This will get annoying, I’m sure over the next few months but the voting is now open for Volvo’s Biggest Fan in the Big East. Please help me on this by voting often.
Thanks everyone for all the feedback from the first draft of my All-Big East dream team. It’s been fun trying to put this together. And a real pain trying to finish with a complete and finished product. More than a little bit of rationalizing went into this, but then again, it is a “dream team” not a pure stats driven or pro/potential based collection.
The good folks at Volvo did not stick any preconditions on how this team can be composed other than: a total of 12 players and why.
I, however, made my own limitations. I wanted a real team with subs. Not just all the great guards to come through the Big East plus Patrick Ewing and Derrick Coleman.
The other limitation was that the players had to be playing college ball in the Big East for three years or more. One-and-done and two-year players tended to be just passing through because they had to spend a year or two somewhere. I wanted players that truly were part of the Big East and that is a big part of their legacy. Players that you think of when you speak of the Big East or their respective teams. Not that they were (are) fantastic pro players or had great natural potential. That restriction eliminated some great basketball players such as Walter Berry (who made no secret he was just passing through), Caron Butler, Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson and DeJuan Blair.
I don’t think any Big East dream team exists without three core players: Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin and Derrick Coleman. Those three cast a huge shadow over the Big East as they did much to build the reputation of the conference. Tremendous players who top any list that mentions the best players from the Big East or college basketball in general.
Patrick Ewing (Georgetown): One of the greatest college players, ever, and on one of the stranger Sports Illustrated covers. A truly dominant center that everyone feared. He was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year all four years he was at Georgetown. Won Big East Player of the Year twice. It gets lost because of his defensive dominance and size, but Ewing actually had a deceptively good shot in college. He didn’t simply rely on the dunks and tip-ins.
Alonzo Mourning (Georgetown): Followed Ewing at Georgetown. Not the same defensive force as Ewing or Dikembe Mutombo, but one far better than average. Combine that with a solid offensive presence and if it had been anywhere but Georgetown and following Ewing, Mourning would have gone down as the best center in a school’s history.
Derrick Coleman (Syracuse): Forget the binge eating, hot-dog-necked, “whoop-de-damn-do” NBA player Derrick Coleman. The Derrick Coleman of the Big East was one of the most dominant players in college basketball. He was a specimen, who could slam it down, had range on his shot and actually cared a little about defense while at Syracuse. Pro coaches everywhere later wondered how Jim Boeheim got through to him, but Coleman was the player you wished was on your team when he was in the Big East.
Jerome Lane (Pitt): If there is one signature play that helped define the power of the Big East. If there is one moment that launched the legend of a beloved color analyst. If there is one player responsible for it. Then, regardless of the injuries that cut his career short, Jerome Lane belongs on this list. If for no other reason than just for this:
Here’s the full version fast break, the slam, the break, the extended celebration afterwards and Bill Raftery. Jerome Lane, though, was a ferocious rebounder averaging 12.85 RPG in his final two years at Pitt. A force inside despite being only 6-6.
Richard Hamilton (UConn): He was such a complete player and teammate. The wing forward who could shoot from outside, drive to the basket, get rebounds inside and play defense. Before Kemba Walker saved UConn all through 2010-11, Hamilton did it for UConn in the NCAA Tournament.
Reggie Williams (Georgetown): Reggie and the Miracles is how everyone remembers him. A tremendous all-around player that led the Hoyas by words, deeds and statistically. It always seemed that he should be easily to physically intimidate, but he would just make you pay. And pay. And pay.
Charles Smith (Pitt): Personal bias tipped this one to Smith. It was either Charles Smith or Donyell Marshall from UConn. Both played mainly center in college, but were more suited to be forwards (and that is where they played in the NBA). Both won Big East Player of the Year honors. Marshall also won Defensive PoY, while Smith has a Rookie of the Year. Smith played four years, Marshall three years. Marshall averaged 18.1 ppg, Smith 16.8. Smith averaged 8.1 rebounds per game while Marshall was at 7.6. Smith went for about 2.8 blocks per game while Marshall had 2.6. You get the picture. It was very, very, similar. Smith came from Connecticut to go to school in Pennsylvania. Marshall is a PA native who went to UConn. So, yeah, I’m going with the Pitt guy here.
Chris Mullin (St. John’s): The only player to win Big East Player of the Year three times. And that barely begins to describe what a player he was at St. John’s. Beyond fundamentally sound, he was efficient with his actions so that no energy was wasted. The hint of style, buried under precision. The fact that he was a local kid who stayed home only added to his mythology.
As an aside, this ESPN intro to the Georgetown-St. John’s game in 1985.
Brandin Knight (Pitt): Is this a homer pick? Possibly. Knight, though was one of the best point guards in the Big East in recent years. Not on athletic ability and scoring. But smarts, tremendous passing, grit and great defense. A classic, facilitating point guard. When he stepped out on the court you knew who the leader of the team was. No image of Brandin Knight lingers longer for me than in the 2002 Big East Tournament Championship game. Pitt and UConn went to two overtimes. Knight was hurt late in the game, but he fought through the knee injury — barely. Limping, hobbling and still making plays, before Pitt finally was beaten.
Sherman Douglas (Syracuse): Was he surrounded by tremendous talent? Absolutely, but he was more than simply tossing alley-oops to Derrick Coleman. Rony Seikaly, Coleman, and Stevie Thompson all played with him. That should not, however, diminish the kind of player he was. The General made it work. Douglas kept Coleman involved even when he didn’t have the ball. Douglas distributed and could score. He averaged nearly 15 points and 7 assists per game over his career. Plus he did this:
Ray Allen (UConn): Before he was just a 3-point ace in the NBA, Allen was a guard that willingly would drive to the hoop and score anywhere. The best pure shooter, to choose. But at UConn he was doing a lot more. Plus the obligatory mention of starring in “He Got Game,” as Jesus Shuttleworth.
Eric “Sleepy” Floyd (Georgetown): Before Georgetown became known for the lineage of big men flowing through the program in the 80s, there was Sleepy Floyd filling up baskets with a sweet shot that could hit from anywhere on the court. Playing before the 3-point line was widely adopted in the NCAA (the Big East didn’t institute one until 1986), his career numbers would have been so much higher.
So there’s the list. Now a brief word on some who did not make it.
Emeka Okafor (UConn): This was tough. He was in my original list, but ultimately Mourning bumped him out as the second center.
Troy Bell (Boston College): Another one on the original draft, but if BC fans don’t care about him, why should I?
Bill Curley (BC): Okay, I just get a kick out of the SI cover.
Troy Murphy (Notre Dame): 2-time Big East Player of the Year, yet utterly forgettable.
Kerry Kittles (Villanova): Really was one of the best players in the Big East in the mid-90s. God, Big East basketball simply wasn’t good at that point. Plus, I always associate the phone card scandal with him.
Khalid El-Amin (UConn): Really hate that guy.
Kemba Walker (UConn): Ugh.
Luke Harangody (ND): Wait? He was 1st Team All-Big East three times? Play some freaking defense.
Michael Smith (Providence): Hell of a rebounder for Providence, but a touch too one-dimensional.