In the 2003-2004 season, the UConn men’s basketball was a team on a mission.
The Huskies, led by veteran leaders Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon, lost only six times in the regular season and then won the Big East tournament before heading into the Big Dance.
Once in the NCAA Tournament, Jim Calhoun and co. navigated the field to win the NCAA Championship, Calhoun’s second title and the team’s second in five years.
With things not exactly going as planned in Storrs this year, what better time than now to look back now at the special 2004 team, eleven years later, and what happened to each member of the team once they left the UConn program.
Rashad Anderson was a key member of the 2004 UConn championship team. The swingman played third fiddle to Gordon and Okafor offensively, and did a little bit of everything on both ends to help his team win.
Ever since graduating in 2006, Anderson has been the definition of a basketball journeyman. Anderson went undrafted in 2006, and then played in Greece. From there he has had stops in: The D-League, Italy, Latvia, Iran, Venezuela, and most recently, France.
At his latest stop, Anderson played in France for STB Le Havre in the France Pro A league. He averaged 13 points and four rebounds per-game.
Southbury native Jason Baisch may not have been an important member of the UConn basketball team on the court, but he was an important member in the locker room and was eventually named a team captain during his tenure as a Husky.
Baisch did play in 11 games in the 2003-2004 season, where he scored three total points to compliment six rebounds. Since leaving UConn, According to his LinkedIn page, Baisch has worked in sales since leaving UConn, where he now serves as an Account Executive at Robertet Flavors.
In only his freshman season, Josh Boone was able to be a rotation player on a championship team for UConn. The versatile forward scored 5.9 points per-game and grabbed 5.8 rebounds per-game in his freshman season.
Boone would go on to play two more years at UConn before moving on to the NBA. He was drafted in the first round in 2006 by the New Jersey Nets where he played all four of his years in the NBA. His best season overall came in his second season in 2007-2008 where he played over 25 minutes per-game for the Nets and scored 8.2 points per-game.
After leaving the Nets in 2010, Boone went to China where he played parts of three seasons for the Zhejiang Golden Bulls. He has bounced around as well in the D-League since then, but never got another shot at an NBA roster. He also has played in the ABA and in The Philippines.
His most recent stop is in Bahrain, where he is a current member of the club, Al-Manama.
Canadian Denham Brown was a consistent clutch performer throughout his career at UConn, including in his sophomore season in 2004. Brown was one of the teams best three-point shooters and was tied with Josh Boone for third in scoring at 8.9 per-game.
Brown would play two more years at UConn, before moving on to the 2006 NBA Draft. Brown was taken in the second round by the Seattle SuperSonics but was waved before the season started. He then played for the Tulsa 66ers in the D-League, before moving on to play in Turkey and Italy.
Brown would return to the D-League in 2008, playing two seasons for the Dakota Wizards and Iowa Energy, but never made it to the NBA. From there Brown played in The Philippines, Poland, Argentina, Ukraine, and his native Canada. He also played on the Canadian national team in International play.
The most recent record found for Brown was in the 2013-14 season where he played with Targu Mures in Romania. He scored 10 points per-game in 27 games.
Taliek Brown is sometimes forgotten about from the 2004 UConn team, but he was without a doubt one of the most important players on the team. The point guard that steered the ship, Brown ended his UConn career with over 700 assists, good enough for first in the all-time Connecticut rankings.
Since leaving UConn, Brown has continued his winning ways overseas. He played on league winning teams in Venezuela, Bulgaria, and Macedonia. He also has played in Turkey, Croatia, Poland, and Canada.
Most recently, Brown has taken up the coaching profession and gotten his degree. He came back to UConn in 2014 to complete his degree in political science, and is now working as an assistant coach at LaGuardia Community College in his native Queens.
Justin Evanovich was one of the walk-on’s that got to experience the journey of a UConn championship team in 2004. He played in 12 games and scored four total points.
Evanovich loved UConn so much, that he never left. He is working currently as an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership at UConn. He also manages Husky Sport, which lists its mission statement as “…a community-campus partnership that has utilized the power of sport to connect Hartford and UCONN stakeholders since 2003.”
Evanovich has published several works in sport management and service learning through physical activity.
The dominant scoring leader of the ’04 championship team, Ben Gordon will be forever remembered as a Connecticut sports legend.
Gordon elected to come back for his junior season in 2003-2004 despite averaging nearly 20 points per-game as a sophomore. Gordon came in with the mindset of making sure he wins a title at any cost, and he led the team in scoring at 18.5 points per-game, shot over 43 percent from three, and notched 4.5 assists.
In the 2004 tournament, he led all scorers with 127 points in six games, leading the Huskies to a championship.
Gordon was picked third overall in the 2006 NBA Draft and has been a stalwart in the league ever since.
Gordon has struggled at time with defense and shot-selection, but always has a spot on an NBA roster due to his ability to create his own shot and fill up the stat sheet. He has played for Chicago, Detroit, Charlotte, and most recently Orlando. This past season with the Magic, Gordon scored 6.2 points per-game. His best season as a pro was in 2006-2007 when he scored over 21.7 points per and shot a career high 45 percent from the floor.
If Ben Gordon was the best offensive player on the UConn roster, Emeka Okafor was the most complete.
Okafor was a dominant college player, with the ability to score on the inside, rebound, and defend. In ’03-’04, Okafor averaged over 17 points per-game, and grabbed 11,5 rebounds.
After leaving for the NBA, Okafor was picked second overall by the Charlotte Bobcats second overall, just behind Dwight Howard and just before his teammate Gordon.
Okafor would play in Charlotte for five seasons before playing three in New Orleans, and one in Washington. Okafor started at least 60 games in seven of his nine NBA seasons and scored in double digits seven times as well. He also averaged double figure rebounds in each of his seasons as a Bobcat.
Okafor didn’t play either of the last two seasons because of injury, but he is not officially retired and could very well catch on somewhere in the 2015-16 season if a team is looking for a veteran big man who can rebound and defend.
Another walk-n success story for UConn in 2004 was Ryan Swaller, a 6-5 forward from Milford, Connecticut. Swaller saw action in 14 games in the 2004 season, scoring 6 points.
After leaving UConn, Swaller went on to become a teacher. He currently teaches elementary school at Mill Hill Elementary in Fairfield.
Aussie Ryan Thompson played in 17 games and got two starts for the UConn championship team in 2003-2004. Thompson, a 6-6 forward, transferred to UConn for his junior year and won a title with the Huskies.
Thompson came back in 2005-2006 but played in only five games. After leaving UConn, Thompson played professionally in his native Australia playing for the Geraldton Buccaneers, Knox Raiders, Australian Institute Sport, and the Norths Soul Bears as recently as 2013.
Despite not having a huge impact on the stat sheet, Shamon Tooles did see action in 37 games during UConn’s run to the championship in 2004.
Playing in his senior season, Tooles amassed over 45 rebounds and 10 steals along with scoring 24 total points.
Tooles, the cousin of UConn legend Rip Hamilton, has gone on to pursue a career in the music industry. Tooles rapped on the side in college and even opened for Ludacris and Kanye West when they came to UConn.He is now the co-owner of a record company called 50/50 LG Entertainment and has completed multiple albums.
In addition to his rap career, Tooles most recently worked as a Health Plan Advisor at Well Point Inc. in Woodland Hills, California.
6-10 Charlie Villanueva was a key contributor in his freshman season at UConn. Charlie V scored at 8.9 points per-game and notched 5.3 rebounds in a more limited role than he would see later in his career. Villanueva provided Jim Calhoun with a versatile scoring threat that could score from inside and outside.
Villanueva would play one more season with the Huskies in 2005 before deciding to enter the NBA draft. In the NBA, Villanueva is a ten-year veteran who is still going strong to this day. He was selected 7th overall by the Toronto Raptors in 2005 and he would play one year wit the Raptors before being traded to Milwaukee. Villanueva’s best season as a pro came with the Bucks in 2008-2009 where he averaged over 16 points per-game and secured 6.7 rebounds.
After a five year stint with the Detroit Pistons where Villanueva’s numbers slowly declined, he caught on this season with the Dallas Mavericks and made his playoff debut last week in their Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Houston Rockets, ending his active streak with most gamed played (nearly 600) without a playoff appearance.
In what would be his last season in Storrs, Marcus White played only four games for UConn in 2003-2004. White scored eight points and had nine rebounds in limited action before leaving the program in December.
He would transfer after the season to play the remainder of his college career at Purdue. White played very well after he became eligible in December of 2005, scoring in double digits in 10 of his first 12 game,s however chronic back injuries supposedly were set to end his career after the ’05-06 season.
However…despite reports from Purdue coach Matt Painter and even White himself that he was retired, he would manage to play three more years. One in Lebanon, one in Iraq, and one in the D-League before his injuries finally caught up to him in 2009.
The last report on White’s personal Facebook page has him working as a professional trainer.
A talented Freshman from Los Angeles, Marcus Williams would use most of the 2003-2004 season to try and get his act together in the classroom.
Williams spent much of the season suspended because of poor grades but he did play in 16 games for the Huskies. Williams was largely ineffective scoring the basketball when he did play averaging just 2.9 points per-game, although he did average an impressive 4.3 assists in limited minutes.
Williams would come back much stronger the next season and won the Big East’s most improved player award his sophomore year. His junior season was his best, but also his most controversial as he was involved in the laptop stealing incident that had him kicked off the team for several months.
After leaving UConn, Williams played both in the NBA and overseas. He was selected by the New Jersey Nets in the 2006 NBA Draft and played 79 games for New Jersey his rookie season averaging 6.8 points and 3.3 assists per-game. He would play one more season in New Jersey and then parts of the next two with Golden State and Memphis before his NBA career ended.
Williams has played in Puerto Rico, Russia, and China since leaving the NBA, and currently plays for Crvena Zvezda Belgrade in the Serbian league. In 2014-15 Williams averaged 10.7 points and 6.1 assist per-game.