- Eamonn Brennan
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The successes of Jim Calhoun's later years -- namely that third national title -- not only sealed his legacy but obscured the fact that the past five years of Huskies basketball have not been vintage, at least when it comes to talent. Calhoun built his program on the backs of immensely talented future pros, and Kemba Walker certainly qualifies, but it's easy to forget that that 2011 team went 9-9 in the Big East, that it entered the season as a non-entity before Kemba made the Maui Invitational his personal plaything. Really, the disappointing 2011-12 team was the most purely talented, so to speak, but it didn't work, and when Calhoun passed the program to Kevin Ollie last season -- with all due respect to Shabazz Napier and Co. -- he didn't leave a whole lot in the way of elite NBA talent.
In other words, it was always going to be interesting to see what Ollie did with all this, whether he could recruit like his predecessor and how he would do so. Of the many pairs of oversized shoes Ollie has to fill, those might be the most daunting. They're certainly the most important.
The strategies may or may not be different, but the early signs are that UConn's talent pipeline is doing just fine. On Saturday, shooting guard Daniel Hamilton -- brother of former Texas star Jordan Hamilton and UTEP prospect Isaac Hamilton -- committed to Connecticut. He's the class of 2014's No. 27-ranked overall player, and as our own Dave Telep wrote this weekend, Ollie owes persistance for his commitment:
When Isaac Hamilton selected UTEP over a host of Pac-12 programs last year, the family cited a long-standing relationship with the Miners staff. As a result, when Isaac committed to UTEP, other programs not only backed off Isaac, but also Daniel. However, one of the coaches who recruited Isaac was Ollie, and he never stopped recruiting Daniel.
"He recruited me and Isaac at Crenshaw," Daniel Hamilton said. "When Isaac committed he never stopped. A lot of the coaches that recruited Isaac stopped recruiting me.
This news comes on the heels of the transfer of NC State shooting guard Rodney Purvis this spring. Purvis will sit out a year and be eligible in 2013-14, and he's the definition of an elite perimeter talent. He was the No. 20-ranked player in the 2012 class whose clear offensive talent were outshined by whatever defensive and chemistry issues the Wolfpack suffered from throughout his freshman season. Assuming Ryan Boatright sticks around for his senior season, that is a very intriguing prospective backcourt -- quick and probing with the ability to lace outside shots.
Point is, UConn might not be putting up Kentucky-level recruiting classes just yet, but they are holding their own since Ollie came. At this crucial moment in the program's history, as it tries to gain footing in a new conference landscape under a new coach, Huskies fans can know they've at least got talent going for them.
The successes of Jim Calhoun's later years -- namely that third national title -- not only sealed his legacy but obscured the fact that the past five years of Huskies basketball have not been vintage, at least when it comes to talent.