UConn Basketball has been hit hard by players leaving the program so far this offseason, but just acquired a major commitment from one of the better players in the portal in Tristen Newton. What’s next for the Huskies?
Dan Hurley hit the jackpot Wednesday afternoon when he received a commitment from East Carolina guard Tristen Newton to help retool his backcourt for the 2022-23 season.
Newton had a great season last year in the AAC with the Pirates, averaging 17.7 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 5.0 APG while being the go-to scorer on a below-average team. His 6’5 ”frame is exactly what UConn is looking for – a big guard that can distribute.
Last season, the Huskies overall had a very strong season but were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Round of 64 as a five seed, falling to the 12-seed New Mexico St. Aggies. After the season, the Huskies were guaranteed to lose Isaiah Whaley and Tyler Polley, as both players exercised their 5th year of eligibility, but they were the only two players who couldn’t come back.
Guards Tirese Martin and RJ Cole both had the option to come back for that 5th season, but both elected to forgo this and declare for the NBA Draft (and make some pretty good money in the process). This left the Huskies without two of their top three scorers and their starting backcourt. Soon after this, the other two point guards on the roster – Jalen Gaffney and Rahsool Diggins entered the transfer portal, leaving Hurley with a glaring hole in his roster: no true point guard.
The transfers didn’t stop with those two, as a couple weeks later guard Corey Floyd Jr. and forward Akok Akok also entered the portal. Floyd Jr. came to Storrs a year early and sat out the 2021-22 season as a redshirt, and Akok spent parts of four years in the program and continuously battled injury during his tenure. The pair marked the seventh and eighth players to depart the program since the final buzzer in Buffalo. Things were quickly spiraling downwards.
Enter Newton. Despite all the losses that the Huskies have had so far this offseason, he is a massive gain. The four-headed monster of Newton, Andre Jackson, Jordan Hawkins, and Adama Sanogo is one of the best groups of players in the country. That group can attack you from every angle, whether it be from the perimeter or in the paint.
Hurley already knows what Newton can bring to the table. In late February 2020, right before the season shut down due to COVID-19, the Huskies traveled to Greenville to take on the Pirates. Newton went off for a then career-high 25 points to go along with five rebounds and six assists in a loss. The UConn staff was especially intrigued by his playmaking, as he had zero turnovers to go along with his six assists.
So, what’s next for the Huskies? With six of the eight players who got playing time against NMSU now out of the program, Hurley and his crew definitely need to find some more contributors in the portal. He and his staff have been working nonstop reaching out to players, mostly guards and good shooters. Some names to watch over the next few weeks include Courtney Ramey from Texas, Nahiem Alleyne from Virginia Tech, Antonio Reeves from Illinois State, and Dexter Dennis from Wichita State, among others.