Just a few weeks after the Connecticut Huskies captured their fourth national championship, some uncertainty looms in Storrs.
Though rising-star head coach Kevin Ollie has tried to dispel rumors that he could head to the NBA, he has yet to state definitively that he will return to the Huskies next year. The Lakers and possibly the Thunder -- if they fire Scott Brooks -- are said to be interested in the championship coach. In the meantime, UConn athletic director Warde Manuel is trying to work out a massive raise and a new deal for his coach, hoping the lure of the NBA doesn't prove too much for someone who seems a natural fit to coach at the next level.
Meanwhile on the court, UConn will have to figure out how to win without clutch point guard and NCAA Tournament MOP Shabazz Napier, who will graduate this month and head to the NBA. The Huskies also lose DeAndre Daniels, an early-entry forward, and Niels Giffey, who graduates after transforming into one of the nation's best three-point shooters.
But despite everything, UConn still figures to be in good shape for next year, thanks in part to the return of Ryan Boatright and a few others who made serious contributions to this year's championship team. The Huskies also bring in a pair of big-name transfers and a Top-100 recruit to help fill holes.
Everyone from Storrs to Stamford knows that Boatright will need to slide into Napier's role on and off the court. The rising senior at times displayed the same poise and moxie as his former teammate, but he truly shined in the postseason when his defense shut down the Michigan State and Florida guards in back-to-back games. After nearly leaving for the NBA Draft, Boatright elected to return to lead a loaded UConn backcourt.
Alongside Boatright, Terrence Samuel could play his way into the starting lineup. He played sparingly for most of this season, but proved toward the end that he can be a physical and aggressive guard. Samuel might be more valuable to UConn than he will get credit for right away. And while Samuel vies to prove himself, Omar Calhoun will look to rebound from a lost 2013-14 season in which he struggled from the field and ended the year buried on the bench.
But things start to get interesting when you look at UConn's returning frontcourt. Amida Brimah and Phillip Nolan both showed significant improvement throughout the season, and if the two can stay out of foul trouble, the Huskies can go from a good team to national contenders in a hurry. Brimah, however, will be sidelined for much of the offseason after undergoing shoulder surgery -- an unfortunate break for a 7-footer who could have used the summer to add some needed muscle and continue mastering the fundamentals of a game still relatively new to him.
Kentan Facey will play behind Nolan and Brimah, along with incoming freshman Rakim Lubin. Facey didn't get much time in 2013-14, but when he did see the court, he proved to be an effective rebounder, which the Huskies struggled to do consistently all year.
Key Additions: Rodney Purvis, Sam Cassell Jr., Daniel Hamilton, Rakim Lubin
Boatright will team up with NC State transfer Rodney Purvis, who sat out last season but has already earned the confidence of his coach -- Ollie referred to him as a "Ferrari in the garage that I can't drive" while Purvis was sidelined. In his lone season with the Wolfpack, Purvis averaged 8.3 points per game and shot 39 percent from three, but chose to transfer because he felt he did not fit in with head coach Mark Gottfried's offense.
While Purvis might begin the year in the starting lineup, he'll be challenged for playing time by not only Samuel, but by incoming junior college transfer Sam Cassell Jr. The son of the three-time NBA champ put up 18.7 points and 3.8 assists per game at Chipola College last year.
The Huskies' prize recruit, Daniel Hamilton, will likely see time at the 2 and the 3. The Jordan Brand Classic All-American comes in ranked 30th overall in the ESPN Top 100 and has been touted as an excellent scorer with a deadly mid-range game. At 6'6, Hamilton has some size for his position, but will need to add some muscle over the summer.
The power forward Lubin comes to the Huskies without the fanfare of their other new additions, but he seems to already have the size and toughness to contend for playing time and, at the very least, challenge the other UConn bigs in practice while he matures.