If you are under thirty, you might ask, what’s a center? Centers used to dominate basketball games up until the turn of the 21st century. That has changed, as have so many other things over the last quarter of a century. Today we will look back at the most outstanding big men to play college basketball. Remember, Pro Career does not matter in these rankings.
Benson was the perfect center for Bob Knight’s offense and he was a two-time all-American and was named the Big Ten Player of the Year in 1977.
I know he seems out of place on this list, but Benson was a winner and routinely scored 30 points and added ten rebounds a game.
Mikan used his size to his advantage during his career at DePaul. DePaul coach Pete Fratello trained him aggressively while discovering an athlete within. Goaltending was legal at that time, and Mikan capitalized on that opportunity by scoring 53 points equaling Rhode Island’s entire score total in a Depaul win 97-53 against them in the NIT Championship game.
He averaged 24.3 points and 17.2 rebounds a night during his career at Ohio State and achieved school-record totals of 78 double-doubles (tied with Lew Alcindor for seventh in Division I history) and 1,411 rebounds in total. Lucas won a National Title in his sophomore year but came up short, losing back-to-back to Cincinnati in the next two title games. Lucas had an unmatched long-range jumper decades before the three-point line existed and would’ve made any three-point shooter proud with its efficiency and strength.
O’Neal played 90 college basketball games and averaged 21 points and 14 rebounds a game. He was a dominant player at LSU, but the team lacked tournament success.
Career Averages of 27.6 Points and 15. 7 Rebounds per Game are off-the-charts impressive.
Lanier was instrumental in four of Bonnies’ six NCAA tournament victories all-time and their only Final Four appearance in 1970.
Three-time All-American was also an exceptional shot blocker, but those official records were not kept then.
Sampson became one of the faces of college basketball during the early ’80s, captivating fans and opponents alike with his incredible athleticism and winning three consecutive Player of the Year awards for the Virginia Cavaliers. As a freshman, he averaged an incredible 4.6 blocks per game while finishing with a career field shooting percentage of 57%. What hurts him on this list is that he had only one Final Four appearance in 1981.
As a 6’7″ freshman at the Naval Academy, he was more focused on becoming an officer than a professional basketball player. Over time, though, his height increased steadily until reaching 6’9″, then 7’0″, then 7’1″, with averages of 28.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 4.5 blocks per game during senior year – becoming one of only a handful of Naval Academy graduates ever to make the NBA. He led the Navy to the Elite Eight in 1986.
The Big Fundamental was a great post power in his four years at Wake Forest, rarely playing center in the NBA but becoming better and better each year of college basketball as a center, culminating in his senior year when he shot 62% from the field, scored 20.8 points per game, grabbed 14.7 rebounds per game and blocked 3.3 shots – earning two All-America honors as well as both Naismith and Wooden Awards.
Olajuwon arrived at New York City’s JFK airport to visit St. John’s University but felt the cold winter air instead, prompting him to make a U-turn back inside and ask a baggage handler where he could find warm weather like Nigeria. That worker checked Dream’s tickets and recommended Houston. His summer sparring against Moses Malone toughened up Dream and made him an impressive defensive presence that led the Cougars to back-to-back championship games appearances.
Ewing was one of the roughest athletes at Georgetown, initially getting called for 11 goaltends during his inaugural game. Yet he became an All-American three times and led his Hoyas to victory at the 1984 National Championship tournament with an average block percentage of 3.43 throughout his career. The Hoyas made it to the finals in 1982 and 1985 also.
During his career at Jacksonville, he averaged 23.3 points, and an NCAA-record 22.7 rebounds each night.
The Dolphins joined Division I for the 1966-67 season, and Gilmore had them int the national title game against UCLA by 1970.
At 7’2″, 240 pounds, A-Train was an overwhelming athlete – even more challenging to defend had his slam dunking been legal during his career.
How did a native of Philadelphia arrive in Kansas? Because he had become disenchanted with East Coast life and didn’t wish to play in segregated regions in the South, and was welcomed by Kansas coach Phog Allen. In a preseason scrimmage between freshmen and upperclassmen, he scored 42 points and grabbed 28 rebounds; in his varsity debut, he scored 52 points and grabbed 31 rebounds – both all-time records at his university debut. After losing in the NCAA final game, his sophomore year was marked by numerous stall techniques and triple teams.
He averaged 31 points and 17.2 rebounds per game during his NCAA career.
1967-68 Cougars went 31-0 before losing to UCLA in National Semifinals.
In 1968, The Big E won national player of the year as a senior and was remembered for outperforming Lew Alcindor to defeat UCLA in one of the most significant regular-season matchups ever seen at the Houston Astrodome.
Walton amassed 20.3 points and 15.7 rebounds a night over his career at UCLA. Walton achieved an NCAA-record 88-game winning streak that included winning national championships without ever dropping a game during his initial two seasons on varsity. Nothing Walton accomplished during three consecutive Naismith Award-winning seasons could match his 21-for-22 shooting night (for 44 points total) in the 1973 national title game.
John Wooden described him as one of the greatest defensive men he’d ever seen and considered him the greatest defensive center ever. USF’s 55 straight victories, two NCAA titles, and an average 20.7 points and 20.3 rebounds per game performance, shows the greatness of Russell.
Alcindor revolutionized the game like Wilt Chamberlain did before him. As a sophomore at UCLA, he averaged 29 points and 15.5 rebounds per game while shooting an impressive 63% from the floor for his entire career – helping lead them to three undefeated seasons with dominating performances! As such, his dominance resulted in dunking being banned temporarily until further notice!
Anthony Davis, Kentucky
Paul Silas, Creighton
Kenneth Farried, Morhead State
If you enjoy hearing from the legends of pro sports, then be sure to tune into “The Grueling Truth” sports shows, “Where the legends speak”
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