On Monday, Connecticut head coach Kevin Ollie secured a verbal commitment from one of the better class of 2017 point guard prospects, Makai Ashton-Langford.
It’s no surprise. Ollie has taken the baton from legendary UConn coach Jim Calhoun and thrived on the recruiting trail, reeling in impressive recruits—especially point guards.
If this was a Gieco commercial, the tag line would be, “If you’re Kevin Ollie, you land elite point guards. It’s what you do.”
Connecticut has been the hot landing spot for point guards for decades. Calhoun did a tremendous job of locking up elite ball-handlers in the past when he convinced Chris Smith, Khalid El-Amin, Kemba Walker, Marcus Williams, Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright and many more to play for the Huskies.
Now it’s Ollie’s turn.
UConn continues its influx of ESPN ???? guards. Alterique Gilbert & Jalen Adams will be exciting this year.???? Makai Ashton-Langford up next.
— Paul Biancardi (@PaulBiancardi) September 5, 2016
Ollie, who himself was a gifted point guard at UConn, is now paving his own path for success with his recruiting acumen. The addition of Ashton-Langford is proof positive of that.
Ashton-Langford spoke with Adam Finkelstein and Jeff Borzello of ESPN about his decision to choose the Huskies. Obviously, the guidance of Ollie played a huge part in being drawn to UConn.
“I think Coach Ollie can really build me up to be the guard I want to be,” Ashton-Langford said (via ESPN.com). “He played in the league for 10 years so he knows what it takes to get there and then stay there.”
Ashton-Langford, a 6-1, 180-pound lead guard from Boston (Cushing Academy) is rated a four-star recruit according to 247Sports. The site ranks him the No. 33 prospect in the 2017 class and the eighth-best point guard in the country. 247Sports also regards Ashton-Langford as the best basketball player in the state of Massachusetts.
The steady floor general loves to survey the court and attack the rim. Ashton-Langford is not afraid of contact and is great at making the right decision when he has the ball. He has above-average athleticism and a strong body that should serve him well when he arrives in Storrs next fall.
Again, hoarding great guards is nothing new for Ollie. He already has Jalen Adams—who is coming off a fine freshman season—in tow. He is now welcoming stud Alterique Gilbert to the roster this season. What Ollie has assembled is an embarrassment of riches as well as a foundation for future success.
After bowing out in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season (after settling for the NIT the year before), Ollie is itching to go on a deep run yet again. Ollie set the bar high for himself when he won a national title in 2014, his first year of NCAA Tournament eligibility. UConn wasn’t eligible for the 2013 NCAA Tournament due to NCAA sanctions.
The mere fact that he did shows how well Ollie was equipped for this job.
With quick results come expectations, and Ollie is setting himself quite well for future success.
He is bringing in the eighth-best 2016 recruiting class (according to 247Sports), one that includes Gilbert, four-star power forward Juwan Durham, four-star small forward Vance Jackson, four-star power forward Mamadou Diarra, and three-star combo guard Christian Vital.
Couple that class with Ashton-Langford in 2017, and Ollie is putting together the pieces to a puzzle that can contend for more titles.
Moving forward, guard play will be the centerpiece of UConn’s development, and if both Adams and Gilbert are around by the time Ashton-Langford steps foot on campus, Ollie will have one of the better backcourts in the country.
Ollie is a player’s coach, and his NBA experience and connections—as well as his charisma and ability to relate with the young kids of today—are clearly working in his favor.
As long as Ollie is around, he’ll land top-notch point guards and other stellar recruits.
It’s just what he does.