If there's one lesson for Connecticut fans to take from the
Huskies' masterly upset of Duke last March, it's that faith is
ultimately, sweetly rewarded. That faith--in coach Jim Calhoun,
who so decisively shed the best-coach-never-to-have-gone-to-a-
Final-Four label, and in the Huskies, who fulfilled point guard
Khalid El-Amin's Ali-esque prediction that they would "shock the
world"--is easily shaken, however. Only eight months later,
senior forward Kevin Freeman can sense a contagion of nonbelief
in Connecticut. "I still feel there are a lot of doubters out
there," he says. "We have a lot to prove."
The national champs lost their best scorer (Richard Hamilton) and
their top defender (Ricky Moore), and in doing so, skeptics say,
they lost their moorings. Not true. They still have junior guard
Albert Mouring, a crack three-point shooter who has the task of
replacing Hamilton. "One thing we don't have is a certified
point-maker," says Calhoun. "Albert has a chance to be that guy."
Moreover, three starters--Freeman, El-Amin and burly center Jake
Voskuhl--return to the lineup, where they're joined by Sudanese
freshman Ajou Deng (page 110), a 6'10" small forward blessed
with versatile moves. Yet while these Huskies are taller and
deeper than last year's bunch, Calhoun isn't sold yet on their
chances of repeating. "Last year I didn't know if we would win
the national championship, but I thought we could," he says. "So
far this year I really don't know."
Word to Freeman: looks like another doubter.
POS. HT. CLASS KEY STAT
SF Ajou Deng 6'10" Fr. 22.0 ppg*
PF Kevin Freeman 6'7" Sr. 7.3 rpg
C Jake Voskuhl 6'11" Sr. 6.4 rpg
SG Albert Mouring 6'3" Jr. 7.1 ppg
PG Khalid El-Amin 5'10" Jr. 13.8 ppg
1998-99 record: 34-2 Final rank (coaches' poll): No. 1
Returning starter *As high school senior in '97-98