A century of excellence: All-time great Kansas University basketball stars

The University of Kansas basketball program has a glorious history. It’s one of the top five college basketball programs of all time.

Kansas has won three national championships, played in the championship game nine times, and will be appearing in its 15th Final Four tomorrow.

The Jayhawks have been coached by James Naismith (inventor of the sport), Phog Allen, Larry Brown, and Roy Williams — legends all. But its most successful coach is the current one, Bill Self.

Self has has been at KU since 2003. He has led the Jayhawks to at least a share of 14 straight Big 12 regular season championships, a streak that’s still intact; three Final Four appearances; and the 2008 NCAA championship.

Self’s teams always seem to have an outstanding, hard-nose point guard. As someone who sees the Jayhawks play only a few times a year, it’s hard for me to keep them straight. DeVonte Graham, Frank Mason III, Sherron Collins, Tyshawn Taylor, and Mario Chalmers tend to blend in my mind. Same with the White big men: Raef LeFrantz, Nick Collison, Cole Aldrich, and Scot Pollard. The stats don’t always sharply differentiate these sets of players, either.

This makes it difficult for me to select all-time KU all-star teams. Here’s my attempt:

First Team:

Frank Mason, III

As a senior, Mason averaged 20.5 points (on .471 three-point shooting) and 5.1 assists per game, the first Jayhawk to top 20 and 5 in these categories. He earned Big 12 Player of the Year, first team All-American, and several National Player of the Year honors.

Mason is sixth on the all-time KU scoring list. He played high school ball in Petersburg, Virginia, home town of the great Moses Malone. He’s second to Malone on the Petersburg High all-time scoring list.

Paul Pierce (1995-98)

Pierce averaged 20.4 points per game as a senior, shooting .513 and contributing 6.7 rebounds. He made first team All-Big 12 and consensus first team All-American. He’s tenth on the Jayhawks all-time scoring list.

Pierce went on to have a phenomenal pro career. He made ten all-star teams and won a world championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008. He was MVP of the NBA Finals that year.

Danny Manning (1984-88)

One of college basketball’s all-time greats, Manning was a two-time first team All American and college Player of the Year in 1988. That year, he led an undermanned KU team to the National Championship.

A three-time Big 12 Player of the Year, Manning averaged 23.9 and 24.8 points per game in his final two seasons, along with 9.5 and 9.0 rebounds. His shooting percentage for his college career is .593. He’s KU’s all-time leading scorer.

As a pro, Manning averaged over 20 points per game three times and made two NBA all-star teams.

Clyde Lovellette (1949-52)

He led Kansas to the national championship in 1952. He was National Player of the Year that season, averaging 28.4 points and 12.8 rebounds per game. For his college career, Lovellette averaged 24.5 and 11.4

Lovellette had a great pro career, too. He averaged better than 20 points and 10 rebounds in six of his seven prime years. He’s one of only seven players in history to win an NCAA Championship, an NBA Championship, and an Olympic Gold Medal. Lovellette is a member of the Naismith Hall of Fame.

Wilt Chamberlain (1956-58)

Wilt played at KU for only two years before departing for the Harlem Globetrotters. During those two years, he averaged 29.9 points and 18.3 rebounds a game. He came close to leading the Jayhawks to the national championship, but they lost the 1957 title game in triple overtime to an undefeated North Carolina team.

Chamberlain, of course, went on the become the most dominant, and in my view the best, center in NBA history.

Second Team:

DeVonte’ Graham (2004-present)

Taking over as KU’s lead guard this season, Graham earned Big 12 Player of the Year honors and is a consensus All-American. He averages 17.6 points and 7.2 assists per game.

Darnell Valentine (1977-81)

One of KU’s most highly recruited players, Valentine stayed home to play for Kansas. He averaged 15.4 points and 5.2 assists during his college career. As a senior, he shot better than 50 percent from the field. A model of consistency from year to year, Valentine made All-Big 12 four times. He also was a three-time Academic All-American.

Valentine is second all-time in steals at KU and ranks seventh in points.

Kirk Hinrich (1999-03)

Hinrich starred on two Final Four teams. He could play, and score from, either guard position. Playing mostly point, he averaged 6.9 assists as a sophomore. Playing mostly wing, he averaged 17.3 points as a senior. Over his final three season, he shot better than 50 percent from the floor and better than 44 percent from three-point territory.

Nick Collison (1999-03)

Like his Iowa buddy Hinrich, Collison starred on two Final Four teams. As a senior, he was a consensus first-team All-American. That year, he averaged 18.5 points and 10.0 rebounds per game, while shooting .554 from the field (his career number is .562). He’s second on the all-time scoring list.

Raef LaFrentz (1994-98)

LeFrentz was twice Big 12 Player of the Year. His numbers during his final two seasons are even better than Collison’s: 18.5 and 19.8 points per game, with better than 56 percent shooting, and 9.3 and 11.4 rebounds per game. He’s third on the all-time scoring list, 31 points behind Collison.

LeFrentz had a fine pro career, consistently averaging better than 10 points and 7 rebounds per game during his first five seasons.

Third Team:
Mario Chalmers (2005-08)

Chalmers hit what is probably the most important shot in Jayhawks history, a buzzer-beating three-pointer in the 2008 national championship game that sent the game into overtime. Kansas went on to defeat Louisville. Chalmers was named the outstanding player of the 2008 Final Four.

A steady scorer who shot a good percentage, Chalmers was best known for his defensive play. Twice, he was named to the Big 12 All-Defensive Team and he’s Kansas’ all-time leader in steals.

Jo Jo White (1965-69)

As a senior, he averaged 18.1 points per game and was named a consensus second team All-American. White was all Big 8 (as KU’s conference was known then) in all three of his full seasons with the Jayhawks.

White is a footnote to the story of the Texas Western team that made history when, with five black starters, it defeated Kentucky in the 1966 championship game. White hit a shot that would have beaten Texas Western at the end of the first overtime period in the Regional Finals. The shot was adjudged to have stepped out of bounds, and Texas Western prevailed in double overtime.

White was a member of the 1968 Olympic team that won the Gold Medal as an underdog. He went on to have a stellar NBA career. White passed away in January of this year.

Charles B. Black (1942-47)

Black gained some first-team all American honors in 1942 and was a consensus first-team All-American the following year. When he returned from World War II, during which he was a fighter pilot, Black gained some first-team All-American honors in 1946 and 1947. He was KU’s first 1,000 point scorer and was considered a standout on defense.

Black went on to play for several years in the nascent NBA. He is not to be confused with Charlie T.Black, an all-American guard for the Jayhawks during the 1920s under legendary coach Phog Allen.

Dave Robisch (1968-71)

Robisch was a two-time Big 8 Player of the Year. His best season was his junior year. He averaged 26.5 points and 12.1 rebounds per game. For his career, he averaged 21.1 points and 8.2 rebounds. Robisch went on to play seven years in the ABA and seven years in the NBA.

Drew Gooden (1999-02)

Gooden was a first-team All-American and Big 12 Player of the Year in 2002. He was also the NABC college Player of the year.

That season, Gooden averaged 19.8 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. However, Maryland’s Chris Wilcox, a sophomore, outplayed him in the national semi-finals which the Terps won. That game helped make Wilcox a lottery pick in the NBA draft. Gooden was a lottery pick too. He was selected fourth, four places ahead of Wilcox.

Gooden had a very long and productive pro career, playing for ten different NBA teams.

Fourth Team:

Sherron Collins (2006-10)

As a sophomore, Collins was the sixth man on KU’s national championship team. In the championship game, one of the best in NCAA history, Collins made key play after key play down the stretch, including the assist on Mario Chalmers’ three-pointer that sent the game into overtime.

Collins went on to become an all-Big Eight selection and second or third team All-American (depending on the outlet making the picks) as a junior. As a senior, he was a consensus first team All-American, though he had a worse season statistically.

Aaron Miles (2001-04)

He was the point guard on a pair of Final Four squads at Kansas. He averaged more than seven assists a game in his final two seasons and 6.9 percent for his career. Miles is the Jayhawks all-time leader in assists by a wide margin. He also holds the Big 12 career assist record.

Wayne Semien (2001-05)

Semien had a monster senior year, scoring 20.3 points per game on .552 shooting, with 11.0 rebounds. This earned him consensus All-American honors.

Semien’s career shooting percentage at Kansas was .566. His brief professional career saw him win an NBA title with Miami in 2006. Three years later, he retired to work in Christian ministry.

Bill Bridges (1958-61)

Bridges was a rebounding machine for the Jayhawks. He averaged 13.9 boards per game during his career, second only to Wilt Chamberlain in KU history. He made three all-Big Eight teams and as senior won some All-American recognition. That year, he averaged 16.1 points and 14.1 rebounds per game.

Bridges began his pro career with the Kansas City Steers in the ABL, briefly a rival of the NBA. In his second season, he led the ABL in scoring. When the ABL folded, he moved to the NBA where he had a ver good 13-year career, averaging 11.9 points and 11.9 rebounds per game and making three all-star teams.

Walt Wesley (1963-66)

Wesley 19.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game for his Kansas career. He received some first-team All-American recognition as a senior.

Wesley was the sixth overall pick in the 1966 NBA draft, but was a back-up center for most of his pro career. He did, however, start and excel for the expansion Cleveland Cavaliers, one of the worst NBA of its era.

Honorable mention:

There are too many KU stars deserving honorable mention to list here. Among them, in no particular order, are:

Jacque Vaughn (1993-97)
Russell Robinson (2004-08)
Aaron Miles (2001-05)
Perry Ellis (2012-16)
Brandon Rush (2005-08)
Cedric Hunter (1983-87)
Eric Chenowith (1997-01)
Scot Pollard (1993-97)
Cole Aldrich (2007-10)
Greg Ostertag (1991-85)
Tayshawn Taylor (2008-12)
Bud Stallworth (1969-72)
Thomas Robinson (2009-12)
Wayne Hightower (1959-61)
Charlie T. Black (1921-24)
Paul Endacott (1920-23)
Tus Ackerman (1922-24)

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