UConn's Formidable Five!

Well it looked like Head Coach, Jim Calhoun and his crack recruiting staff had just about wrapped up their 2006 recruiting class, but with Will Harris backing out and the need to add one more big body, their task doesn't seem to be done just yet. What appeared to be our Sensational Six is now back to five. So let's take a close look at these five outstanding recruits:

Jerome Dyson (6-3, 185 PG/Combo) – UConn has been stockpiling combo guards, and Dyson is another one who fits the profile.  Many see Jerome as a 2G, but Calhoun sees him as UConn's PG of the future.  He's one of the best deep shooters in this class with NBA range on his 3 ball.  What many don't realize is that he plays the point for Proctor Academy, his high school team.  Because Jerome played along side one of the top rated PGs in this class, Tywon Lawson, during the summer AAU circuit, many at the national level don't realize he has lead guard skills.  Jerome is quick with the ball and not afraid to drive it among the trees.  I would not be surprised if he has a Ben Gordon type career where he starts out playing more 2G but transitions to the point over time.  That move will likely happening sooner for him than it did for Ben who had an upperclassman Taliek ahead of him.


As for where Dyson fits in w/ the returning guards will depend on what happens with AJ Price.  AJ is an outstanding talent, who like Dyson can play both positions equally as well.  AJ also has an NBA 3 ball that he gets off lightning quick.  If he returns, AJ will vie for a starting spot at either guard position, though I think it would be at the 1.  Robert Garrison (6-1 175) is much better than people realize.  He's not lightning quick, but has a solid handle and is a very smart lead guard.  Like many other Calhoun recruits, he's a late bloomer that snuck under the radar.  Also in the mix is Craig Austrie (6-1 175).  He too has some PG experience at the high school level but will likely get most of his court time at the 2G.  Nice to have so many options.


Ramar Smith (6-3, 185 2G) – If anything, UConn is consistent w/ their recruiting.  He and Dyson have the same measurements as does Garrison and Austrie according to Scout.com.  Maybe that's coach's secret.  Ramar is an exciting athlete who can flat out score.  Some consider him a combo guard but he's more 2 than 1 right now.  He has a PG handle and is a solid passer off the dribble, but has a scorer's mentality.  He too might follow Ben's progression from 2G to Point by the time he's done at UConn.  Not known for his outside shooting, he is able to knock down the 3, but his points come predominantly off the dribble in the paint.  He's very strong for his size and will live at the line similar to the Syracuse recruit, Paul Harris, who's name will be engraved at the foul line.  For those who have seen Harris, know exactly what I mean.  Ramar also has the makings of a very good defender which is one way to earn playing time at Connecticut.


Smith will be in the mix at the 2 next year vying for a starting position and PT with Dyson, Austrie, Marcus Johnson (6-6, 200 3/2 combo) and AJ, if he's cleared to play.  Johnson will likely find more time at the 3 next season.  He's got SF height and very long arms.  I'll talk more about him when I discuss the battle for PT at the wing position.


Stanley Robinson (6-9, 220 SF/Combo) – Stanley is an outstanding big wing who can score in a variety of ways.  For a kid his size, he handles the ball extremely well and can take most defenders off the dribble.  Robinson should be able to score from the word go!  He is very strong and quick with the ball, allowing him to overpower weaker and less athletic wings and power forwards.  I've not seen it, but read that he's dramatically improved the range on his jump-shot out to 3 point range.  Based on the clips I've seen, he looks like a stronger version of Rudy Gay.  Most of his scoring from what I saw was inside the paint.  Rudy was more of a finesse player who came in with a deadly J, especially 15 feet on in.  Robinson seems to have a very good power game, similar to what we saw from Caron Butler.  Once Caron was given the slightest opening he'd explode to the basket with very good results.  I see a very similar game in Mr. Robinson.


Now if Robinson has anything close to Rudy's arsenal, I don't see anyone beating him out for the starting 3 spot next season.  Competing for playing time at the wing is freshman Marcus Johnson, an outstanding defender and run and jump athlete.  Few will run the court as well as he.  He has an uncanny knack for slithering through seams in the D and is a very good finisher around the basket.  It's not uncommon to see a teammate throw an ally-oop pass to Johnson during one of the fall pickup games.  If he can ever develop a consistent J, he'd be awfully tough to stop.  Expect Calhoun to look down the bench and call his number when he needs a critical defensive stop.  Marcus can cover the 1 through 3 maybe even the 4, similar to what UConn got from Lyman DePriest back in the early 90s.


Curtis Kelly (6-9, 215 PF/Combo) – Like Robinson, Kelly has a very good handle for his size and is a combo forward, more 4 than 3 though.  He has long arms and is very tough to stop around the basket.  Doesn't have the perimeter game for the 3, but is plenty athletic for either position.  I expect most if not all his PT at the 4, but would not be shocked if he earned some playing time at the wing a few years down the road.  He's a very good rebounder who plays well above the rim.  He battled through an ankle injury for most of the summer, but was still a very productive player.  Most feel his ranking suffered some due to his injury, but still came in as the 24th ranked player.


Kelly will vie for PT with Jeff Adrien (6-6, 220 PF/Combo) at the power forward spot.  Jeff has the longest and biggest arms I've ever seen on a player his size, making him play a lot bigger than his 6-6 frame.  He's also a physical beast and a great athlete with an outstanding vertical leap.  Similar to Pittsburgh's Chevy Troutman, Jeff's motor is always on, so few will outwork him on the floor.  Now as to who starts in 06, that might be up for grabs.  Robison might also be in the PT mix since he can play either position equally as well.


Jonathan Mandelove (6-11, 245) – One thing we all knew coming into this important recruiting season was that UConn needed a center.  Well this 5th year senior fits the bill!  He's a long and athletic 5 who can run the floor and play solid D.  From what I've heard his defense is ahead of his offense and he's an outstanding shot blocker.  Ever since Emeka hit the floor at UConn, Coach Calhoun has made it a priority to recruit shot blocking 4s and 5s because of the way they can change a game.


As for competition at the 5…well…there is none at this time.  Hilton Armstrong and Josh Boone are set to graduate after this season, although Josh will do so in just 3 years at UConn.  Boone could return since he'll have his 4th year of eligibility left, but most believe he'll be a sure first round pick in the 2006 NBA draft.  It is likely that UConn will continue to pursue options to add depth to this position.  Hamady N'Diaye (6-10, 225) who recently left his prep or private high school is a recruit that was scheduled to visit but canceled last moment.  Also, Jason Bennett (7-2, 240) recently expressed renewed interest in UConn after the announcement that Bob Huggins was no longer the coach at Cincinnati, the program thought to be his leader.  UConn, which was on his short list, might get back into the mix for Jason.  Bennett expressed interest in UConn shortly after his change of heart, but at the time the Huskies were in hot pursuit for Deon Thompson and Alex Stepheson, who both recently chose the University of North Carolina.


All in all, a pretty impressive recruiting effort by Head Coach Jim Calhoun, newly appointed Associate Head Coach Tom Moore and Assistant Coach Andre LeFleur.

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