Drummond headlines freshman class
Andre Drummond dances during introductions at First Night on Oct. 14. Along with Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels, the new freshmen class will try to dance in New Orleans in April. Ed Ryan/The Daily Campus
When Tropical Storm Irene hit the Storrs campus, so did Andre Drummond.
On Aug. 26, the Middletown native joined Los Angeles' DeAndre Daniels and Aurora, Ill. product Ryan Boatright in the No. 4 UConn men's basketball team's freshman recruiting class by announcing he was a Husky in the "Tweet heard ‘round the world."
"It's official I'm heading to the university of connecticut to be a husky this year!" Drummond posted. "Husky fam welcome me cause I'm coming this year!!"
And after Drummond asked UConn Country, "Do I hear #repeat?" the chances of a second consecutive national championship for the Huskies greatly improved. Drummond, who was ranked as a No. 1 or No. 2 overall recruit by most media outlets, was expected to attend prep school this year before making a college decision.
"We had a family meeting," Drummond said. "My mom said going to prep school is not going to help you at all. She was just like, ‘I know you're ready for college.'"
Drummond said that his mother and uncle were integral in him making his decision. He said his uncle told him that he "had all the tools to be a great player."
Due to the program's loss of scholarships because of NCAA violations, redshirt freshman Michael Bradley, gave up his scholarship so that Drummond could join the team. Although Drummond enrolled at the start of classes, he has caught up to college life.
"I think it was a good transition," Drummond said. "The coaches, my mom and all the players on the team helped me have a great transition from high school to college. They all helped me get settled into my classes, help me find all my books and places I need to be on time."
There is one thing that's surprised the freshman.
"I didn't expect so many essays, writing five-page papers everyday," Drummond said.
Although NBA players can't help Drummond with essays, the lockout has helped the entire team, with players like Hasheem Thabeet, Kemba Walker, Jerome Dyson and Ray Allen coming to practice to work out with the team.
"He's rebounding against some of the best pros who have come back," said coach Jim Calhoun.
Alex Oriakhi said Drummond already has the makings of a pro.
"I would say he has Dwight Howard athleticism, that's how athletic he is," Oriakhi said of Drummond.
While his fellow freshmen Boatright and Daniels come from two of the biggest metropolitan areas in the country, Drummond is used to life in Connecticut and enjoys staying in his home state for college.
"It's great," Drummond said. "A lot of people say, you're a hometown hero. That's what it really boils down to, what people say. It's a humbling experience so far and I'm just trying to put forth a great season this year."
The Three Amigos
Boatright committed to UConn last year, and was the only commit before Daniels signed on to be a Husky on June 18.
"Kemba was going to go pro and I knew that when I came in here but I just saw the potential that we had," Boatright said. "Even if they didn't do what they did last year I knew they had the potential this year... I know me and Shabazz are going to terrorize the backcourt if we work hard."
Walker is still helping the team, especially working with the point guards prior to the start of the season.
"Me being a guard, I could work with Shabazz and Ryan," Walker said.
Watching Walker lead the Huskies to the national championship last year was inspiring, but Daniels said it didn't pull him to Storrs.
"Yes I think I would've been here if they didn't win the national championship," Daniels said. "The reason why I picked UConn was because of the coaching staff and I just felt that I'd get better here, as a person on and off the court."
Coming to Northeastern Connecticut is a big change of scenery for Daniels, but he is enjoying his time here thus far.
"I like Storrs a lot," Daniels said. "It's totally different from L.A., a lot of trees and cows and stuff but I like it a lot."
The three freshmen have already made a splash together on campus, and have become very good friends.
"We're pretty much already like brothers," Daniels said.
Boatright said: "Honestly, truly this team is one big family. We all get along and do everything together."
Drummond said: "Me and DeAndre and Boat, we hang out with each other every single day. Me and DeAndre, we go in other people's dorms and introduce ourselves. We just go out and have fun. We're not trying to be like with just basketball players... we have to hang out with the people around campus, not just our teammates."
The impact that these freshmen can make was apparent to a sold out crowd at First Night, when Boatright beat Drummond in the finals of the dunk contest. The pair sent the packed gym into a frenzy with NBA Dunk Contest-like jams. Last season at this time, players like Shabazz Napier, Jeremy Lamb and Roscoe Smith were question marks, there weren't large expectations for them on campus at that point. This year it's different. The three freshmen have already been exposed to the national championship atmosphere.
Drummond, Daniels and Boatright were on the field with their teammates on Sept. 16 at Rentschler Field. Alex Oriakhi announced the new recruiting class to the crowd while holding last year's national championship trophy. On Oct. 6, the freshmen went to the national championship dinner where members of last year's team received their rings.
"I was really happy, I enjoyed being there," Daniels said. "It also motivated the three freshmen, me, Andre and Ryan to get ours."
Tonight, as the three freshmen watch the curtain come down on the 2011 national championship banner, perhaps they'll be dreaming of getting theirs.
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