For the better part of the last 15 years, Connecticut has been a center piece in the world of college basketball. A Hall of Fame coach, five Big East titles and two national championships. With six lottery picks, the Huskies have become a breeding ground for future NBA all stars, not to mention a lot of history in a short period of time.
This season’s team might be the best ever. Unquestionably, they are the deepest. Some believe they have as many as six NBA-caliber players, but they appear to be lacking that one feature player. The ’99 team had Rip Hamilton. The ’04 team had Emeka Okafor. Unfortunately, it’s becoming more apparent that Rudy Gay is not that marquee guy. Certainly not yet, maybe not ever.
Gay is the team’s best player, a preseason all-American and projected to be the No. 1 overall draft pick. He has played 43 games in his career and shown flashes of brilliance, mostly against the Morehead States of the world.
It’s hard to pick out more than a handful of important games on which Gay has had a positive impact. Last season, there were 18-point performances at Seton Hall and at Syracuse that stick out, but there was also the four points he scored in 28 minutes in a loss to Oklahoma. His final two games mirrored his entire season. A 17-point gem versus Central Florida, followed up by a four point disaster against N.C. State.
It has been more of the same in his sophomore season. Gay dominated Arkansas but then combined for just 16 points versus Arizona and Gonzaga. While Gay can be exciting and flashy, he also forces bad shots and never gets to the free-throw line. There has been six games where he attempted three or fewer foul shots.
Gay has yet to learn how to take over a game. He doesn’t seem to have the instincts that Ray Allen or Caron Butler had. He resembles an early Ben Gordon, who Coach Calhoun used to call “Gentle Ben” for his knack for going quiet in many games.
Still, the Huskies are 12-1 and even after their recent loss to Marquette, shouldn’t see their ranking fall any lower than fifth in the national polls. But if they want to advance deep into March, a true star will need to emerge.
But hey, those comparisons aren’t such a bad thing.
Gordon eventually grew out of his shell and won a national title.