New roles for everyone on Dan Hurley's squad
With last year's leaders now in the NBA, just about every returning player is expected to take on a new role this season.
The UConn Huskies will have a lot of continuity and plenty of reasons for optimism going into the 2023-2024 season. But if they’re going to make another deep run in March, they’ll be doing it with a much different starting lineup and main rotation.
Enter Cam Spencer and an exciting 2024 recruiting class headlined by Stephon Castle. Among the departures, Joey California is out of eligibility and Nahiem Alleyne is now playing for Rick Pitino at St. John’s while Andre Jackson, Adama Sanogo, and Jordan Hawkins are getting ready for NBA training camp. Samson Johnson hasn't played much but should see more action this year.
After an open practice for fans, head coach Dan Hurley and some players met with the media to discuss how things are shaping up for this season’s squad.
On Wednesday, they’ll fly to Europe for three games, giving them a chance to hold 10 additional practices, challenge themselves against new opponents, and also broaden their cultural horizons. The first contest takes place Saturday, August 5th in Monaco followed by two games in Barcelona, Spain on August 7th and 8th.
Spencer an ideal fit
Cam Spencer filled a lot of needs for UConn with his skill set as a playmaking guard. But the grad transfer’s competitive spirit appears to be standing out most to his coach and teammates.
“He’s an absolute dog,” Donovan Clingan said. “There’s no one on this team who wants to win more than him, maybe besides Coach Hurley.”
Clingan went on to describe Spencer as a “great all-around player. He can shoot the ball lights out, he can pass the ball, [he’s] so patient…pump-fakes, step-throughs, the no-look passes, he’s got all of it.”
Hurley said with Spencer and Tristen Newton, he has “two guys that can that can light it up,” and that Newton will “have that space to play because he's got another veteran with him there to create,” and also that Spencer “doesn't make a lot of mistakes at either end of the court, [his] shooting’s a weapon, he can facilitate.”
“I’m a competitive kid,” Spencer said. “I pride myself on being able to shoot and make plays for others.”
Spencer mentioned that he’s made fast friends with Alex Karaban, who’s developed a reputation on the team as a gym rat. Karaban has high hopes for the Huskies’ experienced addition.
“He’s a vet. He’s been phenomenal. I think he’s going to be a great player for us,” Karaban said.
Like Clingan, Spencer also sees similarities between himself and his new head coach.
“We're so alike in our competitive nature. I love his intensity. We compete every day in practice…He's fiery. I’m fiery. I can't wait to play for him.”
Castle is on his way
All indications are that Stephon Castle is as good as advertised. He brings an immediate infusion of talent to the roster. Of course, it’s on Hurley and the staff to use it correctly, but Castle will also benefit from strong support on the court, particularly with veteran guards Newton and Spencer.
“He’s an incredible playmaker and I think he’s a very good passer, does a great job of getting in the paint and scoring but also finding teammates,” Spencer said.
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