Adama Sanogo is ready to add his name to the legacy of UConn's champion bigs.

Houston – some time ago Adam Sanogo He is committed. Connecticut There was a 36-hour window on May 5, 2020 when the UConn coaching staff began to panic. Head coach Dan Hurley and assistant Kimani Young are leading the recruiting efforts for the four-star prospect from The Patrick School in New Jersey who is starting to feel like Sanogo, the No. 85 overall pick in Bamako, Mali Road. It was reported that the different cycle was on the verge of entering another program Seton Hall.

“Kimani is mostly just trying to keep my head in the game and not panic,” Hurley recalled at a news conference Sunday afternoon. “But Kimani seemed like he wasn’t coming to us, so he was melting down. And I think Adama was going to tell us he was going that way. So I had to convince Kimani, ‘Hey, we’re good.’ He is a reasonable person, he doesn’t ruin his life and he doesn’t make bad decisions, he is very smart, he is going to choose us. “

Pandemic-related hiring restrictions prevented Hurley and Young from visiting Sanogo in person, so they did their best to sway him electronically during a crucial day and a half for the Huskies’ future. He did a full court press. Sanogo pledged his allegiance to Connecticut, signed a letter of intent to play for Hurley and joined the recruiting class. Andre Jackson Jranother four-star prospect and another cornerstone of this team’s extraordinary run to the Final Four.

Sanogo, who was nervously removed from the staff for three years as a temporary tackle, has become the leader of a group of players chasing the school’s fifth national championship in the past 25 years. Averaging 16.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, Sanogo made first team all-Big East He celebrated after starting the 2022-23 campaign as the league’s pre-season player of the year. And he took his game to new heights during UConn’s reign in the NCAA Tournament – pouring in 20.2 points and 9.8 rebounds. Iona, Saint Mary, Arkansas, Gonzaga And Miami – Sanogo joins Emeka Okafor, Cliff Robinson, Hashim Thabet and Jeff Adrien in the pantheon of Connecticut greats. When the Huskies face off, he will have a chance to join Okafor as the only player on this list to win a national championship. San Diego State Monday night.

“Adam is a great player,” Jackson said during Sunday’s media briefing at NRG Stadium. “He’s been a steady player for us since he came into the program, and I think he’s helped us in a lot of ways. I think he’s definitely going to leave a great legacy here at UConn. I’m grateful to have him. As a teammate.”

In the year Twenty years after helping former Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun win his second national title in 2004, Okafor remains the program’s gold standard under center. He arrived as a relatively unknown recruit out of Bellaire, Texas, and three years later left school with a trophy cabinet unmatched by any player in school history. In the year He was named the Big East Player of the Year in 2004 and earned his second consecutive Big East Defensive Player of the Year honor in the same season. In the year He received third-team All-America honors in 2003 and was a consensus first-team All-American the following year. He was twice named Defensive Player of the Year by the National Basketball Coaches Association (2003, 2004) and was named the organization’s Player of the Year during the Huskies’ 33-6 season. Georgia Tech In the 04 title game.

Okafor averaged 15.9 points, 11.2 rebounds and 4.7 blocks per game as a sophomore and still had room to improve next season as his numbers improved to 17.6 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.1 blocks per game. He scored all 18 of his points in the second half of tonight’s national semifinal Duke – a game the Huskies won to advance to the title game – remains one of the program’s best performances. Two months later, Okafor became the No. 2 pick NBA Draft

“Emeka was the second guy taken in the draft and the NBA Rookie of the Year and (averaged) a lifetime double-double,” Calhoun said in an interview with FOX Sports. “It’s still a long way to put (Sanogo) in that category. But he’s a really good player, and I think the single most important thing is the impact he’s having on the team. … He’s so powerful and, you know? He’s probably only 6-8-and-a-half, and he’s an incredible jumper. No. But if you have it, it helps everyone in that group – from (Jordan) Hawkins And everyone on the side of the team – because you have to help in the middle. Otherwise, he will score at will.

A more apt comparison for Sanogo might be Tabett, a 7-foot-3 behemoth whose body type and playing style are very different from Sanogo’s but whose journey to Storrs, Connecticut bears clear similarities. When he started playing basketball at age 15, Tabett didn’t speak any English, but within a few years, he was averaging 16 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks per game at Cypress Christian School in Houston.

He started 99 of his 100 career games at UConn and became a dominant force in the Big East during his sophomore season. He tied with Okafor for the Big East Defensive Player of the Year award and was named the NABC National Defensive Player of the Year twice. Averaging 13.6 points, 10.8 rebounds and 4.2 blocks per game, Tabeit was named a Consensus Second Team All-American in 2009. Memphis Grizzlies He was selected No. 2 overall in the NBA draft.

“He was a great player at UConn,” Sanogo said. “I talked to him and he was like, “This place can change your life, you can’t lose focus, when everything is going well for you, you can’t lose focus. You have to stay closed and take the training. Seriously.’ He used to say things like that. And it was good to see that because as an international student, you know, seeing a guy like that come from (Africa) and be one of the best players at UConn, he showed me that he did it, I can do it too.

Sanogo took up basketball a year earlier than Tabet at the age of 14, but it took time before he fully immersed himself in the sport. He asked himself if it was the right choice to draw attention away from the ball as he ran up and down the flank as a fullback. For him, success in basketball seemed like a pipe dream.

But seven years later — after earning first-team All-BIG East honors for the second straight season and leading Connecticut to claim the sport’s biggest prize — the thoughts in Sanogo’s head are very different. Sanogo told reporters that there were moments when he found himself thanking God for his decision to immigrate to the United States.

“Without basketball,” Sanogo said, “I wouldn’t be here right now. So it’s something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.”

It’s unclear exactly where basketball will take him after Monday night. Still a junior, Sanogo is set to return to Storrs for another season and lead what many believe will be the most talented UConn team in years when the nation’s No. 4 recruiting class arrives on campus. He could make it pro by entering his name in the NBA draft, but there are legitimate questions about what kind of role Sanogo can fill with his size and limited shooting range. Playing overseas is another option for him and his family to consider.

But now, for at least one more night on the sport’s biggest stage, Sanogo will pair Harley’s offense with a national championship. The idea that he did it anywhere else is almost impossible to imagine.

“I can’t imagine that,” Harley said. “I would be in trouble now.”

Michael Cohen focuses on college football and basketball in the Big Ten for Fox Sports. Follow him on Twitter. @michael_cohen13.

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