UConn guard James Bouknight is poised for a big season. Just how big, however, remains up for debate.
The sophomore was named to the all-Big East second team in a preseason vote by the league’s coaches released Wednesday as part its media day. It’s seemingly a nice honor, though many had expected Bouknight to make the first team.
“I’m honestly just honored that the coaches feel I’m a top-10 player in the league,” Bouknight said Wednesday after the announcement. “I know there’s gonna be some, everyone saying ‘Oh, he’s coming from the AAC,’ that the competition is much better (in the Big East) but I’m just honored they feel I’m a second-team player.”
Bouknight’s coach, Dan Hurley, didn’t sound as if he felt Bouknight was exactly slighted. Of course, he didn’t put much stock in preseason guesses at how good Bouknight will be, or how good his team - picked to finish fourth by the coaches - will perform.
“Postseason order of finish and postseason awards, to me, are the only things that matter,” Hurley said. “I like where we’re at as a program going into the season. I think we’ve got a lot of momentum.”
Bouknight, who averaged 13 points per game last season as a freshman, will be good, Hurley believes. That much is clear.
“We have the highest expectations for the type of season that James could put together,” Hurley said. “I think James is going to prove himself to be potentially one of the best guards in the country this year.”
The start of the UConn season, Nov. 25, is less than a month away now and Hurley is starting to shape his rotation. It hasn’t exactly been an easy process.
“We’re going to have to make hard decisions on who is going start, as opposed to maybe the last few years trying to find five guys to throw out there,” Hurley said.
FANS IN THE STANDS
The Big East will not have a rule when it comes to its individual schools hosting fans or not this season. Different states or counties have varying regulations when it comes to gatherings, and the league won’t restrict each school’s choice.
“We have a sense of resignation that certain factors will remain outside our control, including potentially varying guidelines that are established by public health officials in our 11 different jurisdictions,” Ackerman said.
Hurley makes it clear that he wants and expects his program to “listen to the science and the doctors” when it comes to COVID-19 restrictions but he isn’t sure the NCAA’s recommendation for an automatic 14-day quarantine after a team sees one positive test from a Tier 1 individual - player or essential team personnel - is ideal.
“I want to do whatever is the safest. But for me I do think you should be able to test out,” Hurley said. “The 14-day quarantine for one positive test in a group, it seems like that’s a little bit too much.”
The Big East is not slated to follow the NBA or NHL and use a “bubble” to play its games but the league is not ruling out the use of one later this season.
Hurley says he likes the possibility of a what he called a mini bubble with perhaps four teams playing three games each over five days.
Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski, whose team is in the midst of a 14-day break from practice because of a positive coronavirus test, agrees that a bubble is a good choice.
“I do feel like a bubble could work and could be our best option,” Wojciechowski said.
Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard, ever the one to offer a quip, said of any proposed bubble: “They better have a lot of wine.”
The league has scheduled its first 23 games but the remainder have yet to be finalized. The second phase of the league’s conference games will begin Dec. 30, Ackerman said, but officials didn’t want to announce the dates and opponents just yet.
“Just so we can continue to assess the landscape and get ourselves comfortable with the most appropriate scheduling format,” Ackerman said. “We will have some flexibility built into the schedule, especially after the holidays.”
Ackerman said her preference is to have a relatively normal season of play.
“Our hope is to get in a full slate of conference games. If the virus doesn’t allow for that, so be it. But that is our hope,” Ackerman said.
Hurley reported that the Huskies are getting closer to fully healthy, and that includes forward Akok Akok’s recovery from a sever Achilles injury. “We’ve got Tyler Polley (knee) back playing live with no restrictions. He’s one of 11 scholarship guys we’ve got ready to go fully,” Hurley said. “And Akok is getting closer, may even start doing live 1-on-1 or 3-on-3 in the next couple weeks. And Brendan Adams, who should be returning shortly from a foot. … We’ll hopefully be at full strength at some point in November or December from a health standpoint.” … The Big East, which was already at the forefront of social justice in some ways and which will allow teams to wear BLM (Black Lives Matter) patches on their uniforms this season, has created a new award named for its recently deceased legendary coach. The John Thompson Jr. Award will be awarded annual by the league and will recognize a Big East athletic department, program or individual that makes “significant efforts to fight prejudice and discrimination.” … Ackerman says the Gavitt Games, which pits teams from the Big East against teams from the Big Ten, will be cancelled this season because of the pandemic. UConn was not scheduled to compete this season in the games.