Top 10 Best UConn Basketball Players

Top 10 Best UConn Basketball Players

Located in Storrs, Connecticut, the University of Connecticut Huskies have proven themselves a force to be reckoned with when it comes to NCAA Basketball. This four-time National Championship-winning program has hosted a bounty of talented college basketball players. This list travels through the years of UConn basketball, selecting the 10 best players to wear a Husky jersey.

Who Are the Best UConn Men’s College Basketball Players of All Time?

  1. Richard Hamilton
  2. Emeka Okafor
  3. Kemba Walker
  4. Ray Allen
  5. Ben Gordon
  6. Shabazz Napier
  7. Chris Smith
  8. Donyell Marshall
  9. Khalid El-Amin
  10. Hasheem Thabeet

1. Richard Hamilton

  • Second-highest scoring UConn basketball player
  • Big East Player of the Year, two years in a row (1997-1998, 1998-1999)
  • 1999 Final Four Most Outstanding Player of the Year

Richard Hamilton’s contributions to UConn Basketball, and his following success in the NBA, secure his place as UConn’s top player. Hamilton averaged 19.8 points a game while playing for UConn, ending with a career total of 2,036 points. UConn has won four NCAA Division I Basketball Championships, and Hamilton scored 27 points in the 1999 Championship game, UConn’s first-ever championship. These points, on top of three assists and seven rebounds, led the Huskies to their very first championship title. Following his exceptional collegiate career, Hamilton was drafted by the Washington Wizards. Hamilton played there for three years before moving to the Detroit Pistons and eventually finishing his career with the Chicago Bulls. Hamilton’s success continued in the NBA, where he played in All-Star games from 2006-2008.

2. Emeka Okafor

  • 2009 Final Four Most Outstanding Player
  • UConn school record-holder with 441 career blocks 
  • Fourth-best UConn shot percentage from the floor (59%) 

Emeka Okafor earns the number two spot on this list as the most prominent defensive player in UConn history. Okafor was the starting center for the Huskies’ 2004 National Championship-winning team. He received nine different awards in 2004, including Big East Player of the Year. Okafor averaged 10.6 rebounds per game for UConn, leading to a total of 1,091 rebounds as a Husky. Notably, Okafor was a star off the court as well, graduating from the University of Connecticut with a 3.8 GPA. Okafor was selected as the Charlotte Bobcats’ number two draft pick in 2004. His career in the NBA lasted 10 years, and he continued to be a powerful defensive asset to three NBA teams: the Bobcats, Wizards, and Pelicans.

3. Kemba Walker

  • UConn record-holder in career free throws (501)
  • UConn record-holder in most points scored in a single season (965)
  • 2011 Final Four Most Outstanding Player 

Perhaps best known for his ability to come through under pressure, Kemba Walker was a critical guard on UConn’s historic Big East Tournament team, a team that went on to win UConn’s third NCAA title. Emblematic of Walker’s ability to lead his team in principal moments is his famous buzzer-beating shot that secured UConn’s win against Pitt in the Big East 2011 Quarterfinal game. Walker scored 130 total points in this tournament, leading the team to an impressive five wins in five days, and allowing UConn to progress through the Big East and into March Madness. Walker was also named Big East Tournament MVP, First Team All-American, and the Bob Cousy Award winner, all in 2011. Drafted into the NBA in 2011 by the Charlotte Bobcats, Walker is still playing today, but for the Mavericks.

4. Ray Allen

  • Ranked number two on the NBA’s Three-Point Record list (2,973)
  • Two-time All-American selection
  • Number 34 jersey was the first to be retired by UConn basketball

Ray Allen is the player on this list with the most successful post-UConn career. His NBA record of 2,973 three-pointers scored was only recently shattered by Stephen Curry in 2021. While at UConn, Allen held the school record in three-point percentage at an impressive 44.8%, and was the first UConn player to receive an All-American. Although none of the UConn teams Allen played on were able to secure an NCAA Championship, he did compete in the Elite Eight once and the Sweet 16 twice. Allen finished out his UConn career with a total of 1,922 points and quickly began making history in the NBA, where he played with legends, including LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, and Shaquille O’Neal, before retiring in 2014.

5. Ben Gordon

  • Most points scored in the 2004 March Madness tournament (127)
  • 2004 Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player
  • 1,795 career points, seventh in Huskies history

Ben Gordon played alongside Omeka Okafor on UConn’s 2004 NCAA Championship team, arguably the best team UConn has ever produced. He maintained an impressive 20.5-point average in his last season at UConn, making him integral to the team’s success that year. Besides ranking seventh in overall points by a Husky, Gordon has the sixth-most season points, at 732. Gordon continued on to the NBA, signing with the Chicago Bulls. His NBA career had some ups and downs. However, in the 2004-2005 NBA season, Gordon became the first rookie to be awarded the League's Sixth Man of the Year.

6. Shabazz Napier

  • 2014 AAC Player of the Year
  • 2014 consensus First Team All-American
  • Fourth-most career points in UConn history (1,959)

Shabazz Napier was not only a part of the 2011 championship team as a freshman, but he was the “sixth man” that season. Napier contributed an average of 3.0 assists and 1.6 steals in 2011. He even appeared at the free throw line in the closing minutes of UConn’s 2011 Final Four game against the University of Kentucky. Napier made both of these free throws, assisting UConn in moving forward to the Championship Game. In 2014, Napier and UConn won the National Championship again, and Napier was awarded the Bob Cousy Award, one of the most prestigious recognitions available to a college point guard. Following his senior season, Napier went to the Charlotte Hornets as a 24th-round draft pick. Since then, he played for the Miami Heat, the Orlando Magic, the Portland Trail Blazers, the Brooklyn Nets, the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Washington Wizards, before moving to European basketball and playing for a few different teams. He currently plays for Olimpia Milano, an Italian Lega Basket Serie A (LBA) and EuroLeague team.

7. Chris Smith

  • 2,145 season points (number one in UConn history)
  • UConn record of points scored during conference play (1,140)
  • Bronze medal as a member of the United States 1990 FIBA World Championship team

Nominated for a Wooden Award, Chris Smith was also awarded a first-team All-Big East Award. Smith excelled in UConn’s basketball program before their relevance in the NCAA was well-established. His UConn career began in 1988 and ended in 1992, almost a decade before the program’s first championship win in 1999. Still, Smith was able to achieve the most points scored by a Husky (a record he holds to this day) by sinking an average of 17 points a game. Smith was picked up by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 1992 NBA Draft, where he played three seasons before retiring.

8. Donyell Marshall

  • Averaged 25.1 points per game his senior year at UConn
  • All-American Award
  • Second-most Husky points scored in a season (855)

Although Donyell Marshall never brought home an NCAA Championship, he did lead the Huskies to the Sweet 16 in 1994. The Huskies lost against Florida that year, but Marshall was still unanimously voted Big East Player of the Year. Marshall finished out his college career with a staggering total of 1,646 points. Once in the NBA, Marshall was best known for his three-point and rebounding abilities. He has played for eight different NBA teams, and is now continuing his basketball career as an assistant coach for the NBA G League team, the Greensboro Swarm.

9. Khalid El-Amin

  • 1997 Big East Conference Rookie of the Year
  • 1999 NCAA Championship winner 
  • 1999 NCAA All-Tournament Team

Though some would assume Khalid El-Amin was outshined by teammate Richard Hamilton, he played an integral role in UConn’s first NCAA Championship victory. In fact, beyond numerous assists, El-Amin scored the final four points of the game. Throughout El-Amin’s time at UConn, he continued to play a valuable role in the Husky offense, with an average of 4.4 assists and 15.3 points per game. El-Amin only played three seasons in the NCAA, but his name was honored on the All-Big East team each year. El-Amin did continue into the NBA, playing one season for the Chicago Bulls.

10. Hasheem Thabeet

  • Two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year (2008, 2009)r
  • UConn’s second-most shots blocked (417)
  • 17 points and six boards in the 2009 Final Four game 

As a freshman, Hasheem Thabeet managed 10 blocks in a single game, tying the UConn record. This performance was just a glimpse of things to come, as Thabeet went on to earn a career 61.1 field goal percentage. The Big East recognized him as Defensive Player of the Year two years in a row. Thabeet entered a 2009 NBA Draft that was stacked with talented basketball players, some of whom are now considered professional basketball legends. Despite the wealth of talent available, Thabeet was chosen by the Memphis Grizzlies as the second overall pick, beating out both Stephen Curry and James Harden

Honorable Mentions

  • Andre Drummond
  • Art Quimby
  • Caron Butler
  • Charlie Villanueva
  • Cliff Robinson
  • Doron Sheffer
  • Rudy Gay
  • Tate George
  • Walt Dropo
  • Wes Bialosuknia

FAQ

Who is the best UConn men’s basketball player of all time?

UConn’s best men’s basketball player is Richard “Rip” Hamilton. Voted Big East Player of the Year twice in a row and 1999 Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, Hamilton was an enormous asset throughout his years as a Husky. Hamilton scored 2,036 points for the Huskies, making him the second-highest scorer in program history, after Chris Smith. “Rip” was a critical player in the University of Connecticut's first National Championship, won in 1999.