Who has the most to gain as UConn decides on new direction?
Kevin Ollie is out as the head coach at UConn, and any number of dominoes could fall in the coming days in regards to who might hired to replace the former Huskies great. However, some of the damage has already been done, and while the once-proud program takes a step back, others are primed to take its place in the college basketball universe. Who has the most to gain from the recent developments in Storrs?
The Friars have already gained a piece of the pie, but Ed Cooley could be ready to go in the for the kill. Providence has done yeomen’s work in recent years in grabbing some of the very best prospects in the New England region. In the 2018 class, David Duke and A.J. Reeves, both top-50 prospects, decided that Providence - not UConn - would be their next stop. Five years ago, this likely would not have been the case. In 2017, it was Makai Ashton-Langford who was originally committed to UConn, but decided to back off of his initial pledge to the AAC program before then enrolling at Providence. Cooley has slowly developed a reputation as a developer of talent and also a winner in the more high stakes recruiting battles. If UConn does not snatch Cooley away, next in line could be Akok Akok, Greg Gantt and many others.
If there ever was a time for Rutgers basketball to be get back on the basketball map as not just a .500 program but one that can continually battle for NCAA Tournament berths, now would be it. The recent ouster in Storrs could bring its own head coach, Steve Pikiell, into consideration for the job, but in the meantime the Scarlet Knights could begin to chip away at whatever allure the UConn name had in the New England region. Just last fall, the Scarlet Knights beat the Huskies in a battle for Rivals150 guard Montez Mathis, Pikiell’s first ever nationally ranked recruit. Rutgers also found a good one in under-the-radar sophomore guard Geo Baker, a New Hampshire native, and has not been afraid to remain a heavy presence in the area. In the 2019 class, Isaiah Wong, Aundre Hyatt, Justin Winston, Ishmael Massoud and Eric Dixon are a few players that could be now more attainable prospects, thanks to the Ollie ouster at UConn.
The most likely replacement for Kevin Ollie in Storrs is none other than Rhode Island’s Danny Hurley. So, why does this give the Rams the most to gain? Sure, losing the person most responsible for returning the program into the Atlantic 10’s best is cause for concern, but if Hurley does leave for the AAC program, a likely replacement might already be on the staff in Kingston. David Cox, the associate head coach of the Rams, has been the catalyst for the Rams’ recent run on the recruiting front. He helped Rhode Island solidify one of the top non-power conference classes in America, one led by Rivals150 seniors Brendan Adams and Jermaine Harris. Keeping a strong four-man class in place is of the utmost importance, and the same sentiment could be made for its likely returning nucleus next season in Cyril Langevine, Jeff Dowtin and Daron Russell.
This is more of a dark horse program, especially with its own uncertainty in recent years, but UConn has made its mark in the Peach State. Now, with a new coaching staff in Storrs, might more ample recruiting terrain be open for the Georgia Bulldogs basketball program in its own state? Two years ago, the Huskies went down to Georgia and snatched its top lead guard prospect, Alterique Gilbert. The Huskies have remained connected in the area, and recently offered Rivals150 junior Charles Smith IV, and they continued to pursue juniors Jaylin Williams and TJ Bickerstaff. While the Bulldogs must find their own head coach now with the ouster of Mark Fox in Athens, the coaching change in Storrs could enable for easier recruiting work within their own state.
While New England high school basketball has treated the UConn men’s basketball very kindly in the past several years, the same can be said for West Coast prep basketball. In the 2018 class alone, the Huskies signed two Rivals150 prospects from the West: James Akinjo and Emmitt Matthews. Before them it was Vance Jackson and Daniel Hamilton. With one less program to contend with, the Pac-12 as a whole could see an easier path to keeping its top talent at to home. California and Stanford could see an uptick in their recruiting wars, as the Cardinal remain in pursuit of four-star junior Jaiden DeLaire, a Connecticut native, and USC and UCLA will not have to battle a program that can offer something a bit different than their usual conference opponents. The 2019 class was not one that looked marketable for the Huskies out West, but it still allows for an easier path for the Pac-12 powers to gain even more strength in the seasons ahead.