Photo Credit: Dave Weaver/USA TODAY Sports Images
For all the criticism that star power in college basketball is dead by pundits and fans alike, they must not have been paying close attention this season to what Doug McDermott has been doing. McDermott, who plays for Creighton University, has recently entered into the top 10 list of all-time NCAA basketball scoring leaders when he scored 29 points against Seton Hall on February 23 to pass Alfredrick Hughes of Loyola Chicago, who played college basketball in the early 1980s. And McDermott isn’t even close to being done as he moved into the ninth spot on March 4 against Georgetown, and then supplanted two more all-time greats in Creighton’s season finale on March 8 against Providence–with a career high 45 points–to jump up to the seventh spot. With the Big East Tournament and NCAA Tournament to still compete in McDermott could very well vault himself into the top five of the all-time NCAA basketball scoring leaders when all is said and done.
Although some players can score basically at will at the collegiate level, it doesn’t mean those players will be transcendent at the NBA level. In fact only two players on this list had pro basketball Hall of Fame careers and a couple never even made it in the NBA. As McDermott makes the transition into the NBA next year it will be interesting to see how he fares as he’s likely to be more of a role player than a scoring champ at basketball’s highest level. Still, nobody can ever take away what the Creighton star did in college and the elite college basketball company that he has joined in the record books.
10. Danny Manning – University of Kansas (1984-88) – 2,951 points
Playing in 147 games over a four-year collegiate career, Danny Manning was able to amass nearly 3,000 points and lead the Jayhawks to a National Championship in 1988 to be remembered as one of the school’s all-time greats. After averaging 14.6 points per game as a freshman and 16.7 ppg as a sophomore, Manning really turned on the jets for his final two years averaging 23.9 ppg as a junior and 24.8 ppg as a senior. Manning began to get more recognized nationally after earning second team All-America honors as sophomore and leading his team to the NCAA Final Four, where KU ended up losing to Duke University. In his final two seasons, the 6’10” forward/center earned first team All-American honors twice, which included earning the Naismith Award, Wooden Award, NABC Award and NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player Award in his senior season. Manning went on to become the No. 1 draft pick by the Los Angeles Clippers in the summer of 1988 and had a solid 15-year career, where he was selected as an NBA All-Star twice in 1993 and 1994.
9. Oscar Robertson – University of Cincinnati (1957-60) – 2,973 points
Oscar Robertson is one of two players on this list to have had as successful career after college, as Robertson is considered one of the all-time basketball greats, period. “The Big O” as he’s lovingly referred to, only played three years at the University of Cincinnati per NCAA rules–from 1954 to 1973 freshmen couldn’t compete–but that didn’t stop him from nearly scoring 3,000 career points. While most college players see their scoring averages go up year after year, Robertson was a curious case as he averaged the most during his first season. During that first season as a sophomore in 1957-58, Robertson averaged 35.1 points per game whereas he averaged 32.6 ppg as a junior and 33.7 ppg as a senior. The 6’5″ guard was recognized as a three-time first team All-American, three-time Sporting News Player of the Year and three-time UPI Player of the Year during his collegiate career. The University of Cincinnati great went on to play 14 seasons in the NBA, was named an NBA All-Star 12 times, and won an NBA title in 1971 with the Milwaukee Bucks. The cachet he’s most likely known for though, is his second full season in the NBA in 1961-62 when Robertson averaged a triple double with 30.8 points 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists per game.
8. Hersey Hawkins – Bradley University (1984-88) – 3,008 points
During the same time as Danny Manning‘s stellar four-year career, there was another college basketball player who didn’t play for as a prestigious basketball program, yet scored more total points in less games played. Hersey Hawkins of Bradley University tallied a career total of 3,008 points in 125 games over four seasons for a career average of 24.1 points per game. Much like Manning, Hawkins improved greatly over his final two years, but to an even greater extent. After averaging only 14.6 ppg as a freshman and 18.7 ppg as a sophomore, Hawkins nearly doubled his sophomore year average as a senior scoring 36.3 ppg, while averaging 27.2 as a junior. While Manning earned the prominent Naismith and Wooden Awards in 1988, Hawkins was honored as the 1987-88 AP Player of the Year, Sporting News Player of the Year, UPI Player of the Year and USBWA Player of the Year to go along with a first-team All-American honor. The 6’3″ guard was able to carve out a decent NBA career playing 13 NBA seasons, including one All-Star appearance in 1991. As fate would have it, Hawkins too was selected by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 1988 NBA Draft, but never did play with Manning as he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers before the 1988-89 NBA season began.
7. Doug McDermott – Creighton University (2010-14) – 3,011 points *and counting
Little by little, year after year, Doug McDermott has continued to improve on his scoring to make his way into the top 10 with his final stop yet to be determined. After a freshman year with a scoring average of 14.9 points per game, McDermott has consistently been one of college basketball’s top leading scorers averaging 22.9 ppg as a sophomore and 23.2 ppg as a junior. Through 30 games this year and a jump from the Missouri Valley Conference to the reformed Big East Conference the 6’8″ forward is averaging 27.1 points per contest. As a result, the Bluejays are having one of their best seasons to date as they are ranked in the top 25 and second in the Big East, bound to make the NCAA Tournament. McDermott’s pro prospects vary, but most publications agree he’ll be a first round draft pick falling anywhere from a late lottery pick to one of the last few picks of the first round.
6. Keydren Clark – Saint Peter’s University (2002-06) – 3,058 points
Keydren Clark is the most recent player sans McDermott to become one of the all-time college basketball scoring greats. For four seasons in the early to mid 2000s, Clark racked up 3,058 points in 118 games for a career average of 25.9 points per contest. Unlike many others on this list, Clark’s season averages were fairly steady across the board as he averaged 24.9 ppg as a freshman, 26.7 ppg as a sophomore, 25.8 as a junior and 26.3 as a senior. Playing in the unheralded MAAC and as an undersized player, the 5’9″ guard was never recognized on any All-American lists and never did play in the NCAA Tournament. When his college career ended in 2006 Clark went undrafted in the 2006 NBA draft and instead found his way to Europe where he still plays professionally.
5. Harry Kelly – Texas Southern University (1979-83) – 3,066 points
Playing 110 games in his four-year career college career, Harry Kelly scored 3,066 points for a career average of 27.9 points per game, with his second-highest scoring average coming as a freshman when he averaged 29.0 ppg. After a sophomore slump averaging 23.7 ppg, the 6’7″ forward would have two solid seasons averaging a double-double with 29.7 ppg and 11.6 rpg as a junior, and 28.8 ppg and 11.7 rpg as a senior. The latter of the two seasons was good enough to lead Texas Southern to a regular season SWAC title and a 22-7 record, but failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. “Machine Gun Kelly” as he was nicknamed went on to be drafted in the fourth round of the 1983 NBA Draft, but was cut before the season began, relegating him to a season overseas before he got a real world job in 1984.
4. Alphonso Ford – Mississippi Valley State University (1989-93) – 3,165 points
Alphonso Ford’s collegiate career began with a bang before it tapered off a bit his final two seasons. Right out of the gates Ford averaged 29.9 points per game as a freshman a rather gaudy average, which was only improved upon as a sophomore when he averaged 32.7 ppg. However, over the final two seasons when one would expect his game to take off, the 6’1″ guard averaged 27.5 ppg as a junior and 26.0 ppg as a senior for a career average of 29.0 ppg in 109 games. Playing in the SWAC, Ford was a rather unheralded player receiving no national accolades and playing in only one NCAA Tournament game as a junior in 1991-92. Despite little recognition, Ford was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers as the 32nd pick in the 1993 NBA Draft but was cut before the season began. Later in the 1993-94 NBA season, Ford was picked up by the Seattle Sonics for six games and then returned to the 76ers for five games in the 1994-95 season, totalling an 11-game NBA career. His 3.2 points per game scoring average in those 11 NBA games proved to be a far cry from his collegiate days.
3. Lionel Simmons – La Salle University (1986-90) – 3,217 points
Lionel Simmons never did score 1,000 points in a season, but a consistent four-year career at La Salle University saw Simmons average more than 20-plus points every season. As a freshman Simmons averaged 20.3 points per game, which were followed by averages of 23.3 ppg as a sophomore, 28.4 ppg as a junior and 26.5 as a senior. Competing in 131 games over four seasons, Simmons had a career average of 24.6 points per contest. The 6’7″ forward had an excellent senior year leading the Explorers to a 30-2 record–undefeated in MAAC play–and a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where they lost in the round of 32 to Clemson. The year was also a success for Simmons personally as he was recognized as not only a first-team All-American, but also swept all of the individual awards including the prestigious Wooden and Naismith Awards. The Philadelphia native went on to be drafted by the Sacramento Kings as the seventh overall pick in 1990, but had a less than stellar NBA career. After averaging 18.0 ppg in the 1990-91 season to earn NBA First Team All-Rookie honors, Simmons slowly declined and until his final season in 1996-97 when he averaged just 3.4 ppg at the age of 28.
2. Freeman Williams – Portland State University (1974-78) – 3,249 points
Playing in only 106 games over his four-year collegiate career, Freeman Williams was able to score 3,249 points to give him a career scoring average of 30.4 points per game. The strides that Williams made from his freshman year to the following three years are quite incredible as he more than doubled his freshman average in two of those three seasons. Scoring 16.8 ppg as a freshman, Williams upped that to 30.8 ppg as a sophomore, 38.8 ppg as a junior and 35.9 ppg as a senior. Despite averaging over 30 points per contest his final three seasons, the 6’4″ guard was only honored once as an All-American–second team at that–during his senior year. It likely didn’t help Williams’ case that the Pilots were independent during his collegiate career, not getting regular exposure a conference would provide and a chance to make the NCAA Tournament. Williams would go on to play in the NBA, but his career was rather forgettable. Getting drafted as the eighth overall pick by the Boston Celtics in the 1978 NBA Draft, he was dealt to the San Diego Clippers before the 1978-79 season began. He had two pretty good seasons in his second and third year with the Clippers averaging 18.6 ppg and 19.3 ppg, before fading at his last three stops with the Atlanta Hawks, Utah Jazz and Washington Bullets.
1. Pete Maravich – Louisiana State University (1967-70) – 3,667 points
It’s pretty safe to say that there will never be another player like “Pistol” Pete Maravich in college basketball and rather unlikely anyone will come close to breaking his scoring record. In just three seasons–again because freshmen were ineligible to play during his era–Maravich scored 3,667 points doing so in just 83 games for a career average of 44.2 points per contest. Maravich’s incredible collegiate career included him also averaging more than 16 field goals and 10 free throws per game. As you can imagine, Maravich was recognized as a first-team All American during his three years in college and swept all the Player of the Year Awards during his senior year. While Pistol Pete never did average more than 40 points a game in the NBA, he did have a Hall of Fame career, which included five All-Star appearances and five seasons of averaging more than 25 points per contest. His 10-year NBA career, which he spent mainly with the Atlanta Hawks (four years) and New Orleans/Utah Jazz (six years), reached a high point during 1976-77 when he averaged 31.1 ppg to lead the NBA in scoring. Maravich was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1987 and tragically died of heart failure early the next year in 1988 at the age of 40.
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