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UConn's Ollie has found a niche in landing graduate-student transfers

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GLASTONBURY, Connecticut — UConn basketball coach Kevin Ollie has found a niche in recruiting players who already have graduated but still have one year of basketball eligibility.

The Huskies this offseason have added two graduate transfers who are expected to play major roles next season — guard Sterling Gibbs from Seton Hall and forward Shonn Miller from Cornell.

They are the third and fourth graduate recruits to sign with UConn since 2012.

Gibbs, who began his career at Texas, averaged 16.3 points and 3.8 assists at Seton Hall last season. Because he sat out a year of basketball after his initial transfer from Texas, he still has a year of eligibility.

Miller averaged 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds last season and was named first-team All-Ivy League. He sat out his junior season at Cornell with a shoulder injury but couldn't stay in the Ivy League, which prohibits graduate students from playing on athletic teams.

"You've got to look at those guys, because this is the (recruiting) landscape," Ollie said Monday, speaking before his annual charity golf event in Glastonbury. "If you don't look at them, somebody else is getting them. Plus, they come with so much of a wealth of experience, too. They've been through the wars."

The 6-foot-7 Miller gives the Huskies a scoring and rebounding threat in the frontcourt, while Gibbs is expected to help the Huskies fill the void left by the graduation of star point guard Ryan Boatright.

Both have enrolled in the schools' graduate program for counseling in the School of Education.

"I'm just coming in to try and find my way and be myself and learn everything, and try to help us as much as possible," Gibbs told reporters in June.

Guard R.J. Evans was the first graduate transfer to play for UConn. He was recruited from Holy Cross and joined Ollie's first UConn team, the 2012-13 squad that was forced to sit out the NCAA Tournament because of academic issues.

A year later, Lasan Kromah transferred after graduating from George Washington and was a key role player on the Huskies' 2013-14 national championship team.

Evans said as the use of graduate-transfers grows, he has some concern that programs might abuse the rule, plugging players into a hole for a year without caring whether they are actually working toward a graduate degree.

But, he said that was not his experience at UConn, where he earned a master's degree in educational psychology.

"They put me in the best situation to finish my degree," said Evans, now a graduate assistant coach at Texas. "It was a win-win situation. They brought in a guy who could help their program for a year, and I got to get a graduate degree out of it. Nobody can lose in that situation."

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