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Top 20 Big Ten Basketball players of all time

Publish Date: 11/26/2023
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

Top 20

There are many legends of Big Ten Basketball, and today we will look at the twenty greatest players ever in Big ten Basketball history. If you are a Penn State, Maryland, Rutgers, or Nebraska fan, you will not have a player like Len Bias from Maryland make this list because he never played in the Big ten.

20) Deron Williams, Illinos

Williams had an excellent NBA career, but before that, he burst on the scene at Illinois and helped lead the Illini to the final four as a slasher and scorer.

Video: Deron Williams Illinois Highlights

Deron Williams Illinois Highlights

19) Rod Fletcher, Illinois

Rod Fletcher, a guard, was an Illinois player in the 1950s. Fletcher led the Illini to two straight Final Four appearances in his senior and junior seasons.

Fletcher, a senior, was also recognized as an All-American.

Two-time All-Big Ten Guard was a tremendous asset to the Illini and helped build a great program at Illinois.

18) Joe Barry Carroll, Purdue

Caroll, a 7’1″ center, played for the Purdue Boilermakers in the late 1970s and early 80s. In his senior season, he was named All-American and is a Purdue legend.

He was a great shot blocker and helped the Boilermakers reach the Final Four in 1980.

Video: 1979 NIT Championship - Indiana vs Purdue

1979 NIT Championship – Indiana vs Purdue

17) Glen Robinson, Purdue

Although Glenn Robinson was only at Purdue for three years, he significantly impacted Purdue basketball in a positive light.

Robinson was an all-American and led Purdue to the Regional Finals.

Robinson was a successful NBA player.

Video: Glenn Robinson 1994 Purdue Highlights

Glenn Robinson 1994 Purdue Highlights

16) Kent Benson, Indiana

Benson was the star player of Indiana’s undefeated team of 1976. This feat was awe-inspiring and will likely never be repeated. Benson was a limited player but fit Coach Knight’s offense perfectly. The Hoosiers only lost one game over the 1975-76 basketball seasons.

He was considered the best prospect in the country and was selected Number one, he was a dust in the NBA, but a legend in the Big Ten.

Video: Undefeated with Kent Benson

Undefeated with Kent Benson

15) Gary Bradds, Ohio State

Gary Bradds was a star player for the Ohio State Buckeyes. He had big shoes to fill, and he lived up to them. He averaged 33 points per match and was named college basketball’s best player.

Bobby Knight is also a friend and teammate, and the Buckeyes teams of the early 60s were dominant.

Video: Gary Bradds - Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement

Gary Bradds – Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement

14) John Wooden, Purdue

John Wooden was an outstanding player; of course, he is more known for his coaching while at UCLA.

He led Purdue to a national championship in 1932, being named player-of-the-year and a three-time All-American.

Video: Boiler Bytes: Wooden Jersey

Boiler Bytes: Wooden Jersey

13) Don Schlundt, Indiana

Schlundt was a 1950s basketball player for the Indiana Hoosiers. Schlundt was one of the most outstanding Hoosiers ever to play the game. He set the school record in points per career until Steve Alford broke it.

Schlundt led the Hoosiers to a national championship in 1953 and was named a three-time All-American.

Video: Indiana vs Kansas - 3/18/1953 - National Championship Game

Indiana vs Kansas – 3/18/1953 – National Championship Game

12) Steve Smith, Michigan State

This Spartan is regarded as one of the best shooters of all time. Smith wouldn’t just take it to the basket if he was on the court. Smith could make you feel broken… he could smile at you and then shoot it straight down your throat.

Video: 2016 NCAA Silver Anniversary Award recipient Steve Smith

2016 NCAA Silver Anniversary Award recipient Steve Smith

11) John Kotz, Wisconsin

John Kotz was an All-American player for the Wisconsin Badgers during the 1940s. Badgers won a championship in the 1940s, which was a huge decade for the Badgers.

Badgers fans still remember Kotz, who is a legend for many.

10) Steve Alford, Indiana

Steve Alford was an Indiana Hoosier guard, a prolific scorer, and one of the greatest shooters in Big Ten history. Many still revered him as a legend for setting the Indiana all-time scoring record, later broken by Calbert Cheaney.

Alford lead the Hoosiers to a fifth national champion and was named All-American.

Video: Big Ten Icons: Steve Alford 1

Big Ten Icons: Steve Alford 1

9) Mateen Cleaves, Michigan State

Cleaves was a three-time All-American with the Michigan State Spartans. Cleaves is most well-known for helping Tom Izzo to win his only National Title..

Cleaves was a three-time team captain and epitomized Big Ten basketball at it’s best.

Video: 4/3/2000 - Michigan State 89 Florida 76 (Highlights and Postgame)

4/3/2000 – Michigan State 89 Florida 76 (Highlights and Postgame)

8) Andy Phillip, Illinois

Phillip was the greatest player ever to have played at Illinois. Phillip is regarded as one of the best collegiate players of the 1940s.

He was an All-American and was also the 1943 player of the Year. His career was cut short at Illinois because of World war 2.

Video: Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame - Andy Phillip

Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame – Andy Phillip

7) Calbert Cheaney, Indiana

Cheaney was a three-time All-American. He was a disappointment to some because he failed to lead the Hoosiers to a national title. This still places him behind Alford, according to many Hoosier fans. Not me, Cheaney is the all-time score in Big Ten history and was a do it all player. He did lead the Hoosiers to the Final Four in 1992 and a regional final appearance in 1993.

Video: Calbert Cheaney Tribute

Calbert Cheaney Tribute

6) Glen Rice, Michigan

Glen Rice, Michigan’s all-time leading scorer. He led them to a 1989 national championship win in overtime over Seton Hall. Rice was an outstanding player who could be both versatile and stable.

He was a guard or forward, unlike any other basketball player we had seen up until that time. He was almost automatic as a shooter and was a solid defender. The Fab Five never won it all while at Michigan but Rice did.

Rice’s superior play made the game different.

Video: Glen Rice- 1989 Michigan Basketball Highlights MIX |

Glen Rice- 1989 Michigan Basketball Highlights MIX |”Sirius”|

5) Cazzie Russell, Michigan

Russell was a great player, was a three-time All-American, and was named player of the Year in his senior season.

He also led the Wolverines into back-to-back Final Fours. Russell was the first truly great Wolverine basketball player.

Video: The House That Cazzie Built - Official Trailer #1

The House That Cazzie Built – Official Trailer #1

4) Magic Johnson, Michigan State

Magic Johnson is a well-known basketball player.ย Perhaps the most well-known name in basketball, after Jordan.

Johnson was an MSU player and had a successful career. He led the Spartans to the regional finals in 1978 and then led the Spartans to their first-ever National Championship in 1979.

Video: Magic Johnson - Michigan State Highlights

Magic Johnson – Michigan State Highlights

ย 

3) Isiah Thomas, Indiana

Thomas, despite only playing for two years at Indiana, Thomas is one of the greatest players to ever play in the Big Ten. Even as a sophomore, the guard could do things many people couldn’t imagine doing.

He led the Hoosiers to the 1981 National Championship and was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. Indiana won the Big ten both of his years there and in 1980 reached the Regional semi-finals.

Video: Hoosier Hysteria - Isiah Thomas Speech

Hoosier Hysteria – Isiah Thomas Speech

2) Rick Mount, Purdue

Rick Mount was a Purdue Boilermakers player and was one the greatest scorers the game had ever seen. Mount averaged nearly 40 points per game during his career, even without the three-point line. Imagine what a man who is possibly the greatest shooter that ever lived could have done with a three-point line.

He is still regarded as one of the greatest scorers in history and is a legend at Purdue. Mount led the Boilermakers to their only National Championship game appearance, where they came up short against one of John Wooden’s legendary UCLA teams.

Video: Big Ten Icons: Rick Mount 4

Big Ten Icons: Rick Mount 4

1) Jerry Lucas, Ohio State

Lucas was a three-time All-American and three-time conference player of the year. He also won the player-of-the-year award during his junior season and senior seasons.

In his second season, Lucas also led the Buckeyes to win the national title.

Video: Jerry Lucas | Big Ten Icons

Jerry Lucas | Big Ten Icons

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