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Bouknight thrills in UConn home debut

POSTED December 02, 2019
BY Patrick Tiscia
Twitter: @PatrickTiscia

HARTFORD – It’s not a play you see every day, so when it actually does happen, it catches you by surprise.

With 3:30 left in an easy 64-40 win over Maine, UConn’s electrifying guard, James Bouknight, missed a 10-foot floater in the lane. On occasion, you see players rebound their own miss. What is rare, is the player who rebounds their missed shot, gets through the defense, and dunks the ball in one motion. For Bouknight, who thrilled the XL Center crowd by pulling this off, it seemed effortless and forceful at the same time.

He also pulled off a similar play last week at the Charleston Classic. Is he going to trademark this move?

“It’s not really a trademark, it’s just something I do,” said Bouknight, who was making his home debut after serving a three-game suspension to start the season following an arrest. “I’m just trying to play hard and stay on the floor.”

Bouknight, a Brooklyn native and MacDuffie School alum, was a huge lift for the Huskies (5-2) in Charleston, helping them win two of three, and scoring 40 points on an insane 16-of-22 shooting. After dealing with the negative attention following his off-the-court issues at the start of the season, the switch has flipped when it comes to his name in the news. UConn fans, understandably, are giddy. The national media and fans have taken notice, too.

“(The positive attention) definitely felt good. It would have felt better to win the tournament. When I am playing well, (the attention) is going to come.”

Overall, the transition on the court has been seamless for Dan Hurley’s first prized recruit as UConn coach. Considering what the program has been through the past three seasons, Hurley needed to make a big splash and it’s very clear he has.

“I feel like I fit in well,” Bouknight said modestly. “(Coach) Hurley has put me in the right situations to play well and produce.

“If you would have told me I would have been playing this way before I got here, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

UConn has been missing a player with his athletic skills and ability to finish at the rim for quite some time. In addition to the highlight reel dunk, he also had an impressive three-point play as he got hit on the baseline, kept his balance before falling out of bounds, and put in the short runner off the glass.

“I’m just trying to make the right play,” Bouknight said. “I’m working finding the open man and getting the best shot we can.”

Bouknight’s final line Sunday was indeed impressive: 5-of-11 shooting, team-high 15 points and tied for team-high with five rebounds in only 19 minutes.

Hurley, knowing his player’s potential, wants even more. In the first half, he had only four points and was a -2.

“It wasn’t the electricity in the air that there was in Charleston and you could tell by the look on his face he just a little bit out of it. He played so poorly in the first half and he was a lot more determined. He was a little sloppy. He’ll be much better on Wednesday (against Iona), I promise you.”

Thanks to Bouknight, freshman Akok Akok, who has been a force defensively, and a much-improved sophomore in Brendan Adams (11 points Sunday), the Huskies are a lot deeper than last season. If they are the make the leap back to the NCAA Tournament a year earlier than most expected, Bouknight will be the No. 1 reason why.

His talent, showcased perfectly on that putback dunk, is what they have been missing and what will carry them.

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