NEW YORK -- Hours after a tough two-point loss at Cincinnati on Saturday night, UConn head coach Dan Hurley and assistant Kimani Young arrived at a high school event in The Bronx to survey the future of the program.
Jalen Gaffney and James Bouknight, two Class of 2019 guards who have signed with UConn, both played -- and played well -- at the Empire Invitational at Mount Saint Michael Academy.
Gaffney, a 6-foot-2 point guard, took home game MVP honors after going for 26 points and 4 assists as the Westtown (PA) School beat Brewster Academy (N.H.), 79-72, in a heavyweight battle of Northeast powerhouses.
Later, Bouknight, a 6-4 shooting guard, went for 17 points and 11 rebounds to help the MacDuffie School (MA) beat the Ranney School (N.J.), which is ranked No. 4 nationally by USA Today, 79-75.
"They're the type of talented guards that UConn has a history of getting," Hurley told SNY.tv. "They're athletic, they have great positional size, 3-point shooting, they're creative off the dribble. They can pass and score. They're high-level athletes with high-level skills with high ceilings."
Gaffney and Bouknight make up two-thirds of a recruiting class ranked No. 17 nationally by 247Sports.com. The third member of the class, 6-10 big man Akok Akok, is expected to enroll this month and begin practicing, but not playing games, with the Huskies. Although he is eligible for the 2019 NBA Draft because he's a year removed from his graduating class, Akok is expected to remain with the Huskies for the 2019-20 season.
Seeing his future players served as a ray of sunshine for Hurley, whose team has lost four of its last five games to fall to 10-7, 1-3 in the American Athletic Conference.
"Yeah, it is good," Hurley said with a laugh. "We love the way our guys are fighting right now and playing. It's great to get out and see that the future is bright. We got help on the way and this is Stage 1 of the process of bringing UConn back."
Gaffney committed to UConn in September over Xavier, Clemson and St. John's. Westtown coach Seth Berger believes he can help the Huskies immediately.
"I think Jalen has an opportunity to make a significant impact in the program right away," Berger said. "He's a great scorer. He's becoming an excellent defender. He's a great leader and has a really high IQ. So I think Jalen has a chance to make an impact right away and maybe be a two-and-done NBA player."
Hurley can't wait to get him on campus this summer.
"He was really impressive," Hurley said of Gaffney, who went 0-of-7 from beyond the arc despite being a strong 3-point shooter. "One of the better things he does is shoot the ball from three and it didn't [work out]. He was the best player on the court without making shots and there were some really good players on the court. He played like a true point, play-made, got to the rim and scored. Just showed everything but 3-point shooting, and that's maybe the best thing he does."
Bouknight, who also committed in September, later took the court and put up a double-double in front of his future coaches in a win over previously unbeaten Ranney, the No. 1 team in New Jersey.
After the game, Hurley and Young gave Bouknight a hug outside his team's locker room.
"It's always great just having [Hurley] being here and supporting me and giving me feedback on how I played and what I could've done better," Bouknight said. "Just seeing him is always great.
Bouknight said he can't wait to get to UConn with Gaffney and Akok and help to get the program back to its championship ways.
"I can't wait," he said. "It's going to be fun just being able to help UConn get back to where they need to be again.
"I think the future's going to be really bright with me, Jalen and Akok. Hopefully a few more pieces and we'll be right back to where we need to be."
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