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UConn's Garrison has only one destination in mind Niagara Falls grad feels at home

If you believe any of the rumors, Rob Garrison is going to transfer from Connecticut any day now.

"I heard I was transferring to Siena, Canisius, Niagara -- all the local schools -- I heard Boston University, too, but I'm not leaving," said the former Niagara Falls High player Monday. "If I transfer, I'll prove all the doubters right."

Garrison is more concerned with improving as a player, blossoming into a major contributor at one of college basketball's elite programs while becoming the first Western New Yorker to be part of a national championship team since Christian Laettner led Duke to back-to-back titles in the early 1990s.

"When you think about it, that would be quite an accomplishment," said Garrison, whose UConn squad begins its quest for a third NCAA Tournament championship in seven years against Albany (21-10) Friday in Philadelphia. "I'm proud to be part of this team. Our goal from Day One has been to go undefeated and win the national championship and I'm proud to be part of this team."

Garrison is used to winning -- Niagara Falls finished 28-1 last season and UConn is 27-3 this year -- but he's gone through a period of adjustment. Garrison planned to spend a postgraduate year at Philips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire before UConn offered him a scholarship. The Huskies' need for a point guard intensified following the suspensions of Marcus Williams, who was reinstated, and A.J. Price, who was sat down for a year.

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Garrison has appeared in 16 games -- five in the Big East -- and played 152 minutes. He's averaging 2.0 points and 2.2 assists while shooting .379 from the floor. While Williams served an 11-game suspension to start the season, Garrison and fellow freshman Craig Austrie helped stabilize the offense.

One of the fastest players on the roster, Garrison backed up Austrie and was proficient at pushing the fast break and creating his own shot. Garrison played in the Huskies' first 12 games but when Williams returned, he fell out of the rotation.

"It's been a little tough, but everyone here is stronger, smarter and bigger," Garrison said. "I've got a great point guard I'm learning from in Marcus Williams. He's probably the best point guard in the country, and I'm getting a chance to learn from him and play behind him. I'm taking advantage of this as much as I can before he leaves."

After a Jan. 3 loss at Marquette, Garrison didn't play over the next six games and played a total of 10 minutes in games against Providence, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Seton Hall and Villanova. Garrison has not played in UConn's last seven games.

"I'm not used to being on the bench and not playing at all, but I see the big picture and I know what God has in store for me," he said. "Eventually I'll have a role on this team as a major contributor and hopefully I'll be a starter in the near future if I work hard enough and lead this team back to a national championship."

Garrison said he's going to remain at UConn over the summer to attend classes and work on his game. He has some skeptics to prove wrong.

"Don't count me out yet, I'm just feeling my way around," he said. "I have a lot of time coming to me here and I'm not worried."

e-mail: rmckissic@buffnews.com

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