UConn Basketball

Kevin Ollie, Young UConn Huskies Squad Relying on Backcourt Play This Season

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 06:  Shabazz Napier #13 of the Connecticut Huskies in action against the DePaul Blue Demons during their first round game of the 2012 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 6, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Nick LantzCorrespondent IIJanuary 8, 2013

The Connecticut Huskies basketball team is going through a new phase. They have a new coach in Kevin Ollie, a lack of big men, and a fairly young team. They do, however, have one of the better backcourts in the NCAA.

Junior guard Shabazz Napier is currently sixth in the Big East with 17.5 points per game. He leads this UConn squad in more ways than just scoring. This season, he is first on the team in numerous categories, such as steals, with 2.2 per contest.  He has made and taken the most three-pointers, making 27 of 69, and he shoots a team high 83.1 percent from the free throw line. He is also second on the team in assists, dishing out 3.8 per game.

When thinking of UConn basketball, the names of big men such as Emeka Okafor, Charlie Villanueva and Hasheem Thabeet come to mind. Unfortunately for Connecticut, their star big man is currently in the NBA. Andre Drummond chose to declare for the 2012 NBA draft after his freshman season for the Huskies and was selected 9th overall by the Detroit Pistons.

Last year, Drummond was UConn's top recruit and was the top center in the 2011 class coming out of high school. With Drummond gone, Connecticut does not have a presence in the paint to which they are accustomed. Their current leader in rebounding is a guard, not a big man. It is Napier who leads the team in rebounding (4.2 per game) as well, leading the Huskies in almost every statistic.

The lone center on the roster is 7'1" Enosch Wolf, who has played in all 13 contests but only averages 3.5 points and 3.5 rebounds. Junior Tyler Olander and sophomore DeAndre Daniels, both forwards, have had to fill the void in the frontcourt. The 6'9" Olander leads the team in blocks with 1.5 per game

Daniels, a four star recruit from IMG Academy came in the same class as Drummond and has improved greatly from last season. Thus far, he is scoring 10.1 points per game, up from just 3 per game in 2011-12. He is also second on the team in rebounding (4.1 per game) and blocks with 1.3 a game.

Without a true threat down low, the Huskies' backcourt has really had to step up their game and carry the team. So far, they have done just that. Along with Napier, sophomore Ryan Boatright has heavily contributed to UConn's attack. Boatright averages 4.7 assists per game, good for first on the team, and is averaging 15.8 points, second to Napier.

Freshman Omar Calhoun is another guard that has helped UConn significantly. Calhoun was Connecticut's top recruit for 2012, ranked as the seventh best shooting guard in his class by ESPN. So far, Calhoun has posted 10.8 points per contest.

Napier, Boatright and Calhoun have each had to play an average of over 30 minutes a game. UConn will have to rely heavily on their backcourt and three-point shooting. They have already shown that they can win with a smaller lineup as they shocked Michigan State, 66-62, earlier this year at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

With one of the top outside shooters in the country in Napier, and with a young squad that will continue to grow stronger, the Huskies are still a legitimate contender in the Big East.

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