Hurley's not done building UConn roster
Southington — The morning after the UConn men's basketball team suffered an upsetting first-round NCAA tournament loss on March 17, Dan Hurley started thinking about rebuilding his roster for next season.
There were gaping holes to fill in the backcourt with the loss of starters R.J. Cole and Tyrese Martin.
Hurley planned to dip into the transfer portal and bring in some veteran guards.
In the weeks that followed, four Huskies, including three guards, would elect to transfer, creating even more openings.
Two busy months later, Hurley's pleased with his recruiting results.
The Huskies have added three transfers, all backcourt players, in Hassan Diarra, Tristen Newton and Nahiem Allleyne who previously played at Texas A&M, East Carolina and Virginia Tech, respectively.
Hurley, who'll be in his fifth season as head coach this fall, talked about his revamped roster before participating in the UConn Coaches Road Show on Monday.
"It came together the way we envisioned it when the season ended and where we felt like we needed to bring in good players that are going to help us on the perimeter, in particular with the transfer portal guys," Hurley said. "Just from a positional standpoint and the skill set that they possess, it was really exactly what I was thinking the morning after we lost."
Hurley isn't finished.
With those additions, UConn now has 10 scholarship players.
"We feel like we want to be at 12," Hurley said. "We want the flexibility of not going beyond 12, especially with the state of the game. We've got some more work to do from a program standpoint to have depth and competition and just more talent in the program so that we can be better than we were last year."
The UConn coaching staff will continue to hit the recruiting trail and research the portal.
Hurley said they'd like to add "a player with some upside on the perimeter that can potentially help us. ... One of those positions, too, has gotta be somebody that will just improve the program daily as we get ready for a big year. Maybe an older guy and a younger guy."
The most recent addition is Diarra, who announced last week that he's transferring to UConn after playing two seasons at Texas A&M.
Prior to college, Diarra spent three years at Putnam Science Academy, so the UConn coaching staff has seen the 6-foot-2 guard play.
"He's a guard who's a creator, a guard that can get in the paint and make plays, a guard that has a toughness and a fearlessness about him in big moments," Hurley said. "We've seen him a lot. When the kids go in the portal, you put on as much film as you can watch. But also the amount of times we watched him play at Putnam and AAU, he's exactly what the roster needed."
A big summer is ahead for the Huskies.
WIth five new players — the three transfers along with newcomers Alex Karaban and Donovan Clingan — and five returnees, the Huskies will need to build some chemistry. Karaban practiced with the team last season while sitting out as a redshirt.
"It's important," Hurley said. "We do a good job of that during the summer because we don't ease the guys in. We get after it pretty good in the summer. I feel like the pieces all fit. There's obviously the core that's returning and ready to lead. Then I think the personalities and the understanding of what we need from the new guys, they understand what we recruited them to do in terms of their role and what they need to do to help us."
One player Hurley is excited about is promising forward Samson Johnson, who appeared in only 13 games as a freshman.
Johnson will have a chance to make a big impact.
"He was close last year to getting an opportunity to play the four for us off the bench," Hurley said. "The whole offseason, he's staying on campus trying to get his body right and just make sure he has a great summer. Just be the best at getting better. If he does that, he's going to have a big impact.
"I'm excited to play a guy with his talent. I'm well-documented of what I think of his talent. So everyone is going to get a chance to see him next year."
Hurley is looking to fill an opening on his staff with the departure of director of player development Taliek Brown, who was recently hired to be an assistant on Rick Pitino's staff at Iona.
"Taliek has had opportunities and this is the first one that made a lot of sense for him," Hurley said. "I just think it's a great opportunity for him to get experience on the court, to get involved in recruiting and obviously (work with) a Hall of Fame coach."