Final Four Connections
The Final Four kicks off live from Dallas, Texas on Saturday night and the match-ups have plenty of local New England connections, both in terms of their current rosters as well as their recruiting targets. Here’s a sneak peek:
Connecticut vs. Florida, 6:09pm
The Huskies obviously have a ton of local connections, not just from being located in New England, but also in terms of their roster. Shabazz Napier leads the team in virtually every major statistical category (minutes, points, rebounds, assists, and steals) and has proven himself to be one of the best players in the country in guiding the Huskies back to the Final Four, where he last visited as a freshman when he was Kemba Walker’s understudy. The Roxbury, Massachusetts native previously starred at Charlestown High School and Lawrence Academy as well as with the Metro Boston AAU program. Senior forward Tyler Olander was also a freshman on the 2011 national championship team. He starred at E.O. Smith High School and with Expressions Elite. Junior walk-on Pat Lenehan is a graduate of Xavier High School in Connecticut.
Rhode Island native and former St. Mark’s and New England Playaz star Alex Murphy isn’t yet eligible for Florida following his transfer from Duke earlier this season, but he’ll be on the Gators bench tonight and ready to follow in his brother’s footsteps come next season. Former Brewster Academy guard Eli Carter is also on Florida’s roster following his transfer from Rutgers after last season.
On the recruiting front, both programs aggressively pursued Abdul-Malik Abu prior to his commitment to N.C. State and were also involved with Goodluck Okonoboh to a somewhat lesser extent. The Huskies already have a pair of commitments in the 2015 class but have zeroed in on both Cushing Academy guard Jalen Adams and Northfield Mount Hermon big man Josh Sharma with their remaining scholarships. The Gators have reportedly offered a pair of two-guards in Tilton’s Terance Mann and Brewster’s Donovan Mitchell.
Kentucky vs. Wisconsin, 8:49pm
Wisconsin freshman guard Jordan Hill is a California native who opted for a post-graduate season at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, where he was part of their NEPSAC Class A championship in 2013.
For Kentucky, junior guard Sam Malone is a graduate of Scituate High School in Massachusetts who has come back from four different knee injuries to return to the Wildcats’ team. His perseverance was rewarded by head coach John Calipari when he was given a full athletic scholarship for his junior season.
Wisconsin was another school that made a push for Abu last year, while Kentucky was involved with both him and Okonoboh to some degree. The Wildcats have yet to seriously pursue another local product since, while the Badgers have made it very clear that Sharma is among their top targets in 2015, even taking advantage of recent NCAA legislation allowing early official visits mid-way through a prospect’s junior season.