Ben Gordon could have spent the summer before his senior year of high school traveling with an AAU team to the top tournaments in Orlando and Las Vegas. Instead, he played with his Mount Vernon (N.Y.) High teammates, who never went farther than New Jersey. Gordon's low-profile approach may have cost him the chance to play in the big high school all-star games the following spring—he wasn't invited to a single one—but he didn't care. "I had already committed to Connecticut, so the only reason for me to play AAU ball was to get hype," says Gordon. "That was never my goal."
Gordon still hasn't mastered the hype thing; he wasn't voted first-team All-Big East last season even though he led the Huskies in scoring and total assists. Still, the 6'2" junior guard is the most explosive offensive player on a team whose talent, experience and depth make it SI's favorite to win the national championship. During his first two years in Storrs, Gordon has been an outstanding deep threat (his career .416 shooting percentage on threes is second only to Ray Allen's in school history), and he helped out admirably at point guard last year when Taliek Brown was injured. The only thing he has lacked is aggressiveness, but that has improved under the prodding of coach Jim Calhoun. "I used to tell Ben he should buy a ticket because he would watch the game so much," Calhoun says. "He's much more assertive now. He still doesn't know how good he is, but at least he knows he's good."
Then again, given that the Huskies have more available bodies than available playing time—a topflight freshman class led by 6'10" star Charlie Villanueva joins a Sweet 16 team from a year ago with all five starters back—there are worse problems a team can have than a star who's too unselfish. "If people come out with individual agendas, that can really hurt us," Gordon says. "I'm going to make sure that doesn't happen." With a raised voice to match his elevating game, Gordon can remind his teammates that their main goal isn't to get hype. It's to get a title.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]