We joke all the time about certain players in college that seem to have been there forever. It seems that Robbie Hummel has been at Purdue since 1999, or that William Buford was at Ohio State when Jim Jackson was running the two in Columbus. It’s not only a testament to a player leaving a lasting mark on our brains, but, unfortunately, it can signal that their pro careers might not reach their ultimate apex.
The NBA isn’t for everyone, but staying in our memories can mean just as much….okay, I’m lying. That NBA paycheck is quite nice. Yet, we remember players because of what they did on the biggest stage. Seeing that March Madness officially begins on Thursday and the narrative of tournament success is that guards rule the world, here are ten point guards that ruled.
10. Jason Gardner, Arizona – The last of Lute Olsen’s great squads at Arizona was led by Jason Gardner. Gardner led a squad with four players that ended up being drafted in the NBA (Richard Jefferson, Gilbert Arenas, Michael Wright, Loren Woods) and was THIS close to taking down a loaded Duke squad in ’01. Gardner will never get the amount of respect he deserves, but he was as good a lead guard as any that played under Lute in Tucson.
9. Steve Logan, Cincinnati – DMX would’ve been proud of his twin brother, as not only did Logan look JUST like Earl Simmons, but he also had the game that made folks ask, “What’s my name?” He is Cincinnati’s second all-time leading scorer with 1,985 points (behind Oscar Robertson) and second in assists with 456. Logan was on the number one squad with Kenyon Martin, as K-Mart broke his leg and cost the Bearcats a title run. Oh, what could’ve been in the Queen City.
8. Ray Jackson, Michigan – Due more to folklore than performance, Ray Jackson will always be remembered as the only player on the Fab Five that didn’t make the League, but also because of the foundation that he brought to the team. Two title appearances and two losses later (and forfeitures), Michigan’s place in history will always be a weird one. Of course, we’ll always remember the Fab Five, even Jackson.
7. Steve Wojciechowski, Duke – The floor slapper, the irritant, the clutch player. I made a list before of the only five Duke players I’ve ever actually liked, but if I made a list of the five Duke players I hated the most, then Wojo would’ve been considered number one. Of course, if I hated him that much, then, of course, he’s memorable. He had the daunting challenge of following Bobby Hurley, and his being named Defensive Player of the Year in 1998 validated his irritability more than ever.
6. Hollis Price, Oklahoma – Being a homer of the Oklahoma Sooners, I tend to overvalue the players I watched growing up. Wayman Tisdale is a basketball god, Stacey King is one of the greatest college bigs ever, Eduardo Najera was one of the guttiest players ever, and Blake Griffin is one of the greatest college athletes ever. This could be overstatement, and it could be truth. What’s for certain is that Hollis Price’s tenure in Norman was one of the most enriching experiences I’ve ever had watching ball. Fearless, clutch, and a true leader, Price lead OU to the Final Four in ’02, and I’ll never forgive Jared Jeffries for costing us a title. (I’m still bitter.) Hollis will always be a legend, and his jersey should be retired immediately.
5. Scottie Reynolds, Villanova – One of the greatest high yella point guards ever to play in college, he was also one of those players that it seemed like he was playing in Philly for seven years. One of just four first-team All-Americans in Villanova history, (Randy Foye, Kerry Kittles and Paul Arizin) Reynolds also led the Wildcats to just their second Final Four since the miracle ’85 Cats squad.
4. Wayne Turner, Kentucky – There are some of you that will read the name to the left and have no idea who in the hell that is. Yes, Wayne Turner is one of the most memorable PGs in history, and his resume speaks for itself. Turner led UK to three national championship games, winning two of them. From dishing to to rock to Walter McCarty and Antoine Walker, to Jeff Sheppard and Nazr Mohammed, Turner always kept the folks in Lexington happy.
3. Mateen Cleaves, Michigan State – Okay, I know that Mateen Cleaves technically did play in 167 games his career, but honestly….Mateen, we don’t care about your NBA career. That’s no dis; it’s just that your college career was so memorable. The school’s only three-time All-American, Cleaves helped Tom Izzo get his elusive first national championship in Lansing. For a second, he made fans of Sparty forget of that other point guard that used to play in the green and white, and that’s a memorable achievement.
2. Khalid El-Amin, UConn – I remember my partner Mike from high school changing his entire hoop persona one day. My boy was a slightly pudgy, but talented guard who was a huge Jordan fan back in the day. He always wanted to wear #23; that was his number. When we got to high school, this man had the gall and audacity to want to wear a different number. “#42, coach.” Mike saw himself in El-Amin, and El-Amin embodied a real spirit when he was on the floor. Overly ambitious, unabashedly unafraid and swag on a trillion, El-Amin helped the Huskies win their first NCAA Championship in 1999 in a thriller over Duke. In that game he scored the Huskies’ final four points, and when the game was over, he screamed, “WE SHOCKED THE WORLD! WE SHOCKED THE WORLD!” I’ll never forget that moment….ever.
1. Ed Cota, North Carolina – Without a doubt, Ed Cota might be the most beloved point guard in college basketball history. Outside of Duke fans, I don’t know ANYONE that doesn’t like Ed Cota. Cota played an NCAA record 138 games without ever fouling out, finished as UNC’s all-time leading assist man, and took UNC to three Final Fours. However, the biggest thing that was dope about Cota was how cool he was on the court. He never looked rattled, he always motivated others on the squad, and he WAS North Carolina from 1996-2000. Maybe it’s the power of the Carolina Blue, but #5 will always be number one in the hearts of many.
Now, there are a ton of folks that were left off this list. Got any other memorable PG’s to add? Leave it in the comments section.