Title would give Brown last word

SAN ANTONIO -- Taliek Brown doesn't say much. Ask him about Georgia Tech or about playing his last game in a Connecticut uniform Monday night, and he mumbles some generic quote.

But bring up his being one of the most maligned players in school history? His answers get longer, and his words get sharper.

"Everybody can say words," Brown said. "They can say whatever they want. But I don't think (the team) could have gotten this far without me. We are in the championship game, and I am the point guard. If we win tomorrow, hopefully it shuts everybody up. Everybody can eat their words."

When he signed with the Huskies four years ago, he was hailed as the second coming. Brown was one of three New York point guards -- with Omar Cook and Andre Barrett -- that left college coaches standing in a puddle of their own drool.

Now, four years later, Cook is toiling with the Portland Trailblazers, hanging on to his NBA dreams by the thinnest of threads. Barrett just finished a career at Seton Hall in which he led the Pirates to just one NCAA Tournament bid.

Brown, a McDonald's All-American, has also failed to meet expectations.

Though he's the school's all-time assist leader, has scored over 1,000 points and won over 100 games in his career, he's always been a lightning rod for criticism from the Connecticut fans. Whether it's getting booed in Gampel Pavilion or getting ripped on the Husky message boards, when something has gone wrong, Brown has often shouldered the blame.

"He's had it rough," teammate Emeka Okafor said. "I can't imagine being in that spot. Especially because he does so much for our team. It makes me want to shake these people. Do you not see the same person I see?"

On Monday night, in the last game of his college career, Brown has one final chance to show up the haters. Don't think that fact is lost on his teammates.

"That would just shut everybody up," Okafor said. "And if anybody had anything else to say, he could just hold up his hand ... and point to the ring. Tell 'em, 'Be quiet.' "

This weekend, Brown's story has gone relatively unnoticed. Less than 48 hours after the Alamodome turned into a virtual love fest for the final game of Duke senior point guard Chris Duhon's college career, few have paid much attention at all to the same situation for Brown.

On Sunday, not one member of the media, in a 90-minute Q & A session, asked Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun about Brown playing his final game for the Huskies.

It's nothing new.

"He's gone through more criticism than any player I've ever been around," Ben Gordon said. "It's caused him to be disappointed at times in the type of player he's become. But it's also made him stronger."

Said Brown: "There were so many rock bottoms, I couldn't even begin to pick one. I said earlier this year, after I leave here, what are they going to talk about in the chat rooms?"

CBS college basketball analyst Billy Packer credits Brown for realizing his limitations and playing within them. After Brown's freshman year, a noted scout told Packer, "He can't shoot the ball, he can't do this, he can't do that. By the time he's a senior, if he's still at Connecticut, he'll be a bench warmer."

Yet he found a way to contribute and is on the verge of leading his school to its second title ever.

"He played hurt, he played hard, he submitted to a role and in the end, he will leave Connecticut as a sensational winner," Packer said.

Brown struggled Saturday night against Duke, with seven turnovers and three assists while making just 2 of 8 shots from the field.

But when his team pulled out the victory with less than a minute remaining, he felt like he had been given a second chance: A second chance at a national championship. And a second chance at redemption.

"When things were difficult, I always held out hope that one day it would turn around," Brown said. "Now, I've been given my chance."

Wayne Drehs is a staff writer at ESPN.com. He can be reached at wayne.drehs@espn3.com.