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College basketball

UConn guard's critics out of fuel

By Associated Press
Published March 27, 2004

PHOENIX - Quietly, Taliek Brown is showing all those who doubted him how serious he is about winning a national championship.

Since arriving on Connecticut's campus four years ago, Brown has heard all the dialogue questioning everything from his inconsistent jump shot to his decisionmaking to his ability to successfully run the show.

It didn't help that he had to fill the big shoes of Khalid El-Amin, a pure scorer, unlike Brown.

"I think I've silenced a lot of people," Brown said Friday as the second-seeded Huskies prepared to play Alabama in today's Phoenix Region final for a trip to the Final Four. "They were talking bad about me: "He wasn't going to get this far.' "

Brown has answered such questions emphatically this postseason: He has scored in double figures in three straight games, something he didn't do all season.

He had 12 points, five rebounds, five assists and a steal in UConn's 73-53 win over Vanderbilt on Thursday night that put the Huskies one victory from going to San Antonio.

Until the NCAA Tournament, Brown hadn't scored in double figures even in back-to-back games. He scored 14 in a first-round win over Vermont, then 11 two nights later as the Huskies eliminated DePaul.

A four-year starter at point guard, Brown is averaging 6.3 points and 6.6 assists this season. He is 100-35 since he got to UConn as a raw teenager from Queens.

He holds the school's career and single-season assists marks.

"People have written for four straight years that Taliek Brown is not good enough," coach Jim Calhoun said. "He's only won 100 games, four Big East championships, two final eights, and yet he's not good enough. I've had to talk to him about that. I never knew until this year how much it affected him, because he's such a tough kid or tries to act tough.

"But at times it has certainly affected him. I think his joke here to the guys in the media was simply, "What are they going to have to talk about in the chat room next year? I'll be gone.' "

Early in his UConn career, Brown had a hard time ignoring the criticism. He thought about it all the time and relied on his family's encouraging words to clear his mind.

"It made me mature and a better person," Brown said. "I don't pay it no mind. I just go out and play. When I was younger, I got a little depressed sometimes."

Not anymore.

He broke Tate George's school record of 677 career assists this month against Villanova; Brown has 705. He also has a school-record 236 this season.

Five times this season he has had 10 or more assists. He is a unique competitor, and Calhoun admires that about the 6-foot-1, 195-pound guard.

"Coach Calhoun never gave up on me, and I wasn't going to give up on him," Brown said.

[Last modified March 27, 2004, 02:10:29]

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