UConn's Dan Hurley reflects on James Bouknight's impact, 'perfect partnership' in Storrs

UConn coach Dan Hurley said he’ll take particular pride in watching James Bouknight become an NBA draft lottery pick Thursday night in Brooklyn.

Bouknight did have an abbreviated college experience at UConn — just two seasons, all of 45 games. But his experience in Storrs, as the program re-entered the Big East and scratched its way back into the national conversation, does speak to the power of development that Hurley is selling to the next batch of recruits.

“It’s one thing when a player comes into a program and he’s already pre-ordained as the No. 1 pick or a top-five pick,” Hurley said. “He’s on a campus for several months and leaves as a top-five pick. I’m not sure how much player development actually goes on there. With a situation like James’, when you talk about your player development and what we try to do at UConn in terms of an 11-month-a-year commitment to helping our players get to the highest level, he’s certainly a poster child.

“He’s not the only example we have of player development. We’ve had a lot of guys improve their stock. But James is the poster child. I don’t think there’s a recruit that we’ve gotten since James has been here that James didn’t impact in some way, whether that was Andre Jackson seeing him on the visit, Jordan Hawkins watching him, Rahsool [Diggins], players we’re recruiting for ‘22, ‘23, and beyond. James’ impact will be felt for a long time.”

Bouknight is almost certain to be a top-10 selection. Mock drafts at cbssports.com and nbadraft.net, and elsewhere, project Bouknight going No. 6 to Oklahoma City.

“One of my proudest moments as a coach, right up there with winning [conference] championships at Rhode Island, graduating players, seeing them succeed professionally,” Hurley said. “But understanding what this potentially means for James and his family and future generations of James’ family, the impact this has on so many people.”

Bouknight credited UConn and the staff for helping him become a “real man” over the past two years.

“We fit each other perfectly,” Hurley said. “We needed James’ talent. James needed our structure and accountability. Perfect partnership.”

UConn returned to the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time since 2016 with Bouknight averaging 18.7 points as a sophomore.

The Huskies recently wrapped up six weeks or workouts, injury-free. The team is off this week. The staff is recruiting — though, Thursday is all about Bouknight and the draft — and two more weeks of work will follow before another extended break to close out the summer.

“Then it’s showtime,” Hurley said, “in September.”

Hurley added, “You can’t replace a star like [Bouknight] with just somebody else. What we do have, though, is a number of really, really good players. We probably have seven, eight, nine, potentially 10 guys, that can get us somewhere between seven and 14-15 [points] a game, which is very similar to what I had at Rhode Island, where some of my great teams there had tremendous balance and so many different people who could beat you on any given night that we were very, very hard to prepare for. the strength of this team is going to be the balance.”