With college graduation season having just past, I started to reminisce of the good old days. Sitting in the living room of my Hilltop apartment watching re-runs of King of Queens on a Friday afternoon, because well…I had nothing else to do. Remember those days? I miss those. I miss Ted’s. I miss 50 cent pitchers at Thirsty Dog. Before I fall into a deep, dark depression thinking about the days of yore, let me get on with it. This got me to thinking, naturally of course, about UConn basketball and the best that ever donned the jersey. So without further ado, my Top 10 UConn Huskies of all-time.
Honorable mention: Tate George; seems crazy to have a top-10 list without the guy who put UConn on the map across the country, but that shows how far the program has come since Tate hit “the shot” vs Clemson in the 1990 NCAA tourney. The highlight will forever be a part of NCAA tournament montages.
10. Khalid El-Amin – The floor general and leader of the first NCAA title team. He completely embodied the heart and soul of that team and made huge shots throughout his entire career. I think even after 4 years, people were still surprised by his athleticism given his size (sorry Khalid – you’re not fat, you’re just “big-boned”). He’ll always have a special place in my heart for being such a key part of that first title. You were right on the money Khalid. That night back in 1999, “WE SHOCKED THE WORLD”!!! (Oh and P.S. – Fuck Duke)
9. Donyell Marshall – He was UConn’s first Consensus First Team All-American, and a finalist for the National Player of the Year. Big time scorer who had a long, solid career in the NBA that was highlighted by trying an NBA record with 12 made 3-pointers back in 2005. Yeah, that’s right, I said 12. Want to stump one of your smart-ass friends? Ask them who, besides Kobe, owns the NBA record for most 3-pointers made in a game. Somehow I don’t think Donyell Marshall will be their first guess.
8. Caron Butler – He only spent two years at Storrs, otherwise he’d be higher on this list. Came in with a bad reputation after some off-court issues, but he did no wrong while he wore that jersey. Tough competitor who could score and was the go-to-guy for a 2002 team that won the Big East but fell just shy of making the Final Four (Gordon and Okafor’s freshmen year). Can you imagine how nasty that 2003 team would have been if Butler had stuck around one more year to see Ben and Emeka develop into superstars? We’d be bragging about 5 NCAA titles instead of 4.
7. Chris Smith – Not a flashy name, or one that necessarily all the young husky fans know, but when you’re the leading scorer in the history of the program you deserve recognition. A hometown kid who helped Calhoun establish the foundation of the program, he also is the top UConn scorer in Big East history and WAS the leader in 3-pointers made in school history (yes, ahead of Ray Ray) until someone later on this list broke it (that’s a fancy thing called foreshadowing – trying to keep you all awake).
6. Ben Gordon – The Robin to our Batman (Emeka), Gordon was one of the most prolific scorers in UConn history. He was a smooth shooter with ice in his veins, and teamed up with Okafor to create the best tandem in school history and lead the 2004 team to the school’s 2nd championship (many, including myself, believe this was the best UConn team of all-time). The school’s all-time leader in made 3-pointers and easily one of the cockiest players to ever wear a UConn jersey…but man could he back it up.
5. Shabazz Napier – The only player in UConn history to win 2 National Championships, so you’d think he would rank a little higher on this list. Honestly, I tried to justify slotting him higher and just couldn’t do it. But with that said, Roxbury’s finest did himself and his mama proud. An amazing career in Storrs that was book-ended by national championships. He did his best Kemba Walker impression and carried a mediocre team that struggled all season, on another historic run through the NCAA tournament (as a #7 seed no less). Factor in all the turmoil the program went through the year before with the 1-year postseason ban and transfers from starters like Alex Oriahki and Roscoe Smith, and this title meant a little more to everyone in the UConn family.
Plus, let’s not forget Bazz having the balls to say this after winning his second title…
Hungry Huskies! Love you Shabazz
4. Richard Hamilton – The lead dog on that 1999 championship team, and one of the smoothest scorers in program history. Second in all-time scoring at UConn (behind C. Smith), Rip was a 1st team All-American, co-Big East Player of the Year and played his best when the lights were brightest (with 24 and 27 respectively in the two final four games vs. Ohio State and Duke). That first title wouldn’t have been possible without him, and it told the rest of the college basketball world what we already knew…UConn was one of the premier programs in the country.
3. Emeka Okafor – Hard to believe, but his only scholarship offers coming out of HS were UConn and Rice. Whoever the assistant coach was who told Calhoun “hey you gotta check out this kid Emeka Okafor in bum fuck Texas” deserves some major kudos. His accomplishments at UConn are as good as it gets: NCAA championship, MOP of the final four, 1st team All-American, National Player of the Year, Big East Player of the Year. He even graduated in 3 years (with honors) with a degree in finance. A lot of my friends can tell you how impressive that is. The guy was a stud on and off the court.
If my wife told me she was divorcing me so she could marry Okafor, I would totally understand (but please don’t tell her that). P.S. – of course that relates to Emeka only because if my wife tried to leave me for Jahlil, she would end up face down in a ditch; because…FUCK DUKE
2. Kemba Walker – My love for Kemba is so profound and deep that I don’t know where to start. If I could, I’d name my first born child after him (boy or girl), but I don’t think my Portuguese family would be able to pronounce it. No husky has ever led our fan base on a more amazing run than Kemba. 5 wins in 5 nights at Madison Square Garden when the Big East was still the Big East…and that included this unbelievable finish…
I just jumped out of my chair watching that highlight now…I could watch that all day long, it’ll never get old. Somewhere out there Gary McGhee is still going through rehab for his broken ankles. Then Kemba followed up that masterpiece with an improbable run through the NCAA tourney – carrying the team on his back to a title (he averaged 30ppg in the Big East and 29ppg in the NCAA). It was the most amazing month of my life as a husky fan and UConn alum. My only gripe is that is happened the year after I graduated.
1. Ray Allen – There’s just no way to argue against it…he is the greatest player ever to come out of UConn. The NBA’s all-time 3-point leader (at least until Steph Curry breaks it) and one of the most prolific and clutch shooters in NBA history. Only thing he didn’t accomplish in his 3 years at Storrs was a national championship, but his game-winner in the Big East tournament against Georgetown (led by some guy named Allen Iverson) will always be part of the UConn highlight reel, and go down as one of my earliest memories. I’ll never forget huddling around a radio (yes an actual radio) with two of my cousins while we listened to the finish of that game (through static) as we hid from the rest of our family at a church function (yeah I’m not at all ashamed of that – it was actually foreshadowing of my priorities as an adolescent).
Ray was one of the first big-time recruits that Calhoun landed in Storrs and to top it off is the only husky to have a lead role in a Spike Lee film. Disclaimer: He Got Game was not exactly a blockbuster, but our boy Jesus Shuttlesworth did us proud. (by the way word has it they actually started talking about a sequel back in 2014)