A year ago, the recruiting trail looked long and dry for UConn. Coming off a disappointing season, facing NCAA sanctions, picked middle-of-the-pack in the Big East, the Huskies faced a challenge.
A magical run to the national championship puts a new look on a lot of things, of course, and couple that with the coaching staff's hard work and the picture has changed. As UConn captured imaginations with its 11-game winning streak in postseason play, recruits were being captivated as well.
On Aug. 26, Andre Drummond, who was considered the top recruit for 2012, decided that 2011 was his time. He tweeted that it was official. He, too, was going to UConn.
By anyone's standard, the Huskies had a great offseason. "And we expect all three of them to push for playing time," coach Jim Calhoun said on the night last season's team got championship rings.
All three bring personality: Boatright is brash, Drummond charming, Daniels smooth.
Before Boatright can play, his eligibility must be ironed out. The NCAA and UConn began conducting a joint review of activities that took place with his AAU team and it's possible he could miss the first few games.
But as soon as he is allowed, Boatright figures to have impact. At 6 feet, he quickly took to his new teammates, playing loud in the pickup games. On First Night, he rose above all, even Drummond, to win the slam dunk contest.
"He's a very fun, very explosive athlete to watch," Calhoun said. "He's not necessarily a structured guy. I've told him, he probably came to the right place, as opposed to a Princeton-type offense."
Repeatedly, Calhoun has made the comparison to John Gwynn, who wasn't a point guard, but a high-energy smaller player who came off the bench to provide instant offense for the Dream Season team in 1989-90. Calhoun also compares Boatright to Kemba Walker.
"I'd say he's 60-40," Calhoun said, "60 percent scorer, 40 percent pure point guard."
Daniels, 6-8, will have to fight for playing time in a crowded front court that includes Roscoe Smith and Alex Oriakhi from the championship team. But he has shot the three-pointer well in practices and started the first exhibition game, scoring 10 points.
But when he gestured to the students after hitting a three-pointer, Daniels was pulled out of the game.
"Coach was right to take me out," Daniels said. "I was wrong to do that. I was kind of 'in the moment.'"
The over-done celebrating was "out-of-character," Calhoun said. Daniels is "one of the nicest kids we've had here." From Southern California, Daniels reacted with wonderment when the first snow he'd ever seen blanketed campus.
Then there is Drummond. Though he came to campus with talk of his being a lottery pick, perhaps even the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft after one year, he has fit in with teammates rather nicely, in part because he had been playing in pickup games with many of them for years.
"You would think a kid like that might be arrogant," Oriakhi said, "but he is not like that at all. He listens to what you try to teach him, he is like a sponge."
Once the pickup games and First Night were done, all three got their indoctrination: Calhoun's first practice, more than three hours long.
"It's not high school anymore," Drummond said.
UConn Men, The New Kids
The Freshmen: Ryan Boatright, Andre Drummond, DeAndre Daniels - Brash, Charming And Smooth
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