STORRS, Conn. -- With bills to pay and mouths to feed, Khalid El-Amin is leaving college for the NBA.
"I'm a 20-year-old man and I have to take care of my responsibilities," the Connecticut point guard said Friday. "The time is right for me to meet the next challenge and play basketball at its highest level."
He and his wife have a 1-year-old son. He also has a 3-year-old son from a previous relationship.
El-Amin said he thought about leaving college all season. But he did not decide to skip his senior year and enter the June draft until last week after consulting with his family. His older brother, Makram, said Khalid didn't feel pressured.
"He talked about the kind of life he wanted to provide for his family," Makram El-Amin said.
El-Amin, a stout 5-foot-10 and one of the nation's top point guards, led the Huskies to their only men's national title. He finished his college career averaging 15.3 points and 4.4 assists a game.
Coach Jim Calhoun has talked to more than 20 NBA teams and feels sure El-Amin will be taken in the first round.
"He has an incredibly competitive heart," Calhoun said. "I am supremely confident in his ability to play in the NBA."
El-Amin figured prominently in the three most successful years in UConn history. The Huskies were 91-17 with El-Amin at the point and became the first school to win back-to-back Big East regular-season and tournament championships in 1998 and '99.
The Huskies won the 1999 title, beating Duke 77-74 in St. Petersburg, Fla. Calhoun said El-Amin was the first player to embrace him after that win.
"He's an incredible kid who came here and led us to the greatest three years in the history of the school," Calhoun said. "He's the greatest winner I've ever been involved with."
Underclassmen have until May 14 to declare for the June 28 draft. Other early entries are sophomore Erick Barkley of St. John's, freshman DerMarr Johnson of Cincinnati, freshman Paul McPherson of DePaul and sophomore Joel Przybilla of Minnesota.
El-Amin remained a fan favorite throughout his three years. A few days after the 1999 national title game, he was charged for misdemeanor possession of marijuana. He was ordered to perform community service, which included talking to schoolchildren. A parade held for the national champions, shortly after the arrest, drew more than 250,000 fans. The most vocal were El-Amin supporters.
"They say college is the best four years of your life. This has been the best three years of my life," El-Amin said. "The appreciation I have received from the Connecticut fans can never be replaced."
Now Calhoun must try to replace El-Amin. He can look to freshman Tony Robertson and recruit Taliek Brown.
"I can guarantee we are going to have a terrific point guard," Calhoun said. "But we're not going to have another Khalid El-Amin."