Wed, Apr 07, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Taliek Brown's critics suddenly become silent

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS

Amid the euphoria of the ultimate team accomplishment one member of the Connecticut Huskies took time Monday night to reflect on a personal achievement.

It's a little hard to criticize Taliek Brown now. He's the quarterback of the best college basketball team in the country.

"I silenced everybody," he said, minutes after his team cut down the nets, a smile never leaving his face during the long postgame celebration. He had waited a long time to utter those words.

Brown's statistics were not too special in Connecticut's 82-73 victory over Georgia Tech in the NCAA men's championship game. He had nine points, four assists, six rebounds and, most importantly, just two turnovers. But he did something some believed he could never do: lead his team to a championship.

Going into Monday's game, Brown, a point guard from Queens, had already achieved some noteworthy accomplishments during his four-year Connecticut career. He had guided his team to a 102-35 record and had 718 career assists, a team record. This season, he had 249 assists, also a team record.

But, to some, that wasn't enough. Brown arrived at Connecticut as a highly regarded freshman from St. John's Prep in Astoria, where he blossomed into a McDonald's all-American who averaged 22.5 points and 6.6 assists a game as a senior.

It was evident early that Brown was not going to live up to the hype. He averaged 8.1 points a game in his freshman season and never significantly improved on those numbers. He was erratic, not a reliable offensive weapon and a poor free-throw shooter. Husky fans fretted that he represented one of the few flaws in the otherwise awesome UConn lineup, a sentiment sometimes echoed in the local news media.

"Taliek has had a rough time, especially considering what he has done for this team" Emeka Okafor said on Sunday. "He does so much, yet he gets bashed. Don't people see the same player we see? He leaves it all out on the court and is capable of driving this team with his will. But he just brushes the criticism aside, and that says a lot about his personality."

The criticism will no doubt stop now. Brown will leave Connecticut having done just about everything a player could hope to achieve.

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