Ranking the Best NBA Careers Enjoyed by UConn Huskies
The UConn Huskies have become known as a team that perennially sends players to the pros that are able to succeed at the NBA level.
The history of the Huskies as a powerhouse program really starts with the arrival of Jim Calhoun in 1986.
Since his arrival, Connecticut has consistently churned out NBA-ready stars. Calhoun prepared his players for the rigors of the NBA and as a result he routinely saw his guys' names come off the draft boards early.
While a few Huskies have ended up being flops (see Thabeet, Hasheem), the vast majority of these players have made their alma mater proud with their solid NBA play. Some, however, have had more success than others at the pro level.
With his time with the Huskies in the books, here's a look back at the most successful NBA players to come out of Jim Calhoun's system.
Kemba Walker (2008-11):
In four or five years, Walker probably makes this list no question. In his first two years in the league, Walker has shown that he has the makings of a star at the NBA level.
He showed flashes of brilliance in his rookie year, even recording a triple-double. He's elevated himself on a young Bobcats team, leading them this season with 17.2 points per game.
Many thought the undersized Walker would struggle to replicate his collegiate heroics at the pro level, but he's slowly proving the doubters wrong and will end up as one of the best Huskies to put on an NBA uniform if he keeps his play up.
Clifford Robinson (1985-89):
Robinson is the lone man on the list to not be recruited by Calhoun, as he arrived a year before the coach took over the Huskies.
Robinson was a journeyman during his lengthy career. He was an All-Star once, and earned NBA Sixth Man of the Year for the 1992-1993 season.
Robinson was never spectacular, but he put up solid numbers during his year. He didn't do quite enough to make it as a top candidate, but Robinson's post-Husky career is certainly deserving of some notice.
6. Emeka Okafor (2001-04)
Emeka Okafor has been the epitome of consistency in his time in the NBA. Okafor doesn't light up a scoreboard, but his averages of 12.4 points per game and 10 rebounds per game over his career have given solid contributions to his teams.
Okafor may have peaked in his rookie year, however, when he averaged his career high 15.1 points per game and took Rookie of the Year honors in a class that included former teammate Ben Gordon and future superstar Dwight Howard.
Okafor has also been stuck on some bad teams during his time in the league. He has only been to the playoffs once, with Chris Paul-led Hornets. They were taken out in the first round.
He spent the early part of his career in with a pretty bad Bobcats franchise, and is currently starting for the struggling Wizards.
His team is young though, and if he sticks around in Washington he could be a key role player behind star John Wall. Wins always look good in a stat line, and if Okafor can get some playoff wins under his belt he could move up this list.
5. Ben Gordon (2001-04)
Another Husky who may have peaked in his first year in the league is Okafor's teammate at UConn, Ben Gordon.
Gordon lost out to Okafor for best rookie in the league in their first year, but he was First Team All-Rookie that season and took home Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Gordon has been a hot-and-cold kind of player in his time in the NBA. He could go off on any night, as he did when he tied the record with most three-pointers in a game without a miss with nine.
The trouble with Gordon is he needs the ball in his hands to create offense, and he is sometimes prone to taking bad shots. His .435 career shooting percentage somewhat dampens the 16 points he has averaged throughout his career.
Gordon may be able to return to his role as a player who can contribute valuable minutes on a playoff contender and solidify his position as one of the best former UConn players in the league.
4. Caron Butler (2000-02)
Caron Butler is a wily veteran who has stood out at times during his NBA career. Nicknamed 'Tough Juice' by his coach on the Wizards, Butler is characterized by his tough and versatile play.
Butler really blossomed in the NBA during his time with the Wizards. Along with Gilbert Arenas and Antwan Jamison, Butler led a dangerous scoring attack. Butler averaged around 20 points a game during his time with the Wizards and went to two All-Star games during that period.
Butler was unfortunate in that his only "title" came during the 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks season where he was knocked out before the Mavs went on their impressive run.
Butler has come back to full form with the Clippers since then, adding a valuable veteran presence to a team led by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
Butler has a decent shot to add a legitimate title to his resume if he can stay healthy with the Clips, but regardless of that his performance in the NBA is enough to make UConn fans proud.
3. Rudy Gay (2004-06)
Aside from perhaps Kemba Walker, Rudy Gay has the best chance of moving up this list despite already being ranked No. 3.
Much like his time at UConn, Rudy Gay has struggled at times to assert himself as a dominant scorer and is often too passive given his talent.
He was a major player in the Grizzlies' recent rise to contender status in the West, hovering around 20 points per game during his time in Memphis.
After coming out during his sophomore campaign with career high in points, however, Gay has been rather stagnant. His lack of improvement (and his stiff price tag) were major factors in the Grizzlies deciding to trade Gay to the Raptors earlier this season.
Since joining Toronto, however, Rudy Gay has shown new life. He's popping game winners and scoring 22.3 points per game while giving the Raptors new life in the East.
Gay's career is at a crucial moment, and if he can continue his recent tear, he could end up as one of, if not the best, Husky to put on an NBA uniform.
2. Rip Hamilton (1996-99)
Richard "Rip" Hamilton has undoubtedly had one of the best careers enjoyed by a former Husky. Hamilton was a mainstay with the Detroit Pistons teams that were the class of the East for a period in the mid-2000s.
Hamilton has averaged 17.2 points per game throughout his career and was consistently around 19 or 20 per game during his prime in Detroit. He made three All-Star teams during that stretch and he is the first player on this list to have played in the NBA finals and won a title.
Hamilton gets the edge over Gay because of the title and because of his consistency as a leader on the floor. He's a 13-year veteran and is still providing valuable minutes for a Bulls team that is without star guard Derrick Rose.
Hamilton may have a shot to add another title to his resume as a role player in the coming years if he sticks around with the Bulls, but his career accolades already speak to what kind of player Hamilton has been since he left UConn over a decade ago.
1. Ray Allen (1993-96)
Any Husky fan knows that Ray Allen is undoubtedly the best former Husky to ever play in the NBA. Allen is a future Hall-of-Famer and arguably the best three-point shooter of all time (Sorry Reggie).
Allen has accrued a significant number of accolades throughout his career. He's a ten-time All-Star. He has been part of both an All-NBA second team and an All-NBA third team, and with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett formed the "Big Three" that brought the Boston Celtics their first title since '86.
Allen's smooth, quick-motion shooting stroke has become iconic to the extent that it's almost a surprise when the ball doesn't go in the net.
In addition to his historic three-point numbers, Allen is also a free-throw wiz. His career average for draining free throws ranks fifth all time.
Allen has firmly entrenched himself at the top of the former Husky ladder, and it will take some Hall of Fame play from one of the younger guys on this list to even come close to knocking him off.