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    UConn Men's Basketball
    Wednesday, April 17, 2024

    UConn a special place for Husky legend Ray Allen

    Former UConn great Ray Allen will have his number 34 retired during halftime of Sunday's UConn-South Florida game at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs. (Photo by Gavin Keefe/The Day)
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    Storrs — The UConn basketball program's rich history surrounded Ray Allen as he stood in the new Hall of Champions on Saturday afternoon.

    Reminders of championship teams and championship-caliber players were everywhere.

    "It's hard to be 17 or 18 year old kid and not walk in here and feel inspired," Allen said. "There's so much greatness that has walked through these halls. ... I come from nowhere and I come from nothing. To be able to now look at this and say it's part of a tradition, it's truly an honor for me."

    While UConn celebrated the stunning Hall of Champions in the lobby of the Werth Family UConn Basketball Champions Center on Saturday, Sunday will belong to Allen, a true Husky legend.

    Allen's number 34 will be retired during a halftime ceremony of UConn's American Athletic Conference game against South Florida at Gampel Pavilion (noon, CBSSN). Former great Rebecca Lobo, who wore number 50, had her number retired during Saturday's women's game against Houston.

    Add that to Allen's impressive list of his accomplishments that includes his Hall of Fame induction last fall, 10-time NBA all-star, two-time NBA world champion and two-time college All-American.

    UConn will forever hold a special place in Allen's heart.

    "I don't compare this experience to anything that I have gone through afterwards," Allen said, "because this is everything. If this doesn't happen, then everything afterwards doesn't happen."

    Allen never intended to wear number 34.

    At the advice his high school coach in Dalzell, S.C., Allen made the switch from 20 as a 15-year-old.

    "He said that 20 was too soft, you need a more aggressive number. At the time, I don't know anything about numbers. I don't have an affinity toward any one individual. Charles Barkley was the guy kind of running roughshod over the NBA. ... It was because of Charles Barkley. I never told him that."

    "It is the reason I wore 34."

    Years removed from his UConn playing days, Allen still has an impact on the men's basketball program. He also cares deeply about the Huskies.

    Allen recently texted coach Dan Hurley after watching UConn's four-point loss to Cincinnati on Feb. 24.

    "We just have to get them to understand what 40 minutes hard is," Allen texted to Hurley. "That's what we believed in. Don't take a break, don't take our foot off somebody else's throat. With coach Hurley's enthusiasm and energy, I feel encouraged when I'm watching him with these guys.

    "... I'd love to be able to help him in whatever fashion that I can. I've always been that way."

    Hurley often mentions Allen as part of his recruiting pitch.

    "He's a face of this program," Hurley said. "His presence helps in recruiting. He's a player and person that every parent or every potential recruit knows and is very aware of. You try to create a vision for kids that you're recruiting that you can come to UConn and potentially have a career like he did. So he (represents) hope."

    While playing at Seton Hall, Hurley experienced what it was like to face a future Hall of Famer.

    What does Hurley remember about playing against Allen?

    "Him scoring a lot and me not," Hurley said. "His team winning and my team losing. I remember him being a great player. He didn't talk a lot after he scored on you, so he was a real gentleman as he was kicking our butts.

    "You could see it. There's players on the court that are winning players, there's losing players, there's bad players, there's good players and then there are special players. And you know it when you see it. And you knew it when you saw him."

    Hurley is trying to bring back a championship culture that Allen helped create. The Huskies are a long way from those glory days.

    UConn (13-15, 4-11) enters Sunday's game with a six game losing streak, matching the longest in program history since the 1990-91 season. USF (18-10, 7-8) continues to exceed preseason expectations of being picked to finish last.

    "It's going to take a spirited effort from us tomorrow," Hurley said. "They're a deep team, they're really long, really athletic, really talented, deep on the perimeter, deep in the frontcourt.

    "They've got a chance to be an NIT team potentially here, so they've got a lot to play for. Us, we're just desperate for a win. We're going to have a great crowd. We just need the guys to do things on the court."

    News and notes

    • UConn will host several recruits on Sunday, including 6-4 guard Andre Jackson of Albany, Oak Hill Academy guard Cam Thomas and 6-7 forward Noah Collier, a Westtown (Pa.) School teammate of incoming recruit Jalen Gaffney. All three will be on official visits. Forward Richard Springs, a MacDuffie School teammate of incoming recruit James Bouknight, and Putnam Science Academy guard Demarr Langford will be on unofficial visits.

    g.keefe@theday.com

    UCONN vs. SOUTH FLORIDA

    Location: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs

    Tip: Noon (CBSSN)

    Records: UConn 13-15, 4-11; South Florida 18-10, 7-8

    Last game: UConn lost at Wichita State, 65-63, Thursday; South Florida lost to Central Florida, 75-63, Wednesday

    Probable starters: South Florida, 6-3 so. guard David Collins (15.1 pts, 3.8 rebs), 6-1 r-jr. guard Laquincy Rideau (13.1 pts, 5.6 assists, 2.9 steals), 6-6 so. forward Justin Brown (8.3 pts, 2.6 rebs), 6-8 r-fr. Alexis Yetna (11.9 pts, 9.5 rebs), 7-0 fr. center Michael Durr (5.5 pts, 5.9 rebs)

    UConn, 6-3 grad guard Tarin Smith (8.4 pts), 6-0 r-soph. guard Alterique Gilbert (12.9 pts, 3.8 assists), 6-7 r-fr. forward Sidney Wilson (4.8 pts, 2.6 rebs), 6-8 so. forward Tyler Polley (8.2 pts, 2.3 rebs), 6-10 so. forward Josh Carlton (8.1 pts, 5.8 rebs)

    Noteworthy: UConn trying to avoid losing seven straight for first time since 1982-83 season. ... USF dropped four of five. ... Series: UConn leads 20-3, losing last meeting 76-68 Jan. 2 in Tampa. Huskies held 8-pt halftime lead. Adams and Rideau 25 pts apiece. ... Huskies in 10th place, Bulls tied for 6th. ... Top reserve: 6-7 r-sr. forward T.J. Lang (6.3 pts). ... Yetna, the AAC rebound leader, attended Putnam Science Academy. ... USF 10th in country in rebound margin at 7.1 ... Huskies 0-5 without Jalen Adams, who's out with knee injury. ... Hot: Polley made 15 of last 28 3-pointers. Cold: Huskies shooting 37.8 percent last five games. ... UConn one loss shy of setting new program low for wins in AAC. Went 7-11 last season. ... Huskies 12-4 at home, 7-0 at Gampel. ... Up next: UConn plays Temple in regular season home finale Thursday night.

    Gavin Keefe

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