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2022-23 UConn Men’s Basketball Position Preview: Backcourt

Historically, UConn men’s basketball has featured a strong, star-laden backcourt. But after some roster turnover this offseason, the Huskies have a new group of guards.

Jordan Hawkin

Expectations on Jordan Hawkins are more or less unprecedented in the history of the UConn program. The sophomore had a promising rookie season in college and showed plenty of potential, but averaged less than six points per game. This season, he will probably be asked to be the team’s top scorer. When was the last time a player went six or fewer points per game one season and then led UConn to score the next?

Len Carlson in 1961. Or maybe 1997, if you want to count Rashamel Jones, who ended up being supplanted by Richard Hamilton as the top scoring option at the end of the year anyway. Suffice to say, what the team expects from Hawkins is a daunting task.

To his credit, he seems ready to be ready for the role. Hawkins had some growing pains last season, making a few silly freshman mistakes at key times and having a more streaky shot than he seemed to deserve, but everything seemed to set him up for a season where he might need some help. be The Guy for UConn’s upcoming schedule.

Is he ready for such a big leap? We will just have to see. It wouldn’t be a surprise if this turned into a shoulder season before a leap to stardom as a junior. But with the potential he showed last season, and a surprisingly dizzying sensation for a freshman, he may be ready to make history.

Tristan Newton

Tristen Newton, a senior who has spent the past three seasons at East Carolina, enters the 2022-23 season as the most accomplished of the incoming transfers. Able to play both guard positions – but with plenty of running experience – Newton made the All-AAC second team last season despite playing on a Pirates team that didn’t finished only ninth in the conference – without much help around him either.

Adapt to the speed of Great East and getting into a situation where he won’t be the primary offensive option will both be a challenge for Newton. At 6-foot-5, he’s got the size for a major conference, but it remains to be seen if his skills will translate as easily as RJ Cole’s when he arrived at Storrs.

Newton’s goalscoring volume and playing ability stand out as his two greatest attributes, but the effectiveness of both is in question as he makes the leap to tougher competition. Newton is just an average outside shooter, converting three at a .333 rate last season, and he struggled to finish inside in his first two seasons in Greenville. The increased assist rate may mask some of his shortcomings as a leading ball handler, as he also had the most turnovers in the conference last year.

Newton may be better served as a combo guard, although Dan Hurley’s lack of options for a traditional point guard may push the elder back into the role. He clearly has passing vision and the ability to knock down shots – it’s worth noting that he’s also an excellent free-throw shooter – and the hope is that the lesser workload will help Newton settle into a place that allows him to perform at his greatest efficiency. instead of its bulkier.

Joey Calcaterra

The fifth-year senior from San Diego has already earned the nickname Joey California, due to his emerging chemistry with his new team despite being the latest incoming transfer on the roster. As the least important of these transfers, we already dived in the band on Calcaterraand what came out of it was overwhelmingly positive.

Before anyone buys too much into the preseason hype, Calcaterra will likely only be a one-time shooter off the bench. The good news is that there’s a good chance he’ll be a really good point shooter off the bench, and that’s something this Huskies team badly needs.

Last season, Calcaterra struggled to create his own shot in a truly terrible San Diego offense, playing a role that just didn’t suit his ability. On a UConn team where good passing and good play can open up opportunities for him, he is almost certain to see a big improvement in his overall production.

He’s unlikely to become the next Rashad Anderson or Niels Giffey, but the Huskies were desperate for shooting depth last season, and a player like Calcaterra can only help add to the bench’s offensive production. If his admirable defensive effort can turn into defensive stops with better practice this season, he has a chance to make a difference in conference play.

Nahiem Alleyne

Despite the previous paragraphs, Calcaterra probably isn’t even the best shooter among UConn’s incoming transfers, and that’s down to Nahiem Alleyne. The senior forward has scored away from home consistently throughout his three seasons at Blacksburg, averaging .387 for his college career.

Of course, Alleyne isn’t just a three-point shooter, otherwise he wouldn’t be in contention for a starting spot. He’s comfortable setting up a quick break and looking to pass the ball quickly, although he seems a little more comfortable making a pass than finishing himself. In fact, his biggest weakness may be inside scoring, as his shot selection isn’t that strong when forced to create for himself. It also misses more opportunities on the edge than you might think.

Alleyne is a team player, however, and rarely forces shots. At times, that seemed like his disappearance from games (see: his 1-3 mark from the floor in the NCAA Tournament first-round loss to Texas), but that shouldn’t be confused with fear of the moment (see: a game-high 28 points in the Hokies’ NCAA Tournament first-round loss to Florida in 2021).

His passivity could end up being a good thing for the Huskies, as last year’s team too often just pitched in losses. Between Alleyne and Calcaterra, Hurley is almost guaranteed to have at least one off-the-ball shot threat in the field at all times. For a team that may be lacking a traditional playmaker, having easy looks from the outside may be the best thing for on-field chemistry.

Hassan Diarra

An unexpected challenger for the starting point guard role is Hassan Diarra, a junior from Texas A&M and the younger brother of former UConn forward and current director of player development Mamadou Diarra. He was a star bench player with the Aggies, an underrated team that barely missed a March Madness offer but was still reliable enough to take a buzzer-beater in the SEC tournament.

Diarra, a New York keeper in every sense of the word, is best known for his tenacity and fierce defense. Given that many of the Huskies’ best perimeter defensemen from last season have moved on, Diarra’s number will be called on quite often, and while he may be slightly undersized, he’s more than capable of handling opposing point guards. A defense of Diarra and Andre Jackson would be very difficult for opposing ball handlers to break.

Where Diarra needs to improve is with his shot selection, which was often his biggest drawback with the Aggies. His three-point selection has yet to prove reliable enough for him to shoot from so often, and his drives to the basket can be forced, often taking a contested shot instead of backing up and getting the attack going again.

Nevertheless, UConn will need defense this season. Hurley has shown the ability to turn players into much better defenders, so a player like Diarra who already has a significant defensive tool belt could have the opportunity to be an impact player as a result.

Andre Hurley

And now, the extras.

Andrew Hurley, as the coach’s son, is unlikely to have a significant impact on the team. He’s not badly qualified for a walk-on, especially given his pedigree as the son of a former standout Big East point guard and nephew of a NBA Overrated Bust former All-American, but the 18 minutes he played as a Husky doesn’t give us much to work with in terms of having a full scouting report.

Andre Johnson, Jr.

Fans of the Black-ish TV show might recognize the name Andre Johnson Jr., but the basketball player (obviously unrelated to the fictional character) deserves to make a name for himself. A native of Bristol, Johnson is a favorite who has had plenty of contact with Division I sides in the North East and when an offer failed to come through Hurley jumped at the chance to add him to the listing. Johnson’s coach at South Kent Prep was former UConn assistant Raphael Chillious, which may have given the Huskies an advantage in his truncated recruiting. He will add goalscoring ability to the scouting squad with the potential to get some game time in the future.

Emmet Hendry

Hendry, another favorite extra, is also considered a shooter due to a productive post-college year at Montverde Academy. With some potential in his jumper, UConn could benefit from his experience on the scout team.