurley preaches patience as UConn’s new roster evolves

    UConn coach Dan Hurley holds up five fingers to fans during a rally at Gampel Pavilion on April 4 after the Huskies returned to campus after winning the program’s fifth national championship a day earlier in Houston. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

    Storrs — Coach Dan Hurley has some advice for anyone concerned about next season’s roster after the departure of several key players and the uncertainty surrounding the future of a few others.

    Just think about the UConn basketball program’s fifth national championship banner.

    It’s going to take time for Hurley and his coaching staff to round out the roster.

    “We’re just going to have to be patient,” Hurley said. “It’s not easy for me because as you can tell patience is not my greatest virtue. And it’s not for our fans or for my staff. But we’re all going to have to be patient.

    “Everyone is just going to have to occasionally just look up at the banner or the trophy any time they just start to lose patience and lose their mind.”

    Hurley met with the media on Thursday after a team workout at the Werth Center.

    Yes, the Huskies are already back to work less than three weeks since beating San Diego State in the national championship game in Houston.

    The confetti had been barely swept up from the post-game celebration before players began taking advantage of their status as national champions.

    Leading scorers Jordan Hawkins and Adama Sanogo were the first two Huskies to declare for the 2023 NBA Draft. They’ve both committed to pursuing their professional careers.

    Earlier this week, fellow starters Andre Jackson and Tristen Newton decided to test the draft waters but maintain their college eligibility.

    Key reserve Nahiem Alleyne transferred to St. John’s and bench players Richie Springs and Yarin Hasson entered the transfer portal.

    The rapid-fired departures haven't fazed Hurley.

    “When outsiders feel it’s a little bit chaotic, we’re very comfortable with all this going on,” Hurley said. “It’s just a reality. Everything that has happened to this point is exactly what we thought was going to happen. I’ve said this during the course of the year, you could anticipate in January who is going to end up going in the portal.

    “If it is a player that’s older, that’s looking at a situation where they’re at the end of their career and they want a bigger role, they’re more than likely going to move on. For us, we anticipated having a national championship year. This is what elite programs face, they face players leaving early for the NBA, they face players going through the draft process and maintaining eligibility. Obviously, there’s usually major staff changes. To this point, we’re fortunate to be intact there.

    “It’s a reality of being an elite program now. That’s where we’re at. We’re going to be dealing with this every year.”

    Of course, Hurley would prefer a little more stability.

    He believes the remaining players on the roster — Donovan Clingan, Alex Karaban, Hassan Diarra, Samson Johnson and Apostolos Roumoglou — will be back.

    Johnson, a 6-foot-10 forward, started the opener before a foot injury derailed his season. He never regained a foothold in the rotation after returning to action in January.

    “Samson could play either frontcourt position,” Hurley said. “He’s intent on trying to build up his body in the weight room. Donovan is not going to be able to be a 32-34 minutes a game player, nor do we want him to be.

    “We want Donovan to be able to be in that 26 to 28 minute range in a perfect world, so there’s going to be more frontcourt minutes there.”

    Hurley is bringing in a talented five-player recruiting class that is ranked third in the nation.

    But there are holes that still need to be filled.

    “There’s going to be opportunities on the perimeter and opportunities in the frontcourt,” Hurley said. “We lost some people. We’ve got some tremendous returners and a big recruiting class and we’ll see what happens with those two guys (Newton and Jackson).”

    Some recruiting decisions will need to be put on hold until Newton and Jackson make their decisions whether to stay in the draft or return to UConn. They’ll have until May 31st to declare their intentions.

    Waiting for their decisions will make it more challenging for the coaching staff to sell a vision to a potential recruit, but Hurley didn’t appear too concerned about the uncertainty surrounding his program.

    “Right now, our focus is, we’re going to return five to seven players from a national championship team,” Hurley said. “We’ve got an elite recruiting class coming in that’s one of the best in the country and I think a couple of those guys are actually underrated. There’s going to be a little bit of uncertainty for the next couple of months for us. We’re going to focus on (Class of) 2024 recruiting and bringing in another elite class with that class.

    “And then some moves maybe for next year’s team are going to probably have to wait a little until we have a little more clarity with those guys.”

    Hurley was quick to point out that last year he didn’t have his 2022-23 roster set until June when he added the final piece in graduate transfer Joey Calcaterra.

    “There was a lot of consternation about our off-season last summer,” Hurley said. “I don’t think we necessarily know when it is all going to come together. We learned a lot about roster construction, we learned a lot about personalities, we learned a lot about how we want to set up our team at both ends of the court in terms of the skills and the way we want to play.

    “We want to mirror the way we just played it and make some adjustments with personnel.”

    g.keefe@theday.com

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