Their job isn’t sexy. In fact at times they are unnoticed and invisible while on the court but the role players on a team are what takes a team to the next level. Most of the time they are asked to come in for a player in foul trouble, give a starter a breather or to substitute while Calhoun can do some persuasive coaching from the bench. Whether it is to block out, secure the ball or play defense, the role players are a pivotal piece to any successful team.
Uconn’s three role players, Gavin Edwards, Jonathan Mandeldove and Curtis Kelly are young and prime to make a bigger contribution to the team next year. They have made an emphasis on bulking up this year and with a year under their belt, they shouldn’t be overwhelmed with the physicality of The Big East. The only problem is that there isn’t enough minutes in a game to give all three enough game time to grow. So the battle for minutes will be fought for during practice and once given the opportunity they must seize it.
As of last year the depth chart seemed fixed with Kelly getting the most minutes while Gavin and Mandeldove shared the scraps. But that isn’t always set in stone. With the motivation of playing time fueling their off season, these players should be ready to take the next step.
Jonathan Mandeldove: At 6-11 and 220 pounds, he is a bit lanky but his long reach and wingspan is reminiscent of Hilton Armstrong in his first two years. Coming from Hargrave Military Academy, Jonathan is a very coachable player and should thrive in this system. Mandeldove has potential to be a starter one day but as of today he is looking up the depth chart.
Gavin Edwards: He is a more physical athlete than Mandeldove. Though he is only 6-9, his 230 pound frame still has room to bulk up. His father was a defensive end for four NFL teams, so Gavin has the genes to become a very physical player. He is not a shot blocking threat yet like his other role players but he does like to mix it up down low and has great footwork. Towards the end of the year, Gavin had cemented the number two role player off the bench.
Curtis Kelly: He probably has the most potential of the three players with a combination of size and speed. He has an offensive game that the others lack and has the ability to block shots. At times he looked confused but that is expected for a freshman. This year, he should know what is expected of him and thrive in the first man off the bench role. The one glaring weakness to his game is his free throw shooting. Its going to be scary when the switch clicks on Kelly’s game because he has all the tools to become an elite forward.