basketball Edit

Looking back on the recruitment of UConn's starting five

Adama Sanogo
Adama Sanogo (© Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)

The 2023 national title game is set to tip off Monday night in Houston, and the night promises to have at least a bit of a David-vs-Goliath feel. Mountain West darlings San Diego State, a No. 5 seed, will look to capture its first title and become one of the five lowest seeds to ever win the NCAA tournament, Meanwhile, fourth-seeded UConn is hunting its fifth national championship.

In advance of the game, Rivals explores the construction of each squad’s roster with a look back at the recruitment of each member of the two teams’ starting five.



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Ranking: No. 83 in the class of 2020

Recruitment: Originally a member of the 2021 class, Sanogo reclassified to 2020 on the day he committed to the Huskies. He was a top-100 prospect and chose UConn over finalists Maryland, Nebraska, Pitt and Seton Hall. His reputation as a senior was that of a big, physical rim-runner that did damage in the paint despite a developing offensive skill set.

He’s played right into that scouting report in Storrs, where he’s become a star. Sanogo, who played the final stretch of his high school career for The Patrick School in New Jersey, looked like a Seton Hall lean for a time during his recruitment, but Dan Hurley and company overtook the Pirates down the stretch.


Ranking: No. 49 in the class of 2021

Recruitment: Xavier felt like the early leader in Hawkins’ recruitment, but offers arrived fast and furious around the time the four-star prospect transferred to DeMatha Catholic High in Washington D.C, and the Musketeers failed to keep pace. Hawkins picked up an offer from UConn in April of 2020 and formed a close bond with then-Connecticut assistant Kenya Hunter. He committed to the Huskies in August, choosing the program over finalists Clemson, Georgetown, Maryland, Notre Dame and Pitt.

"What intrigues me is coach Hurley coaching," Hawkins told Rivals on decision day. "He’s not afraid to let you know when you're doing something wrong. He will get in your face and yell but he is that coach I would love to have. He shows that he cares and wants to see you succeed."


Ranking: No. 75 in the class of 2021

Recruitment: Karaban was named New Hampshire’s Gatorade Player of the Year while playing for the New Hampton School as a junior and transferred to powerhouse IMG Academy shortly thereafter. He committed to UConn prior to his senior season at IMG, choosing the Huskies over finalists Stanford, Iowa, Creighton and others.

In high school, Karaban was known as a skilled, modern big man with a quickly developing face-up game. The case can be made that his exposure was a bit limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whatever the case, however, he committed to Hurley before too many other heavy recruiting hitters decided to press for his pledge.


RANKING Unranked in the class of 2019

Recruitment: Newton did not have a single high-major offer to his name out of high school, and talk about him was limited to say the least. The Texas native ultimately signed with East Carolina, however, and absolutely thrived as a Pirate, scoring more than 1,000 career points in the school’s uniform. His third and final season in Greenville saw him average 17.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and five assists per game before hitting the portal and becoming one of the more in-demand transfers of the cycle.

Newton committed to UConn after an official visit last April and did not visit any other schools.


RANKING No. 71 in the class of 2020

Recruitment: One of the first major, long-term recruiting targets of the Hurley era, Jackson was a no-doubt top-100 talent coming out of Albany Academy in New York State. He chose the Huskies over finalists UCLA and Syracuse and represented a massive recruiting win for Hurley, who started dumping resources into landing the in-demand guard when he took over the program more 17 months prior.

“Coach Hurley is one of the most energetic coaches in college basketball right now,” Jackson told Rivals just before he announced his commitment to the Huskies.. “I feel like the vision he has for his players and the way he’s trying to rebuild UConn, he’s going to make a big impact there and turn it around.”