There’s no doubt that Kansas belongs on the short list of college hoops’ greatest programs, but by at least one measure, it’s alone at the top. Kansas holds the NCAA record with 27 consensus All-America selections in its storied history, and that’s not even accounting for the other 28 Jayhawks who’ve won first-team status on one list or another.
With so many extraordinary talents to choose from, it takes a remarkable player indeed to stand out as one of KU’s best All-Americans. Nick Collison, one of three Jayhawks to top 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in his career, narrowly makes the cut thanks to earning “only” one All-America selection.
Read on for more on Collison’s brilliant senior season and the rest of the 10 best All-America performances in KU history.
Although most of his individual stats pale before those of more recent KU stars, there’s one number that elevates Charlie Black above any of the others.
Black is the only Jayhawk (and one of very few players at any school) to be named first-team All-America four times.
One of those four was a consensus selection in 1943, after which he left to fight in World War II. He didn't miss a beat when he returned to campus, leading the Big Six conference in scoring in 1945-46 with a career-best 16.3 points per game.
Never anything special as a scorer, Jacque Vaughn was as good a pure passer as Kansas has ever seen.
In each of his two All-America campaigns—both of which also earned him Academic All-America honors—the Jayhawk point guard averaged better than six assists per game.
He was equally dangerous on the defensive end of the floor, averaging 1.8 steals a night as a senior in 1996-97.
That year’s team—featuring Vaughn, fellow All-American Raef LaFrentz, future All-American Paul Pierce and future pro Scot Pollard—belongs on the short list of the best college teams ever assembled, even if it did come up short of a national title.
The tireless defensive effort that’s made Nick Collison such a valuable NBA player was also at the heart of his All-America senior season in Lawrence. The bruising forward averaged a team-high 1.9 blocks along with 1.2 steals a game that year.
Of course, Collison also put up some impressive numbers in more traditional power forward categories, leading a stacked Jayhawk roster with 18.5 points and 10 rebounds a night.
He nearly capped the year by leading Kansas to its third national title, but the Jayhawks came up just short against Carmelo Anthony’s Syracuse squad in the championship game.
He didn’t enjoy the same NBA success as many Kansas big men of his era, but 6’11” Walt Wesley was a devastating weapon at the college level.
He topped 20 points per game in both of his All-America seasons, peaking as a junior in 1964-65 with 23.5 points a night.
Wesley was also a potent rebounder, averaging a combined 9.1 boards per contest in his two All-America years.
In his final season, he nearly led KU to an Elite Eight victory over eventual national champion Texas Western, but Wesley’s 24 points and 15 boards weren’t quite enough in an 81-80 overtime defeat.
The only three-time Academic All-American in Kansas history, Darnell Valentine was a first-class scoring point guard.
He averaged 15.6 points a game while still dishing out 5.3 assists a night in his All-America senior season.
Valentine’s real gift, though, was shutting down the other team’s floor leader. He averaged a staggering 2.9 steals per contest as a senior, the fourth straight time he’d managed at least 2.6 in a Jayhawk uniform.
Dave Robisch’s junior year, the first of his two All-America campaigns, was one of the greatest individual performances in Kansas history.
The 6’10” center averaged 26.5 points and 12.1 rebounds a game, but his team finished a mere 17-9 and missed the NCAA tournament.
The next year, Robisch’s numbers dipped a bit (though he still posted 19.2 points and 10.1 boards per contest), but the Jayhawks soared. KU finished 27-3 and made the Final Four before falling to Bill Walton and unbeaten UCLA.
He hadn’t yet developed the three-point stroke that he used so effectively as a pro, but Raef LaFrentz was still an intimidating scorer in his two consensus All-America seasons.
LaFrentz averaged 18.5 and 19.8 points per game in his final two seasons in Lawrence, leading the team in the former season and finishing second to Paul Pierce in the latter.
LaFrentz’s biggest responsibility was holding down the middle, and his 6’11” frame was more than up to that challenge. Over his two All-America years, he combined to average 10.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks a night.
In an era when his 6’9”, 234-pound frame made him a gargantuan center, Clyde Lovellette carried Kansas to its first-ever NCAA championship in 1952.
Lovellette took home Most Outstanding Player honors after manhandling St. John’s for 33 points and 17 boards in a 17-point title-game rout.
That title capped the second of Lovellette’s back-to-back consensus All-America performances. His numbers as a senior would impress in any era, as he racked up 28.4 points and 12.8 boards per game.
Although Danny Manning was a consensus All-American twice, it’s the 1987-88 season that everyone remembers.
Manning led the sixth-seeded Jayhawks to an improbable national title, piling up 31 points and 18 rebounds in the championship game against heavily favored Oklahoma.
Dazzling as those stats were, they weren't that hard to believe after the senior star had averaged 24.8 points and 9.0 boards per game for the season.
Manning was also a devastating defender, piling up 1.8 steals and 1.9 blocks a night in winning both the Wooden and Naismith Awards.
The only thing Wilt Chamberlain couldn’t do at Kansas was win a national championship, and even then, he put on a show in the greatest title game ever played.
Chamberlain posted game highs of 23 points (43 percent of his team's total) and 14 boards in an epic triple-OT loss to undefeated North Carolina in 1957.
Chamberlain—who left KU after his junior year to play for the Harlem Globetrotters—put up numbers worthy of one of the greatest centers ever to step on a basketball court.
He combined to average 29.9 points and 18.3 rebounds per game (plus untold numbers of unrecorded blocks, assists and steals) over his two consensus All-America seasons.