A year ago, the UConn menâ€™s basketball team benefited greatly by the emergence of a freshman wing.
The Huskies arenâ€™t planning on seeing another James Bouknight this season - and UConn will certainly still be â€śBouknightâ€™s teamâ€ť in many ways during 2020-21 - but Andre Jackson expects to make a splash in his first year nonetheless.
Jackson, a 6-foot-6 standout from Amsterdam, N.Y., watched what Bouknight was able to do in first season in Storrs and says he wants to do much the same.
â€śI definitely feel like I can make a big impact as a freshman,â€ť Jackson said Friday. â€śIâ€™m not sure how many points Iâ€™m going to be scoring but I know Iâ€™m going to make an impact, whether thatâ€™s on defense, whether thatâ€™s rebounding, whatever I need to do.â€ť
Jackson revealed on Friday that he had surgery on his knee â€ś4-5 months agoâ€ť but said his repaired meniscus isnâ€™t a hinderance any longer and that he is practicing â€śliveâ€ť with his teammates now.
With a start to the season coming just after Thanksgiving - the Huskiesâ€™ schedule still hasnâ€™t been finalized - the Huskies are thrilled to have the promise of actual games ahead.
â€śEverybody on the campus is just so dialed in to the game. It helps you focus, especially being in Connecticut, in Storrs, thereâ€™s not much to do so it keeps your mind on the right things,â€ť Jackson said.
He has yet to play a game for the Huskies but Jackson already feels he has a great feel for the history and tradition of a program that has won four national championships.
â€śIâ€™ve been at UConn so many times. My first time I think I saw Ray Allen and Jim Calhoun in the same weekend,â€ť Jackson said. â€śIt just electric being on campus, seeing the banners hung up on the walls, seeing the different players who came through here and made an impact, left a legacy. I feel like the nostalgia here is just as good or greater than any program in the country.
â€śIt creates a lot of motivation for me and Iâ€™m sure for everybody else,â€ť Jackson added.
BROWN WAS SWEATING
As the UConn freshman began to arrive on campus in July, there was at first one notable absence. Center Javonte Brown, who hails from the Toronto area, was not among the early arrivals.
The COVID-19 restrictions at the U.S.-Canadian border was an issue, as was obtaining an I-20 student visa.
â€śI was really worried. Iâ€™m not going to lie,â€ť Brown said Friday.
It took a few weeks but Brown was eventually able to clear both hurdles.
â€śOur prime minister, he opened up the borders and we thought I was going to be earlier than expected. But then the COVID numbers started going up in Canada so they had to expand the period of opening for the border,â€ť Brown said. â€śPlus we had to deal with the I-20. They were saying I wasnâ€™t allowed to get it but thankfully I got it on time.â€ť
Now that heâ€™s entrenched as a UConn student and basketball player, Brown can smile a bit about his struggles to get here.
He also confirmed that UConnâ€™s move back to the Big East Conference was one of the main reasons he wanted to badly to come to the school.
â€śWith UConn moving to the Big East, that played a pivotal part in my recruitment,â€ť Brown said. â€śWith the Big East being close to Canada, a whole lot of family would be able to come out and see games. Now with COVID restrictions and border laws and all that, the possibility probably wonâ€™t be there anymore. But itâ€™s close to home and itâ€™s a really good league.â€ť
A few of the UConn players were asked Friday what NBA player they try to emulate or model their game after. A couple of their choices should make UConn fans excited for the possibilities, but also recall a few painful memories.
Junior wing Tyrese Martin picked Jimmy Butler, the Miami Heat star who has blossomed into a superstar and helped his team to the NBA Finals this season. Of course, in his college days Butler was a noted UConn-killer. Many fans can still recall his jumper with 2.8 seconds left giving Marquette a 70-68 win over No. 19 UConn at the XL Center Jan. 30, 2010.
Brownâ€™s choice was another player who destroyed the Huskies when he was in college, former Louisville forward Montrezl Harrell.
Harrell, who was the NBAâ€™s Sixth Man of the year for the Los Angeles Clippers in 2020, might hold the record for most dunks ever against the Huskies.
As a sophomore, Harrell had 20 points, 11 rebounds, helped by six thunderous dunks, against UConn in an 81-48 thumping at the KFC Yum! Center March 8, 2014.
Of course, the Huskies rebounded from that walloping to win a national title a month later, so the memories of Harrell hanging on the rim for an entire afternoon are a bit less painful for UConn fans.
CBS Sportsâ€™ Jon Rothstein reports that BYU has replaced Notre Dame as the fourth team in the Legends Classic, the four-team matchup that has been moved to Mohegan Sun. UConn, Vanderbilt and Southern Cal are also playing in the event. â€¦ UConn freshman Adama Sanogo says he first learned about the school and the basketball program from former Husky Kassoum Yakwe, his fellow native of Mali. Yakwe played one season for the Huskies after transferring from St. Johnâ€™s. â€śYou know Kassoum? He went to UConn for one year. I knew him a lot. Through him, I knew UConn,â€ť Sanogo said. When UConn assistant Kimani Young began to recruit Sanogo in 2018, Sanogo said, and he soon began to learn more about the Huskies.