Ranking the Indiana Hoosiers' 10 All-Time Best NBA Players

Aaron Siegal-EismanFeatured ColumnistDecember 8, 2012

Ranking the Indiana Hoosiers' 10 All-Time Best NBA Players

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    The Indiana Hoosiers are one of college basketball's royalties because of their history and tradition.

    Not only have five championship banners been raised in Assembly Hall, but also numerous talented players have gone on to play in the NBA.

    There might even be a few more NBA additions after this year, including Cody Zeller. NBAdraft.net expects him to be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft.

    While it is difficult to rank the Hoosiers’ all-time best NBA players due to all the talented athletes who have made it to the next level, I'll give it my best shot.

10. Alan Henderson

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    Alan Henderson had a well-accomplished career at Indiana.

    He is the only player to rank in the top five in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots and steals for the school.

    Henderson also helped the Hoosiers to reach the Final Four in 1992. 

    In 1995, he was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks with the 16th pick. He spent almost 10 years with the Hawks.

    In 1998, he won the NBA's Most Improved Player Award.

    Henderson was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in 2004 and spent his last three seasons with the Mavericks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76ers.

    Henderson finished his 12-year NBA career with 5,094 points (7.8 points per game) and 3,249 rebounds (five rebounds per game).

9. Quinn Buckner

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    Quinn Buckner was a part of one of the greatest college basketball seasons ever. The 1975-76 Hoosiers were the last undefeated team.

    Buckner entered the NBA draft after the season and was selected seventh by the Milwaukee Bucks. He spent most of his NBA career with the Bucks and Boston Celtics. 

    In 1984, he won an NBA title with the Celtics. 

    Buckner was known for his defensive ability and was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team four times.

    Buckner averaged 8.2 points, 4.3 assists and 1.9 steals per game in his career. 

    Currently, he works as the Vice President of Communications for Pacers Sports & Entertainment (PS&E). 

8. Kent Benson

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    Buckner's teammate and the next-best NBA Hoosier was Kent Benson, one of the best Indiana big men ever. 

    In 1977, Benson was drafted No. 1 by the Milwaukee Bucks. 

    Over his 12-year NBA career with the Bucks, Detroit Pistons, Utah Jazz and Cleveland Cavaliers, he averaged 9.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.

    Many believe that Benson didn't live up to expectations after being the top pick in the draft.  

    His only major NBA award was the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 1982. 

    He totaled more than 6,000 points and 3,500 rebounds in his career. 

    Benson could have been higher on the list, but there are more talented players who rank higher. 

7. Calbert Cheaney

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    Calbert Cheaney is one of the best Big Ten basketball players ever.

    He leads all Big Ten scorers with 2,613 points and won Naismith College Player of the Year in 1993. 

    His professional career wasn't as prolific as his collegiate career was.

    Cheaney was picked sixth in the 1993 NBA Draft by the Washington Bullets.

    He spent five seasons in Washington before bouncing around to four different teams (Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz and Golden State Warriors) over the next seven seasons.

    Cheaney finished his career with 7,826 points (9.5 PPG), 2,610 rebounds (3.2 RPG) and 1,398 assists (1.7 APG).

    Five years after Cheaney retired from the NBA, he became the Director of Basketball Operations at Indiana University and remains in the position.

6. Mike Woodson

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    Many people know Mike Woodson for being an NBA coach for the Atlanta Hawks and currently the New York Knicks, but he had a successful collegiate and professional career as a player.

    He is No. 5 on the Hoosiers' all-time leading scorers list with 2,061 points in his four-year career.

    Woodson was a crucial player in the NBA for the New York Knicks, Kansas City/Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers. 

    Woodson averaged 14 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game over his 10-year NBA career.

    During one season with the Kings, he averaged 18.2 points per game.

    Woodson has seen head coaching success on the NBA level as well.

    His 206 wins as head coach of the Hawks is fourth in franchise history.

    As of December 9, 2012, the Knicks have the best record in the Eastern Conference under Woodson. 

5. Tom Van Arsdale

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    Tom and Dick Van Arsdale are clearly the best Hoosier brother duo in school history. 

    Both had success in the NBA as well. 

    In his 12-year career with six different teams, Tom made it to the All-Star game three times and was considered one of the top free-throw shooters of his time.

    Here's a fun fact: Tom never made a playoff appearance and holds records for it. He played 929 games and is also the highest-scoring player (14,232 career points) in NBA history without a playoff appearance.

    He averaged 15.3 points and 4.2 rebounds per game over his career.

4. Dick Van Arsdale

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    Dick Van Arsdale was just a little better than Tom in the NBA.

    He recorded 16.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game over his 12-year NBA career (Dick and Tom both played 12 years).

    Dick was also in the All-Star game three times (just like his brother) and was All-Defensive Second Team in 1974.

    Interesting fact: the Van Arsdale brothers were teammates on the Suns during the 1976-77 season, which was their final year in the NBA.

    Also his jersey number, No. 5, was retired by the Phoenix Suns.

    Who knows if the Hoosiers will ever have brothers do that well in college and in the NBA again.

3. George McGinnis

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    George McGinnis was a very good Hoosier and a star in the ABA and NBA in the 1970s and early 1980s. 

    In 1970-71, McGinnis averaged 29.9 points and 14.7 rebounds for the Hoosiers.

    After that year, he entered the ABA and was drafted by the Indiana Pacers in Round 2. 

    In four years with the Pacers, he averaged 25 points and 13 rebounds per game and led the team to two championships.

    Some of McGinnis' ABA accolades include Most Valuable Player in 1975, three-time ABA All-Star and member of the ABA All-Time team.   

    The next seven years of his career were played in the NBA for the Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets and Pacers.

    McGinnis totaled four consecutive seasons with more than 20 points and 10 rebounds per game for the 76ers and Nuggets.

    He recorded 17,009 points (20.2 PPG), 9,233 rebounds (11 RPG) and 3,089 assists (3.7 APG) in his professional career.

    McGinnis is one of four Pacers to have his number (No. 30) retired.

2. Walt Bellamy

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    Walt Bellamy is one of two Hoosiers to become NBA Hall of Famers. 

    During his three years at Indiana, Bellamy averaged more than 20 points and 15 rebounds per game.

    He holds the school records for most rebounds in a single game (33), most double-doubles in a career (59) and most rebounds in a three-year career (1,008).

    After his junior season, Bellamy became the No. 1 overall pick to the Chicago Packers in the 1961 NBA Draft.

    Bellamy spent his first four years with the Packers/Zephyrs and Baltimore Bullets. He averaged 27.6 points and 16.6 rebounds over that four-year span. 

    He played nine more seasons with the New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks and New Orleans Jazz.

    Bellamy recorded 20,941 points (20.1 PPG) and 14,241 rebounds (13.7 RPG) in his 13 seasons in the NBA.

    In 1993, Bellamy earned a spot in the distinguished Hall of Fame for being one of the Top 10 rebounders in NBA history.  

1. Isiah Thomas

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    Isiah Thomas will always be mentioned as one of the best Hoosiers of all time and one of the best NBA point guards ever.

    Thomas helped the Hoosiers win their fourth championship banner in 1981, when he was the Most Outstanding Player of that year's Final Four. 

    He was the No. 2 pick in the 1981 NBA Draft to the Detroit Pistons. 

    Thomas played all 13 years of his career as a point guard for the Pistons.

    He helped the Pistons win back-to-back NBA championships in 1989 and 1990.

    He was an All-Star 12 times. He is seventh in assists with 9,061 and 14th in steals with 1,861.

    Thomas was named to NBA.com's 50 greatest players of all time because he averaged 19.2 points, 9.3 assists and 1.9 steals per game in his career.

    In 2000, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. 

     

    Honorable Mention: New Orleans Hornets guard Eric Gordon.

    So far in his first four years, he is averaging 18.2 points, 3.3 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game.