Thursday, October 12, 2006

Much ado about … sophomores

Yes, eight freshmen enter tonight’s Men’s Madness along with A.J. Price, listed as a sophomore after finishing high school three years ago. Elder statesman in years but not collegiate experience.

But behind the much-anticipated freshman class, four sophomores await their second season with all four experiencing highs and lows during their first year in Storrs.

1) Rob Garrison was still a year away from full physical and mental maturity and played sparingly last season.

2) Craig Austrie played competent basketball for the first half of the season until his minutes diminished when Marcus Williams returned from suspension.

3) Jeff Adrien had a productive campaign for a freshman and earned Big East All-Rookie honors.

4) And then there’s Marcus Johnson. Unlimited talent. Slasher. Scorer. Gives UConn an added dimension on the wing.

So how did perhaps the most versatile Husky get lost in the rotation last season?

Easy answers:
Talent and experience ahead of him.
Needed more strength.
More consistency.
More confidence.
Maybe he needed to be more assertive.

Even though his top four games last season were during the soft portion of UConn’s schedule, he still put up better-than-average numbers.

Then his season seemed to have ended.

Fourteen DID NOT PLAYS sit next to his name in the media guide.

Let’s look at those numbers and if you’re at Gampel Pavilion tonight watch him closely. Then remember what you saw when UConn starts playing three weeks from now.

New Hampshire: 9-13 FG, 2-3 3-pt FG, 0-2 FT, 20 PTS, 24 MIN
Morehead State: 4-8 FG, 0-1 3-pt FG, 5-5 FT, 13 PTS, 22 MIN
Stony Brook: 6-10 FG, 0-1 3-pt FG, 2-6 FT, 14 PTS, 22 MIN
Quinnipiac: 7-9 FG, 1-1 3-pt FG, 2-5 FT, 17 PTS, 29 MIN

As far as quality minutes and quality performances go, Johnson looked every bit the top-50 national recruit he was coming out of Los Angeles, save for the poor free-throw shooting.

Then he disappeared on a cold night in Milwaukee in January.

Marquette: 1-5 FG, 0-1 3-pt FG, 0-2 FT, 2 PTS, 11 MIN

Johnson’s numbers the rest of the season:

3-9 FG, 1-2 3-pt FG, 1-6 FTs, 8 PTS, 33 MINS

Johnson has the potential to fill a void for the Huskies this season. He is versatile and now a sophomore, which is ancient on this year’s team.

Four-game stretches have defined careers but they usually come in March, not in December.

Johnson has shown flashes of talent.

He arrives at a crucial juncture in his college basketball career, more so than any other Husky.

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