There have been many basketball players who have gone on to play in the NBA. Heck, UConn’s man-in-charge Kevin Ollie played in the NBA for 13 years on 11 different teams. So with all the players in the NBA, who would you pick as your favorite? The Daily Campus Sports section debates.
Matt Barresi, Campus Correspondent
Unless I can pretend Jeff Adrien is still hanging around somewhere, I would have to go with Shabazz Napier.
Aside from the usual reasons people like him, I respect his unique path. He played AAU basketball for Metro Boston, a top team in the region but not one of the four premier teams in New England that are affiliated with sneaker companies that usually produce the high major talent around here.
He played prep school ball at Lawrence Academy, a member of the large and elite NEPSAC league, but they are and were far from the perennial juggernauts like St. Thomas More, Brewster Academy or the Tilton School who produce the most elite talent in New England.
And while it wasn’t like he really had much of an option, I respect that he played four years here in Storrs and became one of the best players in the country, unlike a lot of the talented players in the NCAA who come in and leave within two years. Plus, anyone Massachusetts born-and-raised will always have my support in professional sports.
Peter Harasyko, Staff Writer
I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone play with as big a smile on his face as Kemba Walker.
Despite being drafted ninth overall in the 2011 NBA draft, Walker still had to earn his minutes on the court. He didn’t consistently start games his rookie season until an injury to point guard D.J. Augustin opened the door and when given the opportunity, Walker put on a show. He made the starting point guard spot his own and hasn’t looked back four years later.
He has improved consistently each year since his rookie season, increasing his scoring from 12 points per game, to 17 ppg, to nearly 20 ppg so far this year. Walker has also drastically improved his shooting, allowing him to score more efficiently and making opposing teams respect his threes as well as his driving ability.
Walker has become the Hornets’ franchise player, and I think we’ll continue to see him improve his own game as well as the team as a whole. He was my favorite player while he was at UConn, and remains my favorite player in the NBA.
Aaron Esposito, Staff Writer
When fans think of Caron Butler they don’t immediately think of UConn like they do with Napier and Walker. However, Butler was a standout at UConn from 2000-2002 and has put together an impressive 13-year NBA career. The current Sacramento King was an NBA champion with the Dallas Mavericks and a two-time all-star with the Washington Wizards.
Butler has played for nine NBA teams and players at every stop convey a tremendous level of respect for his talent and grit on the court, as well as his attitude off the court. You could think of him as a more talented Kevin Ollie, because of his experience with so many different teams and his ability to hang around the league as a mentor to younger players.
The 2002 Big East Player of the Year overcame a childhood corrupted by drugs and legal trouble to become a role model in his home town of Racine Park, Wisconsin. Butler isn’t the explosive athlete he once was and his all-star days are behind him, but “Tuff Juice” is a player that UConn fans should be happy to have associated with their favorite program.
Chris Hanna, Campus Correspondent
A fantastic player during his short time in Storrs, Rudy Gay has gone on to be a very consistent player in his professional career. Since coming into the league, Rudy has averaged 18.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.3 steals a game, all very steady numbers for a small forward in his mold. Jumping around from team to team, Gay has always been fun to watch, regardless of his role.
Rudy is capable of high-flying dunks, key passes and big rebounds as a 6-foot-8 swingman and is an all around fun guy to watch. He always seems to have a smile on his face no matter where he plays and is definitely known as a good guy around the league.
Although he came the year after an NCAA championship and couldn’t bring one to Storrs during his time here, he is definitely a UConn great and one of my all time favorite Huskies not named Cardiac Kemba.
Stephanie Sheehan, Campus Correspondent
I feel like I’m obligated to say Andre Drummond and make a joke about free throws. Well, I’m not that funny and free throws are stupid, so I’m just going to use some stats instead.
He’s averaging 17.6 points per game and 15.4 total rebounds per game. While the raw numbers aren’t the absolute best, he’s taken a huge step forward since last season and is certainly an All-Star caliber player, even if he just makes the team as a reserve. Besides, metrics can’t really measure his super rebound powers and his growing defensive prowess in the subtlest of ways.
He was certainly a dominant force while at UConn, leading the team in rebounds per game, blocks per game and field goal percentage during his one year tenure. Even though we don’t have to talk about the 2011-2012 season (like, at all), he was still really good then, and he’s finally starting to develop into one of the league’s best now.
Number zero on the jersey, number one in my heart.