Ranking the 10 Best Shot-Blockers in NCAA Basketball History
Having a player who can swat opponents' shots and protect the rim are important factors in being able to shut another team down.
One of basketball's legends, Bill Russell, once said, “The idea is not to block every shot. The idea is to make your opponent believe that you might block every shot.”
Here is a ranking of the 10 best shot blockers in NCAA basketball history.
There are lots of ways to create a list like this. You could use career blocks, but not every player plays the same number of games or the same number of seasons.
To level the court, you could use a player's blocks per game stat.
But, an even better measurement to consider is someone's blocks per 40 minutes. By using this advanced metric, we are comparing everyone's blocks in relation to their actual playing time.
Unfortunately, we do not have official shot-blocking statistics before the mid-eighties. So, while we will pay homage to Russell, Chamberlain, Mikan, Alcindor and others, they are not included on this list.
A 200-block minimum is used here. Because of this, one-year shot blocking wonders like Kentucky's Anthony Davis or Nerlens Noel, as well as Marshall's Hassan Whiteside or St. Johns' Chris Obekpa, are not found here.
Lets do this!
Some shot blockers with the gaudiest numbers played at some smaller schools.
While small-school blockers deserve being mentioned in this piece, it is hard to consider these players’ stats equally with other Division One players because of the competition against whom they played.
Here are a few of the best small-school shot blockers with their career stats:
Wojciech Myrda (Louisiana-Monroe; 1998-2002): 535 blocks
William Mosley (pictured; Northwestern State; 2008-2012): 455 blocks
Mickell Gladness (Alabama A&M; 2005-2008): 4.66 blocks per game
Deng Gai (Fairfield; 2001-2005): 4.42 blocks per game
10. Alonzo Mourning (Georgetown)
Georgetown’s Alonzo Mourning (1988-92) was one of the most tenacious defenders in college basketball history.
At times, Zo was flat out scary. Opposing players would rather do just about anything than take it into the paint against him.
Mourning led the nation in blocks (5 BPG) his freshmen year. He averaged five blocks per game again as a senior.
For his career, the 6’10” PF blocked 5.02 shots per 40 minutes and zapped 453 of the Hoyas opponents’ attempts.
9. Emeka Okafor (UConn)
It is no coincidence that UConn won one of its three national championships when Emeka Okafor (2001-2004) was keeping an eye on the lane for the Huskies.
The powerful 6’10” post was an excellent all-around player. Over his three-year collegiate career, he averaged a double-double (13.8 PPG and 10.6 RPG).
Where Okafor excelled most was as a defender. He was a two time (2002-03; 2003-04) NABC Defensive Player of the Year.
He led the nation in blocked shots in both his sophomore (4.7 BPG) and junior (4.1) seasons, and averaged 5.4 blocks per 40 minutes.
8. Jeff Withey (Kansas)
Raise your hand if you are as surprised as I am that Kansas’ Jeff Withey (2009-2013) is on this list.
While I know that the 7’0” Jayhawk center was the 2012-13 NABC Defensive Co-Player of the Year (with Victor Oladipo), I just didn’t instinctively have him as one of the best collegiate shot blockers of all time.
Withey was an incredibly efficient shot blocker over his four years in Lawrence. While he only averaged 19.8 minutes per game for his career, he still clobbered 311 shots, totaling 5.45 blocks per 40 minutes.
What made Withey’s shot-blocking stats that much more impressive is that a high percentage of his blocks resulted in a possession for KU.
B/R’s C.J. Moore (then with CBSSports.com) pointed out that, during his junior season, “KU got back 65 percent of Withey’s blocks.”
7. David Robinson (Navy)
Navy’s David Robinson (1983-87) holds the NCAA single season shot-blocking record with 207 rejections. No other collegiate player has surpassed the 200-block threshold.
Robinson was the prototype for late bloomers. He had never played organized ball before his senior year in high school.
The Admiral combined sleek athleticism with sharp-edged anticipation to be a shot-blocking specialist. For his four-year Midshipman career, Robinson threw back 516 shots, averaging 4.1 BPG and 5.55 blocks per 40 minutes.
6. Hasheem Thabeet (UConn)
UConn’s Hasheem Thabeet (2006-09) was a forceful shot-blocking freak in his three years as a Huskie.
Even though his total game was sushi-raw, the 7’3” center from Tanzania was a two-time NABC Defensive Player of the Year (2008, 2009) and second team All-American his junior year.
He blocked a total of 417 shots in his three years in Storrs, averaging 4.2 BPG and 5.73 blocks per 40 minutes.
Since moving on to the NBA, Thabeet has been called everything from a “long-term project” to an NBA Draft bust (SI.com).
5. Shaquille O'Neal (LSU)
At 7’1” and 294 pounds, LSU’s Shaquille O'Neal was a rare, physical specimen that pretty much had his way with his opponents.
The Big Aristotle’s Bayou Bengal bio details how he presided over the SEC and college hoops from 1989-92, and how his shot-blocking expertise was record-setting.
He set the SEC mark for career blocks with 412 and set the conference single game best with 12 blocks against Loyola Marymount. He batted away 11 shots against BYU in the opening round of 1992 March Madness, setting a then-tournament standard for a single contest.
Shaq averaged 4.6 BPG for his three-year collegiate career and thwacked 6.03 FG attempts per 40 minutes.
4. Adonal Foyle (Colgate)
Colgate’s Adonal Foyle is one of the more unlikely top collegiate shot blockers of all time.
He moved to the U.S. from tiny Saint Vincent and the Grenadines at age 15 and developed outside the exposure and publicity of the fast-paced AAU circuit. His years at Colgate allowed him to develop his game progressively.
But, when this 6’10” titan finished his three years at Colgate, he was the all-time NCAA shot blocks leader with 492, averaging a filthy 5.7 BPG and 6.24 blocks per 40 minutes.
To put Foyle’s block total into perspective, Tim Duncan had 11 less blocks, but he played four seasons at Wake Forest. Wow!
3. Dikembe Mutumbo (Georgetown)
Before Georgetown’s Dikembe Mutombo wagged his trademark index finger in the NBA for the very first time, the 7’2” gentle giant was wiping out one FG attempt after another at the college level.
Mutombo was a ferocious shot blocker, swatting 354 tries over his three years playing for John Thompson’s Hoyas. His career total is even more imposing when you consider that Mt. Mutombo was sparingly used (11 minutes per game) as a freshman.
For his collegiate career, he averaged 3.7 BPG and a ridiculous 6.27 blocks per 40 minutes.
It’s hard to imagine that Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning played side-by-side occasionally for the Hoyas. Talk about an “impenetrable wall.”
2. Jarvis Varnado (Mississippi State)
Mississippi State’s Jarvis Varnado was definitely a defensive sensation.
Standing 6’9,” Varnado took full advantage of his 7’4” wingspan, leading the nation in blocked shots in 2007-08 (157 blocks) and 2008-09 (170), with a comical career total of 564 denials, tops in NCAA history.
His 6.24 blocks per 40 minutes demonstrated that he didn’t just have one or two great seasons. He got it done for four full seasons in Starkville.
1. Hakeem Olajuwon (Houston)
Houston’s Hakeem Olajuwon was the best shot-blocker in NCAA history.
His determined, defensive dominance in the paint was a primary reason that the Cougars made it to the Final Four in each of his three collegiate seasons.
The Dream threw back 454 UH opponents’ attempts. If he had returned to play his senior season, there is no doubt that he would have surpassed the incomparable 600-block ceiling.
His three year 4.5 BPG average is spectacular, but his 6.61 blocks per 40 minutes is staggering.