Playing hard has always been a key quality of great players and championship teams.
"Getting after it" transforms potential and talent into peak production and performance.
Here are the 10 best hustle players in college basketball history.
As you will see, hustle comes in all shapes and sizes, forms and functions.
Rather than a one-dimensional group, these 10 players represent all five positions on the court.
Here we go!
Player information provided by Sports-Reference.com
Until this last season, Indiana’s Victor Oladipo was a motor guy. He helped the Hoosiers become relevant again with his passion and persistence.
Over his first two years in Bloomington, he was a third-option scorer, but a relentless rebounder from the wing. He seemed like he never got tired, and he always brought massive energy to the floor.
This past year, Oladipo found another gear, becoming a terror in the open court, and a total nuisance in terms of on-ball pressure. Oladipo and Kansas’ Jeff Withey were named Co-Defensive Players of the Year.
Though his 2012-13 numbers were not outrageous (13.6 PPG; 6.3 RPG; 2.2 SPG; 2.1 APG), they were more than good enough for the 6’5” guard from Marlboro, Maryland to be the No. 2-overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft.
North Carolina State’s Chris Corchiani was non-stop motion when he ran the point for the Wolfpack.
You rarely saw him standing still, and he always seemed to be in the middle of the action.
Over his four years in Raleigh, Corchiani handed out 1,038 assists. Upon his graduation in 1991, the 6’0” guard from Miami was the NCAA all-time assists leader. He is currently second behind Duke’s Bobby Hurley.
Corchiani is one of 17 players in college hoops history who handed out at least 20 assists in a single game (February 27, 1991 against Maryland).
In his 124 collegiate games, he swiped 328 steals—putting him at No. 18 all time.
Stanford’s Mark Madsen only knew one pace to play: frenzied.
Whether he was crashing the boards or hurling his 6’9” frame across the floor for a loose ball, Madsen played like a man possessed.
What he may have lacked in basketball refinement and sophistication, Madsen made up for it in grit and determination.
Say what you will about his game (or his dancing), Madsen ended up twice being selected as an All-American, and he led the Cardinal to the 1998 Final Four.
During his playing days at Kansas, Kirk Hinrich would have been the most likely player on the floor to (1) jump into the crowd to save the ball or (2) be the favorite to get an enormous floor burn going after a stray possession.
From 1999-2003, Hinrich did a lot of the perimeter dirty work for Roy Williams’ Jayhawks. He handed out 668 assists while scoring 1,753 career points.
Hinrich’s versatility was a huge key for KU making it to the 2002 Final Four and the 2003 NCAA Championship Game. His wide-open style of play was contagious, motivating his teammates to higher levels of effort and intensity.
Does anyone else find it hilarious that Dennis Rodman went to Southeastern Oklahoma State, whose nickname was the Savages?
When you look up the word "savage," you might find synonyms such as "unrestrained," "severe" and "undomesticated."
Talk about hitting the nail on the head.
Rodman was a collegiate career double-double (25.7 PPG; 15.7 RPG) dude. His Wikipedia page indicates that he was a three-time NAIA All-American and led the NAIA in rebounding in both the 1984–85 and 1985–86 seasons.
The Worm had no trouble working his wiry frame into first-rate rebounding position or locking his man up regardless of what frontcourt position his opponent played.
Even when he crossed over into the NBA, Rodman had no trouble giving up inches and pounds to nearly everyone he faced. He simply outworked everyone on the court.
Florida’s Joakim Noah was easily one of the Gator’s all-time best centers. Even though the 6’11” big man was plenty talented, he played with a vigor and exuberance that was unsurpassed.
Noah was fearless, playing full tilt from the opening tip to the final buzzer. Though he gave up pounds against a lot of the other SEC-post players, Noah was a suffocating defender and ravenous rebounder.
He led UF to back-to-back NCAA championships (in 2005-06 and 2006-07) by doing a little of everything. His versatility helped him to win the 2006 Final Four Most Outstanding Player award.
BYU’s Danny Ainge was one of the most tenacious backcourt players in collegiate-hoops history. At 6’4” and 175 pounds, Ainge outworked everyone.
He played with a unique fire and fervor. His Wikipedia page points out that he was “an All-American, a two-time First Team Academic All-American, the WAC Player of the Year and a four-time All-WAC selection.”
Ainge averaged 20.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists for his four-year career in Provo. But, he will forever be remembered for his coast-to-coast heroics, taking the ball the length of the court to sink a shot that beat Notre Dame in the 1981 NCAA Tournament.
UNLV’s Stacey Augmon was one of the few players in college-hoops history who could have gone scoreless in a game and still been the Rebels’ most valuable player.
Augmon was one of three collegiate stars to win the NABC Defensive Player of the Year three times (1989-91; along with Wake Forest’s Tim Duncan and Duke’s Shane Battier).
Because of his elite athleticism and his superior hoops instincts, the 6’6” forward could lock down any position. The Plastic Man’s tireless effort on both ends of the court helped him to boost the Runnin’ Rebels to win the 1990 NCAA championship.
Even with all of these defensive accolades, Augmon still averaged 13.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and three assists per game.
North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough was not called “Psycho T” for nothing.
Hansbrough was relentless in every phase of the game.
When he got the ball, he was going to the hole. Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly said:
"Psycho T" gets to the line more often than a pro bowler. He led the nation in free throw attempts last season, and nobody was even close. He keeps swinging his nose into people's elbows. Of all the nerve!
His intensity translated into one of the most productive collegiate careers of all time. Hansbrough was a unanimous selection for the Atlantic Coast All-Conference Team all four years (2005-09), the 2006 ACC Freshman of the Year, the 2008 ACC Player of the Year and the 2008 National Player of the Year.
When he finished up in Chapel Hill, Hansbrough was (and is) the ACC's all-time leading scorer with 2,872 points.
Duke’s Bobby Hurley is the best hustle player in NCAA history.
Hurley is college hoops’ all-time assists leader after dropping 1,076 dimes to his Blue Devils teammates.
In his four years in Durham, the 6’0” floor general led Duke to three Final Fours and two NCAA championships (1991, 1992). For his outstanding play in the 1992 title run, Hurley was selected as the Final Four Most Outstanding Player.
In 1993, Hurley was a consensus first team All-American.
What was super impressive is that Hurley’s brand of hustle was never out-of-control and was always focused on something productive and dynamic. After all, the purpose of hustle is to get things done, right?
Hurley's steadiness and composure, while playing all-out, helped bring out the best in his teammates such as Christian Laettner and Grant Hill.