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    Thursday, July 25, 2024

    Tristen Newton returning to UConn for final year of eligibility, Andre Jackson leaving for NBA

    UConn guard Tristen Newton celebrates after scoring against San Diego State during the first half NCAA championship game on April 3 in Houston. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

    Tristen Newton, the starting point guard for UConn’s national championship team, is returning for his final season of college basketball eligibility.

    Teammate Andre Jackson, Jr., will not be back, electing to keep his name in the NBA Draft pool and pursue a professional career, according to UConn. It was first reported by ESPN.

    Both players announced their decisions on Wednesday.

    Newton made up mind after receiving feedback and participating in the NBA’s G League Elite camp for draft prospects earlier this month.

    “Coming back to UConn is always an easy decision,” Newton said during a Zoom call. “I talked to my parents, my family. I had an agent who helped me out with the whole thing. I got some good feedback. A couple of teams guaranteed some things, but I just feel like coming back to UConn and developing and playing one more year and trying to go to win another national championship was the best for me at this time.”

    During UConn’s magical NCAA tournament run, Newton played a vital role, averaging 9.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.5 assists in six games. He had 19 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in the national championship win over San Diego State and earned a spot on the All-Final Four team.

    Newton informed coach Dan Hurley of his decision during a meeting on Tuesday.

    “We had like an hour and a half meeting, just me and him,” Newton said. “He was definitely excited for me to come back and I’m excited to come back, too. We both have the same goal in mind with me, personally, and the team as well. I just feel like him and I are going to jell a lot more this year and be a lot more successful.”

    Newton will be a valuable veteran presence, reliable scorer and playmaker on a team that lost starters Jordan Hawkins and Adama Sanogo, who entered their names in the NBA Draft pool, as well as several key reserves.

    The Huskies are adding a top five recruiting class that includes highly-regarded point guard Stephon Castle, a McDonald’s All-American.

    “I am thrilled to coach Tristen for his final year of college basketball,” Hurley said in a release. “He gained valuable experience during this pre-draft process and made an intelligent decision to return to Storrs.”

    Last season, Newton finished third on the team in scoring at 10.3 points, 4.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds. He also led the team in steals (43), converted 36.6 percent from 3-point range and 37.4 percent overall from the field.

    The 6-foot-5 Newton, who’s from El Paso, Texas, transferred to UConn last year after playing three seasons for East Carolina.

    He set a program record by recording two triple-doubles in one season.

    Now, he looks forward to working on his game and expanding his role.

    “My team goal last year was to win the whole thing,” Newton said. “And, obviously, it is going to be this year, too, but I just feel like I have a lot more to prove. I didn’t play as well as I know I can last year.

    “So, coming back this year, knowing the coaching staff and the players a lot more than I did coming into last year, I feel like it will just be a lot better experience and I can show people who I actually am as a player.”

    Hurley has high expectations for Newton, one of six scholarship players returning.

    “Tristen is a proven producer and a champion,” Hurley said. “I expect him to play at an All-Big East level, to increase his value as an NBA prospect and to lead us to another excellent season.”

    Newton believes the Huskies have a shot at repeating as national champions.

    “I feel like we’re just as good if not better this year than we were last year, so I feel like we can do it again,” Newton said.

    UConn will have to try to accomplish the feat without Jackson, the heart and soul of last year’s title team and inspirational leader. He averaged 6.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists during his junior season.

    Jackson, an athletic 6-6 guard, is projected to be a late first round draft pick.

    He posted this message on his Twitter account Wednesday night: “My time at UCONN has been filled with ups and downs but through it all I built relationships with my teammates, coaches, friends and fans that will last forever. I’ve made so many memories playing in that jersey and I will miss it. But I’ll always be a husky. Thank you.”

    g.keefe@theday.com

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