Kemba Walker magic aside, the UConn Huskies' best years since the turn of the century have been those with a dominant big man.
Emeka Okafor is seen as the premier Husky, as the 2004 NCAA championship team was anchored by the UConn legend. Hasheem Thabeet is still a UConn hero, as his performances from 2006-2009 far outweigh his NBA shortcomings. Even Andre Drummond, whose college career fell well short of what was expected, is projected to be one of the top NBA centers of the next decade.
With that being said, the 2012-13 Huskies were defined by their lack of size. Enosch Wolf and Tyler Olander were serviceable, yes, but any elite Husky team starts from under the basket.
Wednesday's 93-65 demolition of the visiting SCSU Owls is far from a season definer, but the scoring ability of the returning DeAndre Daniels and the defensive prowess of freshman Amida Brimah give Husky fans something to get excited about.
What more could be said about Daniels' performance? The UConn forward put together an impressive 21 point, 10-rebound night, as he locked up his first double-double in as many games.
Despite the impressive stat line, head coach Kevin Ollie was more impressed with Daniels' leadership, as the soft-spoken junior has finally developed his own voice.
"DeAndre's not the most talkative guy," said Ollie after the game. "He's not the life of the party when he's off the court. But when you get on the court, your alter ego takes over and you change into a different person and I think he's starting to realize that. If he starts talking, it becomes contagious because everybody knows DeAndre might not talk that much.
"He's changing," added the second-year head coach with a grin. "He comes into the office and he's talking to his coaches. That's just a beautiful thing when you've got a kid coming in that hardly said a sentence and now he's coming in and you can't shut him up. That's some maturity."
Despite Daniels' stellar stat line, it was Brimah that had the Husky faithful cheering his name, as the 7-footer wasted little time in making an impact on those in attendance.
Seconds into checking into his first game, the freshman was able to slam home an alley-oop from fellow newcomer Lasan Kromah. Brimah followed that up with a thunderous block just seconds later, energizing Gampel Pavilion into a chant of "A-mi-da".
Brimah, who comes to UConn by way of Accra, Ghana, finished the night with five blocks, each more impressive than his last, while also contributing eight points on 4-of-5 shooting.
After the game, Brimah was a main talking point, as the freshman made quite an impact in his inaugural game in Storrs.
"Did you see that first play?" joked Ollie after the game when asked about Brimah's effort. "That was pretty damn good."
"He's gonna be a force to be reckoned with if he stays at that level," said Ollie about his new big man. "I know you're playing Southern Connecticut, but it doesn't matter. The intensity that he brought and the passion that he brought. Did you see some of those blocked shots? Even that last shot, that would have been a dunk. The last shot of the game, he contested that, and we were up 30. That shows his passion and how good he can be."
"I run hard all the time," said Brimah, who looked slightly shell-shocked at the hordes of media surrounding him. "That's what I do best: shot-blocking. So I always make sure I get the best out of it."
Ollie also praised Brimah's ability to talk, as the young shot-blocker has already developed quite the reputation for being vocal.
"Somebody taught him how to talk," said Ollie. "When we do lay-ups, even when we do laps, he talks around the laps. The guys will be like 'shut-up, shut-up' but no, I want them to talk a little bit more! We actually run laps and you can see him out there like 'uh, uh, uh', but that's just him."
While it may be too soon to crown Brimah as the next in a long line of UConn big men, his defensive abilities alone are enough to make any UConn fan smile.
But until then, Brimah, who described tonight as "incredible," has a goal set that is sure to solidify his status as the next Thabeet or Okafor.
"We're going for the 'ship."
Are the Huskies a legit title contender? Is Amida Brimah for real? Have your say with comment below! Follow @R_Tolmich for more UConn coverage throughout the season.
*All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted*
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