Saturday, November 2, 2013

Depth, DeAndre Daniels are Good Early Signs for UConn

The UConn men may get to know how the UConn women normally feel Monday night.

The Huskies are hosting Concordia University of Chicago at the XL Center at 7 p.m. The Cougars went 4-21 last season -- in Division 3. Yes, D-3. So basically, this is one of the worst college basketball teams in the country going up against one of the best. Should be kind of like when the UConn women face, say, Temple or Houston.

Anyway, there will be a familiar face on the sidelines Monday night: Concordia head coach Tyler Jones is an East Hartford native who once coached the Connecticut Pride of the Continental Basketball Assocation. One of his players on that team was UConn coach Kevin Ollie. The two helped the Pride win a CBA championship in 1999. Jones is also a prostate cancer survivor, and UConn’s coaching staff will be wearing tennis shoes to help promote the fight against cancer tonight.

It's likely that the relationship between Jones and Ollie is one of the reasons behind Monday's game, though it's worth noting that Concordia went to Queens last year to play St. John's in an exhibition (losing, 87-36. Hey, the Cougars are no San Francisco State).

If nothing else, Monday's game will give Ollie a chance to see more from some of his bench players. And it appears the Huskies could have quite a bench, indeed.

*** DeAndre Daniels has gone through quite a transformation since he first stepped onto UConn's campus, having already committed to the program sight unseen, back in June, 2011.

He was a shy, timid kid at the time, and despite great basketball pedigree, was equally timid on the court as a freshman en route to a disappointing (3.0 ppg) first season in Storrs.

But Daniels showed signs of stardom last year, culminated by a final four-game stretch that by now seems almost legendary in recent Husky history. He's not only matured as a player but as a man, as Ollie, his teammates and his former coach at IMG Academy have all pointed out.

It says here that Daniels is ready for a breakout junior season, one that could see him vault into the NBA draft lottery discussion. His strong performance against Southern Connecticut (yes, we know, a Division 2 program) may have been just the precursor for things to come.

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