Dan Hurley points during UConn game against Villanova
UConn announced a trio of high-four-star recruits signed Wednesday to the Huskies’ 2021 class. Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic shooting guard Jordan Hawkins, Warminster (Pa.) Archbishop Wood point guard Rahsool Diggins and Hillside (N.J.) Patrick School center Samson Johnson each inked a letter of intent with the Dan Hurley-led men’s basketball program.
The third-year head coach saw an ideal fit for all three. In addition to standing out from a talent perspective as the 247Sports Composite Team Rankings’ No. 8 class nationally — second among all Big East programs, behind only Villanova (No. 4, four signees — Hurley explained why the haul was a big one for UConn, with an eye on the 2021-22 season.
“We, obviously, at this level — there’s like limited inventory in terms of players that have enough talent for us to recruit,” said Hurley, who took over the Huskies in 2018-19 after a pair of head-coaching tenures with Wagner (2010-12) and Rhode Island (2012-18). “And I’ve coached at different levels, and the pool kind of shrinks at each level. So talent and, obviously, athletic ability and skill. But for me, it’s … once you reach that first marker of being talented enough or athletic enough, for me, I start looking for the passion for the game, the competitiveness.
“Just kind of do they understand sports? Do they have court awareness? Are they situationally aware on the court? How do they interact with their teammates? Again, do they love the game — because we coach these guys pretty hard, 11 months a year. So, obviously, you’ve got to share the passion for basketball that I have — that my staff has — and the types of players that we recruit have.”
Hurley has recruited three straight top-20 classes, but 2021 is his coaching staff’s best result yet. While he technically was local with Hawkins and Diggins, Johhnson served a major win from the Greater New York area — an Aug. 10 commitment that the Huskies won over Cincinnati and St. John’s.
“In Jersey, they have the makeup, they’ve got the toughness, they’ve got the edge to come and play at places like UConn and you know how to handle the pressure and expectations of playing at a place like UConn,” said Hurley, who reunites Johnson with freshman forward and former Patrick School star Adama Sanogo. “So just guys from the Northeast, they thrive at a place like this because basketball is king. … One first look at Samson, I think both me and (associated head coach) Kimani (Young) just loved him right away and view him as a guy that could be a great player here and projects to be, potentially, an NBA-level talent.”
“We knew we wanted those two guys and, obviously, they’re going to play excellent alongside each other — just like they did at Patrick School, — because they’re such different types of forwards,” Hurley added. “If you would’ve said to me a year later that we’d be getting both of them, then that would make me laugh, but really happy.”