Ater Majok's Departure Is a Big Problem for the UConn Huskies

Tom SmithCorrespondent ISeptember 1, 2010

Ater Majok, UConn's promising 6'11" power forward, has officially left the University and the basketball team.

There usually isn't a lot of handwringing when a player who averaged 2.3 points and three rebounds per game decides to leave a program, but Majok represented a three-year investment that still seemed like it was going to pay off.

Majok, who recently turned 23, did not have your typical freshman season last year in Storrs.

After sitting out all of the 2008-09 season and the first semester of the 2009-10 season, Majok clearly struggled to transition from practice to game conditions.

There were layers of rust that needed to be shaken off, and unfortunately the only way to do that was in high-profile games during what became a disappointing season.

The oldest of six children, Ater Majok was born in the Sudan.

His family, fleeing persecution in their civil war-torn nation, became refugees in Egypt. After living for eight years in a Cairo detention camp, Ater was able to immigrate to Australia on a U.N. visa.

His promise as a basketball player was discovered while attending high school in Sydney. His then-6'10" frame and 7'7" wingspan led to dreams of professional basketball. More than that, basketball became a potential way for Ater to help his family.

Much was expected of Majok this season.

While obviously not the program savior some hoped he could be, and while clearly not living up to the endless hype here in Husky Nation, Majok showed flashes of his potential last season.

He has tremendous energy to go along with his freakish dimensions and athletic ability. Last season was written off as a transition year for Majok.

Projected to be the starter at power forward for this upcoming season, many were hopeful of seeing exponential growth in his game. Ater Majok was going to be one of the keys to a successful campaign in 2010-11.

Now that Majok has left school, reportedly to play professionally in Australia, UConn head coach Jim Calhoun has to deal with a gaping hole in the frontcourt.

Alex Oriakhi, another player needed to make big strides this season, is set at the center position, but the power forward slot is now wide open.

Charles Okwandu, a senior with very limited offensive ability, will now be seeing more minutes than originally projected. The Wolf Man, Enosh Wolf, may be pressed into service sooner than expected. Same for local product Tyler Olander.

The reasons for Ater Majok's departure are still unclear.

The most likely theory is that, realizing that his professional future is not in the U.S., Majok decided to start earning as soon as possible.

The Hartford Courant reported that Majok's entire family had recently returned to the Sudan. Ironically, the family was fleeing the same type of terror that led them to Egypt in the first place—persecution from Muslim extremists.

As recently as July, Majok could not foresee a reason he would leave UConn. An urgent need to financially help his family would certainly be a valid explanation for his change of heart.

Regardless of his rationale, Majok's decision to leave the University has created a big problem for a team already looking to recover from one of the worst seasons in Jim Calhoun's tenure.

Without question, this puts enormous pressure on the back of Oriakhi. Without a consistent low-post scoring option, UConn might be in for another rough year.