Every single year, a lot of young men suit up to compete in college basketball. Among them, there are a number of standouts that have left an impression on viewers! Even though the game has undeniably changed over the years, the same standards stand for what it takes to be considered a college basketball legend. Let us take a look at the greatest men to have graced the basketball courts of their respective universities. For the sake of clarification, we want you to know that we relied on Sports-Reference.com and the official NCAA record book to come up with this list! Is there an alumnus from your school here?
JJ Redick (Duke, 2002-2006)
We won’t be surprised if you agree that JJ Redick was the greatest pure shooter that the NCAA has ever seen. With his free throw shooting percentage of 91.2 percent, he is the best among those who had at least 600. On top of that, he is also the second-highest three-pointer in the NCAA with a record of 457. During his tenure at Duke, he made it to the All-ACC selection each year. On top of that, he made school history as the all-time leading scorer. It is shocking to hear that he did not win a title during his career.
Paul Silas (Creighton, 1961-1964)
It is not at all a stretch to say that Paul Silas was dominant when he was at Creighton. Check out his nightly production to know that he was in elite company. There are only five NCAA players to have an average of at least 20 points and 20 rebounds per game, and he was one of them. Even though he had a great output level and the career numbers to boot, he was named an All-American pick just once in his college career. We bet that he would be deemed a top-10 player had he been playing for a powerhouse school like UCLA.
Michael Jordan (North Carolina, 1981-1984)
Fair enough, the college career averages of Michael Jordan do not hold a candle to many of the guys on the list. Even so, his clutch shooting, defensive skills, and ability to outshine some of the biggest stars in the ‘80s make him deserving of a spot on our list. During his time at UNC, he led the team to victory at the NCAA Championship in 1982. He was an All-American pick not just once but twice. In 1984, he was named the National Collegiate Player of the Year. Of course, we all know how well his NBA career went!
Bobby Hurley (Duke, 1989-1993)
Just like MJ, Bobby Hurley did not have eye-popping per-game averages back in college either. For starters, he hardly got an average in the double figures. Despite his shortcomings, he proved to be a great leader who ensured that his teammates were giving it their all on the court. He is the all-time NCAA leader in career assists. Aside from that, his back-to-back championship wins at Duke also make him stand out from the rest. He was an All-ACC selection, not just once or twice but three times! It is also fascinating to hear that he was the NCAA Tournament’s most outstanding player in 1992.
Joe Holup (George Washington, 1952-1956)
When it comes to college basketball legends, we feel like Joe Holup does not get enough recognition! After all, he made the competition tremble in fear during his tenure at George Washington back in the ‘50s. He almost got an average of 20 points and 20 rebounds in his career. However, it is even cooler to hear that he is one of two NCAA players to have a record of 2,000 points and 2,000 rebounds. As a matter of fact, his record of 2,030 rebounds is the second all-time highest in the history of NCAA!
Doug McDermott (Creighton, 2011-2014)
One of the things that make Doug McDermott unique was his choice to spend four years in college. In 2014, he was dubbed the National College Player of the Year during his senior year at Creighton. He was a great player during his four years in the NCAA. As proof of this, he was dubbed a consensus first-team All-American pick thrice. He ended his career with the fifth-highest career points in NCAA history at 3,150. On top of that, he has the highest record for games in which he scored in the double digits.
David Robinson (Navy, 1983-1987)
There is no doubt that David “The Admiral” Robinson is the best basketball player to come from any of the armed forces academies. He was not only a brutal defender but a double-double player as well! His career averages of 21 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per game are truly impressive. While he was at Navy, he made the all-time record for double-doubles in a single season in the NCAA. He achieved the feat in 31 out of 35 games in 1986. Aside from that, he was a consensus All-American pick two times in his college career. In 1987, he was dubbed the National Collegiate Player of the Year as well.
Danny Manning (Kansas, 1985-1988)
You will be hard-pressed to look for a better basketball player in the history of the Kansas Jayhawks than Danny Manning! If you are not convinced, we will have you know that he is the leading rebounder and scorer in the team. His record even puts him ahead of other legendary ballers. He led the team to its victory in the 1988 NCAA championships. In the same year, he was also dubbed the National Collegiate Player of the Year. During his tenure at Kansas, he was a consensus All-American pick three times. His college career was enough to earn him a spot in the National Basketball Hall of Fame.
Dan Issel (Kentucky, 1968-1970)
Just like Danny Manning, Dan Issel also made history as the greatest player in a great college basketball program. Also known as the Horse, he spent three seasons playing for Kentucky and was a two-time All-American pick. He went on to be the leading scorer and rebounder that the program has ever seen. On top of that, he is one of the most talented all-around players in the history of the university. In 1970, he had a scoring average of 33.9 points per game. This remains the best single-season mark of any Wildcat!
Austin Carr (Notre Dame, 1967-1971)
Well, we can totally see why head coach John Dee wanted to kiss Austin Carr, the star player of Notre Dame at the time. This was taken after Carr earned 61 points in an NCAA Championship game. This total remains the all-time single-game scoring record to this day. He was an amazing offensive player with an average of 38 points per game during the 1970 and 1971 seasons. These both rank in the ten highest single-season scoring average made by a college player in history! Aside from that, he was also dubbed the National Collegiate Player of the Year in 1971 and was a consensus All-American pick two times.
Ralph Sampson (Virginia, 1979-1983)
Do you want to know just how impressive Ralph Sampson had been when he was playing for Virginia? Check out his accolades if you want proof. From 1981 to 1983, the 7 footer brought home the National Collegiate Player of the Year award! This is a record on its own. Aside from that, he was also a three-time consensus All-American pick, which must have been helped by his career average of 3.5 blocks per game. With a career rebound record of 1,511, it ranks the fifth among all collegiate ballers from 1973.
Tim Duncan (Wake Forest, 1993-1997)
Before becoming one of the greatest NBA players, Tim Duncan first impressed sports fans by killing it in the world of collegiate basketball. Aside from having an average double-double, the Big Fundamental also guided Wake Forest to the NCAA tournament during the four seasons he played for them. At that time, he also made it to the All-ACC team three times and the All-American two times. In 1997, he was given the title of the National Collegiate Player. He reached a record of 29 double-doubles out of 31 total games during the season! We are also blown away by the fact that he has a career total of 1,570 rebounds. This is the second-highest record set by any player since 1973.
Shaquille O’Neal (LSU, 1989-1992)
We bet that his inclusion on the list does not surprise you at all. There was a time when Shaquille O’Neal was only a student at Louisiana State with an average of 4.6 blocks per game. Aside from that, he also scored an average of 21 points per game and 13 rebounds per game. It is very rare for college ballers to get triple-doubles, which is why it is impressive that he has six of them. Thanks to his skills on the court, he was a two-time SEC Player of the Year, two-time All-American pick, and three-time All-SEC pick.
Tyler Hansbrough (North Carolina, 2005-2009)
When Tyler Hansbrough was a student at North Carolina, he made history as the first ACC player to be both an All-American and a first-team All-ACC pick in four consecutive years. When he left UNC, he was the all-time leading scorer that the ACC had ever seen as well. Aside from that, he was also the top scorer and rebounder of the school! He had a great career that ended on a high note as he led UNC to an NCAA championship in 2009. Lastly, he also has the all-time NCAA record for free throws at 983.
Lionel Simmons (La Salle, 1986-1990)
L-Train enjoyed a great time at La Salle that still holds a special spot in the history of the NCAA. He is the only player to have ever scored at least 3,000 points and get at least 1,100 rebounds. He has 3,217 career points, which is the third-highest record in history. This is what happens when you have an average of nearly 25 points per game! Lionel Simmons was a double-double machine who made double figures for 115 consecutive games, which is an NCAA record as well. He led his alma mater to three appearances in the NCAA Tournament and was dubbed the National Collegiate Player of the Year in 1990.
Artis Gilmore (Jacksonville, 1970-1971)
We know that it is hard to believe the amazing career stats that Artis Gilmore raked in. He is one of five players to have a career average of 20 points and 20 rebounds per game. He transferred from a junior college to Jacksonville before starting his junior year. While at Jacksonville, he was picked to play in the All-American team both seasons and led the team to the NCAA championship game against UCLA in 1970. With his rebound average of 22.7 per game, he holds the all-time record to this day. Cool, huh? We can’t imagine anyone beating this incredible figure for a very long time.
Magic Johnson (Michigan State, 1977-1979)
Earvin Johnson was the most popular basketball star at Michigan State during his time there. Around that time, more people were keeping an eye on college basketball than at any other time in history. Magic was an All-American pick two times during his college career. In 1979, he was even a consensus first-team pick and led the Spartans to victory at the NCAA championship. In fact, that basketball game is the most-watched one in the history of the United States. We are not surprised to hear that he was named the most outstanding player in the tournament that year! They don’t make ballers like him anymore.
Christian Laettner (Duke, 1988-1992)
When it comes to college basketball, you are not going to find a more divisive player than this guy. Even though he has a lot of players, we are sure that his haters would also love it if he played for their college and not Duke. Some would even call him the greatest Blue Devil in history! He led the team to the Final Four during his tenure at the Ivy League university, which was a record in itself. In 1991 and 1992, the Blue Devils even won back-to-back championships. In the latter season, he was given the title of the consensus National Collegiate Player. He was chosen for the All-American twice and the All-ACC thrice.
Jerry West (West Virginia, 1957-1960)
If Jerry West wants to know how well he played as a college student, he only needs to look at his most outstanding NCAA Tournament player of the year award! This took place in 1959, although West Virginia did not end up taking home the title. It was one of the two seasons he made it to the All-American team as well. During his college career, Mr. Clutch reached an average of almost 25 points and 13 rebounds per game. He was also able to reach 30 double-double games out of 31 during the season in 1960.
Wilt Chamberlain (Kansas, 1956-1958)
When he started playing for Kansas in 1956, Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain was a monster on the court. He had an average of nearly 30 points and over 18 rebounds per game during the two seasons he played playing for the school. He made it to the All-American team during both seasons. In 1957, he was also named the most outstanding player even though the team did not win the title game.
Larry Bird (Indiana State, 1976-1979)
An excellent box-score stuffer, Larry Bird helped Indiana State become a national powerhouse when he was in college. He averaged a double-double over the course of his career. With an average of 30.3 points per game, you can see why he made it to the All-American team two times. In 1979, he became a true star after being named the National Collegiate Player of the Year. He also led the team to the NCAA championship game, but the Magic Johnson-led Michigan State Spartans ended up defeating them.
David Thompson (North Carolina State, 1972-1975)
A lot of people credit David Thompson as the killer of the invincible dynasty of the UCLA. With him at the helm, North Carolina State upset the Bruins and won the NCAA title in 1974. Aside from that, he was named the 1975 National Collegiate Player of the Year and the ACC Player of the Year for three consecutive years from 1973 to 1975. Called “Skywalker,” he was said to turn basketball into the exciting sport that it became once he graduated and started his professional career. He is truly a legend!
Jerry Lucas (Ohio State, 1959-1962)
During his time with the Ohio State Buckeyes, Jerry Lucas nearly had an average of 20-20 during his college career. At any rate, he led the team to victory at the NCAA championship in 1960. For two years, he was dubbed the most outstanding player of the year at the NCAA Tournaments. It has since been 60 years since his final season, but he remains the only baller to be a Big Ten Player of the Year thrice. This is the same number of times that he was picked to play on the All-American team!
Elvin Hayes (Houston, 1965-1968)
In 1968, Elvin Hayes cemented his status in history by leading the Houston Cougars to a victory over the UCLA Bruins. Considered the Game of the Century, it was a landmark victory on national television. He earned 39 points and 15 rebounds over the course of the game, even outdoing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the UCLA. On top of his incredible performance, he had an average of 31 points and 17 rebounds per game during his career. He was a two-time consensus All-American as well. It is not a reach to say that he paved the way for many black players aspiring to play college basketball in the South!
Tom Gola (La Salle, 1951-1955)
There is no one in the history of NCAA to have pulled rebounds as much as Tom Gola did when he was with La Salle. He is one of two men who recorded 2,000 points and 2,000 rebounds. The talented baller achieved this milestone with an average of nearly 20 points and rebounds per game. With a record of 96 double-doubles, he set the record in the NCAA for this. He led La Salle to victory during the 1954 NCAA championship. During his tenure, he was also a consensus All-American pick three times.
Oscar Robertson (Cincinnati, 1957-1960)
The Big O might not have won a title, but he is definitely one of the greatest ballers to have ever graced the basketball court. Oscar Robertson pulled out all the stops while he was playing for Cincinnati! He had an average of 35.1 points per game in the 1958 season and picked up 55 double-double games out of 60 during his junior and senior years. He was a three-time consensus All-American pick. The National Basketball Hall of Fame said he was “the best all-around player in the history of college basketball.”
Bill Russell (San Francisco, 1953-1956)
It is not a stretch to say that Bill Russell was one of the best ballers of the ‘50s. He had a great career and even won 11 NBA titles when he went pro. Before that, Bill Russell led San Francisco to back-to-back victory in the 1955 and 1956 NCAA championships. Not a lot of college ballers can claim to have multiple titles to their names! He was the most outstanding player those years as well. Lastly, he was also one of five NCAA male players to have an average of 20 points and 20 rebounds per game during his career.
Bill Walton (UCLA, 1971-1974)
The final stretch of the invincible run of the UCLA back in the ‘60s and ‘70s would have been impossible without Bill Walton. He was a machine on the court! We are not surprised to hear that he was dubbed the National Collegiate Player of the Year from 1972 to 1974. This is an all-time record in itself! In 1972 and 1973, he led the Bruins to back-to-back titles. As the star of the team, the Bruins enjoyed two undefeated seasons and even pulled off an unbelievable 88-game win streak. We highly doubt that this record will ever be broken.
Pete Maravich (LSU, 1967-1970)
Good luck looking for a better offensive college basketball player than Pete “Pistol” Maravich! Trust us, you are never going to find someone to fit the bill. Before the three-point line came to existence, he somehow earned a career average of over 44 points per game! How mind-boggling is that? He also has the NCAA all-time career points record at 3,667 points in the span of three seasons. He holds just about every scoring record that you can think of such as career scoring average, total 40-point games, and most points in one season. With all of that in mind, it must not come as a shock to hear that he was dubbed SEC Player of the Year And was chosen for the All-American team three times.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (UCLA, 1966-1969)
There is no doubt that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the most dominant basketball player on the most dominant college team out there. When he was a Bruin, he played under a different name: Lew Alcindor. During the three seasons he spent playing for UCLA, he won three titles! This was pretty much unheard of. He launched his collegiate basketball career with a bang by earning 56 points in 1966. This was a record for first games as well! During his run with the Bruins, he led the team to the title and was named the most outstanding player. What a champ.
James Worthy- North Carolina (1980-1982)
James Worthy was an absolute standout player for the North Carolina Ta Heels, before the 1982 NCAA championship he was national player of the year and a first-team All-American. Worthy was deemed the Most Outsatanding Player at the 1982 NCAA championship. It was after this that he went on to being chosen as the first overall pick in the 1982 NBA draft, where he was selected by the LA Lakers.
Hank Luisetti- Stanford (1935-1938)
Luisetti is known as one of the legends of basketball for his innovation within the game, he is the inventor of the running one-handed shot which later became the jump shot. This was his offensive tool that elevate the game for not only him but for all.Luisetti was believed to keep both feet planted when shooting but the opposite was true, “I’d get the ball, take a dribble or two and jump and shoot on the way up. I didn’t jump and shoot at the height of my jump, the way they do now. I’d let the ball go right near my face; I’d push and shoot, off my fingertips.” He never made it to the NBA as he contracted spinal meningitis in the Navy.
Cliff Hagan- Kentucky (1951-1954)
Also referred to as “Li’l Abner” may have been one of the stars of Kentucky having helped them win the NCAA Championship in 1951, they won 68-58 over Kansas State. Although having been part of some scandal associated with the team his NBA career was not hurt at all. Hagan was selected by the Celtics and scored a record of 51 points in 1953. This record was no beaten until 1970.
Wayman Tisdale- Oklahoma (1983-1985)
Not only is Wayman Tisdale a three-time All-American, an NBA player, he also features in the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame and is a smooth jazz bass guitarist. Tisdale was a power forward who managed to average 15 points and six rebounds per game. Him and Mitch “The Rock” Richmond are known as one of the best duos in NBA history.
Mark Aguirre- DePaul (1979-1981)
As the first overall pick in the 1981 NBA draft, it is no doubt his college career distinguished him above many other players. When playing at DePaul University he was The Sporting News and Helms Foundation College Player of the Year, the USBWA College Player of the Year, and the James Naismith Award receiver in 1980. Aguirre assisted in leading his team to the Final Four and has many accolades under his belt which built the foundation for an incredible career.
John Wooden- Purdue (1929-1932)
John Wooden was the first player to be named basketball All-American three times. Wooden received the honor of being the pre-NCAA Tournament national champion by the Helms Athletic Foundation and the Premo-Poretta Power Poll. He went on to be a top coach at UCLA having ten NCAA championships under his belt within the period of twelve years.
Clyde Lovellette- Kansas (1949-1952)
The first basketball player to ever play on an NCAA championship team, Olympics gold medal team, and NBA championship team. He embodied the ideal of a tall and high-scoring center. He led the Jayhawks to the 1952 win in the NCAA championship. He is to this day the only college player to lead the nation scoring records and win the NCAA title in the same year.
Steve Alford- Indiana (1984-1987)
Steve Alford was Indiana’s all-time leading scorer up until Calbert Cheaney came along. However, he had 2,438 points. He was also the first player to be named MVP four times. Alford went on to have an impressive college career and was also selected to be part of the 1984 Summer Olympic team. In 1986-1987 he led the Hoosiers in the victory against Syracuse for their fifth national championship. He was just 19 when selected. Alford has gone on to be an impressive coach.
Chris Mullin- St. John’s (1982-1985)
Mullin’s reputation began spreading around New York City as he played against strong players but was unbelievably good. He won the 1974 “Elks Hoops Shoot” which was a national free throw contest for adolescents and youth. After being recruited for St. Johns he averaged 16.6 points per game in his first year and in the years to follow he was named Big East Player of the Year three times, part of the All-American team three times and played for the 1984 Olympic team which won gold.
Bob Cousy- Holy Cross (1947-1950)
Known for his streetball tactics and up-tempo playing he managed to adapt whilst playing at Holy Cross to a more strategic and staple footwork kind of tactics. He managed to score 227 points in his freshman year and was an underdog at this point with just 9 minutes of playing time per game, he went on to play in the 1947 NCAA tournament. Cousy was treated unfairly until his senior year 1949-1950 when the crowd cheered and demanded he be put on, in just a few minutes he scored 11 points and saved his team with a behind-the-back-dribble.
Bob Pettit- LSU (1952-1954)
As a player of 11 seasons in the NBA Pettit’s college career set him up for such success. He had offers from 14 different universities but went with Louisiana. Becoming a three-time All-Southeastern Conference selection and a two time All-American. Pettit made such a name for himself that in 1954 his number was retired, number 50. He was the first athlete in any sport to receive such a reward. He is naturally now a member of the LSU Hall of Fame.
Shane Battier- Duke (1998-2001)
Shane Battier graduated his senior year of high school with a 3.96 average making him an outstanding student and a very attractive candidate for Duke. He played four years at Duke and led the school to two Final Fours. He received the NABC Defensive Player of the Year award three times. H graduated with a major in religion. Battier was a two-time Academic All-American and in 2001 was Academic All-American of the year.
Sidney Wicks- UCLA (1969-1971)
WIcks was a powerhouse at UCLA as a 6″8 power-forward/ center. He played on three consecutive NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championships. In 1970 he was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four., Helms National Co-Player of the Year USBWA and Sporting News Player of the Year as well as consecutive consensus All-American in 1970 and 1971.
Bob Lanier- St. Bonaventure (1968-1970)
As 6″11 Bob Lanier had an impressive college career but one that was also halted by injury. Lanier currently is the holder of the scoring and rebounding records at St. Bonaventure- averaging 27.6 points and 15.7 rebounds, additionally obtaining 57% shooting in 75 career games. Lanier injured his knee and eventually had to undergo surgery which would be the first of eight in his lifetime.
Cazzie Russell- Michigan (1964-1967)
Russel helped lead the Wolverines to three Bi Ten Conference titles in the years of 1964-1966. They also entered the Final Four in 196 and 1965 but lost, unfortunately. In 1966 Russell was named College Basketball Player of the Year as he managed to average 30.8 points per game. He also participated in the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. He went on to being the first overall pick of the 1966 JNBA draft and was chosen by the New York Knicks.
Larry Johnson- UNLV (1990-1991)
Johnson played alongside other astounding players such as Stacey AUgmon and Greg Anthony in his college career. Johnson led UNLV to a win against Duke in 1990 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament. Johnson is the record holder of single-season and career field goal percentage. He also is ranked 12th in career scoring, 7th in rebounding at UNLV and this is with just two seasons under his belt.
Rick Barry- Miami (1963-1965)
Rick Barry preferred baseball in his younger years as a sport. However, he admired Willie Mays and went on to attend the University of Miami. In his senior year, he was leading the NCAA with a 37.4 point average. However, the Hurricanes did not end up participating in the tournament due to probation at the time. He is one of only two players to ever have their number retired by the University of Miami.
Darrell Griffith- Louisville (1977-1980)
In 1980 Darrell Griffith led Louisville to their first-ever NCAA men’s basketball championship win. He was rewarded Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four after his performance. He managed to tall 825 points in his senior year. Griffith was rewarded First Team All-American by the Associated Press and also received the Wooden Award as best college player in the nation.
Patrick Ewing- Georgetown (1982-1985)
Many fans were hoping that Ewing would stay local and play Boston College or Boston University, however. upon making the announcement to play for Georgetown many fans exited the room in disappointment. Ewing went on to become one of the first-ever freshmen that started and starred on the varsity team as a freshman that is. Ewing led Georgetown in the 1983-1984 season to their first-ever NCAA championship win.
Elgin Baylor- Idaho and Seattle (1956-1958)
Before his 14 seasons with the NBA Elgin Baylor played for both Idaho and Seattle. Baylor had disappointing grades but a friend managed to organize a scholarship at Idaho. He played both football and basketball there but after budget cuts, scholarships became hard to get. After being interested in Seattle by a car dealer he set a year aside to gain eligibility. This was the beginning of great things for Seattle and Baylor as he led them to an NCAA championship win in 1958.