The Huskies added a player for the 2012-13 season when former Holy Cross guard R.J. Evans, a Salem native who played at Norwich Free Academy, gave UConn an oral commitment to use his final season of eligibility playing for the Huskies.
Also Friday, sophomore Michael Bradley requested and was granted his release from the Huskies. Bradley, who never saw game action at UConn, is considering a transfer but could decide to stay in Storrs.
UConn officials confirmed both personnel moves.
Earlier in the day, freshman center Andre Drummond confirmed that he is leaving UConn to enter the NBA Draft in June. And Friday evening, Missouri officials announced that Alex Oriakhi, the junior forward who helped UConn to the 2011 national championship, has decided to transfer to MU and play for the Tigers next season.
Oriakhi was granted his release last month and chose Missouri over Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke and Xavier. He committed during a visit to the Columbia, Mo., campus on Friday.
Evans, who averaged 11.5 points for the Crusaders last season, will be eligible next season because he has graduated from Holy Cross, has a year of eligibility remaining and will pursue a master’s degree at UConn.
“Growing up in Connecticut, it’s every kid’s dream to play for UConn,” Evans told The Hartford Courant.
That dream will be dampened a bit by the fact UConn will not be eligible for postseason play in 2013. The Huskies have banned from the NCAA Tournament for past failures with their academic progress (APR scores). And the Big East is preparing a bylaw that will ban teams from the conference tournament if they are ineligible for NCAA postseason play.
The postseason ban was cited by Oriakhi as a major reason behind his decision to leave UConn. Drummond and guard Jeremy Lamb, who started the week by declaring for the NBA Draft, were undoubtedly influenced by the ban as well.
Evans scored 15 points on 7 of 17 shooting against UConn in a 77-40 victory for the Huskies on Dec. 18, 2011 at the XL Center in Hartford. He was injured and missed most of the 2010-11 season. But as the oldest and most experienced player on next year’s roster, Evans will be expected to bring stability and leadership to the floor.
Even without Lamb, UConn’s backcourt next season could be among the best in the Big East. Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright have indicated they will return to the Huskies. They will be joined by Evans and incoming freshman Omar Calhoun – in addition to returning swingman Niels Giffey.
The other scholarship players returning to UConn will be forwards DeAndre Daniels, Tyler Olander and Roscoe Smith and center Enosch Wolf. UConn expects to have 12 scholarships available next season, so the Huskies could sign three more players during the spring recruiting period that began Wednesday. But, of course, the postseason ban has hurt UConn in recruiting as well.
Bradley redshirted as a freshman and then never saw game time last season after fracturing his ankle in October. The most news he ever made at UConn was last fall when he volunteered to give up his scholarship so that Drummond could join the team. Ultimately, he did not have to do that and remained on scholarship as Drummond played as a walk-on.
Oriakhi’s decision wasn’t a big surprise either. North Carolina was interested in Oriakhi but a source said the Tar Heels did not like the number of people involved in Oriakhi’s transfer process. Kentucky, with another top-ranked recruiting class, didn’t have a playing spot for Oriakhi and his friendship with Missouri point guard Phil Pressey led the forward to examine the Tigers closer. Oriakhi and Pressey played together as youths for the Boston Amateur Basketball Club.
"We're very excited to add a talented and proven player like Alex to our program," Missouri coach Frank Haith said in a statement. "Addressing our front court depth has been a major emphasis of ours for this next year. We are definitely heading the right direction. Alex is a very hard worker, he's somebody who we expect to fit into our program's culture right away. He will do whatever he's asked to help the team, and he can impact a game any number of ways, whether it's scoring, rebounding or defending."
UConn’s frontcourt size and depth will be a concern for coach Jim Calhoun. Expect the Huskies to try to fill those three scholarships with big men.