During his weekend visit to Storrs, Ray Allen shared wisdom, gratitude and a model for current and future UConn basketball players to follow. The one thing he did not impart to the Huskies, however, was 3-point shooting.
Despite failing to make a single 3-pointer all game, playing in front of one of the best sharpshooters ever, the Huskies clawed their way to a 60-58 win over the University of South Florida on Sunday. At halftime, Allen’s No. 34 was retired.
“All those places that I’ve traveled, all those people that I’ve met, everything that I’ve received because of this game of basketball,” Allen said, “was as a UConn Husky.”
Allen’s banner was unveiled alongside Rebecca Lobo’s, who was honored on Saturday, as the first players in UConn basketball history to have their numbers retired. He was joined at halftime by his family and former head coach Jim Calhoun, who spoke on Allen’s enduring legacy.
“He became the prototype,” Calhoun said. “As a person, as a great, great player, as the kind of guy, when you say Husky, I want you to think of Ray Allen.”
Allen, the most prolific 3-point shooter in NBA history, would’ve been a welcome presence against USF. His 2,973 made 3’s are easily the most in league history, and that’s about how many UConn missed without a make on Sunday.
“Ray took a run at me yesterday talking about how bad of a player I was, so I say that the 0-for-15 from 3 had a lot to do with him being here today,” head coach Dan Hurley joked after the game. “The players just couldn’t handle the pressure of a shooter of that caliber being in the building.”
As Hurley noted, the Huskies missed all 15 3-pointers they attempted, some barely scraping the rim. It’s the first time since 2009 that UConn has gone an entire game without hitting a shot from deep.
Addressing the team after the game, though, Allen stressed one thing.
“Keep shooting,” Alterique Gilbert said when asked what Allen’s postgame message was. “We were what, 0-for-16? We gotta keep shooting.”
Allen provided some in-person leadership on Sunday, but he’s been a steady presence behind-the-scenes for a while now. At Saturday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Hall of Champions, Allen revealed what he told Hurley after last week’s loss to Cincinnati.
“We just had a flat start coming out of the half, but we competed,” Allen said. “I was texting with Coach a little bit and I said, we just have to get them to understand what 40 minutes hard is …With Coach Hurley’s enthusiasm and energy, I feel encouraged because I know they’re not gonna give up.”
Those slow second-half starts have been a recurring issue for UConn, as they’ve repeatedly followed a frustrating timeline: Come out flat after the break, dig themselves a deep hole, claw back into the game, come up painfully short. But on Sunday, the Huskies took Allen’s words to heart, not faltering out of the break but instead building on their lead.
According to Hurley, Allen has provided that kind of insight all season long.
“I walked by the gym yesterday and Ray was doing a shooting tutorial with Eric Cobb in a three-piece suit,” Hurley said. “He loves to share the wisdom. Ray has independently over the course of the season reached out to the players, reached out to me. Ray doesn’t do it in a billboard manner, he’s not trying to draw attention to himself. He’s been a great resource for me and these players behind the scenes.”
The unique privilege of having an NBA Hall-of-Famer as a resource is not lost on members of the current team.
“He just told us that he’s watching no matter what,” Josh Carlton, who had a team-high 16 points, said. “He’s looking forward to where we’re gonna be in the future.”
“That’s just one of the things that you can’t find anywhere else, or not many places in the country other than UConn,” Tarin Smith said. “To have him as a fan, as a resource, you can’t get that at many other places in the country.”
“It means a lot,” Gilbert said on having Allen’s guidance. “It was a big energy boost for us and I’m glad he’s come back with a few other alumni to keep our spirits up.”
A two-time All-American, Allen had plenty of unforgettable moments during his time in the Huskies uniform. But when asked for the most memorable moment at UConn, Allen recalled celebrating the 1995 women’s basketball championship, when the Huskies capped a perfect 35-0 season with a ring. That’s the type of program Hurley is trying to build, and Allen is a vital piece of that.
“We’re beginning to write a new chapter in UConn history,” Hurley said. “We’re turning a page from the last couple years and I think he’s gonna have a heavy presence around here.”