"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

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Marquette's Greatest Players - Top 10

The following is the final entry in a series of guest columns written by John Pudner ('88).

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).

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.


Anonymous said...

I'm not real clear on why Rivers' coaching should get him points on the "Marquette Greatest Players" list.

Why not include Ulice Payne's post-graduation accomplishments and put him near the top? That makes just as much a sense.

Rivers was nowhere near one of the top 10 players at Marquette as his 2nd round draft status can attest. The only worse placement was McIlvaine, who scored a whopping 4 points when he "led" Marquette to their big win over Kentucky.

Other than those two, it is a great list!

Anonymous said...

Kudo's on the gut check to resist the obvious and not put D-Wade as #1. However, I expected Butch Lee to be #1, rather than Bo, though both were obviously great, great college players.

Also disagree with the 1st post on Doc Rivers: he was a great player, and with Mike Wilson, the top backcourt in the nation. Its true Rivers fell to 2nd round, but he was a great NBA player and the steal of that draft.

Thanks for putting the list together, and giving us something other than TC to post-about!

Anonymous said...

I agree that Rivers is overrated. My memories are of a terrific freshman year, followed by two rather disappointing seasons. Looking at the MU record book, Doc's freshman season ranks in the top 10 in 9 of 13 statistical categories, which is truly impressive. However his sophomore season is only in the top 10 in 4 categories, and his junior season only 2. It's also hard to overlook the lack of post-season success (only 1 NCAA win, I believe), which others on the list were penalized for.

I also agree it makes no sense to award him points for coaching in NBA, especially since he has yet to get any of his teams to the playoffs.

Anonymous said...

Another intangible that you can "through"(sic) in about Bo was that he helped design many of the awesome uniforms that MU wore in the 70's.

Anonymous said...

An additional plus for Bo's speech at the 30th Anniversary game, stating (over and over) that he will always be a Warrior!!

Kevin Buckley said...

cough .. cough .. this video? -- Gotta forward to end, the 7th minute.

Anonymous said...

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There are thousands of lists just like it there.

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Post your own version of this list or something similar! And then let people add to to it and edit it by making it a wiki list.

Anonymous said...

FROM THE AUTHOR. Thanks for everyone's feedback, this really was fun and I really did want the feedback, particularly the ones that referred to additional info. The one pick I really blew was Tony Smith, who it's clear should have been in this top 10. I really didn't boost Doc Rivers much for coaching, but I can certainly see Smith and Chones somewhere in the Top 10 and bumping him and Tatum just outside it.

OK, Smith was my worst pick, I really penalized him too much for his teams going 54-60, when I should have looked at it as him saving the program during those years. I know most of you seem to think McIlvaine was my worst choice, so I will make the case one last time and then shut up - because I really had and have no attachment to McIlvaine, the numbers just keep leading me back to him.

It sounds like I may be all alone in defending McIlvaine as a Top 15 to my grave, but he is the one case where every time he gets criticized and I take another look at more stats and history, I end up feeling even stronger that he is a top 10 player.

If stopping points is just as important as scoring them, his 1994 season is one of the greatest ever. He is listed as the national defensive player in the year by the NCAA book that came out in 2005. His 1994 team allowed almost as few points a game (61.7) as the pre-shotclock 1977 NCAA champs (59.4) and far fewer than Wades' final four team (69.5).

That team allowed the lowest field goal percentage (35.8%) of any team since they started keeping the stat in 1978 except for the 2000 Stanford team that had three 7-foot defensive specialist on their front line. Believe it or not, the year before when we beat Kentucky in the regular season, it was the only time in the history of MU that we have beaten a No. 1.

When going through the Top 25 individual seasons of all time we don't have any of the top 25 scoring years, or rebounding years. But Mcilvaine's 142 blocked shots in 1994 is the 22nd best season ever, and his career total of 399 is the 17th best season ever and puts him only 13 blocked shots behind Shaq. MMark Anglavar's 53.5% 3-point percentage in 1989, and Tony Miller's 956 career assists are the only other individuals to make a Top 25. (granted many of these stats weren't kept until the 1970s, but the fact that McIlvaine is so near the top of the thousands of centers who have played since then just make me credit for defensive dominance, and the team was also tops in the nation in field goal percentage in 1993 with 39.3%.

Maybe I'm also just biased because I feel like if he were playing this year, I wouldn't care if he never came down the court on offense. We could get plenty of points between James, McNeal, Matthews and Hayward, then the could just go for steals knowing that if someone got by them, McIlvaine would have their back.

Anonymous said...

You might want to look at the team's defensive statistics after McIlvaine left. Even in Deane's early years their FG percentage defense was similarly stingy...a carryover from the O'Neill regime. The numbers you cited were a group effort, although clearly McIlvaine was a standout shot blocker (just not one of the best MU players ever...not even close).

Anonymous said...

FROM THE AUTHOR - You are correct, the whole team does deserve credit for defense, but the opponents field goal percentage dropped in correspondence to McIlvaine's blocked shots going up throughout his career, and the writers did name him the top defensive player in the country, so I do give him a lion share of the credit, but the whole team was great defensively. Also, the 1997 team did also led in FG% allowed, though nowhere near that 1994 mark. Also, as I mentioned there is a gap. Adding Chones and Smith to my original Top 10, I think you could argue that there are 12 truly great MU players and then a falloff - but I just put McIlvaine near the top of that next tier. Thanks again for good points.

Anonymous said...

As good as Chones may have been, he only played one full season at MU, which has to be considered. Chones also came into a program that regularly won 20+ games and just won the NIT Championship after turning down an NCAA invite.

McIlvaine came to MU during one of their worst periods in the program's history and left on a team that made it to the Sweet 16. If Tony Miller was the real difference maker on that team, he would've at least led them back to the tourney the following year, with two future NBA players on the roster.

Anonymous said...

Look, the greatest player in MU history is Dwanye Wade, and I'm a 1978 MU grad. He did more with less than any other MU player before or since. An NBA career that included a championship certainly has not hurt.

Next is a trio of wonderplayers that are as good as anyone could ever imagine -- Bo, Butch and Maurice Lucas. Rememebr, championships count and these three along with Earl Tatum brought Marquette to the final four.

Kudos for including Don Kojis. It's as if someone did some real thinking and realized there was basketball at Marquette before AL. But I also think Whitehead may have been a Top 5 player, as was Lloyd Walton.

Your biggest mistake --Allie. George "Sugar" Frazier was a better guard and even Al knew it. He just wasn't better enough to overcome blood ties. If Allie belongs in the Top 100, so does Dave Delsman and Craig Butrym, not to mention Terrel Schlundt and Lloyd "Chocolate Moose" Moore.

For the record, the five best guys ever I'd wish I could see on an MU floor at the same time would be Lee, Wade, Ellis, Lucas and probably Chones. The guys I'd want ready to sub would be Walton, Whitehead, Tatum, Bob Lackey and Thompson, with Kojis close behind.

And they better be playing as Warriors!

Anonymous said...

D.Wade is a no brainer at #1 and I've been following MU basketball since 65' Lucas is clearly #2. I think we're arguing semantics. "Greatest" should include amount of years played, but should not discount value on the court and there post MU career. Lucas is one of the most underrated NBA/ABA players in history and redefined the power forward position. His overall game was often overlooked because of his physical style and intimidation. He could shoot, pass, rebound, defend, run the floor etc. For lack of a better phrase the guy was basically a total Badass.