Monday, June 5, 2017

Local prep coaches weigh in on UConn's status in recruiting world

Tremont Waters chose LSU over UConn, Georgetown.
With the (not unexpected) news that New Haven's own Tremont Waters is heading off to LSU, it would appear yet another indignity in UConn's recruiting season of discontent.

It started back in January, when Hamidou Diallo chose Kentucky over the Huskies. It continued on as one UConn target after another opted for different programs, most notably Sidney Wilson picking St. John's a couple of weeks ago.

Add it all to Makai Ashton-Langford backing out of his commitment, three players (Steve Enoch, Vance Jackson and Juwan Durham) bolting the program and ... well, the optics aren't good.

So I called around to some New England-based prep and AAU coaches to see what the perception of UConn is these days. Here's some of what they had to say.

JASON SMITH, Brewster Academy head coach:

"It's still definitely one of the premier programs in the country. Coach Ollie is tremendous, and I think they made a fantastic hire. Coach (Raphael) Chillious is one of my closest friends in the business, one of the coaches I communicate with most frequently."

"I know they've had some hiccups the last month or two, but that's part of how recruiting goes in cycles."

The 'Top Five' is now down to 'Top Three'
"They're gonna be more than fine. Coach Chillious, Dwayne Killings are two of the most respected assistant coaches in the business. Coach Ollie's proven to be a championship-caliber coach himself. I think UConn is one of the premier programs in the country. Everything goes in cycles. You'll see them bounce back, have a great year, then continue to recruit great guys."

JERE QUINN, St. Thomas More head coach:

"I think it's taken a hit. Unfortunately, the conference lacks the luster with a lot of these kids. They're in with the top players with every other major program. But the league doesn't bring a lot of national prominence. The rivalries are new; it's a new league trying to find itself. Connecticut is still going after the top-echelon kids in the U.S., and they've got some pretty good players, too."

"It's very difficult for those guys to compete against the Big 10, the Big East, the ACC. If you ask the same question to the people at East Carolina or Tulane - nothing against them, but they're not going after the same kids UConn is going after."

We'll have much more in Wednesday's Register, including Smith's views on why Ashton-Langford de-committed from UConn and went to Providence, and why Wilson picked St. John's. Smith coached both players at Brewster.

Also a bit more on Smith's relationship with Chillious, and Quinn's take on why Christian Vital elected to remain at UConn.

*** Meanwhile, UConn is still heavily interested in Class of 2018 point guard Luguentz Dort from Canada. Chillious saw him drop 36 points against 22 Feet Academy (S.C.) while still at Washington to see Mamadou Diarra (not the UConn kid, the kid that recently committed to Cincinnati). The Huskies are still inquiring about the score-first point guard, but Louisville likes him a lot, too, as does Florida and old friend Andre LaFleur at UNLV, among others.

*** And add this name to UConn's recruiting interests: Brycen Goodine, a 6-foot-4, Class of 2019 combo guard from New Bedford, Massachusetts. He preps at St. Andrew's, and comes from good stock: his mom played at Providence, and his dad, Jonathan DePina, was a guard at UMass.

DePina also was a mentor to a young kid from Roxbury by the name of Shabazz Napier.

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