The players who made Calhoun a success

September, 13, 2012
9/13/12
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Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun will announce his retirement Thursday, per ESPN.com’s Andy Katz. Calhoun’s career spans more than 40 years. He’s sixth among Division I coaches with 873 wins. He’s won three national titles.

A variety of talented players helped him achieve those feats. Here’s a list of Calhoun’s top 10 players of all time:

  1. Reggie Lewis -- Before his tenure at Connecticut, Calhoun led Northeastern for 14 seasons. Lewis, who suffered sudden cardiac death in 1993 as a member of the Boston Celtics, averaged 24.1 points per game as a sophomore and 23.8 ppg as a junior under Calhoun. Those Northeastern squads (1984-85 and 1985-86) amassed a combined 48-14 record, won a pair of Eastern Collegiate Athletic North conference titles and reached the NCAA tournament both seasons with Lewis in charge.
  2. Richard Hamilton -- “Rip” was ridiculous in college. That entire 1998-99 squad fed off his bravado. He was relentless. And he didn’t care about anything but winning. He led Connecticut to the national title in 1999, the same year the Huskies went 34-2 and didn’t lose one road game (11-0). The Huskies also defeated a Duke squad that was one of the greatest teams to have never won a national championship. Hamilton, the 1999 Final Four’s most outstanding player, is second on Connecticut’s career scoring chart (2,036 points).
  3. [+] EnlargeUConn's Richard Hamilton and Jim Calhoun
    AP Photo/Doug MillsRichard Hamilton led Jim Calhoun and Connecticut to its first national championship.
    Ray Allen -- One of the greatest shooters in the history of the game, Allen epitomized “textbook form.” And he had that subtle cockiness you couldn’t see in interviews but that always emerged on the floor. He averaged 23.4 ppg as a junior. He was a two-time All-American shooting guard. All of this before he played Jesus Shuttlesworth in “He Got Game.”
  4. Donyell Marshall -- He always looked like he’d gotten out of bed minutes before game time. But that sleepy gaze was deceiving. Marshall might have been Calhoun’s most dominant player. He scored 855 points during the 1993-94 season (25.1 ppg), No. 1 all-time for Connecticut. He also was a consensus All-American that season who blocked 111 shots, then a high mark for the program. And he scored 42 points in two separate games.
  5. Emeka Okafor -- He’s never quite lived up to the expectations in the NBA. But during his three seasons at Connecticut (2001-04), Okafor was one of the most dominant players in the country. He was a monster on defense (his 441 career blocks are in the top 10 in NCAA history). He was a two-time national defensive player of the year and All-American. And above all, he was Calhoun’s anchor on the 2004 squad that won a national title.
  6. Kemba Walker -- Walker dazzled with an unrivaled Big East tournament performance in 2011. He scored 130 points as the Huskies defeated five teams (four of them ranked) in five days. The Huskies, losers of four of their previous five regular-season games, limped into that tourney but managed to grab the crown once Walker donned his cape. And he didn’t stop there. It was just the start of an 11-game winning streak that concluded with the Huskies winning the 2010-11 national championship. Walker also is seventh all-time on Connecticut’s career scoring list (1,783 points).
  7. Chris Smith -- The program’s career scoring leader (2,145 points in four years) led the Huskies to the Elite Eight in 1990 and a 31-win season three years after Calhoun kicked off his term with a 9-19 campaign. In his career, Smith led the team in scoring three times and assists twice. Smith is a legend based on his stats but also because the Bridgeport, Conn., native stayed home and played a key role as Calhoun built the program.
  8. Cliff Robinson -- He turned the headband into a fashion statement with the Portland Trailblazers. But before his lengthy pro career, Robinson led Connecticut to the NIT title in 1988. He averaged 15.3 ppg during a three-year career. He was the leading scorer on Calhoun’s first squad during the 1986-87 season. A year later, the Huskies had won 11 more games (20-14) than they had the previous season thanks in part to Robinson’s 17.6 ppg and 6.9 rebounds per game.
  9. Ben Gordon -- Gordon was Okafor’s counterpart on the 2004 national title team. He was small (6-foot-3), but strong and aggressive. Gordon finished his career with 1,795 points, sixth all-time for Connecticut. He’s also second all-time in made 3-pointers (246). Okafor earned most outstanding player honors in the 2004 Final Four, but Gordon’s 127 points (21.2 ppg) led the field.
  10. Khalid El-Amin -- The Minneapolis product played three seasons for Calhoun, and ended his career with 1,650 points, 10th in program history, and sixth all-time in steals (186). On the floor, he was the aggressive point guard who helped guide the Huskies to the national title in 1999. In his final season with the program (1999-2000), he averaged 16 ppg and 5.2 assists per game.

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