The 50 Greatest College Basketball Players of All-Time
With the 2010 NBA Draft now over, I am still in college basketball mode. Watching some of these guys play in college and then translating that into the NBA, some will become legends, and some will be busts.
So I am giving some love to the best NCAA players to play the sport.
Though everyone will have their opinions, I am allowed to have mine, and here is who I believe are the best NCAA players ever.
50. James Worthy, North Carolina (1980-1982)
Worthy was not the best college player when it came to scoring, only averaging 15 points for his three seasons at North Carolina.
Worthy was a key member of UNC in 1981 when they were runners-up in the NCAA title game.
James Worthy is most notably known for having a ball thrown to him by Georgetown Hoyas guard Fred Brown to win them the NCAA title in 1982.
49. Hank Luisetti, Stanford (1935-1938)
One of the pioneers of the game, Hank was the player that did use the traditional two-handed shot during his career. But he was also the first real player to use the running one-handed shot.
He was the first player to ever score 50 points in a single game.
Hank Luisetti was ranked No. 2 on the list of top players of the half century, only behind George Mikan.
48. Cliff Hagan, Kentucky (1951-1954)
Hagan was third in points scored in Kentucky history with 1,475 and and second in rebounds with 1,035.
Hagan was named an All-American and First Team All-Southeastern Conference honoree in both 1952 and 1954.
47. Wayman Tisdale, Oklahoma (1983-1985)
When Tisdale was at Oklahoma University, he was a three-time Big Eight Conference Player of the Year and the first player in collegiate history to be named a first-team All American in his freshman, sophomore, and junior seasons.
He still holds the record at Oklahoma for the most points scored by any player through his freshman and sophomore seasons—a total of 1,729.
Sadly, Tisdale passed away at the age of 44 on May 15, 2009.
46. Shaquille O'Neal, LSU (1990-1992)
During O'Neal's tenure at LSU, he was a two-time All-American, two-time SEC player of the year, and received the Adolph Rupp Trophy as NCAA men's basketball player of the year in 1991.
He also holds the NCAA record for blocked shots in a game with 17.
O'Neal averaged 22 points and 14 rebounds during his three years at LSU.
45. Mark Aguirre, DePaul (1979-1981)
At DePaul University, Aguirre averaged 25 points over three seasons with the Blue Demons.
In 1981, Mark was The Sporting News College Player of the Year. He also was the USBWA College Player of the Year and James Naismith Award winner in 1980.
He led the Demons to the Final Four in the 1979 season, where they lost to Indiana State.
Aguirre averaged 24 points as a freshman. Over the next two seasons he scored 27 and 23 points per game, and he was named College Player of the Year in 1981.
44. John Wooden, Purdue (1929-1932)
John Wooden was not only a great coach, but he also was a decent player.
Wooden helped Purdue win a national title in 1932.
Wooden was a three-time All-American while at Purdue.
43. Clyde Lovellette, Kansas (1949-1952)
He lead the Kansas Jayhawks to a national title in 1952, and he was a three-time All-American.
He averaged 28.4 points in his senior year and was also named Helms Player of the Year in the same year.
42. Bobby Hurley, Duke (1990-1993)
Bobby Hurley was a first-team All-American, took Duke to the Final Four three times, and led the Blue Devils to back-to-back national championships in 1991 and 1992 while earning Final Four MVP honors in 1992.
Hurley holds the record for most assists in a career with 1,076.
41. Steve Alford, Indiana (1984-1987)
Alford at one point was Indiana's all-time leading scorer with 2,438 points.
Alford was a first team All-American and Big Ten MVP during the 1986-87 season.
In 1987, Alford helped the Hoosiers win the NCAA title game against the Orange, scoring 23 points.
40. Chris Mullin, St. John's (1982-1985)
During his three years at St. John's, Mullin was named Big East Player of the Year three times.
He was an All-American three times. Mullin received the 1985 Wooden Award, USBWA College Player of the Year, and led his team to the 1985 Final Four.
Mullin is St. John's' all-time leading scorer.
39. Bob Cousy, Holy Cross (1947-1950)
Cousy was used sparingly in his first season because the coach thought that Cousy was too much of a showboat.
His fate would change as fans wanted Cousy to play. The coach listened, and Cousy helped Holy Cross to 26 consecutive wins.
Cousy was also a three-time All-American.
He averaged 15 points for his college career.
38. Tom Gola, La Salle (1952-1955)
Tom Gola lead La Salle to an NIT Championship in 1952, as well as an NCAA Championship in 1954.
Gola was also an All-American.
37. Bob Pettit, LSU (1952-1954)
Pettit lead the Tigers to two consecutive SEC titles.
Pettit averaged 27.4 points for his career while playing at LSU.
36. Shane Battier, Duke (1998-2001)
Though he did score at Duke, Battier was known for his defensive specialties. He led the Blue Devils to Final Four appearances in 1999 and 2001, winning it in '01.
Battier was a three-time Defensive Player of the Year.
Battier won all three major player of the year awards in 2001.
35. Dan Issel, Kentucky (1967-1970)
Issel was at UK from 1967-1970 and scored 2,138 points. Issel was named an All-American twice.
Dan Issel was a guy that could flat-out score in college while playing at Kentucky. He averaged 16 points the first year, 27 the next year, and a whopping 34 points in his last year.
34. Sidney Wicks, UCLA (1969-1971)
Wicks, while at UCLA, was on three straight NCAA men's Division I basketball championship teams from 1969 to 1971.
Wicks was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four in 1970, Helms National Co-Player of the Year in 1970, USBWA and Sporting News Player of the Year in 1971, and a two-time consensus All-American in 1970 and 1971.
33. Bob Lanier, St. Bonaventure (1968-1970)
Lanier was a scoring and rebounding machine while playing at Bonaventure.
In his freshman year he averaged 26 points and 16 rebounds, his second year he averaged 27 points and 16 rebounds, and in his final year he averaged 29 points and 16 rebounds.
Lanier also won the Eastern College Athletic Conference Award.
32. Cazzie Russell, Michigan (1964-1967)
Cazzie led the Wolverines to three consecutive Big Ten Conference titles in 1964, 1965, and 1966, as well as to Final Four appearances in 1964 and 1965.
In 1966 Russell averaged 30.8 points per game and was named the College Basketball Player of the Year.
31. Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston (1982-1984)
He helped to lead the Houston Cougars to two consecutive NCAA Finals in 1983 and 1984, but they lost in both chances.
Though they lost in 1983, Olajuwon did win the NCAA Tournament Player of the Tournament award.
30. Artis Gilmore, Jacksonville (1970-1971)
Gilmore only played two seasons at Jacksonville because he was at junior college for the first two years.
However, Gilmore still led his team to the NCAA title game in 1970, where they lost to the UCLA Bruins.
During his short tenure at Jacksonville he became one of only five college basketball players ever to average at least 20 points and 20 rebounds over his career.
Of course, Gilmore did lead the nation in rebounding both of his years when playing at Jacksonville.
Gilmore's average of 22.7 for his career is still the highest average of rebounds for a career and may never be broken.
29. Larry Johnson, UNLV (1990-1991)
Johnson was another player who only played two seasons in college because he was at a junior college. But once he made his way to UNLV, he absolutely dominated.
While at UNLV, he powered his way through everyone in his way. He helped the Runnin' Rebels to an NCAA championship in his first year, beating a heavily favored Duke team.
In his second year at UNLV he again led his team to the Final Four, where they were upset by eventual champions Duke.
Johnson averaged 22 points and 11 rebounds in his two years. He won the USBWA College Player of the Year, the Naismith College Player of the Year, and the John R. Wooden Award, all in 1991.
28. Rick Barry, Miami (1963-1965)
At Miami University, Rick Barry was a monster. He averaged 30 points and 17 rebounds in his three seasons at Miami.
However, he was never able to go to the NCAA Tournament because Miami at the time was on probation.
27. Darrell Griffith, Louisville (1977-1980)
Put aside Griffith's ridiculous vertical leap of 48 inches! Griffith could still play.
Griffith was a first team All-American in college.
Darrell led the University of Louisville to the 1980 NCAA men's basketball championship and then beat UCLA.
Darrell Griffith is the Louisville Cardinals' all-time leading scorer with 2,333 points for his career.
26. Danny Manning, Kansas (1985-1988)
Danny Manning was the all-time leading scorer in the Big Eight Conference with 2,951 career points.
Manning won all three of the major awards for college player of the year in 1988.
He was named NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player in 1988 as well. Manning was also a two-time All-American.
Topping off the 1988 season, Manning went off for 31 points and 18 rebounds in the NCAA title game to lead the underdog Jayhawks to the title.
25. Len Bias, Maryland (1983-1986)
When people watched Bias play, they were amazed.
With his leaping abilities, physicality, and ability to create, not only for himself but for his teammates, Bias averaged 23 points and seven rebounds a game in his final year at Maryland.
This may be very high for other people's lists, but I am biased when it comes to Len Bias; he was one of my favorite players to watch. He was electrifying, and I never saw anything like it before.
Besides, when you are compared to Michael Jordan, you have to have been doing something good!
24. George Mikan, DePaul (1943-1946)
When Mikan played at DePaul, he was known for playing a zone defense where the four other players would force the other team to take a shot and then Mikan would leap up and then grab the ball off the rim.
Thus, the NCAA banned goaltending.
Mikan was named NCAA College Player of the Year in 1944 and 1945, and he was an All-American three times.
Mikan also led DePaul to the NIT title in 1945. Mikan led the nation in scoring in 1945 with 24 points a game and in 1946 with 23 points a game.
23. Bob Kurland, Oklahoma State (1943-1946)
Bob Kurland was a pioneer for the game of basketball. He gets overshadowed as a college great because he played in the era of George Mikan. But I think he had a better college career than Mikan, hence why he is a place ahead of Mikan.
Kurland was known during his college days to jump over the rim and grab the other team's shots. But that then stopped because the NCAA made a rule about defensive goaltending in 1945.
Kurland was the first player ever to dunk regularly in a game.
Bob Kurland also led his team, then called the Oklahoma A&M Aggies, to two NCAA championships in back-to-back years in 1945 and 1946.
22. David Robinson, Navy (1984-1987)
Robinson's first choice of careers was not basketball, which is why he attended Navy University. Robinson is regarded as the most notable and the best player to come out of the Naval Academy.
Robinson did not come out onto the big stage till his last two years, when he won the two most prestigious awards, the Naismith and Wooden Awards, for best player in the country in 1987. He also won the USBWA College Player of the Year in the same year.
21. Austin Carr, Notre Dame (1968-1971)
While at Notre Dame, Carr scored 2,560 points to average 34.5 points per game, ranking him fifth all-time in college basketball history.
Carr became only the second college player ever to tally more than 1,000 points in a season, joining Pete Maravich in that select group.
Carr holds NCAA tournament records for most points in one game (61), most field goals in one game (25), and most field goals attempted in one game (44).
His record scoring average of 50 points per game in seven NCAA playoff games will never be broken.
20. Calvin Murphy, Niagara (1967-1970)
When Murphy attended Niagara University, he was a three-time All-American, scoring 2,548 points to average 33.1 points per game.
In 1970, he led Niagara to the NCAA tournament and advanced to the second round, where they lost to Villanova.
19. Christian Laettner, Duke (1989-1992)
Christian Laettner's awards speak for themselves. I know it is hard, people, but just put his terrible NBA career behind you and acknowledge his college career.
He won USBWA College Player of the Year, John R. Wooden Award, Naismith College Player of the Year, NABC National Player of the Year, The Sporting News National Player of the Year, AP National Player of the Year, ACC Men's Basketball Player of the Year, and the ACC Tournament MVP all in his senior year, 1992.
18. Tim Duncan, Wake Forest (1994-1997)
Tim Duncan was one of the very few modern era players that actually stayed all four years in college. He promised his mom that he would, so he fulfilled that promise and stayed all four years.
Duncan led his team to a 97–31 win–loss record and was college basketball's second-leading shot blocker in NCAA history. He remains one of only 10 players with more than 2,000 career points and 1,500 career rebounds.
He was also the first player in NCAA history to reach 1,500 points, 1,000 rebounds, 400 blocked shots, and 200 assists. He left college as the all-time leading shot blocker in ACC history with 481 blocks.
17. Ralph Sampson, Virginia (1980-1983)
Sampson was the leader of his Virginia team and led them into the 1980 NIT Finals, as well as helping his team to the Final Four in 1981.
Sampson won three Naismith Awards in 1981, 1982, and 1983. Sampson also won two John Wooden awards in 1982 and 1983, and lastly he won three Adolph Rupp Trophies in 1981, 1982, and 1983.
16. Elgin Baylor, Idaho and Seattle (1956-1958)
Baylor was first given a scholarship to Idaho University to play basketball and football, but due to the coach being fired, his scholarship along with others was taken away.
So he decided to attend Seattle the following year, where Baylor led the Seattle Chieftains to the NCAA championship game in 1958, falling to the Kentucky Wildcats in Seattle's only trip to the Final Four.
15. Patrick Ewing, Georgetown (1982-1985)
Ewing was one of the most hyped freshman to play college basketball, and Ewing did not disappoint. He was one of the few to star as a freshman for a varsity team.
Ewing helped the Hoyas make the championship game three of his four years there, winning once in 1984 over Houston. He was also named the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player for his efforts.
Patrick Ewing also was the Naismith Player of the Year and won the Adolph Rupp Trophy in 1985.
14. Elvin Hayes, Houston (1966-1968)
Elvin Hayes led the Cougars to the Final Four of the 1967 NCAA men's Division I basketball tournament, where he scored 25 points and grabbed 24 rebounds in a semifinal loss to the UCLA Bruins and center Lew Alcindor.
In 1968 Hayes and the Houston Cougars faced Alcindor and the UCLA Bruins in the first-ever nationally televised regular season college basketball game.
Hayes scored 39 points and had 15 rebounds while limiting Alcindor to just 15 points as Houston beat UCLA 71–69 to snap UCLA's 47-game winning streak in what has been called the "Game of the Century."
Hayes led the team in scoring all three seasons he attended Houston. In 1966 he averaged 27.2 points per game, in 1967 he averaged 28.4, and in 1968 he averaged 36.8.
13. Jerry Lucas, Ohio State (1960-1962)
Jerry Lucas led a well-balanced Buckeye team in the early '60s. Lucas led his team to three straight NCAA Finals appearances in 1960, 1961, and 1962.
Lucas was named Player of the Year in both 1961 and 1962. He was Big Ten Player of the Year his entire college career. Lucas led the Buckeyes to a 78-6 record over three years.
He was commonly rated the greatest collegian ever upon graduation, for not just his basketball career, but because Lucas attained his bachelor's degree in only three years.
12. Michael Jordan, North Carolina (1981-1984)
Jordan was named ACC Freshman of the Year after he averaged 13.4 points per game.
He made the game-winning jump shot in the 1982 NCAA championship game against Georgetown.
During his three seasons at North Carolina, he averaged 17.7 ppg on 54.0 percent shooting and added five rebounds per game. He was selected by consensus to the NCAA All-American First Team in both his sophomore and junior seasons.
Jordan won the Naismith and the Wooden College Player of the Year awards in 1984, as well as the Adolph Rupp Trophy and USBWA College Player of the Year.
11. Magic Johnson, Michigan State (1978-1979)
Magic Johnson as a freshman averaged 17 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists. He led his team to a 25-5 record, the Big Ten Conference title, and a berth in the 1978 NCAA Tournament.
In 1979 Johnson as a sophomore led his team all the way to the NCAA championship game against Larry Bird and Indiana State University in the most watched college basketball game ever. For his efforts, Johnson was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.
10. Larry Bird, Indiana State (1977-1979)
Bird led the team to the NCAA championship game in 1979 in his senior season. They then lost to the Michigan State University Spartans, who were led by Magic Johnson. Indiana State finished the season 33–1.
Bird won the USBWA College Player of the Year, Naismith, and Wooden Awards in 1979.
9. David Thompson, North Carolina State (1973-1975)
Thompson led his North Carolina State University to an undefeated season (27-0) in 1973, and he then led them to an NCAA men's Division I basketball championship in 1974, beating UCLA in the finals.
Thompson won USBWA College Player of the Year, the Adolph Rupp Trophy, and Naismith College Player of the Year all in 1975 as a junior.
8. Bill Bradley, Princeton (1962-1965)
Bradley was named to The Sporting News All-American first team in early 1963, in his sophomore year. He was a second team All-American, making him the top sophomore player in the country.
As a junior, The Sporting News named him player of the year.
Bradley scored 2,503 points at Princeton, averaging 30.2 points per game. He was awarded the 1965 James E. Sullivan Award, presented annually to the United States' top amateur athlete, the first basketball player to win the honor.
Bradley holds numerous Ivy League career records, including total points (1,253) and free throws made and attempted.
7. Jerry West, West Virginia (1957-1960)
In West's junior season he scored 26.6 points and 12.3 rebounds. He has an NCAA tournament record of 160 points, 32.0 points per game, and led all scorers and rebounders in every game he played in.
He was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, as well as being named an All-American, Southern Conference Tournament MVP, and Southern Conference Player of the Year and Athlete of the Year.
6. Wilt Chamberlain, Kansas (1956-1958)
In his first varsity game, the center scored 52 points and grabbed 31 rebounds. Chamberlain made the First Team of the All-America squad and led his Jayhawks into the NCAA finals against the Tar Heels of North Carolina.
Sadly, after three overtime periods, Wilt and the Jayhawks lost by free throws to the Tar Heels. Despite the loss, Chamberlain was still announced the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.
As a college player, Wilt was so dominating and powerful in the low post that he broke opponents' fingers and toes from dunking so hard.
Chamberlain averaged 30 points and 18 rebounds in his career at Kansas.
5. Bill Russell, San Francisco (1953-1956)
Bill Russell, along with K.C. Jones, put San Francisco University on the map.
Russell helped lead San Francisco to NCAA championships in both 1955 and 1956. He became known for his strong defense and shot-blocking skills, once denying 13 shots in a game.
During his college career, Russell averaged 20.7 points per game and 20.3 rebounds per game.
4. Bill Walton, UCLA (1971-1974)
Bill Walton led the UCLA Bruins to back-to-back NCAA titles in 1972 and 1973, and in 1973 Walton scored 44 points by going 21 for 22 from the field. Walton also led the Bruins to back-to-back 30-0 seasons in 1972 and 1973.
Walton also received the USBWA College Player of the Year and Naismith College Player of the Year, as well as the Adolph Rupp Trophy in 1972, 1973, and 1974.
3. Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati (1957-1960)
Robertson torched his opponents while at Cincinnati, maintaining an amazing scoring average of 33.8 points per game, the third highest in college history.
In each of his three years, he won the national scoring title, was named an All-American, and was chosen College Player of the Year, while setting 14 NCAA and 19 school records.
Robertson led the Cincinnati Bearcats to a 79–9 overall record during his three varsity seasons, including two Final Four appearances. However, he was not able to ever win a NCAA title.
When Robertson left college he was the all-time leading NCAA scorer until Pete Maravich topped him in 1970.
2. Pete Maravich, LSU (1968-1970)
Nicknamed the "Pistol" for a reason, Maravich was a two-time USBWA College Player of the Year in 1969 and 1970. He was also the Naismith Award Winner in 1970.
Maravich only played three seasons at LSU, because at his time freshmen did not play on the varsity team, though he was more than capable of doing so.
Maravich scored 3,667 points in those three seasons, while averaging 44, 44, and 45 points per game for those years. In total he averaged 44 points a game for his LSU career.
Also, when taking his stats into consideration, at the time that Maravich played there was not a three-point line. All those shots that he took behind the line would only count as twos, so his scoring numbers could have surpassed 5,000 for his career.
1. Lew Alcindor, UCLA (1967-1969)
During college, Alcindor was named Player of the Year in 1967 and 1969, and he was a three-time First Team All-American in 1967, 1968, and again in 1969. He played on three NCAA basketball champion teams in 1967, 1968, and lastly in 1969.
Alcindor was honored as the Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Tournament all three years he was in the tournament and became the first-ever Naismith College Player of the Year in 1969 and the USBWA College Player of the Year in 1967 and 1968.
The dunk was banned in college basketball after the 1967 season, mainly because Alcindor was dominating too much when using the dunk. It was not allowed again until 1976.