Preseason Look At UConn Basketball

Here's a preview of the 2004-05 Huskies, the defending national champions.

GETTING INSIDE

    For the second time in six seasons, the Huskies are the kings of college basketball. There is now reloading to do.

    In addition to senior Taliek Brown, a four-year starter at the point, coach Jim Calhoun lost juniors Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon to the NBA.

    For most programs -- even the elite ones -- such losses would lead to reduced expectations. But while all three departed Huskies leave big shoes to fill, the talent is definitely there in Storrs to make another title run.

    Start with returning starters Rashad Anderson and Josh Boone. Anderson starred once he became a starter in midseason, and he is poised to be the team's new go-to guy on the outside. Boone is less of an offensive threat, but he rebounds and plays defense in the paint, a big bruiser that's tough for the opposition to move.

    Sixth man Charlie Villanueva certainly didn't look ready for the NBA, despite his flirting with the pros as a high school senior, but he still showed signs that he's ready to make a big impact as a sophomore. Denham Brown is also back, as is backup center Hilton Armstrong.

    Add incoming freshman Rudy Gay -- perhaps the most highly touted high schooler to turn down the NBA this offseason -- and fellow freshman A.J. Price. Top it off with Georgia Tech transfer Ed Nelson, eligible after sitting out a year per NCAA regulations, and Jim Calhoun has a team that can once again dream of cutting down the nets.

NOTES, QUOTES

    PROGRAM OVERVIEW

    The Huskies are among the top programs in the NCAA. To stay at that level for this season, the biggest obstacle may be finding a new point guard. Taliek Brown wasn't flashy, but he got the job done for four seasons. If sophomore Marcus Williams -- who sat out most of last season for academic reasons -- can't get it done, freshman A.J. Price may get a baptism by fire.

    The Huskies lost a lot of talent, but reloaded in the offseason. They'll be ready for the opening tip.

    QUOTE TO NOTE

    "It will enhance (the recruiting efforts) nationally, not only now, but down the line. I started calling recruits and for the first time that I can remember I had five players call me back. They included a top five player, the eighth-rated player, the 12th-rated player and the 18th-rated player."

    Coach Jim Calhoun, in the New Britain Herald, on the impact of an NCAA title and an offseason that saw two Huskies among the top three picks in the NBA draft.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    KEY RECRUITS AND TRANSFERS

    Forward Rudy Gay -- The highly touted small forward from Baltimore will challenge for a starting spot right away. He came on strong in his final high school season and can do it all.

    Guard A.J. Price -- This 6-0 point guard will get immediate playing time, and a chance to fill Taliek Brown's shoes as a four-year starter.

    Forward Ed Nelson -- The Georgia Tech transfer starred for the Yellow Jackets before deciding to try his luck in the Big East. He'll compete with Charlie Villanueva for a starting spot in the Huskies frontcourt.

    INJURY IMPACT

    Josh Boone is a little banged up, having gone through a pair of surgeries on his right knee. He's expected to be ready for the start of practice. Forward Marcus White also expects to be ready after having back surgery in April.


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