The Storrs 6: Six Players Who Will Lead UCONN to a Second Straight Title
The 2010-2011 college basketball season was one filled with many compelling storylines. Two of the most publicized were the standout seasons of BYU's Jimmer Fredette and Connecticut's Kemba Walker.
Reminiscent of the scoring battle between J.J. Redick and Adam Morrison of seasons ago, the two traded dazzling performances almost nightly. As we all know, the dream season for Kemba ended in a 2011 NCCA Men's Basketball National Championship.
What made the championship season more interesting was that he was helped by a young, lightly-touted group of Huskies. This season, however, UCONN won't be sneaking up on anyone. They have six potential NBA athletes ready to rip through the Big East on their way to defending their national championship.
Here's a first look at "The Storrs 6."
6. DeAndre Daniels
Consider DeAndre Daniels a postseason national championship gift for coach Jim Calhoun and the Huskies. After being expected to land at both Kansas and Texas at different points in his dramatic recruitment, he decided to jilt both programs and suit up for the Huskies.
The incoming freshman has the size and skills to be a one-and-done player for the program, and don't be surprised if a late-season run at a second consecutive national championship helps bolster his stock for the 2012 NBA draft.
Expect the 6'8" wing-forward to get on-the-job training playing behind Roscoe Smith, which should help him flourish. He will get a chance to showcase the plethora of skills in his arsenal, while not being counted upon to carry a significant amount of the load for the team.
The California native and 5-star recruit has too much talent to keep on the bench, and though he won't be a "go-to player" this season, he could very well play a role like Marvin Williams did during his freshman year when North Carolina won a national title.
5. Roscoe Smith
Roscoe Smith, a 6'8" sophomore, will be the starting small forward for the team this season.
After starting 33 games as a true freshman and averaging 6.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game, look for this year to be a breakout season for the Baltimore native.
The athletic and agile forward will be counted upon heavily for rebounding and defensive purposes, but he is also a very capable scorer. He will also be looked upon to show incoming freshman stud DeAndre Daniels the ropes of the small forward position. The two mirror-image hybrids could possibly be a scary tandem for opponents all season long.
Look for Roscoe Smith to supply the Huskies with his fair share of highlights this season, and don't be surprised if he has an All-Big East type season. Defenses will be keying on his teammates, opening the door for some huge games statistically.
4. Alex Oriakhi
Despite being the focal point of interior defenses for all of last season, Alex Oriakhi produced big-time for UCONN with season averages of almost 10 points and eight rebounds per game. The junior is primed for an even bigger year now that he will slide from center back to his normal power forward slot.
He is a brute force on the inside and a warrior who any college team would love to have on their side. The fact that he is now the second option in the post for the 2011-12 squad should be a downright scary thought for opposing teams and their coaching staffs.
Expect him to be an absolute beast on the defensive end of the floor, snatching up rebounds and blocking shots regularly. Although he won't be the main option in the interior for the offense, look for him to get more than his fair share of scoring opportunities on the blocks, with most ending in rim-rattling dunks.
3. Shabazz Napier
If you want to win big at the college basketball level, you need a capable lead guard. Last season, Kemba Walker proved that he could carry the Huskies on his sturdy 6'0 frame. This season, the point guard role will be handed over to sophomore Shabazz Napier.
The unheralded 6' guard proved to be a recruit most national recruiting analysts underestimated, showing poise beyond his years in crunch-time situations, while dazzling crowds with his supreme ball-handling skills.When the dust cleared on the season, Napier had made the 2011 All-Big East Rookie Team and was immediately labeled as Kemba's heir to the throne.
This year, look for him to be one of the country's top point guards. You can expect him to post gaudy assist and steals numbers, while contributing to box scores with his highly-efficient long range shooting.
In a conference filled with quality point guards, look for Shabazz Napier to continue the tradition of Connecticut producing NBA quality point guards.
2. Jeremy Lamb
Much like Shabazz Napier, Jeremy Lamb arrived in Storrs with limited fanfare out of high school. Credit the UCONN staff for realizing the prospect he could become, once molded. While producing solid numbers all season long, he took his play to a new level when the team entered NCAA tournament play.
After averaging 16.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, and shooting 58 percent from the field in the Big Dance, and making the NCAA Final Four All-Tournament Team, there was a lot of talk about him entering the 2011 NBA draft. After he decided that he would be best served returning to campus for another year, Big East coaches surely began to sweat.
He enters the season as a preseason All-American ready to lead the attack in the backcourt. To make matters more difficult for the opposition, Lamb will have Shabazz Napier to complement him perfectly, preventing defenses from keying on him too much.
Expect the lithe shooting guard to garner All-Big East First Team honors, while First Team All-American honors are not out of the question. He has lottery pick written all over him, and he surely has his eyes set on another title before he leaves after the upcoming season.
1. Andre Drummond
With the news of blue-chip superstar Andre Drummond coming to Connecticut this fall, the Huskies are now included in the upper echelon of heavily hyped teams for the upcoming season, joining Kentucky, North Carolina and Ohio State. However, as of right now, the addition of the behemoth center has to make UCONN the favorite to win the 2012 title.
He is easily the most athletically gifted big man to enter the college game since Ohio State's Greg Oden, and his ceiling is scary. From day one, the 6'11" beast will be a double-double threat, while he is expected to block a great deal of shots while altering many more.
Initially, the Huskies were expected to be a national contender due to their returning players, especially with their NCAA tournament experience. However, the addition of Andre Drummond puts them in a league of their own.
Watch for him to dominate in his only college season, potentially winning National Player of the Year, Big East Player of the Year and numerous other awards along the way. Is that too much pressure for a freshman? For most, yes. However, most freshman aren't as ridiculously talented as Andre Drummond.
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