UConn commits eyeing big dreams: 'The ultimate goal is to bring a national championship to UConn’ | Zagsblog
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Tuesday / April 16.
  • UConn commits eyeing big dreams: ‘The ultimate goal is to bring a national championship to UConn’

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    By ADAM ZAGORIA

    SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — UConn coach Dan Hurley isn’t shy about expressing his ultimate goal for his program — and now his future players aren’t afraid to verbalize it either.

    “Obviously, the ultimate goal is to bring a national championship to UConn,” Long Island Lutheran senior forward Jayden Ross said Saturday at the Hoophall Classic after scoring 11 points with 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals in a win over Oak Hill Academy (VA) that came in front of Hurley and assistants Kimani Young and Luke Murray.

    Ross and Class of 2023 point guard Stephon Castle — who is also here at the Hoophall — are part of UConn’s Fab 5 recruiting class for 2023 ranked No. 4 by 247Sports.com.

    “You start saying to yourself we can win a national championship with this nucleus of people we’ve put together,” Hurley said in November. “That’s what we’re going for. Anything less than doing that will be looked at as a failure.”

    UConn has won four national titles since 1999 — more than any other program during that span. Yet Hurley is still seeking his first NCAA Tournament win since taking over in 2018. The Huskies are ranked No. 6 and host St. John’s Sunday before a trip to Seton Hall Wednesday.

    The 6-7 Ross, who committed last June before enrolling at LuHi, said he heard Hurley encouraging him several times as he ran back on defense. He probably should get used to hearing Hurley yell at him in that regard.

    “I heard coach Hurley on the sideline a few times when I was running back on defense,” he said. “He told me to play my game.”

    All five recruits are on a group chat and are building a relationship.

    “I say winning the Big East Tournament is definitely another [goal] we’re looking at and just getting each other better,” Ross said. “I think we have a great group coming in, all very skilled and talented so if we all work together and push each other in practice, then hopefully we can all be the best players we can be ultimately in the end.”

    The 6-6 Castle went for 15 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists in Newton (GA)’s loss to IMG Academy.

    “[Coach Hurley] says he wants me to produce right away and play my game,” he said. “I think I can bring another facilitator to such a good offense. He going to have shooters around me, so I just think I’ll flourish with bigs and shooters. I haven’t been able to play with nothing like that recently.”

    Castle then sat courtside for Ross’s game to support him.

    “Watching Jayden, he playing good right now so I think we got a lot of potential, I think we’re gonna be good,” Castle said.

    Asked how good UConn can be next season, Castle said, “I think we can be like a Top-5 team coming into the season, I think we can make a run depending on who stays from this year.”

    UConn guards Andre Jackson and Jordan Hawkins are projected second-round NBA picks, while big man Adama Sanogo also has pro potential.

    “They’ve been playing so good, it’s hard to know whether they’ll stay another year,” Castle said. “But hopefully they do and we can make a run in the tournament.”

    Freshman big man Donovan Clingan figures to be back for at least another season, although NBA scouts are high on him going forward.

    “It’s going to be real fun,” Castle said of Clingan. “I didn’t get a chance to play with him at NBA Top 100, but I think me and him in the pick and roll, it’s going to be hard to stop.”

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.

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