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Monday, September 19, 2005

Connecticut Recruiting Report

VERBAL COMMITMENT ALERT: Jonathan Mandeldove (C), Hargrave Military Academy

Projected 2006-2007 Roster:
Seniors: Marcus Williams (PG), Josh Boone (PF/C)
Juniors: Rudy Gay (SF)
Sophomores: AJ Price (G), Marcus Johnson (WG), Jeff Adrien (F), Craig Austrie (G), Robert Garrison (PG).
Freshmen: Curtis Kelly (BF/C), Will Harris (F), Ramar Smith (G), Jerome Dyson (G), Jonathan Mandeldove (C)

Hartford Courant Story on Mandeldove's decision: Mandeldove Picks Huskies.

Links to our previous Connecticut recruiting write-ups: Sept 18 Report, Sept 6 Report, July 8 Report, July 25 Round-Up.

Newly enshrined Hall od Fame coach Jim Calhoun hit the daily double this weekend by gaining commitments from Jerome Dyson and Jonathan Mandeldove, giving the Huskies a "fab 5" group of Dyson, Ramar Smith, Will Harris, Curtis Kelly and Mandeldove.

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Even though the 2006-2007 roster looks full, up to four additional spots could become available. So, recruiting is far from over in Storrs. In fact, official visits are still actively being pursued with Lazer Hayward, Lance Thomas, Raymar Morgan and others. Recent visitors Deon Thompson and Alex Stepheson are also not out of the mix, despite a pretty full load.

Mandeldove is the latest commitment to UConn. The 6'11 Shiloh High School product out of Georgia averaged 12 points and 11 rebounds as a senior. He signed with VCU last year, but re-opened his recruitment after failing to qualify and showing an improved game on the summer AAU circuit. Mandeldove is a bit raw, especially offensively, but has the length and athletic ability for a big man that has coaches drooling over his upside. How much can he contribute from day one in the physical Big East will depend on his physical development over the next 12 months and playing for coach Kevin Keatts at Hargrave Military Academy with several other Division 1-A major recruits will only help him (Vernon Macklin, Tyler Smith, Marreese Speights, Armon Bassett, Stefan Walsh etc).

Even with the commitment of Mandeldove and the previous commitment from Curtis Kelly, it is still likely that the Huskies will pursue another big man to add to the mix in the front court. Deon Thompson has the bulk that could be a nice compliement and the ability to play both big man spots for UConn. It is widely expected that Josh Boone will graduate in just three years and take his talents to the NBA. This, along with the graduation of Ed Nelson and Hilton Armstrong would leave a big void in the front court for UConn. Taj Gibson is another player they have been trying to get on campus this fall, but things have been quiet on him. Also, do not rule out a JUCO ready to make an impact, with already 10 players committed to the freshmen and sophomore class, and the possibility of having no juniors or sophomores, adding a JUCO could help ease the burden of class balance and give the team a little extra maturity and experience.

Nothing is a given, but it has to be considered pretty much a given that Rudy Gay enters the NBA draft after this season. Widely considered a draft lottery lock, Gay would be a difficult player to replace. Connecticut continues to try to pursue Raymar Morgan and will look forward to hosting him in the near future. Morgan also has serious interest from Michigan St, Michigan and Ohio St of the Big 10. Lance Thomas is still more of a power forward, but could also play a physical wing position, much like Morgan. Thomas visited Arizona this weekend and should have Connecticut on his short list of schools when he pares it down this week. He could also be in the mix. Robert Garrison's AAU teammate, Lazer Hayward of Notre Dame Prep, will also be visiting in the next couple weeks. Hayward is an excellent long range shooter who has improved his overall game in the last couple years. Marquette might be the early leader, but if he comes to Storrs for a visit, do not rule out UConn. They do have the need for a perimeter shooter on the wing.

At guard, the futures of Marcus Williams and AJ Price, both for multiple reasons, for this season and beyond remain in doubt. They added a late pick-up for the 2005-2006 season in Garrison and with spring signee Craig Austrie and recent verbal commitment Jerome Dyson, they can probably wait on adding a point guard as they just do not seem to be in on anyone to the point a commitment seems possible. You can bet they will pursue a top PG and land one in the 2007 class. The recent news that Ramar Smith has left South Kent prep school and returned home to Detroit might be a situation to monitor. Not sure if this will have any impact in Smith's commitment or his ability to qualify. Hayward could be a 2-guard possibility as well, or at least insurance.

So, even with, on paper, a full load of players for 2006-2007, the Connecticut roster could change quite a bit and up to 4 scholarships could become open. I think they will still pursue 2 additional players, one in the front court and one on the wing, before calling this class done. They should keep at least two spots for next season, because they will always have a shot at the cream of the crop and they will be in better position to balance their classes, which right now, could be somewhat of an issue.

We will continue to follo UConn recruiting.

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