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UConn shining in Las Vegas Summer League
Sanogo signed a two-way deal, Jackson stood out, and Hawkins has been showing off.
It’s been a solid start to the summer for the three UConn rookies participating in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, as they return to the scene of the crime where they murdered Arkansas and Gonzaga on their way to the 2023 national championship.
Adama Sanogo set off on a challenging path in declaring for the pros. Though he went undrafted, he was quickly scooped up by the Chicago Bulls and now he’s officially signed to a two-way contract.
The two-way contract allows NBA teams to freely move a player from their G League roster to the main roster, so they can retain the rights to talented players who need some seasoning to be ready for the NBA grind. This offseason, the league’s new collective bargaining agreement increased the number of roster spots available for two-way players from two to three.
Chicago’s G League affiliate plays about 25 miles outside of the city, in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. To get an idea of how Sanogo’s year might go, former Husky Tyrese Martin was a second-round pick last year who played in 16 NBA games with 23 G League appearances for the Atlanta Hawks.
Another former Husky, Isaiah Whaley, went undrafted last year and had 32 appearances with the Greensboro Hornets on an Exhibit 10 contract, a one-year deal for players who participate in minicamp that offers a higher salary to be in the G League and can also be converted to a two-way deal.
My guess is Sanogo gets a call-up for at least a little time in the Association this year.
“I want to do whatever they want me to do to get a roster spot,” Sanogo told NBC Sports Chicago, whose reporter noted that Sanogo rebounded and set screens well, but needs to work on his athleticism to be a better defender and also improve his shooting.
Sanogo highlighted his development areas: “Defense, being able to switch 1 through 5…being able to stretch the floor a little bit…to catch-and-shoot. And work on my body.” He also called his NBA role models Bam Adebayo and Xavier Tillman.
On Tuesday night, Sanogo scored 15 points while grabbing nine rebounds. This was after an eight-point, 12-rebound performance Sunday night. He’s shown Bulls fans what UConn fans already knew: he’s the kind of guy you want on your team.
As a second-round pick, Andre Jackson’s future was not guaranteed, but the Bucks moved up to grab Jackson in a year when they didn’t have a first-round pick.
Now, one of the Eastern Conference’s leading squads has signed Jackson for what seems like a standard contract. He’s a unique piece to add to a highly-talented roster and has been showing off his remarkable abilities thus far in Summer League play, including an incredible sequence with two straight blocks in his debut.
“Some things you can’t teach,” Bucks head coach Adrian Griffin said after that game. “He easily could have given up on those plays. He showed great determination and grit…That’s what makes him a special player.”
The USA Today’s For the Win called Jackson one of five standout players through the first handful of games, pointing out that he was one of two rookies to be top-20 in offensive and defensive effectiveness and that his closest physical comparison is John Wall, the 2010 No. 1 overall pick. FTW also noted his high assist rate and advanced ability to dish in transition.
As mentioned in a recent podcast, Hawkins has a bit less on the line in Summer League play, as his contract is guaranteed as a first-round pick. Still, he quickly demonstrated his impressive shooting ability, scoring 16 points in his debut (with five assists!) and dropped 16 again in his second game.
“His gravity opens up things for us,” teammate Dyson Daniels said. “He is more than just a shooter — he can put it on the floor, get out in transition.”
Daniels continued: “Having him on the floor definitely helps us as a team. He can come off ball screens…to have him come off down picks and stuff like that gives us more variety to our game.”
Hawkins is aware of his development areas as well. He said he wants to become a “lockdown defender.” Also: “I’m going to play off my shot, try to get teammates open,” he said, adding that he’s “[working] on my playmaking role…With my shooting gravity, if I can get guys open and get guys shots, that will be a big impact.”