By: Stratton Stave, Evan Rodriguez
Over the last few decades, the UConn Huskies have established themselves as one of the premier programs in college basketball, with no other school collecting more national championships since 1999. In these years and those before, Jim Calhoun recruited an elite set of players that allowed the team to reach such heights. Although there are many deserving players, sports columnists Evan Rodriguez and Stratton Stave narrowed it down to just 10 in what can be described as the Calhoun-Championship Era.
1. Rip Hamilton
Stratton- Rip Hamilton is in the number one spot simply because of his pure dominance while at UConn. The guard averaged 21.5 ppg in each of his final two seasons as a husky and racked up the accolades while winning games. Aside from being the best player on UConn’s first ever national championship team in 1999, Hamilton was the Most Outstanding Player in the tournament and won Big East Player of the Year twice. Don’t be surprised to see his number 32 follow Ray Allen’s footsteps and be retired in the near future.
2. Kemba Walker
Evan- Cardiac Kemba is one of the most decorated Huskies of all time during his time at UConn. During his UConn career, the guard earned not only a NCAA Championship on one of the best UConn teams of all time, but also earned multiple Big East honors on top of that. Even in his last year with the team, the NBA guard averaged 23.5 points and solidified his spot in Huskies history with impressive statistics across the board. Oh, and how could we forget Walker’s game winning shot against Pitt’ in 2010, one of the greatest shots in college basketball history.
3. Emeka Okafor
Stratton- Plain and simple, Okafor was that guy on UConn’s second national championship team in 2004. During his three year career, the center averaged 13.8 points and 10.6 boards, which are purely dominant numbers. He was also one of the biggest defensive forces in Husky history, swatting over four shots per game. These stats placed Okafor on the All-Big East team in all three years and won him the Big East Player of the Year twice. Winning a title at UConn gives Okafor legend status and his elite statistics reaffirm his spot and placement on this list.
4. Shabazz Napier
Stratton- Some may not like having Napier this high, but one thing that cannot be disputed is the fact that he was a key player in not one but two national championship runs. As a freshman, the point guard was the sixth man of the young 2011 championship team led by Kemba Walker, averaging a very solid 7.8 points, 3.0 assists and 1.6 steals. Even after the Huskies were banned from the NCAA tournament in 2013, Napier stuck around while many left, staying for the worthwhile prize of a 2014 national championship victory, averaging 18.6 points and 4.9 assists per game and winning Most Outstanding Player during that run.
5. Ray Allen
Evan- As one of the greatest shooters the basketball world has ever seen, Allen had a great college career and easily solidified his spot as a top five player. If you somehow don’t watch basketball and didn’t know about Allen, a three point percentage of 46.6% in his final year with the Huskies will certainly help that. His defense was very solid too as the guard averaged close to two steals in his last two seasons in Storrs. While Allen wasn’t able to secure a NCAA tournament as the cherry on top of his college career, his statistics still place him as one of the best to wear the UConn blue.
6. Ben Gordon
Evan- Gordon was a monster with the Huskies and most notably during the 2003-04 championship Huskies roster with Emeka Okafor and Co. The 6’3’’ guard was not only dependable with the Huskies, but also lights out from the three-point line. Gordon was also a multi-time All Big East selection and was never an easy stop during his time with the Huskies. It’s important to note that even with our #3 selection Okafor playing alongside Gordon, the guard always led UConn in scoring throughout his college career other than his freshman season, where honorable mention Caron Butler was the top scorer.
7. Khalid El-Amin
Stratton- El-Amin was not necessarily “the guy” during the 1999 title run during his sophomore year playing alongside No. 1 Rip Hamilton, but he was a key player. The undersized point guard was the team leader in assists and really facilitated the offense that allowed Hamilton to flourish. In his career, he averaged 15.3 points and 4.4 dimes, which are both very solid when mixed with his national championship. It’s also important to note El-Amin made the All-Big East team in all three of his seasons as a Husky, earning him a spot on the list.
8. Donyell Marshall
Evan – While Marshall does not have the heavy accolades other than a handful of Big East honors, that shouldn’t take away from what the forward did while at UConn. A 25.1 ppg final year in Storrs is no easy task, and Marshall even helped UConn compete as the second seed in a competitive NCAA tournament before a devastating loss to Florida. Marshall’s last season in Storrs did not end with a championship, but he definitely competed until the very end and embodied the true Husky spirit that is looked upon by its players to this day.
9. Cliff Robinson
Stratton-Many people would argue that without Cliff Robinson, there is no UConn basketball as we know it today, with its many titles and All-Americans. Robinson was basically the last successful Husky without any major accolades, instead setting up the success for those who followed him. In his final season, Robinson averaged 20 points and 7.4 rebounds, which was good for one of his two All-Big East selections. The year after “Uncle Cliff” left, the Huskies had their “Dream Season” that saw them win the NIT, which was followed nine years later by the first national championship. Although there were a lack of official accomplishments, what Robinson did for the program is beyond any hardware.
10. Hasheem Thabeet
Evan-Thabeet was an absolute force on the defensive end, while averaging four blocks during his college career. What earns Thabeet the last spot in our selections is the big man’s final season, a set of games that saw Thabeet average 13.6 points, 10.8 rebounds and 4.2 blocks per game. He also elevated UConn to its first Final Four appearance since the legendary 2004 UConn Huskies. It’s no wonder that the big man was heavily scouted for his time with the Huskies and selected second overall in the 2009 NBA draft ahead of players like James Harden and Stephen Curry.
Also considered: Ryan Boatright, Tate George, Rudy Gay, Charlie Villanueva, Caron Butler, Chris Smith, Corny Thompson, Jeremy Lamb, Scott Burrell and Art Quimby.
Note: the players featured in this list are part of the “Championship/Calhoun Era”