Who’s in Your Top 10?
A group of SLAM writers and editors list their favorite college bball players.
Monroe, MI (Resides in Conifer, Colorado)
10. Jalen Rose, University of Michigan: The Fab Five were so fresh for so many reasons, but the tall, lanky point guard, Rose was easily my favorite. These guys were my contemporaries (in age, not game) and I was quite saddened when that title game ended the way it did. After a prep career of being #31, I tried in vain to get #5 for my freshman season of NCAA ball, but alas, it was taken by an upperclassman. Now in his post-playing career as a media member, I may be an even bigger fan of Rose.
9. Ray Allen, University of Connecticut: Ray was in Storrs while I was playing college ball in nearby Providence, RI. I loved watching him shoot the ball, drive and dunk on people and simply play the game. Although UConn was one of the Big East teams that I never played against, I did make a couple trips across state line just to see him perform in person.
8. Fennis Dembo, University of Wyoming: This guy was a superstar in his day. Big, strong, athletic and ruthless, Dembo was un-guardable scoring machine in the WAC during the 1980’s. My vault of old magazines still includes his infamous, Dazzling Dude SI cover draped in chaps and cowboy regalia. I also completed my first ever dunk during a high school summer camp practice at the Wyoming Memorial Arena the year after Dembo graduated.
7. Chase Budinger, University of Arizona: One of the country’s best all-around athletes coming out of the San Diego area, Budinger was a volleyball phenom that happened to like basketball more. His years in Tucson were electric and he was always prone to nail a jumper in someone’s face or put a highlight dunk on an unexpecting opponent.
6. Thurl Bailey, North Carolina State University: The first college basketball team that I whole-heartedly supported was the WolfPack of 1981-82. I really can’t say why, but when they made their improbable run the following year to the 1983 title, I was a rabid fan of Bailey, Derek Whittenberg, Alonzo Charles and Co. Bailey was a tough, talented big man that could do a little of everything on the court and a guy I tried to emulate when I played. It always bummed me out that he ended up playing a big part of his pro career in Utah.
5. Antawn Jamison, University of North Carolina: I have not followed much of his solid pro career, but Jamison was one of the most dominant college players of our lifetime. His quick jump-hook from either block was one of the most unstoppable moves of the last twenty years of college basketball and one all big men should try to duplicate.
4. Jimmer Fredette, Brigham Young University: Due in large part to the 50 or so BYU games I have seen over the past few years, I have been “down with Jimmer” since Day One. He has obviously exploded onto the national scene this year, but he had done enough in his first three years in Provo to impress me. I have read dozens of writers trying to compare Jimmer to a current or former player, but I have yet to hear the one that I dubbed a couple years back. Isaiah Thomas. (I think there is even a slamonline.com column from a couple years ago where I labeled Fredette, The Mormon Zeke.)
3. Glen Rice, University of Michigan: Immediately following Kansas 1988 title run, I was granted a second miracle with one of my “other teams” at the time making a run to the title. Rice was an assassin from long-range, was big enough to back down and score over any opponent and was HUGE in that ’89 NCAA tournament. I also witnessed an amazing duel between Rice and the then-Chris Jackson at a Denver Nuggets/Miami Heat game, circa 1991.
2. Blake Griffin, Oklahoma University: I may be one of the few people in America that is not at all surprised by how Griffin has performed this year in the NBA, as from the very first minute he stepped on the court in Norman, I was in awe. My favorite moment of his college career came on a 3-on-1 break with him and his brother Taylor running on the wings. Midway between half-court and the free-throw line, the Sooner guard leading the break threw a lob up to the rim. Blake beat his brother to the ball and ferociously hammered it down on his older brother.
1. Danny Manning, Kansas University: This is a no-brainer. During my teenage years, Manning was not only the nation’s best all-around player, but he played for MY team. Despite never living in Kansas, I always had family that lived in Lawrence which allowed for multiple visits to Allen Fieldhouse, and led to my infatuation with the Jayhawks. Manning was a tall player that could post-up, hit the perimeter jumper or take guys to the rack. He also had, unfortunately, one of the most disappointing and injury-riddled pro careers ever. My bedroom as a kid was plastered with sports posters and photos, but Manning’s likeness was by far the most visibly prevalent.
10. “Pistol” Pete Maravich, LSU: I had all the Pistol Pete training tapes when I played basketball and I also had a college tape of him and he just lit it up at LSU averaging over 40 ppg. Pistol had the floppy socks with the low top chucks and was a scoring machine and I just used to watch his highlights over and over from LSU.
9. Manny Harris, University of Michigan: Manny is from Detroit and he has that city swag on the court. I loved how he led Michigan to the Tournament in his junior year and just how smooth he played at Michigan.
8. Kalin Lucas, Michigan State University: MSU is my favorite team and Kalin Lucas is the next great PG to carry on the tradition. The kid has ice water in his veins and now when everybody thinks MSU is finished, he is playing his best ball and that just shows his character.
7. Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Michigan State University: Coming from Michigan, we were taught to praise the Magic Man. He led MSU to the championship in 1979 and I just remember having the picture of him dunking on the guy from Indiana State and I always loved Magic even though I wasn’t alive to see him play in college.
6. Jameer Nelson, St. Joseph’s University: Jameer was so little killing dudes and I liked how sick his shoe game was. Him and Delonte West always had some fresh kicks and they couldn’t be beat. I can remember when he was on the cover of SI, that was so dope to me.
5. Jason Williams, Duke: I played guard growing up and Jay had all the tools to be the next great PG. He had bounce, could stroke the three ball, and I just loved how humble he was.
4. Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse: Melo was so smooth and he was only a freshman — killing cats. I loved how he handled the pressure at a young age and won the ‘ship. That’s unheard of now of someone to be so polished on that level. Guys like John Wall and Derrick Rose couldn’t even win the ‘ship.
3. Morris Peterson, Michigan State University: Again, I’m from Flint so the same thing with Mo Pete. He was Cleaves’ running mate at MSU and it seems like he always stepped it up in the big games when the Spartans needed him the most with that great three point stroke.
2. Allen Iverson, Georgetown: A.I. was something I had never seen before. He brought the street ball to the game and he came along when I really started watching hoop.
1. Mateen Cleaves, Michigan State University: I’m from Flint and I idolized the MSU “Flintstones” growing up. He was the toughest leader I ever seen and he was like a God in East Lansing, and in Flint.