The Top 10 Huskies of the Jim Calhoun Era

Zachary PeckContributor IIApril 22, 2012

The Top 10 Huskies of the Jim Calhoun Era

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    Jim Calhoun arrived in Storrs, CT, in 1986 as a relatively unknown, albeit quite successful, coach from Northeastern University.

    Since his unheralded introduction as the coach of Big East bottom-feeder UConn, Calhoun has won 10 Big East regular-season championships, seven Big East Tournament championships and three National Championships.

    Calhoun's 873 career wins place him sixth all time among Division 1 coaches. Much of Calhoun's success is the result of the talent he has recruited and developed while at UConn.

    Calhoun has coached 25 (soon-to-be 27 with the expected first-round selections of Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond in this June's draft) current and former NBA players from UConn.

    Here are the top 10 Huskies of the Jim Calhoun Era: 

10. Cliff Robinson

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    Robinson is grandfathered into the top 10 because he was the first big recruit to come to the glorified farm of a campus in Storrs, CT.

    Although he was not recruited by Calhoun, Robinson was the first Calhoun-coached UConn player in the NBA.

    Robinson went on to a successful NBA career, averaging 14 points per game over his 19 seasons. 

9. Hasheem Thabeet

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    Since this list is based on the player's UConn career, Hasheem is safe at No. 9.

    Thabeet's less-than-stellar NBA career has overshadowed an accomplished three-year stay at UConn.

    Hasheem steadily improved in each of his three college seasons. In 2008-09, Thabeet averaged 14 points, 11 rebounds and almost five blocks and was named National Defensive Player of the Year and Co-Big East Player of the Year while leading UConn to their third Final Four.

    In terms of of a successful UConn career, Thabeet has to make the top 10. 

8. Khalid El-Amin

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    El-Amin brought confidence and leadership to a UConn team that played the greatest game in the program's history—a 77-74 upset of heavily favored Duke in the 1999 national championship.

    His career averages of 15 points, four assists and three rebounds rank him among the best point guards in UConn history. Khalid was drafted in the second round of the 2000 NBA draft but lasted only one season before moving overseas for a lengthy professional career.

    His post-championship declaration, "We shocked the world! We shocked the world!" will always be remembered by the UConn faithful. 

7. Donyell Marshall

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    Donyell was UConn's first consensus first-team All-American and Big East Player of the Year.

    He was an all-around force at UConn, averaging 25 points, nine rebounds and three blocks per game during his third and final season in Storrs.

    He went on to declare for the NBA draft that spring and was selected fourth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    Marshall played 15 seasons in the NBA, averaging 11 points and almost seven rebounds.  

6. Ben Gordon

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    Ben Gordon was the best pure scorer UConn has ever had. He had unlimited range on his jump shot, was un-guardable off the dribble and could jump out of the gym.

    When in need of a crunch-time bucket, Gordon was UConn's go-to guy. He carried the Huskies to the 2004 Big East championship while Emeka Okafor was hobbled by a bad back, scoring a then-tourney record 81 points in the process.

    Gordon also led all scorers in the 2004 NCAA tournament, dropping 127 points over six games, en route to claiming UConn's second national championship in school history.

    He declared for the 2004 NBA draft and was selected third overall—one spot behind Okafor.  

5. Caron Butler

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    Butler carried to the Elite Eight what was, on paper, an underwhelming UConn team.

    He was the unquestioned heart and soul of that overachieving group, and his value that season cannot be understated. He averaged 20 points, 7.5 rebounds, three assists and two steals—all while shooting close to 50 percent (48.6) and playing 36 minutes per game.

    Butler's phenomenal season raised the collective ceiling of the entire team. He left UConn after two years and was drafted 10th overall in the 2002 NBA draft by the Miami Heat.

    Caron has had a solid professional career thus far, averaging 16 points per game over almost 10 seasons. 

4. Emeka Okafor

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    To UConn fans, Okafor is on the Mount Rushmore of Husky greats. His combination of talent, leadership and character combined to leave a legacy in Storrs that will not soon be forgotten.

    In 2004, Okafor was the National Defensive Player of the Year, first-team All-American and Big East Player of the Year. He was the leader of arguably the most talented UConn team ever, leading the Huskies to their second national championship.

    Okafor declared for the 2004 NBA draft and went second overall to the Charlotte Bobcats.  

3. Ray Allen

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    If you asked 100 UConn fans who their favorite Husky of all time is, it's safe to assume the overwhelming majority would say Ray Allen. He's the unquestioned face of UConn basketball.

    Ray's Hall of Fame caliber NBA career is the driving force behind the local love for him. This is not to say he did not accomplish anything substantial at UConn, though. He was a Big East Player of the Year and first-team All-American.

    He led the 1995 UConn team to the Elite Eight. He averaged 19 points and six rebounds per game while shooting 45 percent from three-point range over his three-year stay at Connecticut.

    He hit the game-winner in the 1996 Big East championship game against Allen Iverson-led Georgetown. The reason Ray drops to third in the all-time Husky rankings is due to one glaring hole on his resume that the top two names on the list were able to achieve—championships.

    Had Ray brought a title back to Storrs, he would most likely have a seat atop the list. 

2. Kemba Walker

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    To say Kemba led the 2011 Huskies to a title is an understatement. Put aside his gaudy stats (23.5 points, 4.5 assists, 5.4 rebounds, 1.9 steals, 38 minutes per game, a handful of game winners).

    Kemba had what coaches only dream of their best player having. He had the biggest heart I've ever seen a Husky have. He had unwavering confidence that didn't cross into the cocky danger zone. He was a tremendous leader who got the best out of his teammates. He had that rare ability to trust his teammates enough to let them perform, while always knowing when it was time to take over.

    The Big East and NCAA tourney run that Kemba gave Husky fans will always be the most amazing stretch of basketball that UConn has ever had. Kemba was a once in a generation player who gave UConn nation a once-in-a-generation run. And as fans, all you can do is remember with awe and appreciation.

1. Richard Hamilton

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    Richard Hamilton gets the slight edge over Kemba Walker due to one major factor—he brought UConn their first ever national championship.

    In three seasons at Connecticut, "Rip" was a first-team All-American, second-Team All-American, two-time Big East Player of the Year and Final Four Most Outstanding Player.

    He averaged 19.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game over his UConn career. Hamilton's resume is unmatched by any Husky ever, and as the ultimate trailblazer for the program, he holds the torch as the greatest Husky of not only the Jim Calhoun era, but of all time.