UNCASVILLE, Conn.— The rich tradition of UConn basketball was on full display Friday night at Mohegan Sun Arena for the eighth annual Jim Calhoun Celebrity Classic Charity All-Star Game.
For the first time in the history of the event, the game featured former members of the UConn women’s basketball team. Members of 14 of UConn’s 15 combined national championships played in the event, which has helped raise over $8 million for the Jim and Pat Calhoun Cardiology Research Endowment Fund.
“It’s about UConn, about basketball, not women, men or anything else,” former UConn men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun said, gesturing to his UConn basketball polo shirt. “It’s all for the hospital, it’s all for the kids. It’s a reunion.”
After trailing by 11 entering the fourth quarter, the white team outscored the blue team 33-22 in the fourth quarter thanks to eight consecutive points from Ray Allen to force overtime. Allen scored another bucket with three seconds left in the first overtime period to force a sudden-death second overtime.
Taliek Brown wasted no time putting the game away, hitting a floater at the start of the second overtime to give the blue team a 116-114 victory.
Jeremy Lamb led all scorers with 30 points for the blue team, adding five rebounds and six assists and was named the men’s most valuable player. Nykesha Sales led all women’s scorers with 16 points and took home the women’s MVP honors for the night.
Calhoun, who plans to continue his work with ESPN as a color commentator this fall, takes pride in having an event that receives so much support from both former players and dedicated fans.
“The fact hat now the event now is heading towards 20 years and the kids keep coming back, it’s been a wonderful thing to be involved with for everybody,” Calhoun said.
With conference realignment rumors swirling more than ever as a list of 17 potential expansion candidates for the Big 12 was leaked via Twitter earlier in the afternoon, Calhoun weighed in with his take on UConn’s position to land in the Big 12.
Unsurprisingly, the three-time national champion stuck with what he knew best: basketball.
“You’re talking about one of the three or four best basketball programs in the country,” Calhoun said of UConn. “We belong [in the Power Five].”
While few UConn personnel have publicly have expressed their desire to join the Big 12 or another Power Five conference, Calhoun acknowledged that he clearly sees it as the best fit for the Huskies athletically and financially.
“It’s still wonderful, and we’re still UConn. I’m very proud of that,” Calhoun said. “I think for our fans’ sake, they would love to see every single night could be a Texas, could be Oklahoma, could be Kansas.”
With the Big 12 set to make a decision on expansion sometime this fall, Calhoun, like so many UConn personnel and fans, will have to wait and see what happens.
“I’m like everybody else, I’m hoping, talking to as many people as I possibly can,” Calhoun said.