After missing the previous eight games due to injury, UConn’s James Bouknight returned to the floor last night in grand fashion. Derek Murray gives us the rundown.
UConn star sophomore, James Bouknight, made his long-awaited return to action Tuesday night after missing eight games with an elbow injury. He propelled the Huskies to a 73-61 win against Providence, a team that defeated them 70-59 just one week ago. Known widely for his athleticism, explosiveness, and tough shot-making, he has really stepped up as a scorer this season averaging 20.0 points per game, including this 40 point performance against Creighton.
Bouknight came off the bench last night versus Providence and provided eighteen points, four rebounds, two assists, and two steals in twenty-four minutes. Prior to his return, the Huskies had lost four out of their last six games, and it was evident from the moment he checked in that his presence is huge for this group.
The rise in his offensive output this season has come largely from improved touch on floaters, craft as a finisher at the rim, and ability to get downhill in both transition and isolation - all of which were on display last night. At 6’5, he has positional size for a scoring guard, and on top of that, he thrives above the rim. A handful of times every game he will give the media a wild, high-flying dunk, and last night was no different with an incredible putback in the first half. He has NBA quality athleticism off of one or two feet, making him a consistent threat around the rim. Not only does he have vertical athleticism, but Bouknight has also developed an array of moves that allow him to convert with a variety of finishes. Tonight he hit a number of touch shots displaying body control, change of direction, and finesse - showing that even after the injury he can be a viable three-level scorer.
Bouknight’s downhill attack and touch on floaters also unlocked a level of scoring found in high-level prospects; last night he flashed his burst and change of speeds - both of which are required to succeed at the NBA level. While Bouknight has excelled with the ball in his hands, it’s not the only way he’s flashed upside. He has performed well off the ball in multiple facets of the game, including being active as an off-ball defender, highly intelligent cuts on offense, and playing with feel in transition with and without the ball. He hasn’t shown the vision to be a lead distributor, manifest in his 12.8 assist percentage, but he continues to demonstrate numerous traits found in NBA offensive engines.
James Bouknight hopes to find himself in the lottery conversation as we near the 2021 NBA Draft, and if his play after returning from injury stays on course, it may propel him in that direction. To be an efficient scoring guard in the NBA takes a combination of talent and intangibles found in few players, and Bouknight has been showing just that in his sophomore campaign. He’s scoring 20 points per game while adding 5.1 rebounds and 1.6 steals. Currently, #8 on the Babcock Hoops Big Board, keep your eye on James Bouknight as we near Conference and NCAA Tournaments.