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Transfer Profile: Tristen Newton

Can Newton fill the shoes of R.J. Cole?

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NCAA Basketball: East Carolina at Memphis Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Tristen Newton

Height: 6-5

Former School: East Carolina

New School: Connecticut

Years Remaining: Two

Recruiting Ranking: NR

2021-22 Stats: 17.7 ppg/4.8 rpg/5.0 apg/34.8 mpg; 43.5%/33.3%/87.9%

With the departure of R.J. Cole, Dan Hurley needed a new point guard. He found East Carolina’s Tristen Newton. Newton had a career year as a junior and was named to the All-AAC Second Team. He finished the year third in the conference in scoring and second in assists.

Newton was not ranked coming out of high school and only received five Division I offers, but he started more than half of ECU’s games as a freshman. Newton took a step back as a sophomore, starting all but one game but seeing his efficiency numbers drop. He readjusted as a junior and set career-high marks across the board, particularly as a passer. His assist rate rose from 27 percent as a sophomore to 34.4 percent as a junior, a mark good enough to finish in the top 25 nationally.

What’s His Game?

Tristen Newton is a legitimate threat as a combo guard who excels in setting up his teammates. This was especially apparent in transition, where the extra space helped Newton thrive.

Newton’s awareness also showed up in the half court, where ball pressure didn’t stop him from finding his teammates with relative ease.

It’s clear that Newton is capable of running Dan Hurley’s offense, one that will be switching to a four-out system with more space, according to The Athletic. He was a more productive passer than R.J. Cole last season. He also turned the ball over far more often, something that’s the result of his aggressive play style. Newton will need to cut down on the errant passes in the physical Big East next season, but it is clear that the pros far outweigh the cons with the way he dishes the ball.

Newton isn’t all passing; he led his team in scoring last season. He has a quick-release three that falls at a 33.3 percent clip. His deep shot likely isn’t enough to be the top option on the outside, but he’s more than good enough to take advantage of open looks. With his touch around the rim and in the mid-range, plus Adama Sanogo drawing attention in the post, Newton should have little issue getting those open shots.

Closer to the basket, Newton uses his long arms to help finish. He hit 59.3 percent of his shots at the rim last season, a mark significantly above what UConn’s guards were able to hit last season. Add on a 43.8 percent clip from the mid-range, and Newton finished the year fourth in the AAC in field goal percentage.

Lastly, Newton is an elite free throw shooter. He made 87.9 percent of his free throws last season, the best rate in the conference. It would have been good enough for third in the Big East behind only Donald Carey and Collin Gillespie. That’s exactly where R.J. Cole finished.

What’s His Role?

If the point hasn’t already made itself clear, Newton projects as R.J. Cole’s replacement for next season. Replacing a First Team All-Big East player is no easy feat, and playing against Big East foes will certainly be a step up for Newton. His production and underlying talent suggest he’ll be up to the task.

Newton should start from the opening tip for Dan Hurley. He has been a full-time starter since January of his freshman year, and he has the ability to handle the point in a way unlike Hurley’s other options. Newton should play more than 75 percent of Connecticut’s minutes, and he’ll be expected to step in as a scorer right off the bat. Being the point guard at UConn is a high-pressure role, but Newton has been hand-selected for the role by Dan Hurley. Only time will tell if the AAC-standout will be ready.