UConn's talented 2021 recruiting class 'very excited' to arrive on campus for first time next week

Photo of David Borges

When DeAndre Daniels committed to UConn 10 years ago, sight unseen — never having stepped foot on campus — it was a bit unique.

Typically, highly-touted recruits like Daniels have at some point taken an official or unofficial visit to a school before committing to it.

COVID-19 has changed all that over the past year, of course. Recruits haven’t been able to make any sort of campus visits since mid-March, 2020, instead relying on Zoom calls to get acquainted with coaching staffs and video presentations to get an idea of campus life.

And so, when UConn’s 2021 recruiting class of Rahsool Diggins, Jordan Hawkins and Samson Johnson arrives in Storrs next week to begin Summer 1 classes, it will mark the first time any of the trio has been on campus.

“I’m very excited,” Diggins, a point guard from Archbishop Wood High outside Philadelphia, said by phone on Sunday.

Samson Johnson, part of UConn's highly-touted recruiting class, will arrive on campus this week with the rest of the Huskies' freshman.

Samson Johnson, part of UConn’s highly-touted recruiting class, will arrive on campus this week with the rest of the Huskies’ freshman.

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Diggins, Hawkins and Johnson comprise what 247Sports.com’s composite rankings rate as the No. 14 recruiting class in the nation. That’s the highest of Dan Hurley’s four classes so far at UConn and the highest of any Husky class since the “Top Five” recruiting class of 2016.

Hawkins is currently at No. 48 in 247’s composite rankings, Johnson at 53 and Diggins 56. It’s the first time UConn has had three national top-60 recruits since 2006.

Diggins, who was named player of the year for both Pennsylvania’s Class 6A and Philadelphia’s Catholic League, is a 6-foot-1 guard who made everyone on his team better this past, shortened season, according to Archbishop Wood coach John Mosco.

Former DeMatha star Jordan Hawkins will arrive in Storrs this week to begin his UConn career along with rest of the Huskies' freshman class.

Former DeMatha star Jordan Hawkins will arrive in Storrs this week to begin his UConn career along with rest of the Huskies’ freshman class.

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“He’s excited to go away and start his next chapter and get better — and put up with Danny,” Mosco said, before adding with a laugh, “Or, phrase it this way: I’m glad that Danny has to put up with him now.”

Not that Mosco figures there will be any issues.

“He’s a fun guy to be around, great kid, great family. He just likes to be in the gym, he’s always smiling and having fun.”

Diggins admitted that, while he may be somewhat soft-spoken off the court, he’s far from that way on it.

“I’m pretty confident in myself,” Diggins noted.

That’s evident when he’s asked what type of role he can fill at UConn right off the bat as a freshman.

“I’m a point guard, but more of a lead guard, a little of everything — scoring, facilitating, defending,” he said. “Even though I’m one of the younger kids, I think I have to be more vocal to get everybody going.”

Diggins has been in regular communication with his fellow incoming freshmen over the past several months. He teamed with Johnson in a Slam16 all-star game at Gauchos Gym in the Bronx back in November, hitting the 6-11 forward for a pair of nifty alley-oop dunks. Johnson has jumped high up the rankings since then and, according to ESPN, is the highest-ranked of the trio at No. 39.

Rahsool Diggins, part of UConn's highly-touted recruiting class, will arrive on campus this week with the rest of the Huskies' freshman.

Rahsool Diggins, part of UConn’s highly-touted recruiting class, will arrive on campus this week with the rest of the Huskies’ freshman.

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“His work ethic is unbelievable,” Chris Chavannes, Johnson’s coach at the Patrick School in New Jersey, told Hearst Connecticut Media earlier in the month. “He makes strides every single day. People walk in the gym and see him, he catches your eye. Two days later, it’s like, ‘Oh my God, he’s made strides.’ Not too many kids can do that, but that’s him.”

Diggins remembers being impressed by Hawkins when he played against him a couple of years ago when Archbishop Wood played DeMatha High. The two will be roommates at UConn, and recently talked about pressing issues like the size of the TV for their room and what kind of food they’ll stock the shelves with.

‘HE’LL BE PLAYING THIS GAME FOR A LONG TIME’

Hawkins, a 6-4 shooting guard, helped DeMatha to an 11-0 record this past season and is a candidate for Maryland Player of the Year.

“I think he’s going to have a great career at UConn,” said Mike Jones, the former DeMatha coach who just joined Mike Young’s staff as associate head coach at Virginia Tech. “He’s ready-made. He’s working his rear end off right now to put weight on and get stronger.”

Jones added that he believes Hawkins is going to be “playing this game for a long time.”

“He can really shoot the basketball, he’s a tremendous athlete. He looks like he glides in the air when he jumps. He’s a really good defender who has the potential to be even better as soon as he gets stronger. That’s really the only thing he’s missing.”

Hawkins’ prime recruiter at UConn was Kenya Hunter, who left last summer to join the staff at Indiana.

Jones recalled Hunter calling him to tell him that he was leaving.

“I immediately called Jordan and said, ‘Are you good?’,” Jones recalled. “I’m probably paraphrasing, but he said, ‘Yeah. It (stinks) that Coach Hunter won’t be there, but I want to go to UConn.’”

Hawkins will graduate on June 4, Diggins on June 8, and all three recruits are trying to work out how to attend graduation ceremonies while maintaining their schoolwork. The fact that courses will be online this summer at UConn should help facilitate that.

Either way, the program’s highly-rated trio of recruits will finally step onto campus next week for the start of what they hope will be a successful tenure at UConn.

“We’ve got a lot of potential, a lot of high-flyers, some shooters,” Diggins noted. “I think it’ll be a real fun team.”

david.borges@hearstmediact.com