Louisville Basketball: The Top 50 Players in School History

Thad Novak@@ThadNovakCorrespondent IJanuary 3, 2012

Louisville Basketball: The Top 50 Players in School History

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    Rick Pitino’s team-oriented approach at Louisville notwithstanding, there have been plenty of great individual stars in the program’s storied history. The Cardinals have sent 45 players to the NBA, players who have formed the core of two national champions and six more Final Four squads.

    This year’s Louisville team has been anchored by another brilliant season from point guard Peyton Siva. If the junior maintains his average of 6.2 assists per game, it will be the second-best such year in school history.

    Read on for more on Siva and the rest of the 50 greatest players ever to wear a Cardinals uniform.

50. Marques Maybin (1997-01)

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    During Denny Crum's last star at Louisville, Marques Maybin was a sensational finisher who racked up 95 career dunks. His total of 1,624 points places him 13th in Cardinal history.

    For all his impressive scoring punch, Maybin didn't have enough else to his game to impress NBA scouts. He went undrafted and never played in the league.

49. Jerry Eaves (1978-82)

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    A valuable reserve on the 1980 national champs, Jerry Eaves contributed 7.7 points a game to the title squad. The 6’4” SG would top out the next season with 13.9 points a night while also dishing out 3.3 assists per game.

    Eaves would find himself back on the bench in the NBA, most effectively with the Jazz.

    He provided some respectable offense as a rookie (9.3 points and 2.6 assists a night, though he couldn’t hit the NBA three-pointer), but tailed off quickly and was out of the league after four forgettable seasons.

48. Everick Sullivan (1988-92)

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    Everick Sullivan scored 1,583 points at Louisville, thanks in large measure to explosive leaping ability that helped him amass 85 dunks. He wasn’t half-bad as a distributor, either, dishing out 393 career assists (tied for 10th in school history).

    Undrafted by the NBA, Sullivan found his niche as a college coach. He’s currently an assistant at Georgia State.

47. Wesley Cox (1973-77)

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    A tweener forward at 6’6”, Wesley Cox did a little of everything for the Cardinals. His 1,578 points are 17th in school history, his 832 rebounds are 14th and he ranks 10th with 122 career blocks.

    Cox disappointed mightily as a first-round pick of the Warriors. He lasted just two seasons in the NBA, playing a mere 11 minutes a night.

46. Chuck Noble (1950-54)

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    A 6’4” guard, Chuck Noble was a fine rebounder who pulled in as many as 6.3 boards a night in a Louisville uniform. He was an even more dangerous scorer, twice topping 17 points a game in his college career.

    Although he was drafted by the Warriors, Noble played the entirety of his seven-year pro career as a Piston. He averaged as many as 11.3 points a game in the Detroit backcourt, while dishing out up to 4.6 assists a night.

45. Felton Spencer (1986-90)

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    Felton Spencer was a late bloomer at Louisville, but seven-foot centers warrant a certain amount of patience from their coaches. As a senior, he averaged 14.9 points and 8.5 rebounds a game while recording half of his 133 career blocks (ninth in program history).

    Spencer’s height kept him in the NBA for 12 seasons, but his immobility made him a journeyman who played for six teams in that time. He averaged as many as 9.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in his prime with the Jazz.

44. Nate Johnson (1996-00)

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    Versatile forward Nate Johnson averaged as many as 13.9 points and 5.4 rebounds a game for Louisville, but he did his best work on the defensive end. Johnson’s 182 career steals are the seventh-best total in program history.

    Johnson wasn’t drafted out of school, but did earn a stint in the D-League.

    Though he excelled in two seasons with the Columbus Riverdragons—averaging 16.5 points and 4.8 rebounds a game, along with 1.3 steals—Johnson never got the call from the NBA.

43. Ricky Gallon (1974-78)

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    The 6’11” Ricky Gallon was a big-time physical presence for the Cardinals’ 1975 Final Four squad. Gallon averaged as many as 15.3 points and 8.2 rebounds a game for Louisville, and he blocked 159 shots, the sixth-best total in program history.

    Although Gallon’s size helped him get drafted by the Buffalo Braves (now the Clippers), he couldn’t make the roster. He never played in the NBA.

42. Samaki Walker (1994-96)

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    In just two seasons at Louisville, Samaki Walker showed that he belonged among the top post players in Cardinal history.

    He averaged 14.3 points and 7.3 rebounds a game, and his 78 blocks as a freshman was the highest total for a Louisville player not named Pervis Ellison.

    Though he never even vaguely justified the ninth overall pick Dallas spent on him, Walker became a solid NBA reserve.

    He averaged as many as 8.9 points and 7.4 rebounds a game as a part-time starter for the Mavs, but played just three of his 10 pro seasons in a Dallas uniform.

41. Francisco Garcia (2002-05)

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    A long, lean swingman with a killer three-point touch, Francisco Garcia led the Cardinals to the 2005 Final Four. He scored as many as 16.4 points a game thanks to 180 career three-pointers (seventh best in program history).

    Garcia had the misfortune to arrive in Sacramento just as the Chris Webber-led playoff years were ending for the Kings.

    Mired on some terrible teams, he’s bounced between the starting lineup and the bench while averaging 9.1 points per game and draining an impressive 36.8 percent of his treys.

40. Alvin Sims (1993-97)

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    Alvin Sims didn’t have much of an outside shot for a 2-guard, but he certainly knew how to get to the rim. Sims, whose 83 steals as a junior are the fourth most in school history, ranks second only to Pervis Ellison with 123 career dunks as a Cardinal.

    Undrafted after his graduation, Sims got an NBA shot with the Phoenix Suns. He didn’t exactly make the most of it, scoring a total of 11 points in his four career NBA appearances.

39. Don Goldstein (1956-59)

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    One of the heroes of Louisville’s first Final Four team in 1959, Don Goldstein made his name on the glass. His 868 rebounds place him 12th in Cardinal history, while his average of 10.7 a game ranks seventh.

    Although Goldstein earned a second-round selection from the Pistons, he couldn’t crack Detroit’s roster. He never played in the NBA.

38. Jerry Smith (2006-10)

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    Although Jerry Smith’s scoring numbers didn’t open many eyes at Louisville, he was a devastating shooter for the Cardinals.

    Smith’s 210 career three-pointers are the fourth-highest total in program history, and his .389 shooting percentage from long range places seventh.

    Undrafted by the NBA, Smith wound up in the D-League last season. He shot an impressive .399 from the pro three-point line, but posted an uninspiring 12.8 points a night.

37. Greg Minor (1991-94)

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    Greg Minor’s stock in trade at Louisville was versatility. The 6’6” swingman averaged 12.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists a night for the Cardinals, not to mention 1.3 steals.

    Acquired by the Celtics in a post-draft trade, Minor never quite managed to stick in Boston’s starting lineup. In five years with the team, he averaged as many as 9.6 points and 3.5 rebounds a game.

36. Ellis Myles (2000-05)

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    An old-school power forward who lived off his rebounding ability, 6’7” Ellis Myles held down the middle for the Cardinals' 2005 Final Four team. His 998 career rebounds are the sixth-highest total in Louisville history.

    Undrafted out of college, Myles quickly landed on his feet as a coach. He’s currently running an AAU program in Louisville.

35. Cornelius Holden (1988-92)

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    An outstanding defender who’s tied for fourth in Louisville history with 173 career blocks, Cornelius Holden made an even more impressive statement on offense.

    Holden tied an NCAA record (since broken) by shooting 14-of-14 from the field in a 1990 win over Southern Miss.

    Despite that sensational game, Holden posted iffy scoring numbers—a career best of 13 points a game—that didn’t help his chances with NBA scouts. He went undrafted and never played in the league.

    Image from coachcorn.com

34. Edgar Sosa (2006-10)

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    In Rick Pitino’s offense, even the point guards get plenty of shots from beyond the arc. Edgar Sosa dished out 393 career assists (tied for 10th in program history), but he also found time to knock down 200 three-pointers, the fifth most for any Cardinal.

    Although he played summer-league ball for the Pistons, the undrafted Sosa has yet to crack an NBA roster. He’s currently playing in Europe, or will be when he heals from September’s horrific leg injury.

33. Lancaster Gordon (1980-84)

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    A key cog in the revered “Doctors of Dunk” teams that made two Final Fours, Lancaster Gordon jammed his way to 1,614 points (14th in program history).

    The 6’3” Gordon was a fearsome defender as well, racking up the fifth-most career steals (192) of any Cardinal.

    Gordon was drafted eighth overall by the Clippers but became another in that franchise’s long string of first-round busts. He started just six games in a four-year career, averaging a mere 5.6 points (and less than one steal) per game off the LA bench.

    Image from fanbase.com

32. Keith Williams (1986-90)

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    Despite sharing the floor with the best passer in Louisville history in LaBradford Smith, Keith Williams carved out his own niche as an outstanding distributor. The 6’4” Williams dished out 482 career assists, good for fifth all-time among Cardinals.

    Overshadowed by his more successful backcourt mate, Williams went undrafted out of Louisville. He never played in the NBA.

31. Junior Bridgeman (1972-75)

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    Swingman Ulysses "Junior" Bridgeman was one of many outstanding scoring options on Louisville’s 1975 Final Four squad. Despite standing just 6’5”, he averaged 7.4 rebounds to go with his 16.2 points a game that season.

    Bridgeman went on to a distinguished NBA career with the Bucks, who drafted him eighth overall.

    He averaged double digits in scoring for eight of his 10 seasons in Milwaukee (plus one of his two with the Clippers), posting a career high of 17.6 points a night.

    Image from hellinthehall.com

30. Peyton Siva (2009-Present)

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    Peyton Siva may not be much of a shot—he’s hit just 7-of-37 three-point tries in 2011-12—but there have been few better floor leaders in Louisville history. Siva’s 182 assists last year were the fourth-highest total all-time for a Cardinal.

    This season, Siva is averaging 6.2 assists a night, which would be the second-best average in school history (assuming he can keep it up).

    If he stays in school for his senior season, he has an outside chance of passing LaBradford Smith as Louisville's most prolific passer of all time.

29. Jack Coleman (1946-49)

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    It’s a pity for Jack Coleman that rebounding stats aren’t available from his Louisville career, because he’d likely be among the all-time leaders. As a scorer, the 6’7” center became the first Cardinal to break 1,000 points, scoring 1,114 for his career.

    Coleman went on to a distinguished NBA career with the Rochester Royals (now the Kings) and the Hawks. He averaged 10.6 points and 9.2 boards a game over nine pro seasons, earning a championship ring with each team.

28. Clifford Rozier (1992-94)

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    Although he played just two years at Louisville after transferring from North Carolina, 6’11” Clifford Rozier made his mark with the Cardinals.

    He averaged 18.1 points and 11.1 rebounds a game as a senior, and his 15-of-15 shooting performance in a win over Eastern Kentucky that season is an NCAA record.

    Rozier’s length was his major asset in the NBA, where he became a part-time starter. In four seasons with the Warriors, Raptors and T-Wolves, he averaged as many as 6.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.

27. Dwayne Morton (1991-94)

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    As much as Rick Pitino loves the three-point shot, it was Denny Crum who coached the most accurate long-range shooter in Cardinal history.

    Dwayne Morton holds the single-season (.531) and career (.461) records for three-point shooting percentage at Louisville.

    Morton squeaked into the second round of the NBA draft, landing in Golden State. He hit just nine career treys in his one season on the Warriors bench, averaging a lackluster 4.1 points a game.

26. Bud Olsen (1959-62)

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    A 6’8” center, Bud Olsen was a strong rebounder whose career average of 9.5 boards a game is the 10th-highest in school history. As a senior, Olsen also poured in 20.8 points a game, the eighth-best season for any Cardinal.

    Drafted by the Cincinnati Royals (now the Kings), Olsen spent the next eight years sitting on various NBA benches. He played his final season with the ABA’s Kentucky Colonels, averaging 4.1 points and a career-best 4.5 rebounds a game.

25. Herbert Crook (1984-88)

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    A supporting player on the 1986 national champions, PF Herbert Crook developed into a full-fledged star by the time he graduated. Crook ranks 11th in Louisville history with 877 rebounds and ninth with 1,723 points.

    Thanks in part to his 6’7” frame, Crook’s exploits weren’t enough to earn him more than a third-round selection (by the Pacers) in the NBA draft. He couldn’t make the team and never played in the league.

    Image from thedraftreview.com

24. Tick Rogers (1992-96)

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    Noel "Tick" Rogers’ diminutive nickname belied his 6’5” frame. The quick-handed guard was enough of a pest to earn his moniker, racking up the third-most steals (220) in Louisville history.

    Rogers was never much of a factor on offense, a fact that couldn’t have endeared him to pro scouts. He went undrafted and never played in the NBA.

23. Scooter McCray (1978-83)

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    Though brother Rodney is better remembered, Scooter McCray played a big part in holding down the middle for the Cardinals. As a senior on the 1983 “Doctors of Dunk” Final Four team, McCray (No. 21 in photo) averaged 9.1 points and 6.4 rebounds a game

    McCray’s college performance earned him a look from Seattle, but he couldn’t cut it as a pro. In parts of three seasons with the Sonics and Cavs, he played just 11.6 minutes a game, grabbing 2.5 boards a night in the process.

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22. Phil Bond (1972-77)

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    Phil Bond kept the offense clicking for Louisville’s 1975 Final Four squad. The 6’2” point guard dished out 528 career assists, third best in Cardinal history.

    Bond was drafted by the Rockets, but he barely saw the floor as a pro. In seven games, he totaled just 21 minutes at the NBA level.

    Image from thedraftreview.com

21. Fred Sawyer (1958-61)

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    A secondary player on Louisville’s first Final Four team in 1959, Fred Sawyer became an overpowering post presence by the end of his college career. Sawyer’s 1,040 rebounds are the fourth-highest mark in Cardinal history.

    A second-round pick of the Lakers, Sawyer couldn’t compete with the rising stars on that roster. He never played in the NBA.

    Image from thedraftreview.com

20. Reece Gaines (1999-03)

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    A classic Rick Pitino guard who excelled at high-pressure defense and long-range offense, Reece Gaines was already in Louisville to welcome Pitino when he arrived.

    The junior became a star in Pitino’s system, finishing his career with 225 three-pointers (third most in school history) and 191 steals (sixth).

    Sadly, Gaines’ considerable promise didn’t translate to the next level. In three NBA seasons, he averaged a paltry 1.7 points a game while seeing just 8.5 minutes of playing time a night.

19. Ron Thomas (1970-72)

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    Ron Thomas was on the small side for a power forward at 6’6”, but there was nothing undersized about his performance. Thomas pulled down 785 career rebounds, averaging 13 boards a game to rank fourth in Cardinal history.

    A late-round pick of the Sonics, Thomas headed to the ABA instead. He played four seasons for the mighty Kentucky Colonels, averaging 4.1 rebounds a night off the bench.

18. Taquan Dean (2002-06)

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    A 6’3” shooting guard with an impeccable touch from long range, Taquan Dean ranks 12th in Louisville history with 1,649 career points.

    With a little help from Rick Pitino’s trey-heavy philosophy, Dean also set the Cards’ career record with 359 three-pointers made.

    Undrafted out of Louisville, Dean immediately headed to Europe (where he’s still playing). He’s never appeared in the NBA.

17. Jim Price (1969-72)

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    Jim Price was the star of Denny Crum's first Final Four team, falling to UCLA in 1972. He was an outstanding scorer at the college level, averaging 17.1 points a game for his career (sixth best in school history).

    Price would become a fine though low-scoring NBA point guard, making an All-Star appearance as a Buck in 1975. He averaged 16.1 points, 5.7 assists and 2.2 steals a game that season, the best figures of a strong seven-year pro career.

    Image from thedraftreview.com

16. Charles Jones (1980-84)

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    A fine rebounder who averaged 9.7 boards a game as a senior, 6’8” Charles Jones was even more devastating on the defensive end. His 208 career blocks place him second in Louisville history.

    A second-round pick of the Suns, Jones bounced around the NBA for a few seasons. His best performance came as a rookie, when he averaged 8.4 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.

15. John Reuther (1961-65)

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    Overshadowed by some bigger-name big men in the Louisville pantheon, John Reuther was nevertheless an outstanding college center.

    His career scoring average of 18.2 points a game is tied for fourth highest in school history, while his 10.5 rebounds per contest ranks ninth.

    Despite his collegiate success, Reuther wasn’t drafted by the NBA. He never played in the league.

    Image from uoflsports.com

14. Mike Grosso (1968-70)

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    At 6’9”, center Mike Grosso controlled the paint for the Cardinals. His average of 16.2 points a game for his career is 10th best in program history, and he ranks third with 14.2 rebounds per contest.

    Although he was drafted in the fifth round by the Bucks, Grosso opted for the ABA instead. He played just one season with the Pittsburgh Condors, averaging 4.9 rebounds a game off the bench.

    Image from uoflsports.com

13. Terrence Williams (2005-09)

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    Fittingly for one of the most versatile forwards Louisville has ever seen, Terrence Williams has two of the four triple-doubles in Cardinal history.

    The 6’6” Williams scored 1,564 points (18th in school history) while piling up 966 rebounds (seventh) and 541 assists (second).

    As a pro, Williams has yet to show that he can do any one thing well enough to earn playing time.

    Dealt to Houston last winter in a three-team salary-cap shuffle, Williams played only 21 games on the year and averaged just five points and 2.4 rebounds per contest.

12. John Turner (1958-61)

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    The scoring star of Lousville’s 1959 Final Four squad, John Turner averaged 16.9 points a game in his career (eighth best in program history).

    The 6’5” swingman knew a thing or two about rebounding, too, as he also ranks eighth with an average of 10.6 boards a night.

    Drafted by the expansion Chicago Packers (now the Wizards), Turner lasted just one season in the NBA. He averaged 4.8 points but only two rebounds a night.

    Image from bigbluehistory.net

11. Milt Wagner (1981-86)

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    An athletic 6’5” SG, Milt Wagner was a scoring star for both the “Doctors of Dunk” Final Four squads and the 1986 national champs. On top of dishing out 432 assists (eighth best in school history), Wagner poured in 1,836 points (fifth).

    Like his son DeJuan 15 years later, Wagner had a short-lived NBA career. In one season each with the Lakers and Heat, he averaged a combined 4.1 points a game.

10. Derek Smith (1978-82)

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    Swingman Derek Smith was a key lieutenant for Darrell Griffith on the 1980 national champs, then proceeded to keep Griffith’s dunk-first philosophy alive and well at Louisville for two more seasons.

    He finished his career with 1,826 points (sixth best in program history) and 884 rebounds (10th).

    Smith had one brilliant season as a pro, averaging 22.1 points and 5.3 rebounds a game as a Clipper in 1984-85. The next year, though, he suffered a torn ACL that would plague him the rest of his career (which lasted nine years in all).

9. Butch Beard (1966-69)

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    A fine combo guard from the era before assists were recorded, Alfred "Butch" Beard also made his mark as a scorer at Louisville. Beard’s 19 points a game for his career is the second-best average in Cardinal  history.

    A journeyman at the pro level, Beard averaged 3.6 assists a game over a nine-year career. He did put in one sensational performance in 1971-72, making the All-Star team for Cleveland by racking up 15.4 points and 6.7 assists a night.

8. Billy Thompson (1982-86)

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    Billy Thompson developed from a freshman reserve on the 1983 Final Four team to a star forward on the 1986 national champs.

    The 6’7” Thompson scored 1,685 points (11th in program history), grabbed 930 rebounds (eighth) and blocked 153 shots (seventh).

    After two undistinguished years as a Laker reserve, Thompson was picked up by the Heat in the expansion draft. He averaged career highs of 11 points and 7.2 rebounds a game in Miami, the pinnacle of a six-year pro career.

    Image from uoflsports.com

7. DeJuan Wheat (1993-97)

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    Although DeJuan Wheat racked up 498 career assists to place fourth in Louisville history, his real job was putting points on the board himself.

    The long-range sniper drained 323 career treys (second best for a Cardinal) on his way to 2,183 points (also second).

    Hampered by his 6’0” stature, Wheat never found his footing in the NBA. He played one season each with the Timberwolves and Grizzlies, averaging just 3.3 points a game for his career.

6. Rodney McCray (1979-83)

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    Even without elite scoring numbers, Rodney McCray was a crucial factor on Louisville’s “Doctors of Dunk” Final Four squads.

    The 6’7” McCray became the third Cardinal ever to reach 1,000 rebounds while also dishing out as many as 3.4 assists a game from his forward spot.

    A valuable starter at the NBA level, McCray never quite made the transition to star. He averaged as many as 16.6 points and 8.2 rebounds a game over 11 NBA seasons, most successfully in a brief stint with the Kings.

5. Charlie Tyra (1953-57)

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    A physical 6’8” center, Charlie Tyra was Louisville’s first dominant big man. He scored 1,728 career points, eighth most in school history, and he holds the Cardinal record with a career total of 1,617 rebounds.

    Tyra’s rebounding ability translated just fine to the NBA. In a five-year career, mostly with the Knicks, Tyra averaged 7.4 boards a night to go with 8.9 points per game.

4. LaBradford Smith (1987-91)

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    The best point guard in Louisville history, LaBradford Smith showed that there was very little he couldn’t do on a college basketball court.

    He scored 1,806 points (seventh in school history), grabbed 227 steals (second), shot .866 from the foul line (first) and obliterated the school record for assists by nearly 200, dishing out 713 in his career.

    After the show he put on as a collegian, Smith wound up as a dreadful flop in the NBA. Over three seasons with Washington and Sacramento, he averaged just 2.2 assists and 6.7 points per game.

3. Pervis Ellison (1985-89)

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    A stud freshman who led the Cardinals to the 1986 national title, Pervis Ellison became one of the greatest centers in Louisville history.

    He recorded the third-most points (2,143) and rebounds (1,149) in school history, and his 374 blocks are a Cardinal record by leaps and bounds.

    Injuries dogged Never Nervous Pervis throughout his NBA career, but he played well enough when healthy to stick around for 11 seasons.

    The peak of his career came with Washington in 1991-92, when he averaged 20 points, 11.2 rebounds and a remarkable 2.7 blocks per game.

2. Darrell Griffith (1976-80)

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    The star of the first national championship team in Louisville history, Darrell Griffith was sufficiently brilliant on offense that he obscured his sensational defensive abilities (a Cardinal-record 230 career steals).

    Dr. Dunkenstein lived up to his nickname, powering his way to a school-record 2,333 career points (including 22.9 per game in the 1980 championship season).

    Though he never made an All-Star appearance, Griffith was a terrific NBA shooting guard. The No. 2 overall pick of the Jazz, he spent 10 years in Utah and averaged 20-plus points a game in four of them.

1. Wes Unseld (1965-68)

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    An incomparable defender and rebounder as a 6’7” center, Wes Unseld was also an elite scorer as a collegian. His 20.6 points per game and 18.9 boards a night are both Louisville records for a career.

    Along with Wilt Chamberlain, Unseld is one of two NBA players to win Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season.

    In 13 Hall of Fame seasons with the Wizards franchise—who picked him No. 2 overall—he scored just 10.8 points a game but finished 10th in league history with 13,769 career rebounds and led Washington to its only championship.


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