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The AP announced their All-American teams yesterday. A pair of freshmen made the 1st team, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins from Kentucky as well as Ohio State's do-everything man Evan Turner. Wall or Turner will take home player of the year, and both had good seasons. I believe they will both make good pros, likely going 1-2 in June's Draft. But did either guy make you say, wow he might be the best college basketball player I have ever seen? No.
So who is the best college basketball player of the last, say, 20 years? Let's look at all the Naismith Award Winners since 1991.
91- Larry Johnson, UNLV
92- Christian Laettner, Duke
93- Calbert Cheaney, Indiana
94- Glenn Robinson, Purdue
95- Joe Smith, Maryland
96- Marcus Camby, UMass
97- Tim Duncan, Wake Forest
98- Antawn Jamison, North Carolina
99- Elton Brand, Duke
00- Kenyon Martin, Cincinnati
01- Shane Battier, Duke
02- Jason Williams, Duke
03- T.J. Ford, Texas
04- Jameer Nelson, St. Joe's
05- Andrew Bogut, Utah
06- J.J. Redick, Duke
07- Kevin Durant, Texas
08- Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina
09- Blake Griffin, Oklahoma
10- ? (Wall or Turner likely)'
Quick observations from the list; from 99-02 Duke had 3 different players win the Naismith, still can't believe Carmelo Anthony (2003) and Emeka Okafor (2004) did not win this award, and hey remember Blake Griffin?
I mention Melo and Okafor, neither guy won this award, but both probably should have and both took home National Titles. What is the most important thing to you when determining the "best" college player.
Is it best season, (Larry Johnson, Chris Webber, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant), is it best 2-3 year run (which eliminates Melo, Durant, even a Michael Beasley), and obviously how do you take into account career numbers. Guys like Laettner, Redick, and Hansbrough are going to have much better career numbers (individuals stats as well as Final 4s, etc.) than the 1 and done or 2 and out players.
That is why it's such a great argument. Laettner won 2 titles and played in a ridiculous 4 Final 4's while at Duke. Is that more impressive than what Carmelo did in his 1 year at Syracuse? Laettner averaged 16.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game for his career; Melo meanwhile slapped up a 22.1-10 in his only season which was capped off by Most Outstanding Player award. And in the semi-finals he torched Texas (and Naismith winner T.J. Ford) for a freshmen tourny record 33 points.
Coach Jim Boeheim, obviously biased, but still, referred to Anthony as "by far" the best player in college basketball and it "wasn't even close." I, unlike the Naismith voters, agreed. That may have been the most impressive college basketball season I have ever seen.
However, Duke PG Jason Williams, later known as "Jay" or motorcycle man, had an incredible 3 year run. He was freshmen of the year, then led his team to consecutive championship game appearances, cutting the nets down as a sophomore. He was better than Shane Battier, his teammate who won the Naismith. I remember watching Williams play, and saying the words, "that is not fair."
To me the answer(s) to the question are Larry Johnson, Carmelo Anthony, and Jason Williams. Combining incredible individual seasons with the ultimate team goal of capturing a championship. Webber, Camby, Duncan, Jamison, and Durant were all amazing players, but when so many great seasons have happened in the past 20 years, I believe the title is the tie breaker. If that is the case, then I think you narrow the list down to L. Johnson, Laettner, Jason Williams, and Carmelo Anthony; I eliminate Laettner, because a side from my hatred for him, he may have been the best winner (minus Alcindor and Walton), but on a team with Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill and others, he was great, don't get me wrong, but not the best player in the last 20 years.
I know Larry Johnson and Jason Williams also played with great teammates, but their numbers were superior to Laettners. Johnson played only 2 years at UNLV (after starting at Odessa College), he made 2 Final 4's, won a national title, and went 69-6, while putting up 21.6 points and 11.2 rebounds. Jay Williams was 19.3 points 6 assists in 3 years, including 21+ his final 2 seasons.
So you do you think is the best college basketball player of the last 20 years?
For more go to The Sports Brief
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