"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Top 20 Recruiting Classes - Ranked

Last year, Cracked Sidewalks asked John Pudner ('88) to do a guest column, and he gave us his take on Marquette's Top 100 Players of all time. A week ago, after this discussion on MUScoop, I asked Pudner to use his database for new, evil purposes.

On request, he's put together Marquette's Top 20 Recruting Classes.

The Top 20 Recruiting Classes of All-Time

The recruiting class Buzz Williams has produced in his first couple of months looks like it could be one of the greatest recruiting classes in MU history. We won’t know until their careers have all concluded, but the signees have spurred some posts on the greatest recruiting classes so far.

I recently compiled a rating for all 669 players in MU history, so with that in place I decided to proceed to add the total ratings of the players that have made up MUs first 89 recruiting classes (still to early to rank Hayward & Company and beyond) to determine the best 20 of all time.

If you want to see how every player was evaluated and rated, I’m afraid you have to go to www.collegeprowler.com/basketball and buy my new book, Ultimate Hoops Guide: Marquette University, but for purposes of this article let me condense 100 pages into a few lines. I simplified the points, rebounds, steals, blocked shots and assists for every MU player from 1917 on to one rating number based on the context of the conditions under which they played. For example, a player scoring 7 ppg in the 1920s when MU was giving up 28 points per game will rank about the same as a player scoring 20 ppg in an early 1960s season in which MU was giving up 80 points per game because they are both scoring about 25% of the points needed to win each night.

In the end, each player ended up with a rating between 0 and 55, with the following distribution:
RatingNumber of Players

5 – 9
0 – 4

1st to 6th best
7th to 19th best
20th to 49th best
50th to 110th best
111th to 207th best
208th to 310th best
311th to 669th best

For purposes of this article, I then added up the ratings of each player in each class to get a class rating for the first 89 MU recruiting classes with the following notes:
  • Highest rating awarded a class for one player is 50 points. Once I completed the project, it was clear Jim Chones, Bo Ellis, Butch Lee, Dean Meminger, George Thompson and Dwyane Wade were the top 6 players in MU history, but I am rounding each of their 6 ratings to an even 50 points to avoid turning this article into a rehash of who the top individual players are.

  • Lowest rating awarded a class for one player is 5.1. The average class has had 3 to 4 players who ended up with a rating of more than 5, so there is no reason to give any credit for a player lower than that.

  • Class is defined as the players who all started playing the same year. Because I don’t have data for the year in which each player actually signed his commitment so I can’t distinguish between true freshman, redshirts and JC transfers for many of the seasons. This leads to some situations such as Wade and Diener being grouped together in the 2001 class because Wade sat out his first year, but it was the only way I could run the numbers.The following are the Top 20 recruiting classes of all time:


Class Started Playing Together

Eventual Career Value of Top 5

Top Players in Order



Kuffel 22.3, Skat 19.7, Chandler 18.1, Millunze 14.1, Bril 10.4 – MU started the 1940s with a solid recruiting class but these five only got to play together their sophomore year of 1942, as the draft took different players in different years and some finished their careers as late as 1947. On top of that, after a strong start in 1945, Chandler was ruled ineligible early in 45. The result was MUs only losing decade.


Deneen 25.8, Hesik 18.3, Adams 16.1, Graf 13.2, Amsden 11.3 – MU already had recruited its first all-world player in Dave Quabius (45.3 rating, 1st NBA player, 2nd All-American) in 1936, and added a great supporting staff in 1937. The result was a team that had marquee wins and probably missed the first two Elite 8s only due to close losses at Kentucky in 1938, and at the 1st two national champs (Long Island and Temple) in 1939.


Rand 45.9, Bugalski 26.6, O’Keefe 12.7– Rand as the superstar that would be carried off the plane in 1955 after returning from a Sweet 16 victory in the season in which MU to their incredible 24-3 season and their first national ranking (8th at the end of the year). Bugalski was a key to that team as well, and once they added Hopfensperger the next year they were loaded.


Novak 34.7, Jackson 31.0, Chapman 14.0, Grimm 6.0 – Obviously this is dependent on counting Jackson who was a senior in 2002 after three years at Mississippi State and sitting out the transfer year. With Novak as the best shooter in MU history, and Jackson as the only legitimate big man of the decade (until this year J), this was the ultimate inside-outside one-two punch.


Miller 32.9, McCaskill 32.6, Gates 11.9, Smith 9.0 – In addition to the inspirational recruit of Gates and him single-handedly getting MU through a tournament win his freshman year, Miller and McCaskill were the two great additions to great 1990s class. Both proved key pieces to get to the Sweet 16 (Miller to break Kentucky’s press, and McCaskill to step up when they got McIlvaine in early foul trouble).


Meminger 50.0, Cobb 32.1, McMahon 6.7 – George Thompson’s senior year was supposed to be a rebuilding year after the 1968 Sweet 16, but the rebuilding effort turned out to be the first year for Meminger and Cobb, who teamed up with Thompson to get revenge on Rupp and Kentucky to go Elite 8 in the trios only year together.


Crawford 32.4, Pieper 23.9, Abraham 22.0, Joseph 11.8 – A very solid top 3, and this team not only contributed as freshman for the Sweet 16 run, but went 22-9, 23-8, 21-12 the three years after O’Neill, Key and McIlvaine were gone, and beat 7 of 8 ranked teams during that stretch!


Ellis 50.0, Walton 41.5 – What more do you need when you have Ellis, but to also activate Walton that year (just like activating Wade during Diener’s first year below) is all you need for a top 20 class.


Thompson 50.0, Smith 23.4, Burke 20.2 – OK, if you get George Thompson in a class, who cares how good the other guys are? The other two were very solid players though.


Dunn 34.7, Quinn 34.5, McKenna 16.2, Deford 10.4, Cardinal 9.4 – This class put in place the incredible combo of Dunn and Quinn that went 15-5 and then 19-2, and once they were gone MU didn’t have another winning season for 8 years.


Whitehead 44.5, Toone 40.2, Payne 20.5 – If McGuire had needed more than three players that year, this class could have easily become the 3rd best class ever.


R. Wittberger 31.1, Shulz 28.0, Walczak 20.2,Van Vooren 15.5, Gill 11.1 – Put the first piece in place in Shulz that would become the incredible 24-3 Elite 8 team in 1955, as well as setting up to win the National Catholic title with this group.


Wade 50.0, Diener 42.7, Townsend 13.4 – Wade was on campus in 2000, but didn’t start playing until Diener’s first year to form a combo that propelled this class to No. 8 even though Townsend was the only other player of any note.


Mullen 38.7, Gorychka 23.4, Kukla 21.5, Casterton 18.2, Blask 7.4 – Mullen was the first All-American as MU dominated in football and basketball, whipping the Big 10 for two great seasons.

105.5 / est +8 in 2009

James 37.4, McNeal 36.3, Matthews 25.4, Burke 6.3 – If they were done now this would rank as the 9th best recruiting class ever, but with all four having one year left they are sure to move up to the 6th best recruiting class of all time. There is a big gap between that and the 1960 class however, so it would take a big year from Burke and a monster year from at least one of the three Amigos to finish in the Top 5. An Elite 8 run could push their class ranking as high as 3rd best of all time.


Erickson 29.4, Glaser 28.1, Hornak 24.4, Nixon 22.7, Borowski 18.0 – By far the most balanced class, with no superstars but five new excellent players. This class led the MU to a 51-31 mark closing with the NIT, and as soon as they left the 1964 team went 5-21.


Wilson 38.5, Worthen 37.4, Marquardt 23.3, Green 17.7, Shimon 6.0 – I think people forget this class was ranked 10th at the end of 1979 and went 60-27 even if you don’t count their first year together when they still had Whitehead and Lee (24-4)


McIlvaine 41.8, Curry 32.0, Key 31.2, Logterman 18.9 – This class really is amazing when you consider O’Neill inherited a program that had gone 23-33 the two previous seasons without even PLAYING a single ranked team. Certainly it helped to have Tony Smith go All-American his first year and at least get the team back to 15-14, but I view this class as nothing short of amazing and really wonder if the program would have ever come back without it.


Lucas 48.9, Tatum 46.2, Homan 24.8, Neary 9.9, Delsman 9.7 – Can’t get much better than two absolute superstars plus Homan to lead the team to the National Title game – plus the great roll player in Neary who red-shirted 74 and started in 77.


Chones 50, Lackey 38.2, McGuire 33.9, Frazier 23.8 – One of the top 6 catches of all-time was Chones, and with Lackey clearly the best class of all-time. From day 1 together they played exactly 50 games as a group, and went 49-1, only losing 60-59 to Ohio State in the NCAA after OSU got a bye, there was a bench clearing fight, and Meminger fouled out with 5 minutes to go.

I’m sure the first question is how McGuire could only have two of the top 9 classes. The answer is simple, he always had the roster stacked with so many All-Americans and future NBA players that he typically only needed one or two players in each class. Most of the great recruiting class occurred when the cubbard was bare an MU coach went out and landed four or five very good players. McGuire rarely had room for four or five players in a class. If we instead ranked each class based on only the top two recruits, McGuire would have seven of the top 12 recruiting classes of all time. From 1st to 12th place, the top classes based on just the top 2 recruits would be: 1972, 2001, 1970, 1973, 1975, 2005, 1978, 1971, 1990, 1966, 1953 and 1968.

Please do reply if you spot someone you believe I have in the wrong starting year. As I said at the outset, this was not an issue I considered when putting the book together, so I had not done verification on the set of years I had listed for all 669 players. These years look right, and if they are these are the 20 classes that have proved to be the best on the court. Hopefully in a few years we will be verifying that this year’s class was ultimately the best ever!

John Pudner, graduated from Marquette - Jour ’88. Inspired by Cracked Sidewalks, he decided to work with a student to compile every stat on every MU player in history, and has recently completed a book called "Ultimate Hoops Guide – Marquette University", that is being released by College Prowler next month (www.collegeprowler.com/basketball).

John lives in Alabama, but he will be in town during Marquette's Reunion Weekend. He will be hosting a "meet the author" type session at the Ambassador Hotel, Saturday July 26th from 8am-12:30pm. Please rsvp to jpudner@concentricgrasstops.com

I think I heard him say he was buying anyone who shows up, free beer.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

That is interesting. I am sure we will all be interested 5 years later to see how Buzz's first recruiting class achieved. Hopefully we have many more excellent recruiting years.