"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

Thursday, January 15, 2009

At this pace, where will four stars rank among the best MU players of all time?

PUDNER WEEK: Cracked Sidewalks has gone all-Pudner, all the time. Here's his third column of three.

At this pace, where will four stars rank among the best MU players of all time? - John Pudner

This is the final of three columns on where MUs current four stars will rank among the all-time greats in MU history.

While the four current MU stars will be all over the all-time lists of points scored, assists, steals and wins, we need to look at all of these factors and others to determine where they rank among the 32 pro players and 16 1st and 2nd team All-Americans to play at MU before them. For example, Bo Ellis and Butch Lee may look like they put up fewer numbers than the current team, but their 1976 and 1977 teams allowed only 60.1 and 59.4 points per game, almost 10 points a game less than is scored against MU today with the faster pace. If you go back even further in time, Dave Quabius 8.8 ppg during his All-American campaign in 1939 may look unimpressive, until you realize that MU was still giving up just 32.6 ppg then.

Each players stats must be understood in the context of how many points his MU squad arrived, and this all must be considered in the light of how far he was able to lead his teams in overall wins and the tournament, and what recognition he received from coaches and writers (e.g. Dominic being named AP All-American Honorable Mention, or Jerel getting Big East defensive player of the year).

With all of these points, wins, assists and steals, how valuable have the four greats been to date? Many other factors such as how many opponents’ points allowed are factored into the “Win Credits” formula on all 671 MU players between 1917 and now. Bo Ellis will still have created the most wins of any MU player in history with an estimate 25.7 Wins Created during his four years, however all four MU players are on pace to make the top 10, and McNeal is on pace to finish 2nd only to Ellis.

  1. Bo Ellis 25.7 Win Credits (estimate number of wins for which Ellis was responsible)
  2. Jerel McNeal 22.6
  3. Butch Lee 21.5
  4. Dominic James 21.0
  5. George Thompson 20.5
  6. Dean Meminger 19.7
  7. Lazar Hayward 19.7 (if senior year just as good as this year)
  8. Travis Diener 18.6
  9. Wes Matthews 17.7
  10. Don Kojis 16.4


Obviously seasons are now longer than they were in past decades, so today’s players have many more games in which to try to earn Win Credits. Where would today’s Fab 4 players rank among the 671 players to put on an MU uniform, including 32 players who would go onto play professionally and 16 players who went 1st or 2nd team All-American? My system for ranking the all-time players indicates it will be hard for any of the current four to break the Top 12 MU players of all time, which includes players from Dwyane Wade to Jerome Whitehead who were All-Americans and played professionally. However, the three Amigos are on pace to end up among the top two dozen players to ever play for MU on their current pace. The rating to the left of each of the following players is a combination of their Win Credits for each season per games played, as well as how far they took the team and the impact they had on the program, starting with the 13th greatest player in MU history, Tony Smith:


  1. Tony Smith 43.3
  2. Larry McNeil 43.2
  3. Travis Diener 42.7
  4. Jim McIlvaine 41.8
  5. Lloyd Walton 41.5
  6. Doc Rivers 40.9
  7. Jerel McNeal 40.8
  8. Bernard Toone 40.2
  9. Dominic James 38.8
  10. Ed Mullen 38.7
  11. Gary Brell 38.6
  12. Wesley Matthews 38.5
  13. Michael Wilson 38.5
  14. Bob Lackey 38.2
  15. Sam Worthen 37.4
  16. Joe Thomas 36.0

A 27-9 season (give or take a couple of wins) that included a win or two in the NCAA tournament would likely end up with McNeal rating as the 19th greatest player in MU history, with James and Matthews just a couple of spots behind. A trip to the Elite 8 would move each player up at least another point, and a Final Four trip would add at least two points to each player, moving each player further up the list above. On an individual bases, any player could get an additional point for being drafted or playing in the NBA, and/or being the 22nd MU player ever selected to at least the 4th team of an All-American team. One or more of the three players doing that could make a run that could challenge Tony Smith for the 13th spot or potentially go even higher.

Where ever they end up ranking on all of these fronts, it’s awfully hard to imagine the first four years of Big East play being a success without the Three Amigos and the addition of Lazar the next year. They’ve put MU at a level of Big East competition to attract the next round of MU stars.

John Pudner, Journalism ’88, was Editorial Editor and then News Editor for the Marquette Tribune. He was named top sports news writer in Virginia in 1991 while working for the Charlottesville Observer and wrote a weekly column on his rankings of baseball pitchers for the New York Post before leaving journalism for a career in politics and government affairs.

John's book Ultimate Hoops Guide: Marquette University can be ordered here: (www.collegeprowler.com/basketball)

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