At the final media intermission of the first half of the national championship game on Monday night, UConn assistant coach Tom Moore leaped to his feet and raced directly to Tristen Newton, whom many were considered to be the Huskies’ weak link, giving him a bear hug.
After making a transition 3-pointer to beat San Diego State, Newton sprinted back to make Darrion Trammell miss what appeared to be an easy breakaway layup. All the UConn coaches required from their point guard was this.
Newton, who played his first three seasons in East Carolina, registered as a transfer last spring and repeated his recruiting in college basketball. At Burges High School in El Paso, Texas, he had earned 3,266 points.
His father, Montreal Newton, remarked, “That was terrible. Even UTEP or New Mexico State, which are in our area, did not support him despite the fact that they won numerous games.
Dan Hurley, who was the only coach to FaceTime Newton during the recruiting process and had done his research, won Newton over last spring. The huskies had to truly get to know Newton first. He’s at ease. As opposed to “being coached by a guy from Jersey City who’s a lion,” Moore added, the tempo in El Paso is a little different. It required adjusting from both parties.
Naturally, things got off to a wonderful start when the Huskies jumped out to a 14-0 record and Newton appeared to be the ideal fit. In just his third game, he notched a triple-double. In the Phil Knight Invitational opening versus Oregon, the week the nation realized UConn might be a national title contender, he finished with 23 points and six assists.
When the Huskies lost six of their first eight games in January and the boo birds sang about them, that plan was derailed.