"It's an honor to see some of the names up there and some of the accomplishments that they have done for the school," Gay said before the game. "To be part of that is a dream come true."
In his first year with the Huskies, Gay was named Big East Conference Freshman of the Year after averaging 11.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per contest. In his sophomore year, Gay was named one of four finalists for the Naismith Player of the Year award while leading the Huskies to an impressive 30-3 record. That season ended in disappointment with a loss to underdog George Mason in a regional final during the 2006 NCAA Tournament.
Gay, in his sixth season with the Memphis Grizzlies, made the decision to enter the NBA after his second season. Saturday night he offered some advice to the current Huskies on the decision they will have to make regarding that process. He recommended that both freshman Andre Drummond and sophomore Jeremy Lamb return to UConn next season.
"For Drummond, the best thing that ever happened to me was staying in school and I think for Jeremy he can learn a lot by staying in school also," Gay said. "Coach [Jim Calhoun] explained it to me the best. He said, ‘Do you just want to be in the NBA or do you want to be effective when you get there?' . . . I feel like your timing has everything to do with that."
When asked about Calhoun's back problems and surgery on Monday, Gay seemed rather optimistic about the coach's return.
"Everybody here knows him, and he is not going to be finished until he says he is finished," Gay said. "His back or anything else is not going to stop him from coaching. It's going to be his decision and that's what everybody loves about him."
Gay, 25, said being honored at Gampel Pavilion "makes me feel kind of old." But he stays connected with UConn by watching the Huskies on TV and, of course, stayed for the game Saturday night. This edition of the Huskies began the season ranked No. 4 in the nation. Now UConn is squarely on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament.
"We all kind of expected them to do more," Gay said, "but what I noticed when I was here is that no matter how much talent they have they're still young. I think if this team stays together and grows together they'll be tough to beat."
Cleaning out the notebook from UConn's 71-69 loss to Syracuse on Saturday night:
"We should have won that game. We had a couple of tough plays down the stretch and they mad etheir shots. At the end of the game, we didn't get the foul call that we were looking for at the end of the game. . . . You don't usually see refs make calls like that [against Roscoe Smith] with five seconds left in the game. It was like a 50-50 chance we would get that foul call." – UConn center Andre Drummond.
"He's physical down low. We wanted to foul him, but we couldn't get to him to foul him. Around the basket, he's tough. He made a couple of nice blocks." – Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim.
"This was a big character win, because we didn't have the momentum for the last 5 minutes and everything was going right for them. For us to come up with a win like this is big." – Syracuse's C.J. Fair.
"I don't think too much about those things." – Boeheim, commenting on his first win in five tries at Gampel.
IF THE BIG EAST CHAMPIONSHIP STARTED TODAY (Feb. 26) ...
Here is what the pairings of the Big East Championship would look like if the tournament started today, based on the conference tiebreaking procedures. Please note that since the schedule is not complete, and that teams have played an uneven number of conference games, teams that hold tiebreaker advantages today may not necessarily hold those advantages at the end of the season.
Syracuse won the outright Big East title and the No. 1 seed in the tournament with Saturday night's win at UConn.
Six of the eight byes in the tournament have been determined. Cincinnati and USF clinched first-round byes Saturday despite not playing. The winner of Sunday's game between the Bearcats and Bulls pulls into a tie for fourth place with Georgetown.
Louisville can earn a first-round bye in the Big East tournament with a win over Pittsburgh Sunday at the KFC Yum! Center.
Tuesday, March 6 – First Round
Noon No. 16 DePaul vs. No. 9 Connecticut
2:00 No. 13 Pittsburgh vs. No. 12 Rutgers
7:00 No. 15 Providence vs. No. 10 West Virginia
9:00 No. 14 Villanova vs. No. 11 St. John's
Wednesday, March 7 – Second Round
Noon 9/16 winner vs. No. 8 Seton Hall
2:00 12/13 winner vs. No. 5 Cincinnati
7:00 10/15 winner vs. No. 7 Louisville
9:00 11/14 winner vs. No. 6 USF
Thursday, March 8 – Quarterfinals
Noon 8/9/16 winner vs. No. 1 Syracuse
2:00 5/12/13 winner vs. No. 4 Georgetown
7:00 7/10/15 winner vs. No. 2 Marquette
9:00 6/11/14 winner vs. No. 3 Notre Dame
Friday, March 9 – Semifinals
7:00 Thursday afternoon winners
9:00 Thursday evening winners
Saturday, March 10 – Championship
9:00 Semifinal winners
UConnPlaybook.com Managing Editor/Writer Ken Davis contributed to this story.