Three years ago, when Josh Boone resembled a stick man with crude offensive tools, Reggie Witherspoon was one of only a few coaches who offered Boone a scholarship.
Now Boone is a 6-foot-10 pogo stick with arms as long as a pair of crocodile tails when he bats shots away, and the best big man on the defending national champions. The University at Buffalo's big men could not handle Boone, who finished with a career-best 18 points while pulling down 11 boards as Connecticut handed the Bulls a 90-68 loss Saturday.
It turned out to be an 0-for-UConn weekend for UB. Earlier in the day, the UB football team was shutout, 29-0, and Friday night the UB women's basketball team was ripped by the No. 4 ranked Huskies, 107-40.
Saturday night was the men's turn and Boone, a sophomore from Mt. Airy, Md., blocked four shots and altered countless others in making inside scoring a risky proposition for UB. UConn rejected 12 shots and pounded on the glass, 56-27, while building a lead as high as 27 points.
"It wasn't a shock what (Boone) was capable of doing," Witherspoon said. "What we are disappointed in is our response to what he did. We didn't play aggressive enough to affect his game. He went to the glass and rebounded, he blocked and most importantly our chief concern coming in was that he was going to run the floor and we were going to have to sprint back."
And when UB didn't, Boone ended up hanging on the rim, pointing to the crowd and celebrating. On a UConn fast break, the ball nearly sailed out of bounds on but was saved by freshman Rudy Gay, who alertly whipped a behind-the-back pass to a hard-charging Boone. Boone glided, flushed home the goods over UB's Yassin Idbihi and was fouled, much to the delight of the 10,167 in Gampel Pavilion.
"We had to let them know," Boone said, "that we were going to push the ball every time down the floor."
So how close was UB to landing Boone? Not very.
"They weren't in the final list that I had," said Boone, who also considered Saint Joseph's and Rutgers out of high school. "But I did talk with them for a while and I got close with coach Witherspoon and coach (Chris) Hawkins. I talked to them a lot."
Boone averaged 20 points, 14.4 rebounds and seven blocks as a senior at South Carroll High School in Winfield, Md. Witherspoon, desperate for size, wanted Boone badly.
But Boone never had plans to attend college out of high school and went to prep school at West Nottingham Academy in Colroa, Md. He nearly averaged a triple-double -- 28 points, 16 rebounds and 9.7 blocks -- and everybody in the country wanted him.
"We tried," Witherspoon said. "Once he decided to go to prep school, he would improve enough where he was going to go to a pretty high level. I thought we had a chance when we looked at the other schools involved."
But Boone was thinking ACC or Big East. Last year, he started 37 games, and while the team revolved around All-Americans Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon, Boone managed 5.9 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 55.4 percent from the field. His role will expand this season, and attending prep school, he said, prepared him for college basketball.
"It wasn't because I wanted get to a bigger school, but it was for me to develop my skills so I would be completely ready wherever I went," Boone said.