It seems as if the only person involved with UConn basketball who
isn't excited about the potential of Ben Gordon is Gordon.
Everyone else--fans, teammates and coaches--has high expectations
for the sophomore shooting guard. Former star Caron Butler, now
with the Miami Heat, even anointed Gordon as "the next one" to
carry the storied program. But Gordon? He's about as fired up as
Ben Stein on a NyQuil binge. "He's so laid back, so mellow," says
coach Jim Calhoun of Gordon with a sigh. "Ben has to not be so
nice. If he ever knew what talent he had...."
Told of his coach's comments, Gordon, as usual, takes it all in
stride. "I guess my demeanor carries over to my game," says
Gordon, who averaged 12.6 points a game as UConn's sixth man in
2001-02. "Last year I had to keep reminding myself not to
He won't have that luxury this season. A smooth shooter with a
quick first step, Gordon will be counted on to carry a greater
scoring burden for the Huskies because of the departure of
Butler, who averaged 20.3 points a game last year. Setting Gordon
up will be junior point guard Taliek Brown, who is a solid
playmaker (5.1 assists a game) but a less impressive shooter.
Up front the Huskies bring back 6'9" sophomore big man Emeka
Okafor, a human windmill who blocked 138 shots last season. Who
will join him in the post is still up for debate--most likely it
will be a rotation of 7-foot senior Justin Brown, freshmen Hilton
Armstrong and Marcus White and senior Mike Hayes--but the small
forward spot is already set. That goes to freshman Denham Brown,
a 6'5" scorer from Toronto who dropped 111 points in one high
school game last season. "He doesn't know it yet, but he'll be
starting come the first game," says Calhoun. "Once in a while you
get a kid who really knows how to play, and this one is special."
With the nation's best interior defender, an experienced point
guard and two potentially prolific scorers, the Huskies are
stacked. If Calhoun can get his star player to raise his
scoring--and maybe raise his voice as well, to get fired up on
occasion--this team could go places. --Chris Ballard
COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN ON GUARD The Huskies are expecting big things from Gordon, who averaged 12.6 points as the sixth man last year.
POS. PLAYER HT. CL. KEY STAT
SF Denham Brown 6'5" Fr. 30.0 ppg*
PF Emeka Okafor 6'9" So. 4.1 bpg
C Justin Brown 7'0" Sr. 1.9 rpg
SG Ben Gordon 6'2" So. 12.6 ppg
PG Taliek Brown 6'1" Jr. 5.1 apg
*As high school senior
2001-02 RECORD: 27-7 (13-3, 1st in Big East East)
TOURNAMENT: Lost to Maryland in Elite Eight
Shots blocked per game in 2001-02 by Emeka Okafor, which led the
Big East and ranked third in the nation.
An opposing coach's view
The speedy Huskies will reflect their coach: tough and scrappy
"I'm a big Ben Gordon fan. He's really got a beautiful stroke....
Their biggest strength is their speed. You're always trying to
get back on defense, but it's hard. They get on the break and
it's like, Damn, here they come.... I'm not a big fan of Taliek
Brown. I don't think he makes great decisions, and he tries to
force things sometimes. He certainly hasn't been a consistent
shooter.... You know Emeka Okafor is going to be a threat on the
glass. The question is whether he'll be good enough in the post
on offense that you have to double team him.... Coach Jim Calhoun
really likes Denham Brown. That kid is very strong and athletic.
I expect he'll eventually start at small forward.... Tony
Robertson is a good guard who can be active on defense, but the
guy you worry about the most is Gordon."