One of the selling points UConn coach Jim Calhoun would use on would-be Huskies was the coach's success of getting players to the next level. In his career Calhoun coached many first-team All-Americans and NBA lottery picks. Here are some of the best:
Ray Allen (1993-96)
Allen was a two-time first-team All-American at UConn and, when his spectacular NBA career is over, should be the first UConn player inducted into the Hall of Fame. The Huskies were 49-5 in Big East play during Allen's tenure. He averaged 23.4 points as a junior, 19.0 for his three-year career, and is fourth on the all-time scoring list with 1,922 points. Allen holds UConn records for most three-pointers made in a season (115 in 1996) and best three-point percentage (44.8). Allen was the No.5 pick in the 1996 NBA draft and is a nine-time All-Star. He is second on the NBA's all-time list for three-pointers made.
Richard Hamilton (1996-99)
"Rip," a two-time first team All-American and two-time Big East player of the year, was the 1999 Final Four's Most Outstanding Player. He led UConn to its first national title by averaging 24.2 points in the NCAA Tournament. He is second on the UConn all-time scoring list, finishing with 2,036, the most in any three-year span in program history. His career scoring average of 19.8 is third-best in program history. Hamilton was selected seventh in the 1999 NBA draft and led the Pistons to a title in 2004. Rip came up huge when it mattered most.
Emeka Okafor (2001-04)
Okafor, the NABC and Sports Illustrated national player of the year in 2003-04, was the dominant centerpiece of UConn's second national title. He was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player after turning in dominant performances against Duke and Georgia Tech. Okafor, the national defensive player of the year and an All-American as a sophomore and junior, holds the UConn record for career blocks with 441. He was also a force in the classroom, graduating in three years, and was National Academic All-American of the Year in 2004. The best player on probably the best team in UConn history, Okafor was selected second overall by the Charlotte Bobcats and was NBA Rookie of the Year.
Donyell Marshall (1991-94)
Marshall was arguably the most dominant player in program history during his three years. He was UConn's first consensus first-team All-American and a finalist for national player of the year in 1993-94. As a junior, he led the Big East in scoring (25.1 points a game) and blocks (111). Marshall, who twice scored a career-high 42 points against St. John's in 1994, holds the single-season record for points with 855 in 1993-94. Selected fourth in the 1994 NBA draft, Marshall has played for seven teams, collecting more than 10,000 points and 6,000 rebounds. Perhaps most impressive among all of Marshall's accomplishments? He recorded 20-plus points in a record 23 consecutive games. Chris Smith and Richard Hamilton are second on the list with seven consectutive games.
Chris Smith (1988-92)
Smith is the Huskies' career scoring leader with 2,145 points, and the Bridgeport native is one of the most important recruits Jim Calhoun ever landed; a local kid who helped push the program to another level. As a sophomore during the Dream Season, he was named the Big East tournament's Most Outstanding Player. As a senior, he was the conference scoring leader at 22.1 points a game. Smith was drafted in the second round by the Minnesota Timberwolves and played three seasons in the NBA.
Ben Gordon (2001-04)
Emeka Okafor probably will always be regarded as the best player on the best team in UConn history, but Gordon was the most prolific. He averaged 18.5 points on the Huskies' second national championship team, a year after averaging 19.5 as a sophomore. Gordon is sixth on the Huskies' all-time scoring list with 1,795 points in his three seasons. He left after the title run and was drafted third overall by the Bulls, one spot after Okafor. Simply put, he was one of the most creative and dynamic scorers and playmakers in the program's history and his body of work in the Big East tournament helps elevate him.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun