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Big stage, big choice for UConn’s Ryan Boatright

Connecticut's Ryan Boatright goes up for shot over IowState's MelvEjim during second half regional semifinal NCAA men's college basketball tournament

Connecticut's Ryan Boatright goes up for a shot over Iowa State's Melvin Ejim during the second half in a regional semifinal at the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Friday, March 28, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

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Updated: May 6, 2014 6:17AM



ARLINGTON, Texas — Ryan Boatright was supposed to be here all along.

There might not be a player in this year’s Final Four who was more hyped than the Connecticut junior guard and Aurora native. As an eighth-grader, Boatright committed to play for USC when Tim Floyd was coach.

‘‘He had a real command of the ball and a real instinct for how to play the game,’’ Floyd, the former Bulls coach, now at UTEP, said in a phone interview.

Say what you want about the Floyd era in Chicago, the guy knows talent. In his three years at UConn, Boatright has done everything to prove as much. When Floyd left USC, Boatright reopened his recruitment and eventually ended up in Storrs, Conn.

He was always considered the type of point guard who could lead a team to a Final Four.

He might easily have been elsewhere for this one.

Boatright had a solid enough freshman campaign in 2011-12 that he considered turning pro after only one year of college. Add in the retirement of then-coach Jim Calhoun after that season and a postseason ban handed down by the NCAA for the next season, and Boatright’s return was somewhat shocking.

Now, as a junior, he’s still mulling the idea of using all of his eligibility. And in the age of personal assistants, handlers and advisers, he is making the decision in the most unconventional fashion — by himself.

‘‘When I came to college, obviously that was my goal to get to the NBA, and it’s still my goal to get to the NBA,’’ Boatright said. ‘‘But you’ve got to understand that patience is a virtue. There’s a lot of kids that I know that made the jump too early just because they were thirsty, and it didn’t work out for them.

‘‘I know that from experiences from seeing people that come from Chicago. If you want to go to the NBA, the best place to try to make the jump is from college.’’

But the allure of the NBA might be too good to pass up again.

Boatright’s numbers this season have been the worst of his career. That’s somewhat due to the death of his 20-year-old cousin Arin Williams, who was shot to death Jan.  13. The two grew up in the same house, and Boatright has referred to him as his brother.

‘‘I just use it as motivation to work hard and get better every day so I can put myself in a situation to get them out of that environment so we don’t have to have those worries anymore,’’ Boatright said.

He clearly feels he has a decision, one that might require some guidance. UConn coach Kevin Ollie was an NBA point guard who played for the Bulls under Floyd. There isn’t a better ‘‘adviser’’ for Boatright. The pervasive though is that Boatright needs another year to improve his jump shot.

‘‘Kevin is a wise guy who would give sound advice,’’ Floyd said. ‘‘And I’m sure that he has the trust of the people in Ryan’s life now in addition to his mother, and that can go a long way.’’

Email: sgruen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SethGruen



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