Michigan State Basketball: The Top 50 Players in School History

Thad Novak@@ThadNovakCorrespondent IMay 8, 2012

Michigan State Basketball: The Top 50 Players in School History

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    Tom Izzo has taken the Michigan State basketball program to new heights (including a school-record 15th consecutive NCAA Tournament berth this spring), but the Spartans’ rich hoops history dates back long before Izzo’s arrival. From stars of yore such as Johnny Green to the unforgettable Magic Johnson, Michigan State has boasted some of the most impressive players the college game has ever seen.

    The latest addition to that pantheon is 2012 All-American Draymond Green. The senior star wrapped up his extraordinary career by breaking the school record for rebounds and winning his second Big Ten championship in four years.

    Herein, a closer look at both Greens (no relation), Magic and the rest of the 50 greatest players ever to delight fans in East Lansing.

50. Jamie Feick (1992-96)

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    A physical 6’9”, 255-lb center, Jamie Feick powered his way to 6.7 rebounds a game at Michigan State. After a wretched start to his career, he even developed into a halfway-decent offensive contributor, scoring 10.1 points a game as a senior.

    Feick went on to a middling five-year career as an NBA backup. He did, however, turn in one impressive season for the Nets in 1999-00, averaging 9.3 rebounds a game off the bench.

49. Raymar Morgan (2006-10)

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    A gritty rebounder who grabbed 772 career boards, 6’7” Raymar Morgan was most effective as a scorer.

    His 1,597 points rank him 11th in Michigan State history, and he averaged double figures in all four of his collegiate seasons (including Final Four trips in 2009 and 2010).

    Morgan went undrafted out of college, and he has yet to appear in an NBA game. He’s currently playing in Turkey.

48. Adam Ballinger (1998-03)

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    Despite spending most of his career as a backup, Adam Ballinger made an impact on the defensive end of the floor. The 6’9” center stands 10th in Spartans history with 73 career blocks.

    With a senior-year average of 5.5 points a game, Ballinger didn’t have much of a shot at the NBA. He’s found a home—literally—in Australia, where he’s become a naturalized citizen as well as a star in that country’s National Basketball League.

47. Charlie Bell (1997-01)

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    Combo guard Charlie Bell was the lowest-scoring member of the "Flintstones," the core group of Flint-born friends who keyed the 2000 national title run.

    Bell dished out 3.2 assists per game that season, along with 11.5 points a night, and he finished his career with 1,468 points and 371 assists.

    Bell’s stay in the NBA may be over after he headed to Europe last season. The bulk of his seven-year career—interrupted by another overseas stint—came in Milwaukee, where he averaged career highs of 13.5 points and 3.1 assists per contest.

46. Matthew Aitch (1965-67)

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    A 6’7” power forward, Matthew Aitch captained Michigan State to its only Big Ten title of the 1960s. Aitch’s career average of nine rebounds per game is the 10th-highest in school history.

    Drafted in the 13th round by the Pistons, Aitch unsurprisingly opted for the ABA instead. He lasted one season with the Pacers, playing just 14.2 minutes per game but posting solid averages of 5.6 points and 3.6 rebounds in that time.

45. Lindsay Hairston (1972-75)

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    Although Lindsay Hairston developed into an impressive scorer who poured in 19.3 points per game as a senior, he’s more memorable for his rebounding talents. Hairston’s career total of 803 boards is the 10th-best all-time for a Spartan.

    A fourth-round pick for the Pistons, Hairston lasted only one season in the NBA.

    He did average 3.8 boards a night, but unimpressive offensive numbers (5.8 points a game, a dreadful .580 free-throw percentage) helped keep him from sticking around as a pro.

44. Ted Williams (1960-63)

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    A 6’7” center when that wasn’t quite as undersized as it is now, Ted Williams had the muscle to stand out on the glass. Williams averaged 9.1 rebounds per game, the ninth-best mark in program history.

    Despite his impressive rebounding efforts, Williams didn’t manage to get drafted out of school. He never played in the NBA.

43. Shannon Brown (2003-06)

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    Shannon Brown's lockdown defense at the 2-guard position helped make him a key contributor for the Spartans’ 2005 Final Four squad.

    He also developed into a dangerous offensive force, scoring 17.2 points per game as a senior while shooting .390 from beyond the arc.

    The still-athletic Brown proved a good fit in his first year with the up-tempo Suns after three solid seasons as a Laker.

    He averaged a career-high 11 points a game and shot .362 from long range, although obviously without adding to the two championship rings he’d won off the L.A. bench.

42. Bill Kilgore (1970-73)

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    An undersized center on an undersized team, 6'7" Bill Kilgore helped control the glass to let Michigan State’s guards (notably Mike Robinson) go to work. Kilgore pulled down 814 rebounds for his career, ninth-most in Spartan history.

    The Pistons took a flyer on Kilgore in the ninth round, but he couldn’t make Detroit’s roster. He never played in the NBA.

41. Pete Gent (1961-64)

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    George "Pete" Gent, a 6'4" forward, averaged 8.3 rebounds a game for his Michigan State career. His real gift, though, was scoring, and his average of 17.4 points per contest over three seasons is the ninth-best in program history.

    Gent didn’t play in the NBA, instead embarking on an improbable football career.

    Though he’d never played even one down as a Spartan, he lasted five seasons as a Cowboys wideout before retiring and writing novels such as the famous North Dallas Forty.

40. Aloysius Anagonye (1999-03)

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    A rock-solid 6’8”, 260 lbs, Aloysius Anagonye was a classic Tom Izzo power forward. A lack of minutes kept his rebounding numbers from registering in the program record books, but he did manage to reject 88 shots, placing him seventh in Spartan history.

    Undrafted out of college, Anagonye has never gotten closer to the NBA than one season with the D-League’s Los Angeles D-Fenders. He’s spent the last several years playing in Europe.

39. Jason Richardson (1999-01)

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    For all of Jason Richardson’s obvious talent and athleticism, he didn’t actually produce all that much in two seasons at Michigan State.

    He was a backup on the 2000 national champs, and even in his one year as a starter, he scored a pedestrian 14.7 points a game (albeit with an impressive .402 three-point percentage).

    Where Richardson outshines most of his Spartan teammates by a wide margin is in his NBA success.

    He’s never been an All-Star, but he’s averaged 20 points per game or better in three different seasons, and even with his skills declining, he started all 54 games he played for Orlando last year—and shot .368 from long range in the process.

38. Andre Hutson (1997-01)

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    Although length wasn’t Andre Hutson’s greatest asset at 6’8”, he still managed 75 career blocks (ninth on Michigan State’s all-time list). He was even tougher on the boards, grabbing 835 career rebounds to rank eighth in school history.

    Hutson went to the Bucks as a second-round draft pick, but he didn’t manage to land a roster spot. He never played in the NBA.

37. Terry Furlow (1972-76)

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    6’4” swingman Terry Furlow was on the court for one reason: to put points on the board in large quantities.

    Furlow’s 1,777 career points are the eighth-most in program history, and he set a school record as a senior by averaging 29.4 points a night for the season.

    Furlow had flashes of effectiveness as a pro, twice averaging double-digit points over a full season. Nevertheless, he couldn’t manage to catch on with any one team, wearing four uniforms in as many seasons in the league.

36. Lee Lafayette (1966-69)

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    A terrific scorer as a 6’6” power forward, Lee Lafayette averaged 16.8 points per game for his Spartans career. He was even tougher on the glass, posting the seventh-best rebounding average (10.2 boards per game) in school history.

    Lafayette was drafted by the Warriors, but not until the fourth round. He never played in the NBA.

35. Zach Randolph (2000-01)

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    A rare one-and-done freshman in Tom Izzo’s coaching career, Zach Randolph wasn’t even a regular starter in his lone season in East Lansing.

    Even in part-time duty, he averaged 10.8 points and 6.7 rebounds while demonstrating remarkable mobility for a 6’9”, 253-lb. power forward.

    Although injuries have limited Z-Bo to a reserve role in Memphis this season, he had been a double-double fixture for nearly a decade at the NBA level.

    He made his first All-Star appearance two seasons ago, averaging 20.8 points and 11.7 rebounds a night.

34. Ken Redfield (1986-90)

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    The first Spartan to be named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Ken Redfield was a 6’7” forward who specialized in creating turnovers. Redfield’s career tally of 150 steals ranks seventh in MSU history.

    Redfield didn’t have the length to play the post in the NBA, nor the long-range shot to be effective on the perimeter. He went undrafted and never played in the league.

33. Goran Suton (2005-09)

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    Of all the big men on Michigan State’s 2009 national runners-up, none meant more than senior Goran Suton. The 6’10” Suton finished his career with 887 rebounds, the seventh-best total for a Spartan all-time.

    Suton was drafted in the second round by the Jazz, but he’s never played in the NBA. He’s currently playing in Europe.

32. Morris Peterson (1995-00)

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    A high-energy, high-flying wing player, Morris Peterson served as the primary scoring option for the “Flintstones” core of high-school teammates (along with Charlie Bell and Mateen Cleaves) on the 2000 national champs.

    Peterson’s 1,588 career points are the 12th-best figure in school history, and he shot .377 from three-point range in the process.

    Although Peterson has frequently impressed with his dunking ability in the NBA, he’s rarely done enough else to be consistently effective.

    His best years—including career highs of 16.8 points per game and .395 long-range shooting—came for the Raptors, but he didn’t play at all this season after managing just 23 minutes in four games with the Thunder in 2010-11.

31. Ken Johnson (1983-85)

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    After transferring from UCLA, Ken Johnson only had two seasons to show what he could do in a Michigan State uniform. The 6’8” PF showed it in spades when it came to blocking shots, as he rejected 96 of them to rank fifth in school history.

    A second-round pick of the Bulls, Johnson was sent to Portland in a draft-night trade. He lasted just one nondescript season in the NBA, averaging 4.1 points and 3.8 boards per game off the Blazers bench.

30. Maurice Ager (2002-06)

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    The scoring star of the Spartans’ 2005 Final Four team, Maurice Ager poured in 1,554 points in his career to place 13th in school history. He was especially dangerous from three-point range, hitting the fifth-most treys (202) for a Michigan State player all-time.

    The NBA hasn’t been kind to Ager, who’s never played more than 32 games in a season. He last appeared in four games with the Timberwolves in 2010-11, and it’s entirely possible that his pro career is done for good.

29. Matt Steigenga (1988-92)

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    Most of Matt Steigenga’s career in East Lansing looks the part of a perfectly solid small forward, including a career high of 12.6 points per game.

    Strikingly, though, the 6’7” Steigenga also managed to block 97 shots in his career, the fourth-best figure in school history.

    A second-round pick of the defending champion Bulls, Steigenga couldn’t make the roster. Years later, in the spring of 1997, he did get a cup of coffee with the team, but his entire NBA career lasted 12 minutes spread over two games.

28. Kevin Willis (1981-84)

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    A nondescript freshman season and an early jump to the NBA kept Kevin Willis from making much of a dent in the Michigan State record books.

    Even so, the seven-footer (one of the few in school history) posted averages as high as 13.3 points and 9.6 boards a game during his three collegiate seasons.

    Once he got to the NBA, Willis proved as determined to stay in the league as he was tough to move out of the low post.

    In a remarkable 21-year career, he made one All-Star team—in 1992 for Atlanta, where most of his best seasons were played—and finished in the league’s top eight all-time in offensive rebounds (4,132) and games played (1,424).

27. Mike Peplowski (1989-93)

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    Hard-working 6’10” center Mike Peplowski made up for middling scoring ability by crashing the boards with a vengeance. He ranks sixth in Michigan State history with 906 career rebounds.

    Peplowski played a total of 68 NBA games, most of them as a rookie with the Kings. He made the best of his limited minutes, averaging 2.6 boards in just 12.4 minutes a night.

26. Chris Hill (2001-05)

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    As dangerous a defender as Chris Hill was—and his 162 steals rank fifth in school history—he was even more feared on offense.

    The sharp-shooting Smith is second all-time on the MSU charts with 306 three-pointers made, and his 1,540 points rank 15th on that list.

    The 6’3” Hill also had some point-guard skills (he’s 10th in program history in assists with 452), but he still didn’t manage to get drafted by the NBA. He never played in the league.

25. Ralph Simpson (1969-70)

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    A high-school teammate of NBA early-entry pioneer Spencer Haywood, Ralph Simpson didn’t stay long in college himself.

    In one season of varsity ball for the Spartans, he played intimidating defense while posting dazzling averages of 29 points and (as a 6’5” shooting guard) 10.4 rebounds a game, with the latter figure qualifying as the sixth-best career average in school history.

    After his sophomore year, Simpson jumped to the ABA and became a star for Denver. He made five straight ABA All-Star teams, averaging as many as 27.4 points, 7.1 assists and 2.0 steals per game in the prime of a 10-year pro career.

24. Jay Vincent (1977-81)

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    A valuable supporting player on the 1979 NCAA champs, Jay Vincent blossomed into a star after Greg Kelser’s departure.

    The 6’7” power forward averaged 22.1 points and 8.1 rebounds a game over his final two collegiate seasons, finishing with the sixth-most points (1,914) in school history.

    Drafted by the Mavericks late in the first round, Vincent picked up right where he left off by averaging 21.4 points and seven rebounds a game as a rookie. He played four more strong seasons in Dallas, the best years of a productive nine-year career.

23. Sam Vincent (1981-85)

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    Arriving on campus just after his celebrated brother, Jay, had graduated, Sam Vincent had no trouble carving out his own legacy.

    Vincent averaged 16.8 points per game for his career—he finished just behind his brother with 1,851 career points, seventh all-time for the Spartans—and his total of 159 steals is the sixth-best in program history.

    Sam couldn’t match Jay’s NBA success, but he did have a respectable seven-year career. He was at his best when he found himself on the expansion Magic, for whom he posted career highs of 11.2 points and 1.0 steals per game over three solid seasons.

22. Travis Walton (2005-09)

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    Travis Walton was a fine pass-first point guard whose 555 career assists rank seventh in school history. He was even tougher on defense, where he grabbed 167 steals to place fourth among Spartans all-time.

    Walton, undrafted out of school, spent last season with an assortment of D-League teams. An NBA shot probably isn’t forthcoming, though, thanks to averages of just 4.5 points and 2.0 assists per game.

21. Antonio Smith (1995-99)

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    The only one of the so-called “Flintstones” (along with Charlie Bell, Morris Peterson and Mateen Cleaves) who graduated too soon to win a title, Antonio Smith anchored the paint for Tom Izzo’s first Final Four squad in 1999.

    The 6’8”, 260-lb battering ram is one of just four Spartans to reach 1,000 rebounds in his career.

    After several years overseas (and in retirement), Smith made a comeback with Fort Wayne of the D-League last season. Given his age, though, even his solid 7.7 rebounds per game in a brief trial is unlikely to get him to the NBA.

20. Stan Washington (1963-66)

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    Stan Washington was a tremendous offensive weapon, averaging 18 points a game (sixth in school history) for his career. Remarkably, the 6’3” swingman was even tougher on the boards, averaging 10.5 rebounds per contest to place fifth among Spartans all-time.

    Washington was a fifth-round pick for the Lakers, but that loaded backcourt (led by Jerry West) didn’t exactly have room for him. He never played in the NBA.

19. Paul Davis (2002-06)

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    A 6’11” center with a surprisingly soft shooting touch, Paul Davis was one of Michigan State’s most impressive all-around big men.

    In addition to his 1,718 career points (one point ahead of Mike Robinson for ninth place in school history), he grabbed 910 rebounds to place fifth among Spartans all-time.

    Davis’ NBA days are likely done after bits of four ineffective years with the Clippers and Wizards. In his best season, he averaged four points and 2.5 rebounds per game.

18. Kalin Lucas (2007-11)

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    Fans will never know what Kalin Lucas might have accomplished in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, when a torn Achilles suffered in the Round of 32 kept the floor leader out of action for a team that still managed to make the Final Four.

    Even without the postseason triumph he might’ve hoped for—his team had come up empty in the national title game the previous year—Lucas was a magnificent point guard who ranks in the top six in school history in career assists (558) and points (1,996).

    Lucas’ injury record did him no favors with scouts, and he went undrafted last spring. He’s currently playing in Turkey.

17. Drew Neitzel (2004-08)

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    As a point guard, Drew Neitzel was a terrific distributor whose 582 assists place him fourth in Michigan State history. He also moonlighted as the school’s best-ever free-throw shooter, hitting 86.6 percent of his tries from the charity stripe.

    Neitzel wasn’t drafted out of Michigan State, but he did make it into the D-League last season.

    After dishing out four assists per game as a reserve for the Texas Legends, it wouldn’t be unbelievable for him to get a shot in the NBA at some point in the near future.

16. Delvon Roe (2008-11)

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    Another of the blue-collar power forwards who have meant so much to recent Spartans teams, Delvon Roe established himself as a valued contributor despite never topping 6.4 points per game.

    Nowhere was Roe’s performance more impressive than in defending the paint, where his 106 career blocks place him third in program history.

    Roe would likely have claimed the top spot on that list had he been able to play his final season in East Lansing.

    Instead, though, he ended his basketball career prior to the start of the 2011-12 season thanks to the cumulative effects of a long string of knee injuries.

15. Mark Montgomery (1988-92)

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    Mark Montgomery was a superlative defensive point guard who racked up the third-most steals (168) in MSU history. He wasn’t half bad as a passer, either, dishing out 561 assists to rank fifth on the school’s charts in that category.

    Undrafted out of Michigan State, Montgomery never played in the NBA. He’s found more success in coaching, where he just finished his first season as the head man at Northern Illinois.

14. Kirk Manns (1986-90)

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    With all the magnificent shooters the Spartans have had in their backcourt, none can touch the accuracy of Kirk Manns.

    The 6’1” guard drained 47.5 percent of his career three-pointers, a school record that would be good for second in Division I history if he had made enough treys to qualify (he finished 28 shy of the cutoff).

    Marksman though he was, Manns was a bit small for the NBA’s tastes. He went undrafted and never played in the league.

13. Julius McCoy (1953-56)

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    A three-sport standout who also played football and track, Julius McCoy was the first dominant scorer in Michigan State history.

    His average of 20.9 points per game stood as a school record for nearly 20 years and is still the third-best all-time for a Spartan.

    McCoy was drafted by the Hawks in the seventh round, but was also drafted into the army the same year. When his service time was up, he didn’t attempt to rekindle his hoops career.

12. Drew Naymick (2003-08)

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    Like so many recent Spartans big men, 6’10” Drew Naymick wasn’t exactly an offensive force. He made up for his career 2.7 point-per-game average, though, with a school-record 134 blocks in his career.

    Naymick went undrafted out of Michigan State, though he did get a shot in the D-League with Bakersfield in 2010-11. He’s currently playing in Europe.

11. Eric Snow (1991-95)

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    Sharing the backcourt with Shawn Respert didn’t make it easy for Eric Snow to capture much attention, but Snow definitely earned some notice.

    He played enough defense to snag 142 career steals, and his 599 assists are the third-best total in school history.

    Where Respert faltered upon arriving in the NBA, Snow came into his own.

    The best seasons of his 13-year career were spent in Philly, where he averaged as many as 12.9 points and 7.6 assists a game while helping the Allen Iverson-led 76ers make the 2001 NBA Finals.

10. Horace Walker (1957-60)

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    Despite standing just 6’3”, Horace Walker turned in some of the greatest rebounding performances Michigan State has ever seen.

    His senior-year average of 17.7 rebounds per game is the second-best for a Spartan all-time, and his career average of 13.8 boards a night is also second on that list for the program.

    Walker was drafted by the Hawks, but never played for the team. They traded him a season later to the expansion Chicago Packers (now the Wizards), but despite averaging an enviable 7.2 rebounds a night, he lasted just one season in the NBA.

9. Steve Smith (1987-91)

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    A 6’7” swingman with a museum-quality shooting stroke, Steve Smith hit 147 three-pointers (ninth in Michigan State history).

    His long-range game was only a drop in the bucket, though, compared to the 2,263 points he scored overall—a school record when he graduated and still good for second place all-time.

    Smith built a 14-year NBA career on impeccable three-point shooting (.358 overall, including an NBA-leading .472 as a Spur in 2001-02).

    He made an All-Star team for Atlanta and had also put up some impressive performances with the Heat (17.3 points and 5.6 assists per game) after being drafted by that franchise at No. 5 overall.

8. Johnny Green (1956-59)

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    Johnny Green led the Spartans to the Final Four in their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, racking up 11 points and 19 rebounds in the national semis in a triple-OT defeat at the hands of unbeaten North Carolina.

    For his career, Green averaged 19.7 boards per game in March Madness play (still a Division I record), and his 1,036 rebounds overall stood as a school record for 20 years (they’re now third on that list).

    Jumpin’ Johnny was drafted by the Knicks at No. 5 overall, and he rewarded them with three All-Star appearances in six-plus seasons. Over his 14-year career, he averaged as many as 18.1 points and 13.3 boards a night.

7. Mike Robinson (1971-74)

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    As impressive a pure scorer as Michigan State has seen, Mike Robinson is 10th on the school charts with 1,717 points, making him the only player in the top 10 who played less than a full four years in East Lansing.

    Robinson’s career average of 24.2 points per contest is a Spartan record by an appreciable margin.

    For all the scoring numbers Robinson put up, he could never erase one critical number: his 5’11” height. He was drafted in the seventh round by the Cavs, but never played in the NBA.

6. Draymond Green (2008-12)

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    After leading Michigan State in both rebounding and assists as a junior, Draymond Green needed quite an encore. All he did was lead the Spartans to a share of the Big Ten title, earning All-America honors with 16.2 points and 10.6 boards per game.

    Green, whose three career triple-doubles are second only to Magic Johnson in program history, was at his best as a rebounder.

    He edged out Greg Kelser for the school record with 1,095 career boards, and if he finds a home in the NBA, that’s the skill that will keep him around.

5. Shawn Respert (1990-95)

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    The first half of the “Fire and Ice” backcourt, along with Eric Snow, Shawn Respert was a game-changing scorer at Michigan State.

    His 2,531 points are a school record, as are the 331 three-pointers he hit, and his career percentage of .455 from long range is 17th in Division I history among qualifying players.

    For all Respert’s scoring heroics, he didn’t have the defensive chops to earn much playing time at the next level.

    He hung around for four seasons as a backup, shooting .340 from long range and averaging 4.9 points per game in limited minutes, but never looked like a viable candidate for anything more than a benchwarmer’s role.

4. Greg Kelser (1975-79)

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    Although he’s been overshadowed in hindsight by legendary teammate Magic Johnson, Greg Kelser had his own large share in Michigan State’s 1979 national title.

    Special K had 19 points and eight boards in the championship game against Indiana State, and he finished his career with school records for points (2,014, now fourth-best) and rebounds (1,092, second).

    Kelser never lived up to the No. 4 overall pick the Pistons spent on him. He struggled to rebound against bigger NBA forwards, and he never became a consistent enough scorer to earn more than a reserve role in six pro seasons.

3. Scott Skiles (1982-86)

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    Scott Skiles was a top-notch scoring point guard who averaged 27.4 points a game as a senior.

    That explosive season helped him finish third in school history in points (2,145), and he ranks second among Spartans all-time in both assists (645) and steals (175).

    Although he struggled in his first few pro seasons, Skiles became a star after he joined the expansion Magic. He averaged as many as 17.2 points and 9.4 assists per game in Orlando, and his 30-assist game in 1990 still stands as the NBA record.

2. Mateen Cleaves (1996-00)

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    At almost any other school, Mateen Cleaves would be the program’s defining point guard.

    His 816 assists and 195 steals are both Spartan records, he scored 1,541 points (15th on the MSU charts) and he led the school to its second national championship as a senior in 2000.

    Cleaves’ collegiate brilliance never translated at the NBA level. In six seasons with four teams, he topped out at 5.4 points and 2.7 assists for a full year (as a rookie with the Pistons, who had made him the No. 14 overall pick).

1. Magic Johnson (1977-79)

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    In just two seasons in East Lansing, Earvin “Magic” Johnson redefined Spartans basketball.

    He led the school to its first national title (creating the modern March Madness experience in the process with his TV-friendly duel with Larry Bird), recorded more triple doubles (eight) than all other MSU players put together and finished with averages of 17.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game.

    Of course, the newly-installed L.A. Dodgers owner would go on to even more glory in one of history’s most celebrated NBA careers.

    His Showtime Lakers would win five titles, and he captured three MVP awards while averaging 19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and a league-record 11.2 assists for his 13 pro seasons.


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