|#1 Donyell Marshall – (1991-1994)
by Tyler Wilkinson
Donyell Marshall could do it all. He blocked shots — and held the all-time record at the time of his graduation. He rebounded — aided by athleticism and a condorian wingspan. And he scored. Man, did he score.
To this day, UConn has not seen another player like Marshall. He was equally at home on the low block as he was behind the three-point line. He scored 10 or more points in 36 consecutive games. He scored 30 or more points seven times in 1993-1994. He had 14 double-doubles in Big East play alone — competition he relished.
No one in Storrs had ever witnessed talent like Marshall’s. He arrived at UConn the best recruit they had ever landed. It was his presence on campus that brought national TV cameras. Where the late 80s, early 90s stars like Cliff Robinson and Chris Smith put UConn on the map, Marshall put UConn in the spotlight.
The names that followed Marshall at UConn should look familiar. They round out the rest of this Elite Eight. It is not an unreasonable assertation that Rip Hamilton never comes to UConn if Marshall didn’t make it possible to become a star there. In the 30 years before Marshall arrived, UConn had produced 10 NBA draft picks. They would produce another 10 in the 11 years following Marshall’s own departure for the league.
Richard Hamilton had an incredible career at UConn. One that might have happened on another university’s court if not for Donyell Marshall.
Career Points: 1648
Career Rebounds: 695
Career Assists: 131
Career Steals: 113
Career Blocks: 245
|#2 Richard Hamilton – (1996-1999)
by Peter Bard
Richard Hamilton vs. Donyell Marshall. Here it is, folks. This is the one you’ve all been salivating over since the start of this whole exercise. Now you have your chance to make things right, and put Richard Hamilton, who was a rightful #1 seed, through to the Final Four.
One thing I don’t like about this process is the need to denigrate players who were incredibly productive for UConn. Donyell Marshall had about as dominant an individual season as we’ve ever seen from a UConn player, only missing out on National Player of the Year in 1993-94 because Glenn Robinson put up video game numbers. I would never try to imply that Hamilton’s best season was as good as Donyell’s.
But there’s a little more to this than individual performance, isn’t there? Donyell has been, rightly or wrongly, criticized for UConn’s relative lack of success in the postseason during his tenure at UConn. That 1993-94 team was one of the most talented in the history of the program, featuring both Dons Marshall, Ray Allen, Doron Sheffer, and Kevin Ollie, but suffered a disappointing loss in the Sweet Sixteen to Florida, a game in which Donyell didn’t play anywhere near the dominant level he’d shown all season. This isn’t to say that Marshall’s UConn career was a disappointment, and I do acknowledge that team success requires a lot of good fortune, but here we are at the finish line, folks; only winners from here on out.
Meanwhile, Hamilton’s UConn career was marked with postseason success. After a pleasantly-surprising third-place finish in the NIT in Hamilton’s freshman year, a year that saw a roster ravaged by players defecting early to the NBA, graduating, or being suspended, the Huskies were right back in the national picture the next season, losing a heartbreaker to a dominant UNC team. And as everyone knows, Hamilton led the team to the promised land the following year, so it’s clear that Hamilton knew how to win as well as anyone who’s ever put on a UConn uniform.
Let that not overshadow Hamilton’s individual successes, however. Despite not making the preseason All-Big East team as a sophomore, Hamilton went on to win the first of two consecutive Big East Player of the Year awards. Hamilton was also a two-time All American, making the consensus First Team as a junior.
So, there you have it. You know it’s right, in your heart. As great as Donyell was, can we really put him above the man most responsible for the biggest win in the history of the program? I submit that we cannot. Vote your conscience. Vote for Rip.
Career Points: 2036
Career Rebounds: 464
Career Assists: 266
Career Steals: 134
Career Blocks: 28
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