The freshman from Philly has all the makings of UConn’s next great lead guard.
UConn freshman Rahsool Diggins has already made a big impact for the Huskies before playing a single game. The highly-ranked point guard has been moonlighting as head coach Dan Hurley’s ace recruiter.
‘Agent Sool’ instantly endeared himself to Husky faithful by publicly courting recruits to join him at UConn. He was instrumental in reeling in fellow 2021 classmates Jordan Hawkins and Samson Johnson and helped bring hometown hero Donovan Clingan across the finish line. He’s UConn’s best closer since Matt Barnes.
But Diggins is going to bring much more than that this fall. In his words, it’s “pace and personality.” Point guards, more than any position, have to be an extension of their head coach. The North Philadelphia native is known as a pure gamer, something that surely attracted Hurley to recruit him.
Diggins chose UConn over offers from Villanova, Kansas, and Seton Hall, and has taken to the culture Hurley established at UConn like a duck to water.
“This program is strict, you have to compete. You can’t take any days off. Kill or be killed. It’s what I needed. I’d rather have an intense crazy coach than a laid-back guy,” he said.
Diggins’ attitude shows hints of UConn’s emblematic guards over the years. It doesn’t matter that he’s a baby-faced freshman.
“I always speak up, that’s what coach wants, to make sure everyone is competing. I like to rally the team. You want someone to play with you instead of degrading them, bringing them down. Even though I’m still learning, I still try to give input when I can,” he said.
Diggins spent his high school career winning and improving. He led Archbishop Wood to the Philadelphia Catholic League championship, scoring nine points and dishing out 12 assists in the title game. He left Wood as the program’s all-time leading scorer and was named league MVP twice—not too shabby for a kid that had to fill Collin Gillespie’s’ shoes on day one of his freshman year.
Diggins cited his playground experience in North Philly as the source of his swagger: “I’m very confident. If my shot’s not falling, I never get down on myself. I’m always looking to build my teammates up. I’m a winner, I just want to win. You can see it on the court in how I play, how I talk, how I move, how I carry myself.”
On tape and you’ll see a crafty, in-control ball handler. He has a twitchy second-gear that gains separation on bigger defenders and allows him to get into the paint at will. When you combine his ability to beat the first man off the dribble with his passing acumen and overall basketball I.Q., you have an ideal floor general that keeps defenses guessing. College basketball fans will remember the impact Tyler Ullis had on those supremely successful 2014-2016 Kentucky teams. Diggins fits that mold.
Diggins doesn’t light the rim up with his shooting and his lower release is a slight worry, but in high school, it was respectable enough to keep defenders honest. On defense, he’s tougher than his size indicates and has the quickness to get up and in on opposing ball handlers. According to Wood head coach John Mosco, he’s gotten better every year.
“He came in as a freshman and played with four Division I players and he just fit in from Day 1 with them. Then sophomore year we were young and everything was on his shoulders and he just kept growing every year with that.”
In his senior year, when he bore the brunt of the defensive disruptor responsibilities, he posted 2.8 steals, 1.1 blocks, and 6.7 deflections per game. That seems like the type of player with the potential to become the complete package by the time he’s a junior or senior.
This upcoming season, Diggins faces an uphill climb for playing time. Upperclassmen RJ Cole and Jalen Gaffney will shoulder the primary ball-handling duties, while Hurley also likes to have Tyrese Martin and Andre Jackson initiating sets. But Diggins’ talent and playmaking ability will be hard to keep off the court. He has the ability to seamlessly integrate into the talent around him — feeding teammates while still serving as a viable scoring threat — that makes him a potential asset from day one. If his shotmaking and defense are up to par, Diggins’ intangibles and leadership could make him a factor in the rotation sooner rather than later.