Best Homegrown Talent in Each Top 10 Team's History
Great college basketball programs are revered for their ability to draw recruits from all corners of the country. But most often, they find the best talent in their own backyards.
Many of the most renowned names in college basketball history forged their legends while playing for their hometown schools.
Among the most revered of that group is Lawrence High School product Danny Manning, who enjoyed one of the most astonishing careers ever seen at Kansas. The pinnacle was his senior season, when he led the Jayhawks to one of the most improbable national titles in the history of March Madness.
Here's a closer look at Manning and the rest of the greatest in-state stars in the history of the current Top-10 teams—as determined by Bleacher Report’s preseason poll.
10. Ohio State: Jerry Lucas
Middletown’s Jerry Lucas comes in just ahead of acclaimed teammate John Havlicek (of Bridgeport) for the top spot here.
A bruising 6’8” power forward with what would now be a lethal three-point shot, Lucas anchored three consecutive Final Four teams (including the 1960 national champs) with jaw-dropping career averages of 24.3 points and 17.2 rebounds.
Drafted by the Cincinnati Royals (now the Sacramento Kings), Lucas picked up in the NBA where he’d left off in college.
In an 11-year Hall of Fame career, he won a championship ring as a Knicks reserve and averaged as many as 21.5 points and 21.1 rebounds per game.
9. Syracuse: John Wallace
A case can be made here for one-man-show Pearl Washington of Brooklyn, but Rochester native John Wallace managed one key feat that eluded Washington.
Wallace led the 1996 Orangemen to the national title, a fitting end to a career in which he scored 2,119 points and grabbed 1,065 rebounds.
At the NBA level, Wallace never landed a regular starting gig, but he hung around as a respectable reserve for seven years. He put up his best numbers with an undermanned Raptors squad in 1997-98, averaging 14 points and 4.5 rebounds.
8. Michigan State: Magic Johnson
After playing in high school virtually in the shadow of the MSU campus, Lansing’s Magic Johnson carried his hometown school to its first national title.
The impossibly tall point guard with the impossibly smooth game wrecked college defenses, averaging 17.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.9 assists, capped by the unforgettable title-game victory over Larry Bird and Indiana State.
While his rivalry with Bird was revitalizing the NBA, Magic led the Showtime Lakers to the greatest run the franchise had seen since the days of George Mikan.
Among his many Hall of Fame credentials, the five titles he won in a span of nine seasons and his NBA-record career average of 11.2 assists shine the brightest.
7. UCLA: Bill Walton
Author of the greatest single-game performance in March Madness history—44 points on 21-for-22 shooting, plus 13 rebounds, in a title-game win over Memphis—La Mesa’s Bill Walton was far from a one-game wonder.
The first three-time winner of the Naismith Award, Walton led UCLA to a pair of undefeated national championships (and a third Final Four) with career averages of 20.3 points and 15.7 rebounds.
Also a brilliant passer from the post, Walton led Portland to its only NBA title as the centerpiece of his Hall of Fame career.
Injuries hobbled him for much of his time as a pro, but at his best he led the league in rebounding (14.4) and blocks (3.2) while scoring 18.6 points a game.
6. Michigan: Chris Webber
The heart of the legendary Fab Five freshman class, Detroit Country Day School’s Chris Webber was the emotional leader and the best player on Michigan’s most talented roster.
He led the Wolverines to back-to-back appearances in the national title game, averaging 17.4 points, 10 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in the process.
Webber’s outstanding passing skills made him a perfect fit for the Sacramento Kings, where he played the best of his 15 pro seasons.
The five-time All-Star, Webber averaged as many as 27.1 points, 13 rebounds and 5.4 assists in a Sacramento uniform.
5. Kansas: Danny Manning
Judged purely on his collegiate performance, Lawrence’s Danny Manning is the greatest player ever to wear a Kansas uniform.
In addition to leading the sixth-seeded Jayhawks to a stunning national championship in 1988, he obliterated the school records with 2,951 points and 1,187 rebounds.
Although Manning never lived up to his college showing as a pro, he wasn’t as bad an NBA bust as his reputation might suggest.
He made two All-Star appearances as a Clipper and won Sixth Man of the Year honors as a Phoenix Sun, averaging as many as 22.8 points and 6.9 rebounds in the process.
4. North Carolina State: David Thompson
N.C. State faces an uphill battle on the local recruiting scene, competing as it does with North Carolina and Duke. But the Wolfpack scored a serious coup when it landed Shelby native David Thompson.
Not only did Thompson score a dazzling 2,309 points in three seasons, but he ended UCLA’s monopoly on the national title by leading N.C. State to their first national championship in 1974.
Thompson remained a devastating scorer in a Hall of Fame pro career, spent mostly with the Nuggets. He poured in as many as 27.2 points per game in the NBA, averaging up to 6.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists.
3. Kentucky: Cliff Hagan
After winning a national championship as a sophomore sixth man, Owensboro’s Cliff Hagan grabbed top billing at Kentucky for the next two seasons.
A 6’4” center as a collegian, he averaged as many as 24 points and 16.5 rebounds for the Wildcats.
Hagan moved to the perimeter as a pro, but the transition didn’t do much damage to his gaudy numbers. In a Hall of Fame career spent mostly with the Hawks, he won an NBA title and topped out at 24.8 points and 10.9 rebounds.
2. Louisville: Darrell Griffith
Louisville’s Darrell Griffith arrived at his hometown school at just the right time: just after the NCAA lifted its ban on the slam dunk.
The guard who earned the nickname “Dr. Dunkenstein” proceeded to score 2,333 points, capping his career by leading the Cardinals to their first national title in 1980.
Griffith never reached the same heights at the pro level, though he became a solid NBA starter for most of a decade with the Jazz.
He developed a dead-eye three-point shot, leading the league in treys twice and long-range accuracy once, while consistently putting up 20 points a game in his prime.
1. Indiana: Steve Alford
Few schools anywhere have found more superlative players in their own backyards than Indiana, and none of the many schoolboy stars who have thrived in Bloomington can match the achievements of Steve Alford.
Alford turned his peerless jump shot into 2,438 career points and led the Hoosiers to their most recent national championship in 1987.
An undersized shooting guard at 6’2”, Alford slid all the way to the second round before being drafted by the Mavericks.
The NBA’s lack of faith in him proved more than justified, as he lasted a mere four seasons planted on the Dallas and Golden State benches, never scoring more than 5.5 points per game.