Cincinnati Basketball: The Top 50 Players In School History

Thad Novak@@ThadNovakCorrespondent IOctober 4, 2011

Cincinnati Basketball: The Top 50 Players In School History

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    Through seven decades in six conferences, Cincinnati basketball has established itself as one of the reliable power programs in the country.

    From Ed Jucker’s back-to-back national champs to Bob Huggins’ string of 14 consecutive NCAA berths, the Bearcats have been a team to be reckoned with on the national stage.

    The players who have earned those victories have gone on to everything from the NBA Hall of Fame to the major league pitching mound.

    Although contemporary fans are used to the Bearcats’ string of great power forwards—whether it’s Danny Fortson, Nuggets standout Kenyon Martin or current campus hero Yancy Gates—Cincinnati’s great players have come in all sizes and positions through the program’s illustrious history.

    Read on for a look at the 50 best players ever to don a Bearcat uniform.

50. Brian Williams, 1974-77

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    Although Brian Williams was a solid scorer—12 points a game in each of his three seasons in a Cincinnati uniform—it was his defense that really stood out. Williams set a school record (later tied) with 66 steals in a season in 1976-77 (the year the stat became official).

    Williams (not to be confused with the Nuggets forward of that name who was later known as Bison Dele) went undrafted and never appeared in the NBA.

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49. Roland West, 1964-67

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    A versatile 6’4” swingman, Roland West led Cincinnati in assists in his first season of varsity ball. The next year, he averaged 9.4 rebounds a game to lead the team in that category

    West managed to get picked in the 20th round of the draft, back when there was such a thing, but played only four NBA games for the Baltimore Bullets (now the Wizards).

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48. Phil Wheeler, 1953-56

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    Typical for his era, 6’4” Phil Wheeler was an outstanding post player who averaged 10.4 rebounds a game for his Bearcats career. His bigger legacy, though, was his scoring, as he became the first Cincinnati player to average 20 points a game for a season.

    Although Wheeler was drafted by the Warriors in the fourth round, he never made an NBA roster.

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47. Lance Stephenson, 2009-10

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    One of the few one-and-done players in Bearcat history, Lance Stephenson made an immediate impression with his athleticism. The 6’5” SG averaged 12.3 points and 5.4 rebounds a game in his lone season in Cincinnati.

    As a rookie with the Pacers last season, Stephenson appeared in only 12 games, but he did average 1.8 assists in just 9.6 minutes a night.

46. Field Williams, 2000-04

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    Field Williams wasn’t the most physical guard—at 6’7”, he averaged just 2.4 rebounds in his best season—but he certainly knew how to shoot. Williams holds the career record at Cincinnati with a .401 shooting percentage from three-point range.

    Williams’ one-dimensional style evidently didn’t appeal to NBA scouts, as he went undrafted and never played in the league.

45. Tony Bobbitt, 2002-04

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    A dangerous player on both ends of the floor, juco transfer Tony Bobbitt drained 127 three-pointers in just two seasons as a Bearcat. He also tied a school record with eight steals in a game against Coppin State as a senior.

    Bobbitt went undrafted out of school, and the sum total of his NBA career consisted of two games as a Laker in 2004.

44. LaZelle Durden, 1992-95

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    LaZelle Durden was a fairly one-dimensional player, but what a dimension it was. The designated sniper stands fourth in school history in three-pointers made (260) and third in shooting percentage from beyond the arc (.385).

    As sweet as Durden’s shooting stroke was, the rest of his game couldn’t cut it with pro scouts. He went undrafted and never played in the NBA.

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43. Donald Little, 1999-02

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    Donald Little wasn’t the player to turn to for a clutch basket, considering that he averaged a paltry 5.0 points per game in four years at Cincinnati. On defense, though, the 6’10” Little was a rock, finishing fourth in program history with 153 career blocks.

    Unfortunately for Little, the NBA wasn’t as tolerant of his lack of scoring ability, and he never played in the league.

42. Keith LeGree, 1994-96

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    The rare player who transfers to one of his team’s fiercest rivals, Keith LeGree arrived in Cincinnati after two seasons at Louisville. He made a splash with his new team, racking up 189 assists in his senior year (the highest total for any Bearcat not named Oscar Robertson).

    LeGree went into coaching after the NBA showed no interest in him. He served as a Cincinnati assistant under his former coach, Bob Huggins, for five seasons.

41. Darnell Burton, 1993-97

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    Darnell Burton may not have been quite the defensive force that many Bearcat guards have been, but he could certainly score.

    The 6’2” guard is 11th on the school’s all-time list with 1,584 points, and he ranks second in both three-pointers made (306) and three-point percentage (.394).

    Despite his impressive career totals, Burton never averaged more than 14 points a game as a Bearcat. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he went undrafted and never appeared in the NBA.

40. Wayne Stevens, 1955-58

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    Though he was just 6’3”, Wayne Stevens was an impressive rebounder as a power forward. He led the Bearcats with 13.9 boards a game in 1955-56, and his inside presence helped Cincinnati make its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance in 1958.

    Like many Bearcats, Stevens landed with the hometown Cincinnati Royals (now the Kings) as a pro. Unfortunately for him, he lasted just eight games in the NBA.

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39. Damon Flint, 1993-97

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    Damon Flint arrived at Cincinnati with a tough act to follow, succeeding Nick Van Exel at the point for the Bearcats. He made the most of his opportunity, though, leading the team in blocks (once) and steals (twice) in his four seasons and dishing out 407 assists, fifth-most in program history.

    Despite his versatility, Flint wasn’t considered an NBA-level athlete at the PG position. He went undrafted and never played in the league.

38. Louis Banks, 1987-91

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    When Bob Huggins took over as Cincinnati’s head coach, the best player he inherited was junior SF Louis Banks. Though he lacked three-point range, Banks could score from anywhere inside it, amassing 1,644 career points (eighth in school history).

    Unfortunately for Banks, his lack of size (6’6”) and outside shooting combined to keep pro scouts from taking much interest in him. He went undrafted and never played in the NBA.

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37. David Kennedy, 1977-81

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    Even among the elite company of Bearcats defensive stars, David Kennedy stands tall. The 6’2” guard holds the Cincinnati records for steals in a season (66, tying Brian Williams) and career (189).

    Kennedy (whose son, D.J., just wrapped up a fine career at St. John’s) was drafted by the Mavericks, but never appeared in an NBA game.

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36. Ralph Davis, 1957-60

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    In three seasons as Oscar Robertson’s backcourt partner, Ralph Davis made three Final Fours. Davis was no slouch in his own right, averaging as many as 15.5 points a game as a Bearcat.

    Drafted by the hometown Cincinnati Royals (now the Kings), Davis lasted just one season with them.

    He was more effective the next year with the expansion Chicago Packers (now the Wizards), but despite his 10.4 points and 3.2 assists per game he never played in the NBA after that season.

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35. Carl Bouldin, 1958-61

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    A 6’2” guard, Carl Bouldin served as the long-range shooting threat who spread the floor for Cincinnati’s 1961 national champs. In the title game against mighty Ohio State, Bouldin racked up 16 points (outdueling Buckeyes standout Larry Siegfried) in an OT win.

    Six months after winning the national title, Bouldin made his professional debut…as a righthanded pitcher for baseball’s Washington Senators. He would appear in 27 major league games over a four-year career in Washington.

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34. Jim Holstein, 1949-52

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    Jim Holstein was one of the first great stars of Bearcat basketball. The 6’3” swingman graduated as the program’s career scoring leader with 1,146 points (now good for 28th on the all-time list).

    Drafted by the then-Minneapolis Lakers, Holstein never found his scoring stroke as a pro and was gone after four undistinguished NBA seasons.

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33. Art Long, 1994-96

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    One of the first of Bob Huggins’ long line of physical recruits at PF, Art Long was a merely competent scorer who averaged 10.5 points a game for his college career.

    The juco transfer was more impressive as a rebounder, averaging 8.6 boards a night over his two seasons in Cincinnati.

    Long played three indifferent seasons as an NBA reserve, most effectively with the Sonics (4.5 points, 4.0 rebounds per game).

32. Tony Yates, 1960-63

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    As the Bearcats’ point guard in 1960-61, Tony Yates had the unenviable task of running new head coach Ed Jucker’s unpopular slowdown offense.

    Bearcat fans became a lot fonder of Jucker and his system, though, when he brought consecutive national titles to Cincinnati in 1961-62.

    Yates had joined the army before enrolling in college, so the shutdown defender was already 24 by the time he graduated. He never played professionally, but wound up in coaching and served as the head coach at his alma mater from 1983-1989. 

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31. Roger McClendon, 1984-88

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    One of the great pure shooters in Bearcats history, Roger McClendon still holds the school record for three-point shooting (.476) in a single season, set in 1986-87, the year the shot was introduced to the college game.

    Had the trey been available to him for all four seasons, he would have amassed even more than the 1,789 points that landed him in fifth place on Cincinnati’s all-time list.

    McClendon’s defense never matched his scoring punch, and he went undrafted out of college. He never played in the NBA.

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30. Eric Hicks, 2002-06

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    A brilliant rebounder, PF Eric Hicks averaged nine boards a game in each of his last two seasons. He was even better as a defender, though, blocking 256 shots to finish second on the Bearcats’ all-time list and setting the single-season school mark with 113 rejections.

    Hicks, like many of Cincy’s defense-first power forwards, didn’t have the scoring spark (or, at 6’6”, the height) to make the NBA. He’s currently playing in Europe.

29. Derrek Dickey, 1970-73

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    A punishing 6’7” power forward, Derrek Dickey did his share of scoring at Cincinnati (1,328 points in three seasons). Still, he made his biggest mark as a rebounder, leading the team in all three of his college seasons and totaling 858 boards for his career.

    Dickey wasn’t much of a scorer as a pro, but did average as many as 6.9 rebounds a game in five NBA seasons (mostly with Golden State, where he won a championship as a rookie).

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28. Eddie Lee, 1976-80

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    A classic point guard, Eddie Lee didn’t score in double digits until his senior season in Cincinnati. What he did brilliantly was pass and play defense, setting school records for career assists (500, now second-best) and steals (163, now fourth).

    Although Lee was drafted as a Nugget in 1980, he never appeared in an NBA game.

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27. Dwight Jones, 1979-83

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    Dwight Jones had his faults, but durability was not one of them. Jones set school records—since broken—for consecutive games and career minutes while recording 983 career rebounds (fifth in school history).

    The 6’8” Jones (not to be confused with the former Hawks center of the same name) was drafted by Cleveland but never played in the NBA.

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26. Tom Thacker, 1960-63

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    Do-it-all swingman Tom Thacker was the glue that held together two national champions for Cincinnati.

    He also helped carry the Bearcats to a third Final Four berth (their fifth straight overall) as a senior, leading the team in assists for the second time while scoring a career-high 15.8 points a game.

    Thacker didn’t do any one thing well enough to earn regular playing time as a pro. He did play four seasons as an NBA backup—the first three with the Cincinnati Royals (now the Kings), who drafted him— and three more with the ABA’s Pacers.

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25. Lloyd Batts, 1971-74

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    A 6’4” swingman who knew how to get to the rim, Lloyd Batts was one of just five Cincinnati players to average 20 points a game in two different seasons. His career mark of 20.1 points a night is second only to Oscar Robertson’s in school history.

    After slipping to the sixth round of the NBA draft, Batts opted to join the ABA, where he signed with the Virginia Squires. In one season of professional ball, he averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 rebounds a game.

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24. Pete Mickeal, 1998-2000

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    One of the most talented small forwards the Bearcats have ever had, Pete Mickeal averaged 14.2 points in two seasons after arriving as a juco transfer. A tenacious defender, the 6’6” Mickeal averaged 6.8 boards and 1.5 steals a night for Cincinnati.

    Though he was drafted by the Mavericks, Mickael has never appeared in the NBA. He’s currently playing in Europe, where he started for FC Barcelona’s 2010 Euroleague champions.

23. Kenny Satterfield, 1999-01

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    One of just five Bearcats ever to record a triple-double (against Tulane as a sophomore), Kenny Satterfield was a prototypical New York City point guard.

    His aggressive defense helped him record 60 steals in a season, and his flashy ball-handling and passing earned him 5.2 assists a game over two seasons as a Bearcat.

    As with many streetball stars, Satterfield never entirely translated as pro. He averaged just 2.3 assists and played only 75 games over two NBA seasons.

22. DerMarr Johnson, 1999-00

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    DerMarr Johnson had pro scouts salivating from the moment he arrived on Cincinnati’s campus. The willowy 6’9” forward showed great mobility and a promising outside shot (.371 from beyond the arc) while averaging 12.6 points in his lone season as a Bearcat.

    Drafted by the Hawks, Johnson never lived up to his billing as the No. 6 overall pick. He was, however, a perfectly respectable backup at SF, scoring as many as 8.4 points a game in his seven pro seasons.

21. Corie Blount, 1991-93

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    Corie Blount couldn’t have picked a better time to arrive in Cincinnati as a juco transfer. The 6’9” PF contributed 8.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks a game to the Bearcats’ 1992 Final Four run

    Although he was drafted by the Bulls, Blount had the bad luck to play there during the two-year interregnum between Michael Jordan’s threepeats. A career backup, Blount averaged 4.2 rebounds a game over 11 NBA seasons with seven teams.

20. James White, 2003-06

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    In three seasons after transferring from Florida, swingman James White established himself as a dangerous scoring threat, averaging 16.3 points a game as a senior and twice leading the team in three-point shooting.

    He was even more impressive on the free throw line, finishing third in school history with a career .818 shooting percentage from the charity stripe.

    White has had two shots in the NBA, appearing in a total of 10 games for San Antonio and Houston. He’s currently playing in Europe.

19. George Wilson, 1961-64

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    Joining the Bearcats varsity in 1961-62, George Wilson took over in the post from the graduated Bob Wiesenhahn and helped take Cincinnati to its second straight national title. The 6’8” center would go on to average 16.1 points and 12.5 rebounds as a senior.

    The Cincinnati Royals (now the Kings) used their territorial draft rights to grab Wilson, but he never really caught on with them. Wilson bounced around the NBA for seven seasons, though he did average as many as 9.1 rebounds a game between Phoenix and Philadelphia in 1968-69.

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18. Jason Maxiell, 2001-05

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    Although Jason Maxiell’s rock-solid 6’7” frame helped him get to the free throw line 674 times (third-best in school history), scoring wasn’t his main role. Maxiell piled up 908 career rebounds and 252 blocks, with the latter figure placing him third all-time at Cincinnati.

    In six seasons as a Pistons reserve, Maxiell has averaged as many as 7.9 points and 5.3 boards a game, but his lack of shooting touch (including a career .559 free throw percentage) has kept him from making the leap to the starting lineup.

17. Robert Miller, 1974-78

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    Though he was overshadowed by the scoring of frontcourt mate Pat Cummings, Robert Milller was one of the top post players in Cincinnati history. His .561 career field goal percentage is fourth-best all time for the Bearcats, and he’s one of just four Cincinnati players to record over 1,000 career rebounds.

    Miller was drafted by the Suns, but never played for them. He did appear in two games for the Spurs, the sum total of his NBA career.

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16. Dontonio Wingfield, 1993-94

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    Wiry SF Dontonio Wingfield was an instant hit in his lone season in Cincinnati. Wingfield averaged 16 points and 9.0 boards a game as a freshman before making the jump to the NBA.

    As a pro, though, Wingfield never managed to earn much playing time despite his impressive physical tools. He played four seasons as a backup (mostly in Portland) but never appeared in more than 44 games or averaged more than 4.5 points a night.

15. Ruben Patterson, 1996-98

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    Yet another of Bob Huggins’ junior college transfers, Ruben Patterson was a force on both ends of the floor for the Bearcats. The athletic 6’5” forward was a lockdown defender who also averaged 16.5 points and 6.3 rebounds a game as a senior.

    As a pro, Patterson’s defensive prowess led to him acquiring a short-lived reputation as a “Kobe-killer.” Primarily a backup in 10 NBA seasons (most effectively in Portland), he averaged 10.7 points and 1.2 steals a game for his career.

14. Jim Ard, 1967-70

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    Another in Cincinnati’s grand tradition of hard-nosed power forwards, 6’8” Jim Ard averaged as many as 19.2 points a game as a Bearcat.

    He’s more noteworthy, though, for his efforts on the glass, where he finished with the fifth-highest career rebounding average (12.3 per game) in school history.

    Ard played four years in the ABA (mostly as a Net) and four more in the NBA, winning a title with the 1976 Celtics. A career backup, Ard still averaged as many as 5.9 rebounds a game as a pro.

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13. Bob Wiesenhahn, 1958-61

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    A 6’4” PF back when those were still commonplace, Bob Wiesenhahn anchored the first national championship team in Cincinnati history.

    He was the hero of the 1961 title game against Ohio State, scoring a team-high 17 points while holding future Hall of Famer John Havlicek to just four.

    Wiesenhahn was a second-round pick for the hometown Cincinnati Royals (now the Kings), but after he averaged only 2.0 points and 1.9 boards a game as a rookie, his NBA career was over.

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12. Deonta Vaughn, 2006-10

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    A four-year starter in the backcourt, Deonta Vaughn rewrote the Cincinnati record books. Vaughn broke the career marks for assists (511) and three-pointers (313) while finishing third all-time in points (1,885) and steals (172).

    Collegiate brilliance notwithstanding, the 6’1” Vaughn didn’t make much of an impression on NBA scouts after his numbers dipped as a senior. He went undrafted and is currently playing in Europe.

11. Paul Hogue, 1959-62

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    Bruising 6’9” center Paul Hogue provided the physical presence in the middle for Cincinnati’s two national championship teams in 1961-62. The third-leading rebounder in school history (1,088 for his career), Hogue was the star of the 1962 title game with 22 points and 19 rebounds.

    Although Hogue showed some promise as a pro—7.7 points, 8.6 rebounds a game as a Knicks rookie—he couldn’t stay out of foul trouble. He lasted just two seasons in the NBA.

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10. Steve Logan, 1998-02

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    Steve Logan played in and won more games than any other Bearcat (135 and 111, respectively) while finishing second in school history in points (1,985) and third in assists (456).

    He capped his brilliant career by becoming just the fifth Cincinnati player to earn first-team All-America honors from the AP.

    Undersized even as a point guard at 6’0”, Logan fell to the Warriors in the second round. A dispute over his contract meant that he never signed with Golden State, and he never appeared for them or any other NBA team.

9. Ron Bonham, 1961-64

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    Joining the defending national champions as a sophomore, Ron Bonham immediately became the primary scoring option after replacing the graduated Carl Bouldin.

    The deadeye jump shooter helped the Bearcats to their second title, made another Final Four appearance the next year and finished with the third-best career scoring average (19.6 points a game) in school history.

    Bonham couldn’t play enough defense to stay on the floor as a pro. Even so, in two seasons as a reserve with the Celtics (and one in the ABA with the Pacers), he averaged as many as 7.4 points in 10 minutes per game. 

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8. Rick Roberson, 1966-69

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    Rick Roberson never averaged under 14.8 points a game for Cincinnati, but it wasn’t his offense that made him a force in college.

    The 6’9” center posted a career average of 12.4 rebounds a game (fourth-best in school history) and blocked 146 shots (fifth-best, though blocks weren’t an official NCAA statistic at the time).

    Roberson’s rebounding skills translated well to the NBA, as he averaged 8.3 boards a game for his career. In seven pro seasons, he averaged a double-double three times, including both of his years in Cleveland.

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7. Pat Cummings, 1974-79

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    The rare Cincinnati post player more noted for his offense, Pat Cummings still averaged as many as 11.3 rebounds a game as a senior.

    The 6’9” Cummings, however, made his name as a scorer, hitting 756 career field goals and recording a .581 shooting percentage (both second-best in school history).

    Cummings would become a successful starter for the Mavericks and Knicks before injuries and the arrival of Patrick Ewing curtailed his playing time. In his best pro season, he averaged 15.8 points and 8.2 rebounds a night.

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6. Connie Dierking, 1955-58

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    Ranking among the best rebounders in Bearcat history is no mean feat, and 6’9” Connie Dierking is right up with any of them.

    He holds the school records for rebounds in a game (33!) and average in a season (18.8), and his career average of 13.5 boards a night is third on the school charts.

    Drafted fifth overall by the Syracuse Nationals (now the 76ers), Dierking languished on the bench for years before a pair of trades landed him back in Cincinnati with the Royals (now the Kings).

    As a Royal, Dierking became an outstanding starting center, averaging as many as 16.7 points and 9.5 rebounds a game.

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5. Danny Fortson, 1994-97

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    An immovable object at 6’7”, 260 lbs, Danny Fortson averaged 8.7 rebounds a game over his three-year Bearcats career.

    His strength served him even better on the offensive end, where he finished fourth in school history in career scoring (18.8 points a game), third in field-goal percentage (.565) and second in free throws made (571).

    Fortson’s shot never adjusted to dealing with taller NBA defenders, and his scoring average topped out at 11.2 per game in the pros.

    Primarily a reserve, Fortson's rebounding kept him in the league for 10 years (most effectively with Golden State, where he averaged a double-double in his lone season as a starter).

4. Nick Van Exel, 1991-93

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    The hero of the Bearcats’ most recent Final Four squad in 1992, Nick Van Exel was a first-class scorer at the PG spot. His .358 shooting percentage from long range is fifth in school history, and he averaged 18.3 points and 4.5 assists a night as a senior.

    Van Exel, whose quickness also made him a formidable defender, was drafted by the Lakers and became a hit almost from day one.

    He averaged as many as 16.9 points and 8.5 assists in L.A. (making one All-Star appearance), and also played effectively for Denver and Dallas in a 13-year career.

3. Kenyon Martin, 1996-2000

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    The greatest power forward in Cincinnati history, Kenyon Martin holds the school records for field-goal percentage (.586) and blocks (292).

    He could’ve left an even greater legacy, but in a senior year in which he swept the Wooden and Naismith awards, a late-season collision with a St. Louis player left him with a broken leg that kept him out of the NCAA tournament.

    Drafted by the Nets, Martin’s speed and athleticism proved an ideal fit with Jason Kidd, and he helped the team win three straight division titles and make back-to-back Finals appearances.

    Injuries have slowed Martin at age 33, but he still averaged 8.6 points and 6.2 boards in half a season of work as a Nugget last year.

2. Jack Twyman, 1951-55

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    A 6’6” swingman, Jack Twyman set Bearcat records for points and rebounds in his career. His 1,598 points are still ninth in school history, while his 13.8 rebounds a game and 1,242 total boards both rank second.

    Twyman was even better as a pro, where he played his entire career with what's now the Kings franchise. He averaged as many as 31.2 points (second only to Wilt Chamberlain that season) and 9.1 rebounds a game on his way to the Hall of Fame.

1. Oscar Robertson, 1957-60

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    One of the best players in basketball history, period, Oscar Robertson set an NCAA record with 2,973 career points.

    He’s still eighth all-time in that category (and third with an average of 33.8 per game), and he’s also Cincinnati’s all-time leading rebounder (1,338, 15.2 per game) and fourth-leading passer (425 career assists).

    As a pro, Robertson won a title with Kareem and the Bucks, but the prime of his Hall of Fame career was spent in Cincinnati with the Royals (now the Kings).

    He led the league in scoring once and assists seven times, but he’ll always be most revered for his 1961-62 season, in which he averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists per game.