Duke Basketball: The Top 50 Players in School History

Thad NovakCorrespondent IOctober 25, 2011

Duke Basketball: The Top 50 Players in School History

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    With iconic coach Mike Krzyzewski on the brink of the Division I career victories record, it’s an ideal time to look back at the astonishing history of Duke basketball. The program has produced some of the most extraordinary players—at both the college and pro levels—that basketball has ever seen.

    The latest crop of Duke standouts to enter the draft was led by top pick Kyrie Irving, but the most accomplished collegian among them was second-rounder Kyle Singler. The slender forward became the 11th (!) Blue Devil to break 2,000 points for his career.

    Read on for more on Singler and the rest of the 50 greatest stars ever to play for Duke.

50. Doug Kistler (1958-61)

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    Like many power forwards of his era, 6’9” Doug Kistler didn’t get many scoring chances (11.5 points a game for his Duke career).

    What he did, and did very well, was crash the boards, posting the eighth-best rebounding average in Blue Devil history at 9.3 boards a game over his three seasons.

    Although Kistler became a third-round pick of the Pistons, he never played for the team. His entire NBA career consisted of five games with the Knicks in 1961.

    Image from thedraftreview.com

49. Sean Dockery (2002-06)

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    One of the toughest defensive guards in Blue Devil history, Sean Dockery is 10th in the school record books with 1.5 steals a game for his career.

    Perhaps most memorable for his halfcourt buzzer-beater to stave off an upset by Virginia Tech, Dockery was largely a complementary player on offense, spreading the floor for the likes of J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams.

    A tweener like so many Duke guards, Dockery didn’t make much of an impression on NBA scouts. He went undrafted and never got closer to the league than a brief stint in the NBDL.

48. Carroll Youngkin (1958-61)

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    A 6’6” center back when those were still relatively common, Carroll Youngkin was a respectable scorer who averaged 14.2 points a game for his college career. He was even better on the glass, posting a career average of 10.2 rebounds a night (sixth in Blue Devil history).

    Unfortunately for Youngkin, undersized rebounders were even more common in 1961 than they are now, and the NBA never gave him much of a look. He went undrafted and never played in the league.

    Image from goduke.com

47. Chris Collins (1992-96)

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    Considering Duke’s long tradition of three-point snipers, it takes some doing to crack the school record books with long-range shooting.

    Chris Collins is 11th in Blue Devil history with 209 treys made, and his senior-year percentage of .441 from beyond the arc is Duke’s seventh-best.

    Collins, the son of 76ers coach Doug, went undrafted and never played in the NBA. Though he couldn’t follow in his father’s playing footsteps, he’s working on a coaching resume of his own, having served as an assistant under Coach K since 2000.

46. Jeff Capel (1993-97)

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    Though his teams didn’t win as much as those of some of the great Duke 2-guards, Jeff Capel’s shooting stroke was right up there with the best. He scored 1,601 points for his career, and his .460 three-point percentage in his sophomore season is third-best in Blue Devil history.

    Although Capel never made it to the NBA, he’s found more success as a coach. After nine seasons as a head coach at VCU and Oklahoma, he joined Mike Krzyzewski’s staff as an assistant for the 2011-12 season.

45. Greg Paulus (2005-09)

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    Like so many football quarterbacks, Greg Paulus became a point guard on the basketball court. The 6’1” Paulus is ninth in Duke history with 468 career assists, and he also hit 210 career three-pointers (10th-most) and shot .450 from long range as a sophomore (fourth-best).

    Following the conclusion of his basketball career, Paulus transferred to Syracuse, where he spent a season as the quarterback of the football team.

    After a failed attempt to break into the NFL, Paulus wound up as a college basketball coach and is currently the video coordinator at Ohio State.

44. Corey Maggette (1998-99)

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    Although Corey Maggette played just one season in Durham, his accomplishments in the years since have earned him a place among Duke’s luminaries.

    Maggette served as a standout sixth man on the 1998-99 Blue Devil team that lost in the national title game against UConn.

    After averaging 10.6 points as a freshman reserve, Maggette jumped to the NBA, where he’s been a valuable offensive weapon. Currently a Buck, Maggette had his best years as a Clipper, where he posted three 20-point scoring seasons.

43. Thomas Hill (1989-93)

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    Although Thomas Hill averaged 15.7 points and 4.7 rebounds (and served as team captain) as a senior, he made a bigger mark in the previous two seasons.

    Hill was a key complementary player on the Christian Laettner-Bobby Hurley teams that won back-to-back titles in 1991-92.

    Hill, remembered most for his tearful reaction to Christian Laettner’s famed 1992 buzzer-beater, didn’t have the athleticism to wow pro scouts. He was drafted late in Round 2 by the Pacers, but never played in the NBA.

    Image from sportsgonesouth.com

42. Shavlik Randolph (2002-05)

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    Shavlik Randolph wasn’t much of an offensive force, averaging just 6.3 points a game over his three seasons in Durham. On defense, though, Randolph was tough to beat, blocking 129 shots (seventh-most in program history).

    Randolph played very sparingly in five NBA seasons before sitting out 2010-11. He’s currently signed to play in Puerto Rico, and it’s anybody’s guess if he’ll ever return to the NBA.

41. Josh McRoberts (2005-07)

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    One of many recent Blue Devils who might have been better served by a longer stay on campus, Josh McRoberts made the most of his two seasons in Durham. The 6’10” forward blocked 128 shots—eighth in school history—in just 69 games (for an average of 1.9 a game, fourth-best among Duke players).

    Drafted by Portland, McRoberts played just eight games as a rookie and was shipped to Indiana in the Jerryd Bayless deal. He earned a regular starting job with the Pacers last season, but still averaged just 7.4 points and 5.3 rebounds a night.

40. Trajan Langdon (1994-99)

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    Trajan Langdon didn’t do much else but shoot, but boy, could he shoot. The Alaskan Assassin scored 17.3 points a game and hit 44 percent of his threes in helping Duke reach the 1999 NCAA title game.

    Iffy defense doomed Langdon as an NBA player, but his shooting was enough to keep him on Cleveland’s roster for three seasons. He averaged just 5.4 points a game for his career, but he did hit 39.6 percent of his treys.

39. Dick DeVenzio (1968-71)

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    Although Dick DeVenzio only scored in double figures for one of his three collegiate seasons, he still made himself a crucial part of the Blue Devils offense. DeVenzio averaged 4.8 assists per game for his career, the fifth-best figure in Duke history.

    As an undersized (5’9”) guard without a particularly impressive shot, DeVenzio’s pro prospects were limited at best. He went undrafted and never played in the NBA.

    Image from bcshof.org

38. William Avery (1997-99)

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    The point guard on one of the most talented teams in Blue Devil history, William Avery averaged 14.9 points and five assists a game for the 1998-99 squad that fell in the championship game to UConn.

    Avery could have made a much bigger mark in Durham, though, had he not turned pro after that season (his sophomore year).

    Although the Timberwolves were high enough on Avery to pick him 14th overall, his game never translated to the NBA. In three seasons as a backup, he averaged just 1.4 assists a night.

37. Ronnie Mayer (1953-56)

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    Although 6’4” forward Ronnie Mayer was a terrific scorer who topped 20 points a game as both a junior and senior, it was his rebounding that made a bigger mark on the Duke record books. Mayer collected 954 career boards, the ninth-best total in Blue Devil history.

    Mayer was among the 13 players drafted by the Knicks in 1956, but he never appeared in an NBA game.

    Image from thedraftreview.com

36. Quin Snyder (1985-89)

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    Another in Duke’s distinguished line of non-scoring point guards, Quin Snyder made up for his unimpressive shooting ability with precision passing. Though he contributed only 8.3 points a game in his best season, his 575 career assists are the fifth-highest total in Blue Devil history.

    Snyder, who never played in the NBA, got his start in coaching while still a graduate student at Duke. He’s currently an assistant on Mike Brown’s staff with the Lakers.

35. Bob Fleischer (1972-75)

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    A fine player who had the misfortune to land in the interregnum between coaching legends Vic Bubas and Mike Krzyzewski, Bob Fleischer was an outstanding power forward for some underachieving Duke teams.

    Fleischer averaged as many as 17.2 points per game (as a senior), and his career mark of 10.5 rebounds a night is the fifth-highest in school history.

    Fleischer didn’t have a lot of weight on him (6’8”, 215 lbs), which couldn’t have endeared him to NBA scouts of that era. Though he was drafted by the Buffalo Braves (now the Clippers), he never played in the NBA and went overseas (pictured, No. 13).

    Image from home.earthlink.net

34. Alaa Abdelnaby (1986-90)

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    Although Alaa Abdelnaby didn’t really blossom until his senior year at Duke—15.1 points, 6.6 rebounds—he made his few opportunities count in his earlier seasons. The 6'10" Abdelnaby stands third in Blue Devil history with a career field-goal percentage of .599.

    Abdelnaby never managed to live up to being a first-round pick (25th overall to Portland). He bounced around the NBA for five years as a backup, but even in his best season averaged just 7.7 points and 4.5 rebounds a night.

33. Luol Deng (2003-04)

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    The best one-and-done player in Duke history, Luol Deng was the power forward for the Blue Devils’ 2004 Final Four squad. The 6’8” Deng averaged 15.1 points and 6.9 rebounds a game in his lone season in Durham.

    In his seventh year as a Chicago Bull, Deng reinvented himself as a three-point gunner to complement Derrick Rose’s drives. The 115 three-pointers he sank in 2010-11 were more than he’d hit in his six previous seasons combined.

32. Bernie Janicki (1951-54)

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    One of Duke’s earliest stars, Bernie Janicki was, at 6'4", a formidable post presence. Janicki averaged 11.1 rebounds a game, still the third-best figure in Blue Devil history.

    Janicki was drafted by the then-Fort Worth Pistons, though not until the seventh round. He never played in the NBA.

    Image from bcshof.org

31. Cherokee Parks (1991-95)

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    After backing up Christian Laettner as a freshman, Cherokee Parks would eventually step into Laettner’s role as the Blue Devils’ emotional leader.

    The 6’11” center also blocked 230 career shots (fourth in school history) and posted career bests of 19 points and 9.3 boards a game as a senior.

    Also like Laettner, Parks never lived up to his billing at the NBA level. A career backup who played for seven teams in nine seasons, Parks never averaged more than 7.1 points or 5.5 rebounds as a pro.

30. Mike Dunleavy Jr. (1999-02)

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    As much flak as Mike Dunleavy took for his defense—even as a collegian—he actually averaged 1.6 steals a game (eighth-best in school history). He never got many complaints about the rest of his game, averaging 17.3 points and 7.2 rebounds a game in his last season in Durham.

    Dunleavy seems to have settled into a bench role with the Pacers, although he’s put up some impressive numbers when given the chance to start. He’s averaged as many as 19.1 points a game as a pro, with a career best of 42.4 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

29. Jim Spanarkel (1975-79)

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    A potent scorer who racked up 2,012 career points at Duke, Jim Spanarkel was even tougher on the defensive end. The 6’5” swingman averaged a Blue Devil-record 2.2 steals a game for his career.

    A first-round pick of the 76ers, Spanarkel had little luck holding down a starting job in the NBA. Though he averaged as many as 14.4 points a game in his best season (with the Mavericks), he was out of the league after five undistinguished years.

28. Mark Alarie (1982-86)

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    A 6’8” power forward, Mark Alarie accumulated 833 rebounds in four seasons at Duke. He was even more effective as a scorer, posting the seventh-highest point total in program history (2,136).

    Alarie went on to play five years as a backup for Denver and Washington. He averaged as many as 10.5 points and 4.6 boards a night, but never got more than 25 starts in a season.

27. Jack Marin (1963-66)

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    The leader of Duke’s 1966 Final Four squad, Jack Marin was a combo forward with a terrific left-handed shot. He averaged as many as 19.1 points and 10.3 rebounds a game in his Blue Devils career.

    Marin went on to become a fine NBA small forward, most notably with the Bullets (now the Wizards). He made a pair of All-Star teams and posted career highs of 22.3 points and 7.4 rebounds a night as a pro.

26. Jon Scheyer (2006-10)

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    Jon Scheyer tied a Duke record by playing in 144 consecutive games, but his durability was far from his only asset. The sharp-shooting forward hit 86.1 percent of his free throws (third-best in program history) and scored 2,077 points in his Blue Devil career.

    Despite his impressive scoring at the college level, Scheyer went undrafted out of Duke. He spent last season with the D-League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

25. Nolan Smith (2007-11)

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    Combo guard Nolan Smith picked up the slack last year for the injured Kyrie Irving, averaging 5.1 assists a game for the Blue Devils. For his career, though, he was most valuable as a scorer, racking up a total of 1,911 points.

    Smith earned a first-round selection in June’s draft, landing with Portland at No. 21 overall.

24. Dick Groat (1949-52)

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    The first great pure scorer to play for Duke, Dick Groat is still one of the best. His 23-point-per-game average for his career is the second-highest for any Blue Devil, and his 1,886 points (a school record when he graduated) are still 18th all-time.

    Amazingly, basketball was the 5’11” Groat’s second-best sport. He went on to become a five-time All-Star shortstop for baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates, winning the batting title and the MVP award for the 1960 World Series champs.

    Image from library.duke.edu

23. Steve Wojciechowski (1994-98)

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    One of the most beloved players in Duke history, Steve Wojciechowski was also a lot more talented than his scrappy-underdog reputation suggested.

    Wojo is eighth in program history with 505 career assists, and he holds the school record for assist-to-turnover ratio in both a season (3.03, as a junior) and career (2.5).

    At 5’11”, Wojciechowski never had much of a shot at the NBA. After a brief playing career in Europe, he soon joined Coach K’s staff as an assistant, where he’s been since 1999.

22. Gene Banks (1977-81)

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    A superior scorer even by Duke standards, Gene Banks never averaged under 14.3 points a game in four seasons in Durham. His 2,079 career points are tied for eighth in Blue Devil history.

    Banks was drafted by the Spurs and went on to a workmanlike seven-year career in San Antonio and Chicago. The 6’7” swingman averaged as many as 14.9 points and 7.6 rebounds a game in his career.

21. Jeff Mullins (1961-64)

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    As a 6’4” swingman, Jeff Mullins was an outstanding rebounder who averaged nine boards a game for his Blue Devil career.

    He was even better as a scorer, though, posting the fourth-highest career scoring average in program history at 21.9 points a game while leading Duke to back-to-back Final Fours.

    Drafted by the Hawks, Mullins hit his stride after he landed with the Warriors. He averaged 18 points a game or better for six straight seasons, made three consecutive All-Star teams and earned a championship ring as a reserve in 1975.

20. Mike Lewis (1965-68)

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    A sophomore standout on Duke’s 1966 Final Four squad, Mike Lewis continued to provide excellent performance on some less successful teams in the ensuing seasons.

    The 6’7” forward scored 21.7 points a game as a senior, but put up even bigger numbers on the glass, averaging 12.5 rebounds a night for his career (second-best in Blue Devil history).

    Lewis was drafted by the Celtics, but opted for the ABA’s Indiana Pacers instead. An Achilles tendon injury short-circuited a promising pro career that had featured three straight seasons of at least 12 rebounds a game.

19. Bob Verga (1964-67)

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    A 6’1” shooting guard was small even in the mid-'60s, but that didn’t stop Bob Verga from putting points on the scoreboard. Verga scored 22 points a game for his Duke career, the third-best average for any player in school history.

    Verga was an early defector to the ABA, joining the Dallas Chaparrals straight out of Duke. He scored as many as 27.5 points a game in his ABA career—spent with six teams over five seasons—before getting a curtain call with the NBA’s Trail Blazers and retiring.

18. Johnny Dawkins (1982-86)

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    Although Johnny Dawkins was a good enough passer to finish sixth in Blue Devil history with 555 assists, it was his scoring that made him a legend. Dawkins is still second all-time at Duke with 2,556 career points.

    Dawkins was a serviceable but unspectacular pro over nine seasons with the Spurs, Sixers and Pistons. He played several seasons as a full-time starter, but never averaged more than 15.8 points a game.

17. Elton Brand (1997-99)

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    Although Elton Brand only stayed at Duke for two seasons, he made his name as one of the great pure post players in school history. Brand averaged 16.2 points and 8.9 rebounds a game, while shooting an amazing .612 from the field (second-highest in school history).

    Injury woes have slowed Brand, a two-time All-Star with the Clippers. As a 76er in 2010-11, he still averaged a respectable 15.6 points and 8.7 rebounds a night.

16. Tommy Amaker (1983-87)

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    There have been more celebrated point guards to come out of Duke, but few more effective than Tommy Amaker. He finished his career with 708 assists and 259 steals (each the third-highest total in school history).

    Amaker was drafted by the Sonics, but never played in the NBA. He’s had better luck as a coach, though, and is entering his fifth season in the head coaching job at Harvard.

15. Chris Carrawell (1996-2000)

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    Chris Carrawell put in a remarkable jack-of-all-trades performance for the Blue Devils. While winning All-America honors in 1999-2000, the 6’6” forward averaged 16.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists a game.

    Although he was drafted by the Spurs, Carrawell never cracked an NBA roster. The closest he came was a season with the D-League’s Asheville Altitude in which he scored just 7.3 points a game.

14. Carlos Boozer (1999-02)

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    The interior anchor of the loaded 2001 national title squad, Carlos Boozer had one of the best three-year careers in Duke history. In addition to scoring 1,506 points, Boozer pulled down 724 boards and set a Blue Devil record by shooting .631 from the field.

    Injuries shortened Boozer’s debut season with the Bulls, but he still has plenty of time to regain the All-Star form of his Utah days. Even in a sub-par year, he averaged 17.5 points and 9.6 rebounds a game in 2010-11.

13. Danny Ferry (1985-89)

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    One of the few players at any school to appear in three Final Fours, Danny Ferry was a 6’10” forward with a first-rate shot. As a senior, he averaged 22.6 points and 7.4 boards a game while posting the last of his 2,155 career points (sixth-most in school history).

    Ferry became one of the most infamous busts in draft history after the Clippers picked him No. 2 overall.

    Traded to Cleveland in the Ron Harper deal before he ever suited up, Ferry became a sharp-shooting but slow-footed backup who played little defense and never topped 13.3 points per game.

12. Grant Hill (1990-94)

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    In college as in the NBA, Grant Hill was a dominant force at both ends of the floor. A key contributor to two national championship teams, Hill's 218 steals are seventh in Duke history, while his 1,924 points rank him 16th.

    Though his skills have declined severely at age 38, Hill is still a viable starter for the Suns. In his prime, he was one of the best all-around forwards who ever played, a superior defender who averaged as many as 25.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game.

11. Kyle Singler (2007-11)

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    Kyle Singler earned tournament MOP honors for the 2010 national champs, but the rest of his career was pretty impressive in its own right. Singler played in a school-record 148 consecutive games and finished fourth in school history with 2,392 career points.

    Whenever the NBA decides to resume playing, Singler will be joining the Detroit Pistons, who picked him in the second round at No. 33 overall.

10. Randy Denton (1968-71)

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    A full-fledged center at 6’10”, 240 lbs, Randy Denton put up serious stats as a Blue Devil. His career scoring average of 19.7 points a game is sixth in team history, and his 12.7 rebounds a night is a school record.

    Like many of his Duke contemporaries, Denton headed to the ABA after graduation. Over six seasons with five teams (including the NBA’s Hawks after the merger), Denton averaged as many as 17 points and 12.4 rebounds a game.

9. Art Heyman (1960-63)

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    At 6’5”, Art Heyman was one of the most dangerous post players Duke has ever seen. His career rebounding average of 10.9 boards a game is fourth-best all-time at the school, and he holds the Blue Devil record with 25.1 points a night for his career.

    After a solid rookie campaign as a Knicks swingman (15.4 points a game), Heyman suffered through a pair of indifferent seasons. A jump to the ABA revived his career temporarily, but in all he lasted just six seasons as a pro.

8. Jason Williams (1999-02)

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    Jason Williams’ final college season, when he became the third Blue Devil in four years to sweep the Naismith and Wooden Awards, was actually the worst passing performance of his career.

    Although he averaged "only" 5.3 assists that year to go with 21.3 points a game, he still finished with a career mark of six assists per game, second in Duke history.

    After a respectable rookie season with the Bulls (who drafted him No. 2 overall), Williams shredded his knee while crashing his motorcycle into a lamppost. He never made it back to the NBA.

7. Shelden Williams (2002-06)

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    Although Shelden Williams scored 1,928 career points, it’s his exploits on the other end of the floor that opened the most eyes. Williams holds the Blue Devils’ records with 422 blocks (an average of three per game) and 1,262 rebounds in his college career.

    Williams’ defense hasn’t been nearly as remarkable on the NBA level, but his rebounding has kept him on pro rosters as a backup. He averaged 4.6 boards a night in 2010-11 while splitting his season between the Nuggets and Knicks as part of the Carmelo Anthony trade.

6. Chris Duhon (2000-04)

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    At almost any school that didn’t have Bobby Hurley, Chris Duhon would be the best point guard in program history. He won a national title as a freshman, set a school record with 301 steals, and finished second to Hurley with 819 career assists.

    Duhon has established himself as one of the NBA’s most reliable backup point guards. After six strong years with the Knicks and Bulls, though, he struggled in Orlando in 2010-11, playing just 15.2 minutes a game and averaging a career-low 2.3 assists a night.

5. Mike Gminski (1976-80)

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    The best true center in Duke history, 6’11” Mike Gminski dominated on both ends of the floor.

    He blocked 345 shots (second in school history, though the NCAA didn’t keep the stat officially in those days), pulled down 1,242 rebounds (second) and scored 2,323 points (a school record at the time, still good for fifth).

    Although he was overshadowed by the glut of Hall of Fame centers in the '80s, Gminski was a solid starter for much of his 14-year NBA career.

    He was most effective with the Nets (who drafted him at No. 7 overall) and 76ers, averaging as many as 17.2 points and 10.0 rebounds a game.

4. Shane Battier (1997-01)

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    The ultimate example of the Duke hustle player, Shane Battier holds the official school record with 111 charges taken in his career.

    In addition to his 266 career steals (second-best in school history) and 254 blocks (third), Battier accumulated 1,984 points and 887 boards in his career in Durham.

    Now in his second tour with the Grizzlies, Battier has built an outstanding NBA career on defense and three-point shooting. Though he’s slowing down after a decade in the league, he still hit 38.2 percent from long range in 2010-11.

3. J.J. Redick (2002-06)

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    As a senior, J.J. Redick memorably dueled Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison for the national scoring title, but that brilliant season was only the capstone to his sensational Duke career.

    Redick holds the NCAA record with 457 career three-pointers made, the ACC record with a .912 career free-throw percentage and the Duke record with 2,769 career points.

    After struggling early on to find his NBA footing, Redick appears to have established himself as an instant-offense bench player for the Magic. He averaged 10.1 points a game and shot nearly 40 percent from long range last season.

2. Bobby Hurley (1989-93)

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    Bobby Hurley is the greatest point guard in college hoops history—period. His 1,076 career assists are an NCAA record, and his teams made three NCAA title games and won two national championships.

    We’ll never know how good Hurley could have been in the NBA if it hadn’t been for the devastating car accident he suffered as a Kings rookie. He lasted five seasons as a pro, but never regained his college brilliance.

1. Christian Laettner (1988-92)

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    On the short list for the title of “greatest college player of all time,” Christian Laettner played in four Final Fours and won two NCAA championships.

    Immortalized for his buzzer-beater against Kentucky in the 1992 national semis, Laettner’s career numbers are nearly as remarkable as his postseason accomplishments: 2,460 points, 1,149 rebounds and 145 blocks, all placing him in Duke’s all-time top five.

    Much-maligned in the NBA (as he had been by non-Duke fans as a collegian), Laettner was actually a fine power forward who earned an All-Star nod as a Hawk. He played 13 seasons in the pros, posting career highs of 18.1 points and 8.8 rebounds a night.