Beginning this journey, I thought it was going to be pretty easy to select the top Virginia Cavaliers on the hardwood.
I think people can agree on most of the names, but actually deciding who starts and at what positions proved to be a harder challenge.
After all, a power forward from 1970 looks a bit different than a power forward today. Therefore, I tried to use various factors in constructing my team.
1. Raw talent: How good are they? How did they overcome or take advantage of the strengths and weaknesses of the team they were on?
2. Chemistry: I wanted my starting lineup to be as complete as possible. I wanted them to be able to play defense, share the ball, shoot from all over the court, and really look like a team.
3. Legacy: In many of my tiebreakers I went with the name that had meant more to Virginia. Did the player leave UVA a hero or wrapped in controversy?
Well, here we go. I present to you the entire 13-man roster. Let the debate begin.
There's nothing that really needs to be said here. Sampson personifies Virginia basketball. Students painted the top of University Hall to get him here, and in "Ralph's House," the Cavaliers went to their first Final Four, achieved a number one ranking, and played the classic duel against Georgetown's Patrick Ewing.
Sampson was a three-time National Player of the Year, a feat that will NEVER be broken unless NBA Commish David Stern goes crazy with the age rule. He is the team's all-time leader in rebounds and blocks. In fact, he has 320 more blocks than the man in second place!
Okay, I know this is probably when you will stop reading, but hear me out. Watson played four years out of his natural position of power forward against men way bigger and taller than him, and he still set some impressive marks.
Watson finished third all-time in blocks at Virginia and second in school history with 54 career double-doubles. He brought down over 1,000 rebounds, second only to Sampson and nearly 200 more than Junior Burrough.
I put Watson on as a starter because his tenacity on the boards and in the low blocks gave Virginia a very strong defensive force. He has the ability to finish strong at the basket and clean up any shots Sampson were to miss. His tenacious attitude is what would complement Sampson's greatness the best.
Another no-brainer. Stith is Virginia's all-time leading scorer with an incredible 2,516 points in his career. That is fifth best in the history of the ACC, beating other greats like Len Bias and Sam Perkins, and over 400 more points than Tim Duncan.
Stith helped lead Virginia to an Elite Eight and three 20-win seasons. He also brought home an NIT title, and even though that may not sound like much, it is one of only two postseason championship banners hanging in the rafters of the John Paul Jones Arena. Stith is also seventh all-time in steals with 177, showing a speed and quickness that is necessary to win against elite teams.
A true scorer who knew how to get to the line and convert. Before that J.J. Redick guy came around, Lamp held the ACC record for most consecutive free throws made. He finished eighth in the ACC in scoring and second in school history. Lamp led the team in scoring every year at Virginia, even the first two years of the Ralph Sampson era.
Oh, and did I mention he was clutch? Lamp won or tied 14 games in the final minute while at Virginia. If you know UVA like I do, that is worthy of a monument.
I really thought about this one. Virginia has had some very good point guards, like Othell Wilson and John Crotty, but Singletary's complete game gives him the nod over these deserving players.
Singletary made an impact in almost every category of the career record book. He finished fifth in points, 10th in field goals made, fourth in three-pointers, fourth in free throws made, third in assists, and second in steals.
He is in the top 10 of six different categories, but I think the assists may be more amazing. Crotty had Stith to help get his assists, and Jeff Jones had Ralph Sampson. Singletary had...well, himself.
Imagine the type of numbers Singletary would have had with another prolific scorer on his team. J.R. Reynolds certainly helped him out in 2006-07, but Singletary had 43 more assists his senior year without Reynolds than his last year with him!
Add some of the amazing clutch free throws, shots, and rebounds in his career, and I do not know how you cannot have him as your starting point guard.
He is probably the most underrated player in Virginia history. Williams was quiet and let his game do the talking, but his numbers are unquestionably elite. Williams is one of the best scorers in UVA history, finishing eighth on the scoring list but seventh in field goals. That meant the man could stroke the ball.
Williams also finished seventh in rebounding, which meant he could pick it up. He also finished with 189 steals, numbers that are pretty rare.
Williams would be the sixth man on this team and would completely deserve it. His team also had success, getting to the 2001 NCAA tournament before a last-minute loss to Gonzaga.
There is a reason he is known as "Wonderful" Wally Walker. Walker has to be on the list, if for no other reason than he led Virginia to its only ACC Tournament Championship in 1976 as the sixth seed. Oh and Walker almost did it single-handedly, putting up ridiculous numbers while eliminating the first, second, and third seeds.
Walker is seventh on the career scoring list and averaged over 22 points per game his senior season. He won the Everett Case award and proved he knows how to lead a team.
He put Virginia basketball on the map. Parkhill was a tremendous scorer before a shot clock and three-point line. Still, Parkhill finished 18th in his career for scoring and led his team in scoring for three straight years. His continued contributions to Virginia well after his playing days make him, also, a no-brainer.
Wilson has the numbers every true point guard should covet. Wilson is the all-time steals leader and fifth in assists. Wilson actually led the team in scoring in the '83-84 season, the year after Sampson left. He filled the void by leading that team with current Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle and led Virginia to its second Final Four.
The first great Virginia player, Wilkinson had his number retired, and for good reason. When Virginia joined the ACC in 1953, Wilkinson became its first scoring leader, averaging 32 points per game. He is still 12th on the ACC scoring list. He even gave up an opportunity to go to the NBA for law school. I mean, that has to be worth something, right?
The all-time assists leader has to be on the list. Crotty was the ringmaster of the Bryant Stith teams and a three-year starter. Crotty still averaged nearly 15 points as a starter and led them to the Elite Eight in 1989. Crotty was a versatile and smart player. His experience would be important for any team.
The best big man of the 1990s for the Virginia Cavaliers. Burrough was the leader of the surprising 1995 team that made it all the way to the Elite Eight before losing to Arkansas and their "Forty Minutes of Hell."
Burrough is third all-time in rebounding and averaged over 15 points per game in his career. He is sixth all-time in scoring and can claim he was part of two teams that made it to the Sweet Sixteen or farther, as well as an NIT Championship squad. Without a doubt, he had one of the most successful stints in UVA basketball history.
Morgan's 673 points scored in the '88-89 season has only been beaten three times since 1946—not a bad accomplishment for someone who did not start until his junior year. He is in the top 15 in scoring despite having many great players around him.
Morgan was patient, though, and waited his turn. He later proved coach Terry Holland a smart man and proved that he could play with the top teams in the country.
Richard Morgan is eighth in assists and 10th in field goals made and undoubtedly would have been higher if given more opportunities. Nevertheless, I think he would do a good job rounding out this roster.
That's it. If I have enough energy I will try to tackle football next.