- Associated Press - Monday, April 4, 2011

HOUSTON (AP) - The list of great players at Connecticut is long and illustrious, from Ray Allen and Richard Hamilton to Caron Butler and Emeka Okafor.

After this season, it’ll be time for UConn to update its Mount Rushmore. Kemba Walker was that good.

Win or lose Monday night in the NCAA championship game against Butler, he has earned his spot among Connecticut’s greats.

“He’s on his way to having the greatest season of any incredible players that we’ve had at UConn _ any single season,” UConn coach Jim Calhoun said Sunday.

Walker showed flashes of brilliance his first two seasons in Storrs, putting up some decent numbers, wobbling a few knees with his wicked crossover.

This season, he’s reached an entirely new level, one few in college basketball history have gotten near.

Starting at the Maui Invitational, where he outscored opposing teams by himself for stretches, Walker set out on a journey to make a name for himself and his team. He _ and, consequently, the Huskies _ went through a late-season funk, but responded with one of the greatest conference tournament performances ever, leading the Huskies to five wins in five days and into the NCAA tournament.

Walker has been brilliant in the bracket, scoring when he needs to, dishing when he’s not open, playing with a never-hurry-up confidence that tells his team and the one across the court that he’s in charge.

Averaging 23.7 points and 4.6 assists, Walker accounted for an almost-unheard-of 45 percent of the Huskies’ points this season and has them on the cusp of the program’s third national title.

BYU’s Jimmer Fredette got the national attention and player of the year awards, but if college basketball had an MVP, Walker likely would have been the runaway winner.

“I know Jimmer was able to get national player of the year and that’s definitely well-deserved, but I don’t see how Kemba didn’t get it leading such a young team, literally carrying us on his back and taking us to victory,” UConn sophomore forward Alex Oriakhi said.

Walker’s run to Reliant Stadium rivals some of the best seasons in college basketball history.

Pete Maravich had the greatest one from a scoring standpoint, setting Division I records for average (44.5) and total points (1,381) at Louisiana State, including three 60-point games.

Lew Alcindor was as dominating a force as there’s been in college basketball before he became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, setting a UCLA record with 56 points in his first varsity game before leading the Bruins to an undefeated season in 1967.

Bill Bradley single-handedly led Princeton to the Final Four in 1965; Bill Russell dominated without filling the stat sheet to lead San Francisco to its second straight title in 1956; and Indiana State’s Larry Bird took a bunch of underlings to the national title game in 1979. Danny Manning set the NCAA tournament team-carrying standard in 1988, guiding the no-name Miracles to a title at Kansas.

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