Media Poll: Top 20 players of Calhoun era

The horde has spoken…or voted.

Shortly after I unveiled my top 20 players of the Calhoun era last week, a little light bulb went off: Why not poll the other beat writers, too?  Most of them have been around the program far longer than I have; some covered the team in the late 80s and early 90s. Collectively, their opinions should provide an accurate depiction of the past quarter-century in UConn hoops.

Eleven current and former beat writers/columnists participated, and the results are below. First-place votes are in parentheses, followed by total points (that’s how real polls are constructed, right?). Enjoy.

Emeka Okafor (AP)

1. Emeka Okafor (5)……………….151
Tied with Ray Allen for total points, Okafor gets the edge because he had more first-place votes. It’s hard to argue with him at No. 1: He’s the only Husky to win National Player of the Year and he was on pace to break the NCAA career blocked shots record if he had stayed for his senior season.

2. Ray Allen (3)…………………..151
Allen, who drained 200 3-pointers in his final two seasons, left Storrs with an 89-13 career record.

3. Richard Hamilton (2)……. 143
The lead dog for the ’99 champs averaged 19.8 points for his career.

4. Kemba Walker (1)…………… 137
Best all-around single-season? Without a doubt. But his body of work — sixth man as a freshman, missed the NCAA tournament as a sophomore — puts him behind Hamilton, Allen and Okafor.

5. Donyell Marshall…………….133
Marshall averaged 25.1 points as a junior — the top single-season mark in program history — en route to becoming a Calhoun’s first All-American.

6. Ben Gordon………………….105
In 2003-04, UConn had the nation’s best big man (Okafor) and quite possibly the best perimeter player, too. Gordon scored a then-record 80 points in three games at the ’04 Big East tourney.

7. Caron Butler………………….95
Butler led the Huskies to the 2002 Elite Eight and poured in 32 points on eventual champion Maryland in a 90-82 classic. As Hartford Courant columnist Jeff Jacobs wrote in his ballot, “I would submit by Maryland in Final 8 he was the best player in UConn history at one moment.”

8. Chris Smith…………………..93
Calhoun’s first major coup still holds the school’s scoring record (2,145 career points). Today, he’s the head coach at his alma mater, Kolbe Cathedral in Bridgeport

9. Cliff Robinson……………….86
Calhoun inherited Robinson when he arrived at UConn, and the 6-foot-11 center gave him three remarkable seasons. He averaged 20 points and 7.4 rebounds as a senior.

10. Khalid El-Amin…………..68
No stage was too big for the 5-foot-10 El-Amin. He scored UConn’s last four points in the 1999 championship game.

Rudy Gay (AP)

11. Rudy Gay……………………..40
As expected, Gay turned into a better pro than collegian. Still, he was pretty decent during his two-year stint in Storrs: He averaged 15.2 points as a sophomore and earned first team All-American honors.

12. Doron Sheffer………….. ….34
Sheffer’s career numbers are nothing short of outstanding: 13 points, 5.5 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.9 steals while shooting nearly 40 percent from 3-point range.

13. Scott Burrell………………..33
The Hamden native played a major role in helping the Huskies gain consistent national relevance. He became the first Division I player to finish his career with 1,500 points, 750 rebounds, 300 steals and 275 assists.

14. A.J. Price………………………32
Price battled through quite a few obstacles obstacles—a brain hemorrhage, a year-long suspension and a torn ACL — to carry UConn to the Final Four as a senior. He also played one of best single games in program history, dropping 36 points and eight 3s on Marquette in Calhoun’s 800th career win.

15. Hasheem Thabeet…………16
Yes, Price was vital to the Huskies’ 2009 Final Four run, but Thabeet was just as important. At 7-foot-3, he blocked 4.2 shots per game and altered many, many more.

16. Nadav Henefeld……………..12
Henefeld played a huge role in UConn’s Dream Season. FoxSports beat writer Ken Davis said “if he had come back, UConn might have won a title in 1991; his instincts and basketball IQ might have been the best of all.”

17. Tate George……………………9
Famous for one shot (and now his involvement in an alleged Ponzi scheme), George ranks second at UConn in career assists (677) and steals (201).

18. Kevin Freeman…………….5
Freeman, an undersized power forward, muscled his way to 12.2 points and 7.3 rebounds (while shooting 59 percent from the field) during UConn’s 1999 championship season.

19. Jeff Adrien…………………..4
Never spectacular, Adrien was a four-year workhorse in the Huskies’ frontcourt. He averaged 12.1 points and 8.5 rebounds for his career.

20. (tie) Marcus Williams, Kevin Ollie…………3
Two L.A. products tie for the last spot: Williams was a prolific passer (8.6 assists as a junior) and a clutch shooter. Ollie wasn’t nearly as flashy, but he got the job done. He still ranks No. 1 at UConn in career assists in Big East play.

*The following media members voted: Jeff Jacobs, Hartford Courant; Dave Borges, New Haven Register; Pete Abraham, Boston Globe; Gavin Keefe, New London Day; Chris Elsberry, Connecticut Post; Mike Dimauro, New London Day; Neill Ostrout, Journal-Inquirer; Ed Daigneault, Waterbury Repulican-American; Ken Davis, Fox Sports; Brian Koonz, Danbury News-Times; Kevin Duffy, Connecticut Post