In its defense, UConn will lean on local players

Gay, Boone are key cogs in Huskies' repeat effort

College Basketball

October 28, 2004|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Two players with roots in the Baltimore area will figure prominently in Connecticut's defense of its NCAA men's basketball championship.

Rudy Gay, a top recruit out of Archbishop Spalding, was voted preseason Rookie of the Year by the Big East Conference's coaches. Two returning Huskies were named to the preseason All-Big East second team, one of them being Josh Boone, a sophomore who played at South Carroll High.

Connecticut's losses included center Emeka Okafor and guards Ben Gordon and Taliek Brown. Coach Jim Calhoun, who won his second national title in six seasons, said that the Huskies have the best frontcourt he's ever had, one that includes Boone and Gay.

"Our frontcourt is rich, deep and good," Calhoun said at the conference's media day yesterday at Madison Square Garden. "We look great walking through airports. We're talented in a particular area, but not across the board."

Boone, who started 37 games and averaged 5.8 rebounds last year, has grown to 6 feet 10 and 230 pounds. The newcomers include 6-8 Ed Nelson, who was the Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year at Georgia Tech two years ago. The 6-9 Gay is competing with Denham Brown for the starting spot at small forward, but the depth up front and a thin backcourt could give the freshman time at both guard positions.

"We've been fooling around with Rudy at point guard, and he's a terrific passer," Calhoun said. "He is going to play a lot of minutes. Forget whether he's a freshman or not, he's going to make a lot of plays."

Boone and Gay both came out of the Cecil-Kirk Rec Center in Baltimore.

"Rudy's an excellent athlete," Boone said. "Like any freshman, he's going to have to make some adjustments, but he's such a talented player, he's going to make that adjustment quicker."

The Huskies are picked to finish second in the Big East, behind 2003 NCAA champion Syracuse. Providence forward Ryan Gomes was voted the preseason Player of the Year.

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