Basketball Season Starts Fri. Night

The 2004-05 UConn men's basketball season gets underway tonight, Friday, October 15th, at 10:30 p.m. at the Gampel Pavilion.

The season is looking better already now that freshman point guard A.J. Price has been upgraded to stable conidition. He's been transferred from the Intensive Care Unit at Hartford Hospital to a private room.

The defending NCAA Champions are entering the season without three starters (Taliek Brown, Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor) who each joined the 1,000 point club during their careers. But that doesn't mean Head Coach Jim Calhoun, who will receive the John R. Wooden "Legends of Coaching" award this spring, is without players.

The two returning starters are junior shooting guard Rashad Anderson and sophomore power forward Josh Boone.

Anderson averaged 11.2 points per game, reaching double figures in 12 of the last 15 contests and was the No. 2 scorer in the NCAA Tournament behind Gordon. He was named to the NCAA Final Four All-Tournament team and averaged 17.3 points in the Tournament. Anderson hit 142 three-pointers in two seasons and is on pace to shatter that UConn record. Boone was a Big East All-Rookie team selection a year ago and was one of the key performers in UConn's successful postseason run. Boone started 37 games and averaged 5.9 points and 5.8 rebounds, while also blocking just under two shots per contest.

Players who saw time off the bench will be vying with some newcomers for starting slots.

Junior small forward Denham Brown got off to a scorching start in 2003-04, reaching double figures 12 times in the first 17 games. A slump where he tallied 10 or more points in just three of the Huskies' remaining games knocked the Canadian native out of the starting five. He enters 2004-05 as a 40.2% career shooter from three-point range. Brown had a very productive summer, leading the Canadian National team in scoring with 13.8 ppg. in the Four Nations Tournament.

Sophomore power forward Charlie Villanueva, who also was named to the league's All-Rookie Team, averaged 8.9 points and 5.3 rebounds in 19.0 minutes per game. He spent the summer with the United States Under-21 National team and added weight and strength to his solid frame.

Junior forward / center Hilton Armstrong has appeared in 67 contests in two seasons. He's active on the boards and is a stront a shot blocker.

Sophomore point guard Marcus Williams came off the bench in 16 games to average 2.9 points and 4.3 assists, including a 13-assist effort in the win over Sacred Heart. He missed the final 14 regular season games and the entire postseason run due to academic difficulties. Also returning is redshirt sophomore forward Marcus White who was knocked out of the lineup after just four games last season. He averaged 4.1 points and 5.6 rebounds in 23 games as a freshman, grabbing seven or more boards in ten of the final 17 games.

Two of the newcomers will be juniors this season. Power forward Ed Nelson, who transferred from Georgia Tech a year ago, was the 2001-02 ACC Freshman of the Year. He averaged 8.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in 62 games over his two seasons. He averaged 9.9 points per game over eight contests as part of an NIT All-Star squad that toured China in July. Australian swingman Ryan Thompson, who sat out last season after transferring from Western Nebraska Community College, is a solid shooter and excellent passer. He averaged 13.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists as a sophomore for the 29-7 Cougars in 2001-02. Thompson shot 46.3% from the field, 63% from the free throw line and 38% from three-point range (70-184).

Calhoun will look to combo forward Rudy Gay, a consensus first-team high school All-American, for help in the front court. He has "off-the-chart athletic ability." Gay was the Washington Post Player of the Year. He averaged 21.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.6 blocks and 2.1 assists per game to lead Archbishop Spalding (29-8) to the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference title. Antonio Kellogg is a 6-foot-3 swingman from Oakland, Calif. He averaged 25 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and seven steals as a senior.

Price completes UConn's freshman class. At this point, it is unknown when he will be available. But when he is, Price will be a load of talent and energy to the floor. He led Amityville (NY) to three straight Long Island Championships and state titles in his sophomore and junior seasons. He averaged 28.5 points and eight rebounds as a senior and finished his career with 1,394 points.

This season is the first year that the NCAA prohibits exhibition games with international or American club teams. UConn will take on a couple nearby Division II teams, the University of Bridgeport (20-9) on November 4th at 7:30 p.m. at the Gampel Pavilion and Rhode Island's Bryant University (23-10) a week later at 7:00 p.m. at the Hartford Civic Center.

The non-conference schedule includes matchups wth the Big Ten's Indiana, the Atlantic 10's UMass and in-state schools Central Connecticut State, Sacred Heart and Quinnipiac. The Huskies will host Boston College on Wednesday, January 5, 2005 to open their Big East Conference schedule.

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