Purdue Basketball's Ultimate 12-Man Team

Scott HenryFeatured ColumnistJune 8, 2012

Purdue Basketball's Ultimate 12-Man Team

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    Purdue basketball does not have the banners or the Hall of Famers that programs like North Carolina can boast, but none of that is to say that good players have not passed through West Lafayette.

    The genesis of this piece came from checking out my fellow FC Rollin Yeatts' piece in which he created the ultimate 12-man team in North Carolina history.  Nearly every school could put together a solid group if the selector went back far enough, and Purdue is no exception.

    This is not a strict list of the 12 best players in Purdue history.  Instead, it is an attempt to create a functional roster in which each player could fill a prescribed role.

    No list of the former could possibly exclude old-time names like Rick Mount, Terry Dischinger and Dave Schellhase.  But are those three on the roster? Read on and find out.

PG 1: Everette Stephens, 1984-88

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    Everette Stephens gets the nod as the starting point guard on our team over a host of players who will be discussed later.  His advantage is that he was a more complete player than many of his competitors.

    A better shooter than Lewis Jackson or Bruce Parkinson, Stephens drained nearly 45 percent of his three-point shots after the trey was introduced for his junior season.

    Stephens was also a skilled and tenacious defender, capable of frustrating even Indiana gunner Steve Alford.  He still sits seventh on Purdue's all-time steals list.

    The surprising thing about Stephens' game was his defensive timing, which allowed him to record 94 career blocks.  That figure is still good for eighth in Purdue history, ahead of a host of noted big men.  His skill at shot blocking sets him apart from steals-list peers like Ricky Hall and Bruce Parkinson.

    Stephens also remains tied for third on the school's all-time assist list, doing the majority of his damage in two seasons as a starter.  Running alongside Todd Mitchell and Troy Lewis had its perks, for sure.

    Still, Stephens had his moments of dominance when he needed to do so.  His final game as a Boilermaker was a superb one, recording 20 points, nine assists and five rebounds against Kansas State in the 1988 regional semifinal.

    Unfortunately, a fateful turnover in the waning seconds of that game is part of Stephens' legacy, as well.  If it wasn't for Stephens' efforts, the game may not have been close enough for that turnover to be so memorable.

SG 1: Rick Mount, 1967-70

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    There can be no discussion of Purdue basketball players that does not include Rick Mount.  The jump-shooting icon was famous even before he set foot on campus, becoming the first high school athlete from a team sport to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

    Duke, Kentucky, and even UCLA were clamoring after him in high school, but the Lebanon, Indiana native chose to stay in-state at Purdue, and authored a career that made him the school's greatest player.

    Mount is still Purdue's all-time scoring leader despite two enormous hurdles that today's players do not face.  Freshman ineligibility confined his career to three years and the lack of a three-point line cost Mount a considerable number of points from his legendary shot.

    Mount was no athlete and had only a nodding acquaintance with defense, but his scoring ability paid for any other deficiencies.  With Herm Gilliam and Billy Keller running alongside him, Mount's teams carded three of the five highest-scoring seasons in Purdue history in terms of points per game.

    Like so many other teams, Purdue's only trip to the NCAA championship game ended in a brutal pounding at the hands of Purdue legend John Wooden's UCLA Bruins.  Mount was held to only 12-of-36 shooting in that game, one of the rare nights where he couldn't dominate play.

    On our team, based in the modern game, Mount would not be the dominant force that he was four decades ago.  Still, with players who can penetrate and control the low block, the kickout to Mount would be absolutely lethal.

SF 1: Walter Jordan, 1974-78

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    Only eight players in Purdue history have posted four seasons of double-digit scoring averages, thanks to the freshman ineligibility rule.  Of the bunch, no one scored more as a freshman than Walter Jordan's 14.1 points per game.

    Jordan was a 6'5" guard at Fort Wayne Northrop High School, then grew another three inches during his time at Purdue.  He was a tireless player who rarely left the floor, averaging 36 minutes per game over his junior and senior seasons.

    Also a tireless rebounder, Jordan remains third on Purdue's career list, and his 8.4 per game average ranks in the top 15.

    Jordan was a three-time All-Big Ten performer, twice a member of the first team.  He played in the fast-breaking offense of coach Fred Schaus, which resulted in a lot of points for its players, but only managed one NCAA tournament game during Jordan's tenure.

    Jordan gives this lineup a slashing ability that players like Mount lack.  Rick's ability to spread the floor would open lanes for Jordan to attack the basket.

PF 1: Glenn Robinson, 1992-94

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    The "Big Dog" may have done enough in his two years to position himself at Mount's right hand in the pantheon of Purdue basketball stars.

    Certainly, Robinson's numbers were unheard of since the Dischinger-Schellhase-Mount run during the '60s.

    Robinson's 30.3 points per game in 1994 placed him as the only player other than the aforementioned trio to average 30 a night in a Purdue jersey. His 1,030 points that season broke Mount's single-year record, and that effort is likely to last a very long time as Purdue's only 1,000-point campaign.

    Robinson was also a brutish rebounder, recording 344 boards (10.1 per game) in '94, falling only eight shy of Joe Barry Carroll's single-season record. His career average of 9.7 per game sits fifth in school history.

    Like Mount, Robinson's NCAA tournament history ended with a sour taste, as a back injury and Grant Hill's rugged defense conspired to hold the Dog to a 6-for-22 shooting night, sending Purdue to an Elite Eight loss against Duke.

    Unlike Mount, Robinson went on to a lengthy, All-Star level pro career. The No. 1 pick in the 1994 draft, Robinson played nine years for the Milwaukee Bucks and averaged at least 18.4 points per game in each one.

    Robinson has the ability to play inside and out for our team, with his 111 career three-point baskets ensuring that he must be followed all over the court.  At 6'7" and 225 pounds, he might struggle with lengthier or bulkier power forwards, but he could wear them out by dragging them to the perimeter.

C 1: Joe Barry Carroll, 1976-80

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    Joe Barry Carroll's credentials for our starting center position are untouchable.

    He finished his career second in scoring behind Rick Mount, and is one of only six players in Purdue history to score 40 points in a single game.

    First in both career and season rebounds, Carroll remains the only player to lead the Boilers in rebounding four times.

    The owner of the three best shot-blocking seasons in Purdue history (top four until JaJuan Johnson arrived), Carroll would also go on to be Purdue's first No. 1 NBA draft pick.

    As a pro, Carroll was solid, if mercurial.  He averaged at least 17.7 points per game every year with the Golden State Warriors, but oddly bailed for a year to play in Italy.

    The pick used to select him was obtained in a trade that sent Robert Parish to Boston along with the pick that turned into Kevin McHale.  Needless to say, Carroll didn't win as many games or championships as those players did.

    A legitimate 7-footer, Carroll provides a fearsome low post presence to our team, mopping up for any drives that Robinson and Mount may allow.  For those keeping score, we now have Purdue's top two single season rebounders and two of the top three career board men. More to come.

PG 2: Brian Walker, 1978-81

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    The choice for backup point guard will be discussed on a later slide, since this selection will likely draw some head scratches.

    Brian Walker took the idea of the pass-first point guard to its utmost extreme. He took 352 shots in 100 career games, 99 of which were starts.  By contrast, Rick Mount made 366 shots in the 1968-69 season alone.

    Running with the likes of Joe Barry Carroll, Drake Morris, Keith Edmonson, Arnette Hallman and Russell Cross, Walker didn't need to shoot, so he didn't.  Instead, he passed. A lot.

    Walker ended his career second not only in Purdue history in assists, but second in Big Ten history behind his predecessor Bruce Parkinson.  Walker still ranks second and third in single-season assist totals at Purdue.

    Defensive responsibilities were Walker's other focus.  He was a pest par excellence, as Isiah Thomas (above) would surely attest.  Walker finished his career as the Big Ten's all-time steals leader, and his single-season Purdue mark of 88 in 1979 still stands, despite several valiant attacks from the likes of Brian Cardinal and Chris Kramer.

    Walker helped Carroll and company reach Purdue's most recent Final Four in 1980, a place that only Billy Keller was able to reach as a Boiler point guard.

    Other Purdue point guards have been better scorers, for sure.  Still, we have enough scorers already, with more to come.  A distributor and defensive pest could come in handy on a team like this.

SG 2: E'Twaun Moore, 2007-11

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    E'Twaun Moore was a member of the 2007 "Baby Boilers" recruiting class, a group that defined what winning basketball meant at Purdue.

    Moore helped put Purdue into the Associated Press top 25 in February of 2008, and the Boilers never left the poll until Moore and JaJuan Johnson graduated.  The class took a Big Ten regular season co-championship and a conference tournament title.

    Moore was another player who hit the ground running as a freshman and never stopped, scoring 12.9 points per game his first season and raising that figure to 18.0 as a senior.  All four of his seasons culminated in at least a second-team All-Big Ten selection.

    Moore ended his career third on Purdue's career scoring list, fourth in field goals made and first in three-pointers made.

    The flexibility in Moore's game makes him even more attractive to our team than just his scoring potential.  In his junior season, Moore occasionally ran the offense as point guard Lewis Jackson battled injury.

    Moore could take over from Stephens on our team if scoring punch is needed, and he can replace Mount if more rugged defense is needed against a talented scoring two-guard.  Chemistry on the second unit shouldn't be an issue, since Moore has a lot of experience playing with the guy on the next slide.

SF 2: Robbie Hummel, 2007-12

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    Versatility, thy name is Robbie Hummel.

    Hummel's star-crossed career survived the stormy seas of injury, specifically a broken vertebra and two torn ACLs.  The injuries leave Purdue fans all over the world lamenting the Final Four appearance that could have been in 2010, and perhaps another in 2011.

    Hummel is the only player in Purdue history to record 1,700 points, 800 rebounds, 250 assists, 100 steals and 100 blocks, ranking in the top 11 in all but assists.

    Even after the injuries, Hummel's senior season ended with his fourth All-Big Ten honor, his third as a first-team selection.  He also earned two honorable mention AP All-American selections and won the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, given to the outstanding senior student-athlete in America.

    Similar to Everette Stephens, Hummel ended his career with a strong NCAA tournament performance against a school from Kansas.  The difference is that if Hummel's 26 points and nine rebounds had been enough to carry Purdue over second-seeded Kansas, it would have been considered a monumental upset.

    On our team, Hummel could easily take over for Jordan to produce a deadly perimeter lineup.  Hummel ended his career ranked fourth in career three-point baskets. Walker, Stephens or Moore would benefit from Hummel's screening ability for open looks, and could also find him a productive target on pick-and-pop plays.

    If Robinson, Mount or Moore were to be firing from outside, Hummel could hold his own in the fight for the rebound, as well.  Much like Robinson, Hummel could produce an inside-out match up nightmare.

PF 2: Carl Landry, 2004-07

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    With the use of stretch forwards like Robinson and Hummel, this team could be said to lack a true lunchpail banger down low aside from Carroll. Therein lies the strength of Carl Landry.

    A legitimate 6'7" and 245 pounds, Landry asserted his will at both Vincennes Junior College and at Purdue. His VU career was so effective that he was named to the NJCAA Hall of Fame in January.

    Landry's career average of 18.4 points per game ranks sixth in Purdue history, and his 7.1 rebounds per game rank 15th. In addition, he is one of only two Boilermakers to shoot better than 60 percent for his career.

    His first season in West Lafayette was a 7-21 slog that sent legendary coach Gene Keady out on his shield. He missed the last three games after tearing an ACL, then reinjured the knee early in his senior season.

    After a redshirt, he led Purdue back to the NCAA tournament for the first time in four years, recording 18 points and 10 rebounds against future Atlanta Hawk Al Horford and his defending champion Florida Gators.

    For his part, Landry has been a solid pro as well. He's been a steady double-figure scorer for three different teams.

    He gives our team another low post scoring option, and can crash the offensive glass to clean up any misses from the outside shooters.

C 2: Brad Miller, 1994-98

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    Like Robbie Hummel, Brad Miller's career stat line is highly unique in Purdue history.

    Miller finished his four years as the only player with 1,500 points, 800 rebounds, 250 assists, 100 steals and 150 blocks.  In 1996-97, he not only led the team in rebounds and blocks - which a team might expect from its center - but he also topped the books in assists and steals.

    Unlike other Boiler bigs, Miller took two years to truly hit his stride.  As a freshman, he split time with Brandon Brantley, then settled in as Brantley's caddy in '95-'96.  Somehow, despite only starting one game, Miller was named third-team All-Big Ten in 1996.  Then came that aforementioned junior year, the first of two more All-Big Ten seasons.

    Miller went on to one of the best pro careers of any Boilermaker in history.  He played in more NBA games than any other Boiler - 868 - and only Glenn Robinson played more minutes.  His career averages of 11 points, seven rebounds and almost three assists per game are all near the top among Purdue alumni, and he played in a pair of All-Star games.

    All of that is a highly impressive legacy for a guy who went undrafted and played his first season of pro ball in Italy.

    Miller's passing ability and midrange jumper would pull his defender away from the basket, opening more rebounding chances for the other bigs.  Later in his pro career, he even added the three-pointer to his arsenal to boot.

Bench 1: JaJuan Johnson, 2007-11

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    JaJuan Johnson is firmly etched into the Purdue record books, ranking in the top 10 in points, rebounds and blocks.  He joined Steve Scheffler and Glenn Robinson as the only Boilers to win Big Ten Player of the Year honors.

    As a senior, Johnson averaged 20.5 points per game, becoming the first Boiler to drop 20 a night since Robinson and only the sixth in the 40-plus years since Mount.

    Johnson and Moore never missed a game in their careers and finished with 107 wins, more than any other players in Purdue history.  Johnson needed only four more minutes to pass Troy Lewis for second all time, behind only, you guessed it, E'Twaun Moore.

    The main question about including him on this team is whether he's too much of an overlap with Brad Miller.  A pair of solid rebounders and shot blockers who can also play away from the basket, the two could produce serious match up headaches, especially when used with another stretch forward like Hummel or Robinson.

Bench 2: Chris Kramer, 2006-10

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    Much like Brian Walker, Chris Kramer is on the team for his grit and hustle more than any scoring gifts.  However, in the game pictured here, the 2010 NCAA tournament's second round against Texas A&M, Kramer showed that sometimes he could score when he needed to.

    Kramer led the team with 17 points that night, including the game-winner in the final seconds of overtime.  The sight of Kramer losing a shoe, but continuing his typical rugged defensive effort without it, seems to sum up everything he was about as a player.

    That 2010 team, which badly missed Robbie Hummel down the stretch, had its issues with size and depth, to the point where Kramer occasionally had to guard opposing big men when JaJuan Johnson ran into foul trouble.

    Kramer has four of the top 10 steals seasons in Purdue history, and is a two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.  Kramer makes for a narrow final selection over Brian Cardinal, since both rate very highly as team leaders, defensive stoppers and hustle machines.

The Point Guard Problem

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    The hardest positions to fill on this team were the two point guard slots, since Purdue has produced several floor generals who could do whatever a coach can asked of them.

    Everette Stephens and Brian Walker were my selections, but any number of these guys could slot in just as well.

    Billy Keller, 1966-69

    Keller took the floor with Rick Mount in the 1969 NCAA title game.  He played before assists were officially tracked, but it's likely his numbers would have been respectable with Mount and Herm Gilliam alongside.  Keller was a 14-PPG scorer who shot 47 percent from the floor and 85 percent from the line.  Standing only 5'10", Keller was the first winner of the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award, given to the best player under six feet tall.

     

    Bruce Parkinson, 1972-77

    Still Purdue's all-time assist leader, Parkinson was not quite as reliable with his shot as players like Stephens or Keller.  In 1974-75, Parkinson took 344 shots - more than Walter Jordan - but only hit 40 percent of his attempts.

     

    Ricky Hall, 1980-84

    Similar to Walker, Hall was a guy who could shoot (better than 50 percent for his career) but often didn't.  Fifth in school history in steals, Hall could occasionally get overaggressive, fouling out of 12 games between his sophomore and junior seasons.  Still, he was the first winner of the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year award in 1984.

     

    Tony Jones, 1986-90

    Jones backed up Stephens for his first two seasons, but still managed to average 3.5 assists as a sophomore.  By the time he was done, he tied Stephens for third all-time with 481 assists.  This is called making up for lost time.

     

    Lewis Jackson, 2008-12

    Far from reliable with his shot, the diminutive Jackson made up for his misses by taking care of the ball, finishing second in school history with a 2.15 assist to turnover ratio, just 0.03 ahead of Tony Jones.  Jackson became a double-digit scorer as a senior despite recurring back issues.

Other Deserving Candidates

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    In alphabetical order, here are some of the others that were considered for inclusion on the All-Boiler team:

     

    Brian Cardinal, 1996-2000

    Cardinal narrowly lost out to Kramer for the No. 12 position, and his superior size makes a very solid case for his inclusion.  Having Johnson on the bench made it easier to pick Kramer.

     

    Russell Cross, 1980-83

    Cross replaced Carroll in the Boilers' lineup and could have easily backed him up here.  The rugged Cross was done in by the fact that he was more of a liability from the foul line than Miller or Johnson. Yes, it's that close.

     

    Terry Dischinger, 1959-62

    The first truly dominant scorer and rebounder in Purdue history, Dischinger played center during his career.  At that time, a 6'7", 180-pound center could thrive.  Today, he'd get absolutely steamrolled.

     

    Keith Edmonson, 1978-82

    Edmonson could shoot the rock with the best, but the additional opportunity to use Moore at the point made him slightly more appealing for this team.  We already have a lot of shooters.

     

    John Garrett, 1972-75

    A 20-point/nine-rebound guy for his career, Garrett was not quite as automatic with his shot as Landry, Miller or even Cross, shooting a still-respectable 53 percent for his career.  In addition, Garrett committed 4.6 fouls per 40 minutes over his career, getting himself disqualified 19 times.

     

    Herm Gilliam, 1966-69

    Gilliam averaged nearly 16 points and better than nine rebounds per game, the latter an insane figure for a 6'3", 190-pound swingman.  He played a solid point guard position in the NBA, and could be another sneaky pick for one of those last two utility spots.

     

    Troy Lewis, 1984-88

    See Keith Edmonson.  Lewis, though, averaged nearly five assists per game as a senior along with his 18 points.  He was certainly one of the final cuts.

     

    Cuonzo Martin, 1991-95

    Martin was a solid player his first couple of seasons, but truly became remarkable when he discovered a three-point stroke in his junior year.  'Zo was a solid defender, but not quite the ballhawk that Chris Kramer was.

     

    Todd Mitchell, 1984-88

    Similar to John Garrett, Mitchell was more foul-prone than players like Landry or Johnson.  For all of the whistles, he was nowhere near the rebounder or shot-blocker that Garrett was.  He might not be able to compete inside in today's game.

     

    Eugene Parker, 1974-78

    Parker was a solid combo guard, averaging 13 points per game for his career and recording at least 100 assists in each of his four seasons.  All that despite running alongside Bruce Parkinson for two of his first three years.

     

    Dave Schellhase, 1963-66

    Like Dischinger, Schellhase (6'4", 205) is undersized for the modern game. 28.8 points and 10 boards per game remain impressive numbers, but could he do it today?  His teams went 32-40 over his career, making him that rare two-time All-American who led his team absolutely nowhere.