By: Kels Dayton
Ryan Boatright has heard that Eminem song.
He’s not missing his chance, his opportunity to shine with UConn, which is finally his team after years of trying to emerge from envelopment in Shabazz Napier’s heavy shadow.
The senior guard is taking advantage of his opportunity to lead the Huskies, coming through with 21.5 points, 5 assists, and a Napier-like 7 rebounds per game so far this season. He’s stepped up like you’d expect a starter on a national championship team to do, knocking down big shots late in games and making the right decisions down the stretch instead of trying to be the hero or playing like J.R. Smith.
Boatright put up 24 against Bryant, 19 against Charleston, and 20 against Dayton in the semifinals of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off on Friday. But as always, his impact has been felt most on the defensive end, where he’s harassed opposing guards and made it constantly difficult for opposing teams to get into their offense.
Boatright is averaging 2.3 steals per game, and came up with two game-changing pilfers down the stretch of the Huskies’ season opener against Bryant. It’s nice to see that he’s remained focused on his defensive impact, despite the need for him to step up offensively.
As good as Boatright has been, UConn wouldn’t be 3-0 without the contribution it has gotten from freshman Daniel Hamilton, who arrived in Storrs with much hype, and whom has lived up to it thus far. Hamilton is averaging 12 points per game and scored 14 against Dayton, knocking down a huge three with just over 6:00 left to stretch the Huskies’ lead to four.
The teams had been going back-and-forth all game long up until that point.
UConn needed someone to step up and fill the scoring void left by outgoing players Neils Giffey and DeAndre Daniels, and Hamilton has done a nice job in filling that role. He and newcomer Sam Cassell Jr. have fit well in a somewhat crowded backcourt, and they’ve given the Huskies big buckets at key moments in some of their early games.
Rodney Purvis looked more comfortable in his role in his second game with the team, putting up 19 on 8-of-15 shooting against Dayton. Although his shot isn’t exactly the type of thing you’d see on an instructional DVD, he’s done a nice job knocking down open jumpers so far (although he did clank two free throws off the front of the rim late in the Dayton game). Head coach Kevin Ollie would probably like to see Purvis become more of a distributor (he had just 2 assists on Friday), the backcourt is a work in progress, and it’s shown some promise.
Amida Brimah was named a captain this offseason, and he’s got as much potential as anyone on the team. But against Dayton, the big man showed he was still prone to getting into early foul trouble and rendering himself a non-factor during stretches (he scored just 6 points on Friday).
Brimah did block five shots against the Flyers, but Dayton shot over 50 percent in the first half, and routinely went down low for buckets. That’s going to have to change.