It’s DePaul-UConn in Leitao’s return to Connecticut
Dave Leitao is back at UConn. For one game, at least.
Leitao served as an assistant coach for Jim Calhoun at Connecticut in two stints dating from 1986 to 2002, with a two-year hiatus as Northeastern’s head coach. After helping UConn capture its first NCAA title in 1999, Leitao left again in 2002 to become DePaul’s head coach. That tenure lasted three seasons until Leitao climbed to a better job at Virginia.
But he didn’t make enemies in Chicago, because the same athletic director — Jean Lenti Ponsetto — rehired Leitao back at DePaul in 2015.
Now Leitao takes one of his teams to UConn for the first time in nearly two decades when DePaul (1-1, 0-1) visits Connecticut (3-1, 0-1) on Wednesday night for a Big East Conference game.
“There’s so many fond memories that it gets to be a little bit nostalgic,” Leitao said. “It’s where I grew up as a man and where I grew up as a coach.
“(From) the euphoria of the Connecticut fan base … what I took away is that you can start in any place you want, but if you work extremely hard, if you do it together, if you dream big — and Coach Calhoun was the architect of it. “
Strangely, though the Blue Demons have played just two games this season, following a spate of cancelations and postponements, they are in more of a midseason flow than the Huskies are.
This marks DePaul’s third game in eight days; the team’s most recent outing was a double-overtime loss Sunday at Providence. But UConn has played just once in the past four weeks — a 76-74 overtime home loss to then-No. 9 Creighton on Dec. 20.
“Since Christmas, we’ve been having some pretty good practices,” UConn coach Danny Hurley said. “We’re excited here to hopefully go into a stretch where we can get some consistent practices and then some consistent games on our schedule — and actually feel like we’re actually into a season.”
DePaul hopes the Huskies’ James Bouknight, who averages 24 points per game, cooled off over the holidays. He scored 40 points in the loss to Creighton, marking UConn’s first such effort since Amida Brimah scored 40 vs. Coppin State on Dec. 14, 2014. Bouknight attempted 12 2-pointers, 12 3-pointers and 12 free throws during his balanced outburst.
“It’s very important we get some offense around James because I imagine people are going to be really creative with the way that they guard him,” Hurley said.
Tyler Polley, who is averaging 4.7 points and 3 rebounds a game, could offer help after missing the most recent game, but highly touted freshman guard Andre Jackson is expected to be out at least six weeks after breaking his left wrist Monday during practice.
DePaul will be without starting guard Oscar Lopez (10 ppg, 3.5 apg), who injured his right knee late in regulation at Providence. There’s no timetable for his return.
–Field Level Media