Isaiah Wong’s familiarity with UConn started way before Miami ever reached the Final Four.
In fact, Wong was almost a Husky himself.
“They recruited me when I was in high school. That’s the connection I have. I got recruited there, and I spent a lot of time like thinking about UConn and the decision,” Wong said. “And I feel like for me I have like a lot of great connections with the coach and the assistants and all of them.”
Wong was a highly-touted high school prospect in the 2018 recruiting cycle. The consensus four-star combo guard was branded for his physicality at his position, with national recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer writing that Wong “plays strong in traffic and plays through contact.”
Aside from the Huskies and the Hurricanes, Wong held offers from high-major programs like Pittsburgh, Clemson and Illinois.
A Piscataway, New Jersey native, Wong made an official visit to UConn, which is only a three-and-a-half-hour drive from his hometown. This was the only other school he officially visited in addition to Miami.
“I think you get a sense on the visit whether you’re going to get the gold or the silver. I think we always felt we were a little bit behind [in Wong’s recruitment],” UConn head coach Dan Hurley said. “But we imagined the potential back court of him and [James] Bouknight. It was an exciting dream that didn’t come to fruition.”
Hurley added about Wong, “Loved him as a player. Jersey guard. Athletic. Could score. Can play-make. Heck of a defensive player. It’s not surprising that he’s led his team to this point and eventually is going to have a long career in the NBA.”
Wong stated that UConn finished among his top three schools and that Hurley made a strong impression on him during his visit.
“[Hurley] showed me a good time over there. I got to meet a lot of people on the team, and they were all great people over there, and he was just a great coach,” Wong said. “When I visited UConn, I was like it’s going to be a hard decision coming in because they have a great coaching staff. They have great people over there, too. And they have great players over there. Just love the way they work, too. It was a hard decision. But I already had my mind set on Miami, and it was up between them two.”
Ultimately, UM’s coaching staff, including Adam Fisher – who was recently hired by Temple to be its head coach – was the deciding factor for Wong in his decision to commit to Miami.
“I feel the coaching staff, when they had Fisher, he was a great coach, and he talked to me a lot. I felt real comfortable being around him,” Wong said. “And [Jim Larrañaga] was a great coach. And I felt at the time I was already committed to Miami and I really had my decision made.”
Saturday’s NCAA semifinals game comes as a full-circle moment for Wong, who noted that “it’s a small world, I feel, just between UConn and Miami … having these two teams playing against each other.”
While the Huskies don’t have Wong, they still roster a strong nucleus of guards who can challenge UM.
Jordan Hawkins, Tristen Newton and Andre Jackson Jr. form UConn’s starting backcourt. Hawkins, the Huskies’ leading point-scorer this season, is an electric shooter who’s made 16 triples so far this tournament. Newton, a transfer from East Carolina, ranks second on the team in assists per game and third in points.
Jackson is UConn’s chess piece. The high-flying junior often brings the ball up the court and initiates the team’s offense, but also utilizes his length and athleticism as a screen-and-roller when asked to do so. Jackson leads the Huskies in assists and is one of just six players in the nation standing at least 6-foot-6 to average at least 4.7 assists per game.
Wong and the Hurricanes, who’ve faced their share of elite guards so far in the tournament, will have their hands full against UConn’s backcourt as they wish to further their magical run in March Madness.
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