Hur­ley wel­comes ‘pre­cious’ chance to face Mem­phis

The News-Times - - SPORTS - By David Borges [email protected]­medi­

MYS­TIC — Dan Hur­ley had per­haps a Freudian slip while speak­ing with re­porters prior the first stop on the UConn Coaches Road Show on Tues­day at Lat­i­tude 41 restau­rant.

Asked about how he’s likely to fill one more schol­ar­ship for next sea­son, he noted that the staff had to de­cide whether to go with a ro­ta­tional, back-up player to fill a need, or with a high-end ta­lent that could help more in the fu­ture.

“Ev­ery schol­ar­ship,” Hur­ley noted, “is pre­cious.”

Ah yes, pre­cious. Not Pre­cious. Pre­cious Achi­uwa, the five-star for­ward that Hur­ley has spent plenty of re­cruit­ing hours try­ing to woo to Storrs, de­cided last week he’s head­ing to Mem­phis.

He’s not the only top re­cruit to join for­mer Mem­phis and NBA star Penny Har­d­away with the Tigers. There’s the na­tion’s con­sen­sus No. 1 over­all re­cruit, James Wise­man. There’s a quar­tet of four-star play­ers, led by Boogie Ellis and DJ Jef­fries, that join Wise­man and Achi­uwa in what is rated the top 2019 class in the coun­try by most re­cruit­ing ser­vices.

All that, on top of sev­eral high-level play­ers Har­d­away brought in with his first re­cruit­ing class last year, should make the Tigers a for­mi­da­ble threat. Cer­tainly a pro­gram that will garner a lot of at­ten­tion all sea­son.

Of course, if you didn’t know by now, Mem­phis plays in the Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence along­side UConn. Hur­ley has raked in a top-20 re­cruit­ing class of his own, led by Akok Akok, James Bouknight and Jalen Gaffney. And if he har­bors any envy that Har­d­away was able to nab Achi­uwa to add to his em­bar­rass­ment of re­cruit­ing riches, he didn’t let on on Tues­day.

“I think it’s great for the league,” Hur­ley said. “I like Penny. Penny put his sweate­quity into this game over the course of his life. He’s got, ob­vi­ously, a lot that young peo­ple can learn from him. We all have a pro­gram style that we try to re­cruit to or build our pro­gram around. Ob­vi­ously, he’s do­ing it in that Ken­tucky/Duke type of model. With his per­son­al­ity and his background, that prob­a­bly works great for him.”

All the hoopla sur­round­ing Mem­phis this sea­son, he added, will be good for the eter­nally un­der-ap­pre­ci­ated AAC. It will even help UConn’s re­cruit­ing. As Hur­ley noted, other teams in the league al­ready ben­e­fit on the re­cruit­ing trail by promis­ing the chance to play against the Huskies.

“Hope­fully we’ll play them twice next year,” he said of the Tigers. “It’ll be two ex­cit­ing games. It’s great for our sched­ule, it’s great for the league. Penny’s a good dude.”

As for his own re­cruit­ing class, which is cur­rently ranked No. 19 in the na­tion by 247Sports:

“I’m thrilled with what we’ve been able to add. We’ve been able to add qual­ity pieces, guys who have the skill-set, the ta­lent, par­tic­u­larly Gaffney, Bouknight, Akok, R.J. (Cole, a Howard Univer­sity trans­fer who’ll have to sit out this sea­son). When they get through the de­vel­op­ment process and ma­ture to­gether, they’re guys that should be play­ing very prom­i­nent roles on cham­pi­onship-level teams.”

Akok, he noted, has ac­cli­mated well to col­lege life, “lives in the gym,” and is in the process of build­ing him­self up phys­i­cally and get­ting more fun­da­men­tally sound.

“His 3-point shoot­ing, shot-block­ing and ath­leti­cism will help us a lot,” Hur­ley said.

Bouknight, a 6-foot-5 combo guard, and Gaffney, a 6-2 point guard, will ar­rive on cam­pus on June 3. Both could see ma­jor min­utes im­me­di­ately.

“They’ve played a lot of bas­ket­ball and have a lot of ta­lent,” Hur­ley said of the two four-star re­cruits. “And they’re coach­able”

Al­though UConn is at its schol­ar­ship al­lot­ment of 12 (the pro­gram docked it­self a schol­ar­ship for vi­o­la­tions un­der Kevin Ol­lie’s ten­ure), it is still re­cruit­ing for one more spot. Noth­ing’s of­fi­cial about how that fi­nal schol­ar­ship will open up, but it ap­pears Ma­madou Diarra’s bas­ket­ball ca­reer may be over. The 6-7 power for­ward has been be­set by chronic knee prob­lems since high school and played in just two games last sea­son.

“It’s been a tough cou­ple of years for Ma­madou,” Hur­ley said. “He’s a war­rior and a win­ner and a guy that wants to get out on the court, but he’s been just be­sieged by dif­fi­cult in­jury stuff that very few play­ers have to deal with — be­fore he got to UConn, and pretty much since he’s been here.”

Diarra is home for break now and will re­turn to cam­pus for the start of sum­mer classes, at which time some de­ci­sions will be made.

“Mo’s a val­ued mem­ber of the pro­gram, and we have a lot of re­spect for Mo,” Hur­ley said.

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