Maine-UConn Preview

BY foxsports • November 12, 2015

(AP) - Connecticut has added experience to an already veteran team, which is looking to bounce back from a disappointing season and perhaps make a run at a second national championship in three years.

After winning it all in 2014, the 20th-ranked Huskies missed the NCAA Tournament last year, lost in the first round of the NIT and finished 20-15.

Coach Kevin Ollie responded by bringing in two graduate transfers who are expected to play major roles this season, starting in Friday night's opener against Maine.

Guard Sterling Gibbs, who began his career at Texas, is being asked to fill the point guard spot left vacant by the graduation of Ryan Boatright. Gibbs averaged 16.3 points and 3.8 assists at Seton Hall last season.

Shonn Miller, who won the team's annual slam-dunk contest, is expected to provide some help down low. He averaged 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds last season at Cornell and was named first-team all-Ivy League.

''Coming in with two fifth-year seniors is really going to help us,'' Ollie said. ''They've been through the wars.''

The Huskies also bring back a wealth of experience, led by 6-foot-7 sophomore swingman Daniel Hamilton, guard Rodney Purvis and 7-foot shot-blocking center Amida Brimah.

''We're really strong,'' Purvis said. ''We've got a whole team full of guys that can go get it and we all got better.''

In addition to Gibbs and Miller, the Huskies also boast one of the nation's top recruiting classes. Guard Jalen Adams, who hails from Shabazz Napier's hometown of Roxbury, Massachusetts, has been pushing Gibbs during the preseason and is expected to see a lot of time at the point. He was picked as the American Athletic Conference's preseason Rookie of the Year. Hamilton was named an all-conference first-team selection and Brimah, the nation's top returning shot blocker at 3.5 per game, and Gibbs were named to the second team.

The biggest surprise of the offseason has been 6-11 freshman Steve Enoch from Norwalk.

''He's big and he's skilled,'' Ollie said. ''He can shoot it outside, poised and he's a sponge. He wants to get better.''

Hamilton averaged 10.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists as a freshman to become the AAC's Rookie of the Year. He said he has become more vocal in practice and is taking on a leadership role this season.

''He's going to be on everybody's list to stop,'' Ollie said.

Guard Sam Cassell Jr. is hoping to become a consistent contributor after his first year at UConn was derailed by injury. The son of the former NBA star played in 18 games in 2014-15 and was diagnosed in January with a stress fracture in his right tibia. Ollie is counting on him to be a 3-point threat.

UConn, which has won 15 consecutive season openers, has again put together a tough out-of-conference schedule to help make up for being in a relatively weak conference. The Huskies will play Michigan, Maryland, Ohio State, former Big East rival Georgetown and have the potential of facing another former Big East rival in Syracuse, as well as Gonzaga, Washington, Texas A&M and Texas in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.

A matchup with Maine, which went 3-27 a season ago and is picked to finish last in the America East Conference, would not be considered one of the Huskies' tougher tests.

Sophomore Kevin Little is one of four starters returning for the Bears after averaging 12.5 points last season and being named to the league's all-rookie team.

This will be the 100th meeting between the programs with UConn owning an 83-16 record. The Huskies won 95-68 in 2013 for their 12th straight victory since a 79-73 loss in 1978.

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