No. 6 UConn may already have found its replacement for Adama Sanogo.
Now on a two-way deal with the NBA’s Chicago Bulls, Sanogo was the Huskies’ leading scorer from a season ago. He averaged 17.2 points per game, playing an instrumental role in bringing another national championship to the Storrs, Conn., school.
Luckily for UConn, Samson Johnson could be emerging as Sanogo’s successor.
Johnson, a 6-foot-10 junior forward, showed plenty of potential in the Huskies’ season opener, and he will look to continue carving out a role for himself on Saturday when UConn hosts Stonehill in Hartford, Conn.
In 19 minutes of action on Monday, Johnson collected 11 points, five rebounds and three blocked shots while making 5 of 6 shots from the field as the Huskies (1-0) cruised to a 95-52 victory over Northern Arizona.
Alex Karaban scored 22 points and Tristen Newton chipped in 14 against the Lumberjacks, but it was Johnson who caught UConn coach Dan Hurley’s eye.
“I don’t think he’s as confident as he should be,” Hurley said. “He’s got incredible talent and abilities. When he checks in a game, I want our fans just loving that guy.”
It’s been a long road for Johnson, who appeared in just 25 games (one start) through his first two seasons with the Huskies. But now his patience seems to finally be paying off.
“He could have done what a lot of players do right now, which is just run to something easier,” Hurley said. “He stayed because he loves the program, he loves UConn and he believes in himself.”
All five of Johnson’s made field goals against Northern Arizona were dunks, but he might face some more resistance down low against the Skyhawks (1-1), who permitted just 20 points in the paint during their 57-44 victory over Army on Thursday night.
Max Zegarowski finished with a game-high 21 points and eight rebounds against the Black Knights, while Jackson Benigni contributed 14 points off the bench.
Stonehill’s non-conference schedule is a bit of a gauntlet, as the Skyhawks are set to face No. 16 Kentucky less than a week after playing the Huskies. Coach Chris Kraus believes those games are going to pay off in the long run.
“Going through our non-conference schedule and playing these teams, I really thought it prepared us for (Northeast Conference) play,” Kraus said just before the beginning of the season. “It’s gonna be a real test, a real challenge.”
Benigni, an East Hampton, Conn., native, is especially excited to play his hometown team.
“Being able to play the defending champs is just an awesome experience,” he said. “Coming from Connecticut, I’ve been (to the XL Center) a million times. I just can’t wait to go back and be able to play this time. … Lot of family coming, friends, just an amazing opportunity.”
Skyhawks forward Todd Brogna also will see a familiar face during the trip to Hartford. He and Karaban once were teammates at Algonquin Regional High School in Northborough, Mass.
Saturday will mark the second all-time meeting between the teams. UConn beat the Skyhawks 85-54 on Nov. 7, 2022, in Stonehill’s first game as a Division I program.
–Field Level Media