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1 UConn The Huskies, led by a newly assertive Ben Gordon, have everything needed to win it all

Ben Gordon could have spent the summer before his senior year of
high school traveling with an AAU team to the top tournaments in
Orlando and Las Vegas. Instead, he played with his Mount Vernon
(N.Y.) High teammates, who never went farther than New Jersey.
Gordon's low-profile approach may have cost him the chance to
play in the big high school all-star games the following
spring--he wasn't invited to a single one--but he didn't care. "I
had already committed to Connecticut, so the only reason for me
to play AAU ball was to get hype," says Gordon. "That was never
my goal."

Gordon still hasn't mastered the hype thing; he wasn't voted
first-team All-Big East last season even though he led the
Huskies in scoring and total assists. Still, the 6'2" junior
guard is the most explosive offensive player on a team whose
talent, experience and depth make it SI's favorite to win the
national championship. During his first two years in Storrs,
Gordon has been an outstanding deep threat (his career .416
shooting percentage on threes is second only to Ray Allen's in
school history), and he helped out admirably at point guard last
year when Taliek Brown was injured. The only thing he has lacked
is aggressiveness, but that has improved under the prodding of
coach Jim Calhoun. "I used to tell Ben he should buy a ticket
because he would watch the game so much," Calhoun says. "He's
much more assertive now. He still doesn't know how good he is,
but at least he knows he's good."

Then again, given that the Huskies have more available bodies
than available playing time--a topflight freshman class led by
6'10" star Charlie Villanueva joins a Sweet 16 team from a year
ago with all five starters back--there are worse problems a team
can have than a star who's too unselfish. "If people come out
with individual agendas, that can really hurt us," Gordon says.
"I'm going to make sure that doesn't happen." With a raised voice
to match his elevating game, Gordon can remind his teammates that
their main goal isn't to get hype. It's to get a title. --Seth


COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO BIG BEN Gordon is UConn's most explosive player, and he has finally developed an attitude that matches his skills.


2002-03 RECORD: 23-10 (10-6, T1 in Big East East)
TOURNAMENT: Lost to Texas in Sweet 16



SF Denham Brown[1] 6'5" Soph. 7.7 ppg
PF Hilton Armstrong[1] 6'10" Soph. 54.5 FG%
C Emeka Okafor[1] 6'10" Jr. 4.7 bpg
SG Ben Gordon[1] 6'2" Jr. 19.5 ppg
PG Taliek Brown[1] 6'1" Sr. 4.8 apg


an opposing coach's view

"They have depth, size and experience. The only question is
whether they'll get consistent play from TALIEK BROWN. He's great
in the transition, but he can struggle in a half-court game....
You can't zone them like you used to because guard RASHAD
ANDERSON, DENHAM BROWN and BEN GORDON can all shoot.... Gordon is
a streaky shooter--he can bury five in a row very quickly--but
when he's not in good rhythm, he'll stop guarding people....
Anderson is a great spot-up shooter, but he's expanded his game
and can beat you on the dribble, too.... Freshman CHARLIE
VILLANUEVA is physically mature beyond his years. He has a power
forward's body and a small forward's skills."


Blocked shots per game by the Huskies last season, including 4.7
by Emeka Okafor. Both numbers were tops in the nation.