Ever since Donyell Marshall left Connecticut after his junior year and became the first Lottery Pick in school history, fans have watched so many great Husky greats follow suit, making the jump to the NBA a year, sometimes two, early. From Ray Allen to Rudy Gay and all the others stars that have made UConn the best college-to-NBA school in America, it has seemingly become a yearly ritual to pick apart said player’s games in hopes that he will realize how beneficial an extra season in Storrs would be.
Hasheem Thabeet is next in line. But if the big man enters the NBA Draft, I wouldn’t be surprised if he isn’t the only person the University says goodbye to this year. The other would be Jim Calhoun, the architect of one of the most successful college programs in the country over the last 20 years.
At times early this season, it sounded as though Calhoun might retire following the season. He was upset with the school for various reasons and his young Huskies weren’t responding to him the way teams in the past had. The 65 year old Hall of Famer looked angry and tired, which wasn’t all that out of character. But he also looked defeated.
And then everything clicked. The team ran off ten consecutive wins, including a season-changing road victory over Indiana. All of a sudden Thabeet was showing flashes of dominance offensively and A.J. Price had become exactly what Calhoun claimed he would be three years ago: one of the best point guards in college basketball. The Huskies were back in the national spotlight again.
But by getting eliminated from the Big East Tournament in the first round by West Virginia and then dropping their first round NCAA Tournament game to San Diego, the Huskies were exposed as a team with serious flaws defending the perimeter.
To lose Thabeet would mean that Huskies would head into 2009 in rebuilding mode as opposed to having their eyes on the Final Four. Is Calhoun prepared to spend another year or two (at least) constructing a contender?
He sounds optimistic about next year, but let’s wait and see if the big man returns.
Then we’ll know how Coach Calhoun truly feels.