We at CrackedSidewalks wish to thank John for this great series.
When some of my friends heard I was ranking the Top 100 players some laughed – thinking about the Dwyane Wade bobble head on my desk and the authentic MU Wade jersey I wear occasionally. However, when I crunch all the numbers and weight everything I have to give a slight – very slight – edge to Bo Ellis ahead of D. Wade as the greatest MU player of all time.
But it’s not just close between Wade and Ellis – there is a clean break between the greatest 9 players in Marquette history - and the other 630 players who have put on the uniform. I truly believe you could make an argument for any of the top 9 players as the greatest player in MU history – and I do not believe you could make an argument for any player from Earl Tatum 11th place on down the list. It just depends how much you weight statistics, dominance and the impact on the program. I weight all three as equally important, giving a score of 0 to 15 in each of those areas, then adding them up. Theoretically a perfect player could get a 15 + 15 + 15 = 45, but of the 640 players rated, the average score is 2 + 3 + 2 = 7 – so the average score is actually just 7 of 45 as only truly great accomplishments get the player any points:
If I had based these rankings solely on my 1st criteria, STATISTICS, then I believe you could go with George Thompson, Dean Meminger, Don Kojis or Terry Rand. The numbers those four put up are truly staggering, and match up with just about any other player in the country.
If I had based these rankings solely on my 2nd criteria, DOMINANCE, then 1st place would be a toss-up between Wade, Maurice Lucas and Butch Lee. Wade and Lucas were so good they ended up dominating the NBA, both leading teams to titles. Wade was a 1st team All-American, Lucas was 2nd team All-American in college. Wade was the most unstoppable, as even Dallas 5-on-1 defense set wasn’t enough to stop him as he took the NBA title from them. Lucas wsa the baddest man in the NBA, as he flattened Darryl Dawkins with one hit in route to his NBA title. While Butch Lee was not as dominant in the pros, he was the only MU player ever voted as the top college player in the country.
On both these counts, Ellis ranks just slightly behind the players mentioned – but he moves to the top of the list based on his IMPACT on the program. As great as his stats were, he separated himself from the other greats by leading MU to the NCAA championship game TWICE – the only two times MU has made the championship game. On both those teams, Ellis was either first or second on the team in both points and rebounds with 12.2/8.5 his freshman year when MU lost to NC State in the title game, and 15.6/8.3 his senior year when MU won the title over UNC.
If Wade or Lucas had played four years instead of two, I might move them into first – but only Ellis played four years. If any of the other top 9 players had taken their teams to two championship games, they might be in first – but only Ellis did. The photo of Ellis standing on the rim after claiming the 1977 title will always be a classic just behind McGuire crying on the bench.
The following are the ratings and descriptions of each of the greatest 10 players in Marquette history.
Key: All-time ranking among Marquette players, Name, (years played), Ratings based on statistics + domination/pro career + impact on program = overall rating.
1, Maurice (Bo) Ellis, (1974, 75, 76, 77) 13 + 14 + 15 = 42 Notes on why in Top 100: Only player on both Marquette's NCAA Runners-up in 1974 AND Champions in 1977, and was in the top 2 in rebounding AND points on both teams as both a freshman and a starter with 12.2/8.5 and 15.6/8.3 - 1st Round pick. One of only two MU players to record 1,000 rebounds (Kojis 1,222, Ellis 1,085) and 6th all-time in scoring 1,663, just over 100 behind leader 1st place George Thompson's 1,773, and they didn't start keeping track of blocked shots until 1980. And he was every bit as good the two years in between as he racked up a 101-18 record during his four years at MU – the only other starter to win 100 was Tatum at 101. You can even through in the intangible for his role in “Hoop Dreams.”
2, Dwyane Wade, (2002, 03) 14 + 15 + 12 = 41 Notes on why in Top 100: MVP of NBA Finals in 2006, 5th overall draft pick, 6,200 points in first 3 NBA years, All-Star every year after All-American in last year at MU, led MU back to final 4 in 2003 with 21.5/6.3, 71 steals, and led team with 43 blocked shots. Extra credit for being the spokesman for the University and single-handed destruction of Kentucky and Pittsburgh in NCAA, then Dallas Mavs in Championship.
3, George Thompson, (1967, 68, 69) 15 + 14 + 11 = 40 Notes on why in Top 100: All-American who got MU to the next level through 1969 - still top scorer in Marquette history at 1,773 despite playing before shotclock (and only playing the NCAA mandated three seasons), then scored 8,000 more in the pros. Only MU player ever to average more than 20 career ppg, and just misses top 10 rebounding at 688. In his three years of shattering rebounding and scoring records, Thompson led the Warriors to the NIT championship game, then the NCAA tourney, then to the Elite 8 to become Marquette's all-time leading scorer. The Elite 8 run came in a year that was supposed to be a rebuilding year, but Thompson led the team to their first Top 10 finish in the polls and backed it up with the Elite 8 run.
4, Alfred (Butch) Lee, (1975, 76, 77, 78) 12 + 15 + 13 = 40 Notes on why in Top 100: MVP of 1977 Championship team after his length of court pass to Whitehead won semi, then National Player of the year the next season before being the 10th overall NBA draft pick. The first Puerto Rican to make the NBA after he dominated the US Olympic team, and I gave him a bonus point for his dominance in the Olympics. Even though he didn't have the dominant NBA career of Wade, Lucas or Rivers, the fact that he was picked as the top player in the country in college forced me to give him a perfect 15 on dominance.
5, Dean Meminger, (1969, 70, 71) 12 + 15 + 13 = 40 Notes on why in Top 100: The 6-foot "The Dream" led the team to a 78-9 mark in his career. Top scorer (18.8 ppg) on the last team to turn down an NCAA bid, when No. 8 Marquette refused an out-of-region bid to go to the NIT where he beat Dr. J and Massachusetts, Pistol Pete and LSU and finally St. Johns in their home city of New York, then followed that up by being top scorer again on the undefeated (26-0, 21.2 ppg) regular season team that finally lost in the Elite 8. 1st Round Pick, over 2,500 NBA points. Meminger and McGuire had the best records of any MU 3-year starters in history, going an identical 78-9 mark (89.7% winning percentage).
6, Terry Rand, (1954, 55, 56) 15 + 11 + 13 = 39 Notes on why in Top 100: Leader of the most important season (1955) prior to the national title, as the 6-foot-8 center put Marquette on the map with a 22-game winning streak leading to Marquette's first ever Top 10 ranking (No. 8), which they backed up with their first ever Elite 8 finish in the NCAA behind Rand's 15.9/14.7 season. The team Rand led was so good, that the team's leading scorer and rebounder from the 1954 season, Russ Wittberger (19.4/8.5), did not even START for the championship season. The next year he led MU to the NIT while becoming the first MU player to score 20 ppg with an incredible 20.3/13.1 campaign, and drafted by Minneapolis of NBA - All-American who led the team in scoring and rebounding all three years. Second all-time with 12.7 rpg. The other two seasons the team was just 11-15 and 13-11.
7, Glen (Doc) Rivers, (1981, 82, 83) 12 + 15 + 11 = 38 Notes on why in Top 100: Rivers suffocating defense and incredible passing for 3 years at MU and 13 years in the NBA was coupled with 1,200 points at MU and 10,000 in the NBA as he was picked as both an All-American and and NBA All-Star. The only thing he lacked in my scoring was an NCAA run, but he does get a few bonus points for his coaching, most recently leading the Boston Celtics to the top record in the NBA this year. Doc's only faults are that after I enrolled at Marquette in 1983, he decided to leave for the NBA so I didn't see him play live, and he let his son go to Georgetown! (extra points for coaching Celtics). His ferocious defense led to 2.3 steals per game, the same as Wade and only slightly behind McNeal and Johnson.
8, Maurice Lucas, (1973, 74) 12 + 15 + 12 = 38 Notes on why in Top 100: 2nd team All-American who led NCAA Runners Up 1974 in both points and rebounds (15.8/10.6) as a 6-foot-8 center/forward. Had a 23-rebound game. 1st round pick, NBA All-Star with more than 12,000 career points, and averaged 20.2 ppg to lead Portland to the 1977 NBA title. Only 2 seasons at MU before draft. Basketball Digest called him one of the toughest men in basketball after he flattened Daryll Dawkins with one punch. Only the fact that he only played two years keeps him from competiting for the top. If either Lucas or Wade had played four years at Marquette, they would have been the top player in school history. They are the only two-year players to make the Top 10 list.
9, Don Kojis, (1959, 60, 61) 15 + 15 + 8 = 38 Notes on why in Top 100: Statistically the top player in school history even though at the time a 6-foot-3 player could play front line. Still, Kojas 21.4/17.1 in 1960-61 was only slightly better than his previous two seasons, he is still the top rebounder in school history. After being picked in the 2nd round of the NBA draft, scored almost 10,000 pro points and was an All-Star two of his 12 NBA seasons. If team had made a run in 1959 tourney, he would challenge for the top spot under these rankings. His career 15.1 rpg is easily tops all time, with Terry Rand 2nd at 12.7, and his total rebounds of 1222 beats Ellis' 1085 - the only other 1,000 rebound player.
10, Earl Tatum, (1973, 74, 75, 76) 10 + 14 + 13 = 37 Notes on why in Top 100: Starter for NCAA Runners Up 1974 with 10.1/5.1 as G/F, and only got better going All-American two years later before being 2nd round pick, over 2,500 NBA points. He had the best record of any 4-year player in Marquette history, as his teams from 1973-76 went 101-15 for an 87.1% winning percentge. (only backup Barry Brennan played all four of those years with Tatum).