25 Biggest Cult Heroes in College Basketball History
Maybe it's the fact that four years whirl by in an instant. Or the heroics of one-and-done antics during the most ruckus playoff structure in all of sports, March Madness.
College basketball symbolizes what it means to overcome deficiencies. It teaches the power of We over the far too present I which plagues many of us.
Most importantly, it's purely American: a game that was before the bright lights of pro basketball.
A game that at its purest essence provides a way out of ghettos or gives a struggling trouble maker a shot at redemption.
These 25-athletes symbolize our belief in the palpitating presence of the human spirit.The intangibles of a natural-born hero manifesting itself in high tops, arm bands and baggy shorts.
Gerry McNamara, 2002 to 2006, Syracuse Orange
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"Overrated," a mockery for any athlete on any stage. It symbolizes the media's drumming need to paralyze a hero with a perverted garbage of storytelling.
Only a few have one, been honored as a supreme talent, two, won a national championship, and three, shut up the almighty American media with the flick of their sweet shooting wrist.
Gerry McNamara, is that man. A stocky mighty mouse who played with a passion larger than most of our current NBA all-stars.
Unfortunately for McNamara, he was too slow and small to make an NBA roster.
But over his four year standout career leading the helm for Jim Boeheim's Orange, he left College Basketball fans with memories worthy of his legacy.
His iconic figure began when he and teammate, Carmelo Anthony, lifted Boeheim to his first ever national title in 2003 as Freshmen.
After Melo bolted for the NBA, McNamara made sure the Orange went to three more March tournaments despite being undermanned.
In 2006, under media scrutiny for a low field goal percentage, McNamara saved the best for last, leading the struggling Orange on an improbable run through the Big East tournament.
He was so good, coach Boeheim went off on this tangent on his behalf.
Khalid El-Amin, 1998 to 2000, Connecticut Huskies
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Watching El-Amin run down the court is something you will never forget. It was like a chubby petite dog with little man syndrome.
But El-Amin symbolizes what makes College Basketball different. Even a 5'10" stubby and nonathletic point guard can win a national championship.
In 1999 alongside Rip Hamilton, El-Amin's passing prowess and timely acrobatic floaters lifted Coach Calhoun to his first NCAA title.
Unfortunately El-Amin symbolizes a growing peril in College Basketball, leaving after his sophomore season for the pros. This poor choice resulted in a late second round draft choice to the Chicago Bulls.
A defunct career in the NBA led to a pro career in Turkey, where El-Amin is a two-time MVP.
Kerry Kittles, 1992 to 1996, Villanova Wildcats
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When it came to combination of both swag and game, who could forget the lanky two-guard Kerry Kittles?
Kittles one-sock fashion statement in slack shorts was the definition of cool. His gifted three point range over a four-year span for Nova, resulted in a 40.4% three point percentage and a career point average of 18.4.
After his Senior year, Kittles was drafted by the New Jersey Nets, where as a starter he and Jason Kidd helped lead the team to their first Finals appearance.
The O'Bannon Brothers, 1991 to 1995, 1996, UCLA Bruins
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The O'Bannon brothers were a hit sensation at UCLA in the mid-nineties.
Charles the more athletic brute banging swing of the two, played second fiddle to his brother for three years, while Ed, at the time considered one of the best players in College Basketball was the source of saliva for many NBA teams.
In 1995, the two won a national championship. Ed received Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four and the Wooden award. Charles chipped in a healthy dose of 14.3 points and 6.0 rebounds.
Ed ended up a bust in the pros. Drafted ninth overall to the New Jersey Nets in 1995, the oft-injured forward and his inconsistent jump shot compiled averages of 5.0 points and 2.5 rebounds over a four-year career.
Charles was drafted the following year thirty-first overall to the Detroit Pistons and played only two-years as a pro.
Lawrence Moten, 1991 to 1995, Syracue Orange
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Lawrence Moten is considered by many as the best player in Syracuse history and the purest most complete player in Big East history.
Over a four year career as a starter, Moten averaged 19.3 points and 4.8 rebounds. He shot at an extremely high rate and played with a tremendously smooth poise.
Dubbed with the moniker "Poetry in Moten," the 6'7" swing man was a first-team Big East selection three times, ending his career as the all-time leading scorer in school history and Big East history.
Drafted in the second round in 1995 to the Vancouver Grizzlies, Moten fanned out early.
Don MacLean, 1988 to 1992, UCLA Bruins
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Don MacLean otherwise known as "Donnie-Mac," was a slashing 6'10" forward for the up-tempo Bruins of the early nineties.
Inducted into the Bruin Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Pac-10 Hall of Fame in 2011, Donnie-Mac finished his career the all-time leading scorer in Pac 10 history.
A three-time All-Conference team selection, Mac and the Bruins were part of a Elite Eight run in 1992. Mac finished his four years as a starter with averages of 20.5 points and 7.8 rebounds.
Drafted 19th to the Detroit Pistons in 1992, MacLean periled in a mediocre seven year career as a bench scrub.
Bryce Drew, 1994 to 1998, Valparaiso Crusaders
An average athletic mop top kid, made a name for himself with a single buzzer beater. This shot literally put Bryce Drew on the map as a timely shooter and as a hero in our minds forever.
Playing for his father all four years as a starter at a small unknown university in Valparaiso, Drew solidified himself as an elite guard with career averages of 17.7 points, 5.2 assist and 3.1 rebounds.
What impressed NBA scouts most was his 43.5 % from the three point line. Drafted as a marksman by the Houston Rockets in 1998, Drew played six unimpressive years as a pro.
Mateen Cleaves, 1996 to 2000, Michigan State Spartans
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Tom Izzo's career was nothing special until his team's run to a National title in 2000.
Led with a hard nosed defense, Izzo relished his opportunity with a muscle packed jibber jabbering point guard, Mateen Cleaves.
The 6'2" point guard had an uncanny ability to get in the key and finish with his strength. But most importantly, he go more talented offensive teammates like current NBA player, Mo Petersen involved.
Over his four-years, Cleaves finished with not the flashiest career numbers. But it was his leadership that put him on the map.
Unfortunately for Cleaves his undersized body and awkward side-cocked shooting motion drowned him in his four years as a pro.
J.J Redick, 2002 to 2006, Duke Blue Devils
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Nobody in the last twenty years was hated this early in their basketball career. But J.J Redick was. Redick embodied what it meant to be hated for being so damn good.
A four-year starter with an unmatched three point depth, the average size Redick surprised larger more athletic defenders.Most impressively, he hit double teamed three point shots at heightened clutch moments.
Redick finished his career as the ACC Conference leading scorer with 2,769 points. He was enshrined into the ACC hall of fame in 2007.
During his Senior year, Redick averaged an unprecedented 26.8 points per game winning his first Naismith award.
Now a member of the Orlando Magic Redick has made a living as a three point specialist.
Matt Santangelo, 1996 to 2000, Gonzaga Bulldogs
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Matt Santangelo was the leader of a Gonzaga Bulldog team that officially put Mark Few on the map.
Until the Santangelo-led Bulldog's surprising run to the Elite Eight in 2000, Mark Few and the program were best known for housing NBA great, John Stockton, as a beer drinking college kid.
Now Gonzaga is the darling of March, a team with more memories than any of us can count.
Satangelo was not too shabby either.
Over his three-year Gonzaga career, the 6'1" 170 pound pip squeak averaged 14.0 points and 5.3 assist. Most importantly he surpassed the great Stockton on the team's all-time assist list.
Harold Arceneaux, 1998 to 2000, Weber State Wildcats
There's no surprise many of us still remember the explosive three point slashing swing Harold Arceneaux out of Weber state.
Arceneaux dropped 36 on North Carolina in the first round of the March tournament in 2000, leading the team to a surprising upset. He then followed that with 32 in a second round loss to Florida state.
An athletically gifted inside-outside threat with an uber vertical decided it best to go pro after his sophomore year.
In two-years with Weber state Arceneaux dropped averages of 22.6 points and 6.7 rebounds.
Despite his special intangibles, the former March great is bouncing to and fro in the NBA's D-League.
Bryant Reeves, 1991 to 1995, Oklahoma State Cowboys
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The seven-foot, 275-pound behemoth otherwise known as "Big Country," may not be the prettiest thing but was a beast on the block in Oklahoma. For a longtime I wondered if he and Cole Aldrich were related.
In all seriousness, Big Country Reeves had one of the most dominate careers for any big man in College Basketball history.
Over his four-years with the team, Reeves averaged 17.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. His massive shoulders and body weight allowed him ample room to operate a pretty hook shot on the low block.
Reeves enjoyed a six-year career with the Grizzlies before retiring in 2001.
Hank Gathers, 1988 to 1990, Loyola Marymount Lions
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If you ask ten critics whether or not Gathers would of made a star pro, all ten will nod their head's in agreement.
Gathers is arguably the greatest College star of all-time. Not only did he light up the basketball world with his athletic jams, soft touch and quiet and humble demeanor, but Gathers would set the world on fire in a rather unfortunate way.
A sudden heart attack in the middle of the 89-90 season immortalized Gathers life at the age of twenty. Unfortunately all of us our left with what-ifs in regards to Gathers future as a pro.
In his three years with Loyola Marymount, Gathers helped the lowly school ascend into the National spotlight as a true contender. He and Bo Kimble created the most dynamic duo in basketball history.
Over his three-years, Gathers averaged 28.0 points, 11.1 rebounds, while shooting a torrid 59.0% from the floor.
Bo Kimble, 1985 to 1990, USC Trojans/Loyola Marymount Lions
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Before reading on after Gathers and about his teammate and best friend Bo Kimble, I recommend you watch this video about the Lions miracle season of 1990.
After watching that, how can one not include Kimble on this list?
While Gathers life was immortalized in death, Kimble's has been immortalized by his heroic living human spirit.
Not only was Kimble, a 6'5" combo guard with AS explosive the offensive talents as Gathers, but his actions in the March Tournament prove his willingness to lay his life down for a friend.
During the 1990 run to the Elite Eight without Gathers, Kimble shot free throws left handed in honor of the sweet shooting lefty swing man.
The run capped Kimble's incredible College career and a Senior season unlike anyone's in College Basketball history.
During the season Kimble stepped up in Gathers absence and averaged enormous numbers of 35.3 points and 7.7 rebounds.
Calbert Cheaney, 1989 to 1993, Indiana Hoosiers
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Without question, Calbert Cheaney is the greatest player Bobby Knight EVER coached.
The toned, 6'7" 210-pound three was a gift with the ball in his hands while a dangerous threat on the block with both a powerful move to the hoop and a pretty turn around fall away jump shot.
A four-year starter, Cheaney set illustrious marks of achievements as the all-time leading scorer in Big Ten history, Indiana history and as a Naismith award winner in 1993.
Drafted sixth overall to the Washington Bullets in 1993, Cheaney showed flashes of NBA potential but never found a solid identity in the team's rotation.
Jimmer Fredette, 2007 to 2011, Bringham Young Cougars
It's time to get jimmerish.I don't care what anyone says about this selection because if you say otherwise you're lacking in basketball wisdom.
It goes without saying that Jimmer Fredette is one of the most celebrated College Basketball stars in our modern history.
And for good reason.
Fredette is a gifted tweener with a controlled strength around the hoop, dribble ability and range nearly as deep as that of J.J Redick's.
He led an average Cougar team to their first March win in twenty years in 2010 and to the Sweet Sixteen in 2011.
Winning the Naismith award in 2011 is one thing. But he also lit up the world with a 28.9 point average while shooting 89.4% from the free throw line.
Let us not forget epic performances like the one against arch rival New Mexico last March, where he dropped 52, or the likes of his previous career high of 47 against Utah last January.
Juan Dixon, 1998 to 2002, Marylan Terrapins
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It can be surprising who changes our lives and makes us who we are today.
For former Maryland coach and current cast-off Gary Williams, this couldn't be more true.
His gift of a hero came in a rather small frame with an inconsistent jump shot, but an intangible to put a team on his back and deliver in big game moments.
Juan Dixon led the Terrapins to a stunning National Title in 2002 over a gritty Indiana team who'd accomplished their own incredible run.
Dixon averaged 16.2 points and 4.3 rebounds in his four-years with the team. He was a Wooden award finalist, but bowed out to Duke's Jay Williams.
Andre Emmet, 2000 to 2004, Texas Tech Red Raiders
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I said earlier that Calbert Cheaney was the best player Bobby Knight ever coached, well here is the second, a guard with a delirious array of acrobatic moves around the hoop.
Unfortunately for Emmet, he played on average if at best, Tech teams. And because of that he fell into a cult-like star with little to any National spotlight.
In 2004 he was in the running for Big-12 player of the year and finished a second team All American. In his four seasons with the Red Raiders, Emmet averaged 17.6 points and 6.0 rebounds, finishing as the Big-12 all-time leading scorer.
Drafted in the second round to the Sonics in 2004, Emmet lacked a consistent jump shot to make a good pro. He now is a D-League journeyman.
Hollis Price, 1999 to 2003, Oklahoma Sooners
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Before Coach Capel came to Sooner country with the likes of Willie Warren and the Griffin brothers, Kelvin Sampson and his own prodigy, Hollis Price set the Sooner world on fire.
Price, a 6'1" buck-70 tweener guard with a smooth as silk approach to the game worked perfectly in Sampson's mid-tempo three guard sets.
A methodical poise and unselfish approach to the game is what set Price apart from the rest of his College Basketball constituents.
In 2002 he averaged 16.5 points per game, leading the Sooners to a final-four run. And in 2003 led the team in scoring again at a clip of 18.1 points per night.
His size plagued him as he tried out for NBA teams, but to no avail. He now plays in various European leagues.
Vonteego Cummings, 1995 to 1999, Pittsburgh Panthers
Before Pittsburgh was a national powerhouse in the Big East, Vonteego Cummings acted as their only highlight reel.
The 6'3" buck-85 guard was lightening quick with a killer first step. Strong and lean, his vertical jump got him to the hoop for commanding finishes.
As a three-year starter Cummings averaged 14.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.0 assist.
His multi-dimensional game was attractive for many NBA scouts though he lacked the size to set him apart. Drafted by the Pacers 26th overall in 1999, the slashing guard never got enough minutes to shine.
He now continues playing ball overseas.
Robert Traylor, 1995 to 1998, Michigan Wolverines
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Robert "Tractor" Trailor got his name from his expansively wide frame.
Standing an above-average 6'8", Tractor had a stratospheric weight of 285. His strong upper frame with a Charles Barkley-like lower half gave him a one-up on the low block.
The question will always be: What if Tractor got healthy?
Had the surprisingly quick big man ever developed his body with hard off-season work it is possible he would of become a top tier power forward in the pros.
Instead Tractor lost his footing with weight issues playing only three seasons.
In his three season with Michigan the big man steadily rose his game to an All-American level his Junior year, averaging 16.2 points and 10.1 rebounds.
Scotty Thurman, 1992 to 1995, Arkansas Razorbacks
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Scotty Thurman is the 6'6" forward who hit the biggest shot in Razorbacks history in a National title win over Grant Hill's Blue Devils in 1994.
He and former teammate Corliss Williamson were an inside-outside duo at the Forward slots who wrecked havoc on opposing teams.
Thurman set a Razorback' record for three point field goals made in a season, 102, and was named as an All-American once and an All-SEC team member twice.
His 267 three-point field goals rank second in school history, while his 1,650 points rank tenth.
Leaving after his Junior year to the pros, Thurman's speed caused problems with getting open. He played eleven years overseas and now is part of the Razorback family again as the Director of Student-Athlete Development.
Casey Jacobsen, 1999 to 2002, Stanford Cardinals
Casey Jacobsen was a tough as nails spot shooter for the dominate era of the early 21st Century Cardinal' basketball teams.
At 6'6" Jacobsen was best known for throwing his bony elbows around to get on the offensive glass, set brutal screens and keel off and knock down the jump shot.
Twice an AP All-American, Jacobsen received heralded praise his Junior year finishing as a Naismith candidate.
In his three-years with the team he averaged 18.1 points and shot 42.7% from the three-point line. He set Cardinal records for most three-point field goals in a season, career points, games played and free throw percentage.
Bobby Hurley, 1990 to 1993, Duke Blue Devils
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Bobby Hurley, the lightening quick heart-stopping former Blue Devil is one of the game's most legendary figures for many reasons.
Reason one: Hurley was never intended to be a good pro and he wasn't. His size played a huge part in that and his inconsistent jump shot. A car wreck affirmed the full derailment of his pro career.
Reason two: Hurley was the best of the best the College game has ever had to offer. He embodied the game's desire for heroes, with that palpitating presence to transcend their deficiencies.
Though Hurley was just 6'0" and a miniature 150-pounds, he set Duke records for career assist, steals and assist per game average.
He was named twice to an All-American team, All-NCAA Tournament team, and once as Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.
He won two-National titles and played in three. And his jersey was retired and enshrined by the university in 1993.
Hurley is without question one of the greatest College athletes of all-time and will forever be remembered as that short lived College star whose memories haunt us daily.
Lorenzo Charles, 1981 to 1985, North Carolina State Wolfpack
This is what I love about College Basketball. A player who played only one-year of pro ball is thee face of an entire sport and that of our beloved Jim Valvano.
Jimmy V's cardiac kids run in the 1983 March classic was one for the ages.
And it was capped off in Hollywood fashion with a stunning upset of Hakeem Olajuwan and Clyde Drexler's highly favored Houston Cougars team.
With time winding down, the brute forward tip jammed an air ball from a teammate en route to a 54-52 win. But the win meant more than just your average hardwood W.
It foreshadowed the human heart through coach Jimmy V, whose battle with cancer and heroics through it, emanate what the human spirit is capable of.
Lorenzo's passing this past year was a loss that reminded us of life's brevity and our need to appreciate the moment now and forever.