The Missing Piece: Tristen Newton was just what UConn needed
Newton’s game and personality were a perfect fit for the Huskies as he played a key role in their championship run.
Photo - Ian Bethune
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing ceramics with lacquer and gold, leaving a gold seam where the cracks were. Philosophically, it treats damage as something that should not be disguised.
Some might say UConn’s roster was cracked last year. It was a flawed team on the edge of the top 25 that lost multiple key contributors to graduation.
Tristen Newton wasn’t the most coveted transfer in the portal that offseason; ESPN ranked him as the 19th best, behind Miami’s Nigel Pack and Gonzaga’s Malachi Smith. But he was the missing piece UConn men’s basketball needed, the gold applied to the cracks of a team haunted by two straight first-round exits in the NCAA tournament.
As he joined UConn to make the bid for title No. 5, Newton fended off commentary that the team didn’t have a true point guard, or that he wasn’t good enough to make an impact for the Huskies in the postseason.
He was their third-leading scorer with 10.1 PPG and tied with Alex Karaban for fourth in rebounds. As a distributor, he finished last year with more assists than RJ Cole and AJ Price in their senior years, and was tied with Andre Jackson for the team lead in APG.
But Newton doesn’t have Jackson’s athleticism or Jordan Hawkins’ jump shot. He’s not a 7-foot-3 behemoth or the preseason Big East POY. Perhaps because he lacked some of these traits, and was new to the team, his weak moments — like zero points in 18 minutes in the loss to St. John’s, or a 2-10 performance against Marquette in the Big East Tournament — drew more attention than his two triple-doubles, which set a program record, or the fact that he was a crucial member of a very good team.
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