Arizona State's Top-25 Basketball Players

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of Arizona State's joining the Pacific-10 Conference, here is a listing of the Top-25 Sun Devils to wear maroon-and-gold over that span. This list is primarily based on basketball performance and on-the-court value to the Sun Devil program. It is not a listing of the 25 "greatest" overall Sun Devils of the past 25 years. Read on and I'm sure you will understand…

1. Eddie House (1996-2000)

House is the all-time scoring leader at Arizona State with 2,044 points in his career and the only player to score more than 2,000. He is the only former Sun Devil to have been named Pac-10 Player of the Year and he is the fifth Sun Devil to be voted onto the All-Conference team twice. He is also the career record holder at Arizona State for field goals and steals. He set the single-season scoring average record for the school with 23.0 points per game in 1999-2000. In that season he was named Pac-10 Player of the Week a record tying (Ed O'Bannon, Chris Mills, Gary Payton) four times. House's single-game Arizona State record 61-point effort in a double-overtime against Cal on the road in his senior season Bay Area homecoming is arguably the most memorable single-game performance of any player in the Pac-10 since the University joined the league in 1978. In that game House also set a record with 18 made free throws in 19 attempts. He is one of only three players to average in double figures in four consecutive seasons at Arizona State since it joined the Pac-10. House was selected in the second round of the NBA draft by the Miami Heat 2000. He is now a member of the Los Angeles Clippers.

2. Lafayette "Fat" Lever (1978-1982)

Arizona State has never won the Pac-10 Championship in men's basketball and the school has finished second only twice, in back-to-back seasons --1980-1981 and 1981-1982. In each of those campaigns "Fat" Lever was the starting point guard. Statistically Lever's career isn't as impressive as some of the other Top-Five players on this list but his value to his teams as a point guard and floor leader transcended his ability to fill a stat sheet. In those two seasons Arizona State went a combined 31-5 in Pac-10 play. Lever led Arizona State in assists and steals in three consecutive seasons in the early 1980's, and he is second all-time in career assists and third in steals. He was the first Sun Devil to ever be named to the All-Pac-10 team twice, an honor which has been duplicated by only four others since. He was the first player ever at Arizona State to be named to an Associated Press post-season All-American team (second-team). Lever went on to be drafted eleventh overall by Portland in the 1982 NBA draft and his successful professional career spanned twelve seasons and three teams.

3. Byron Scott (1979-1983)

The last great Sun Devil of the Ned Wulk-era, Byron Scott was a tremendous combo-guard and pure scorer. He is fifth all-time on the career scoring list as a Sun Devil despite only playing three seasons. He was a starter on Arizona State's two best teams (at least record-wise; 1979-80, 1980-81) in its history as a member of the Pac-10 and its first Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, in 1979-80. On a less talented team Scott would have put up even more impressive numbers than the 13.6 and 16.6 point averages he had in consecutive seasons on those teams. In 1982-83 following the departure of Layafette Lever he averaged 21.6 points and set the Sun Devil record for field goals made in a season with 283. Following that season he was named to the Associated Press second-team All-American squad and was selected with the fourth overall pick in the NBA draft by the Los Angeles Lakers – the second highest pick ever for a Sun Devil behind Joe Caldwell, who was chosen second overall by Detroit in 1964. Scott is now the head coach of the New Jersey Nets.

4. Alton Lister (1978-1981)

Much like his former teammate "Fat" Lever, Lister will always be remembered more for his status as one of the star players on the two best Pac-10 teams in history. For that his true impact as a Sun Devil cannot and should not be measured in stats alone. Even so, Lister was an intimidating player in the defensive interior and he ranks fourth all-time at ASU in career steals and fifth in career blocks. He was an All-Pac-10 and Honorable Mention Associated Press All-American selection in 1981. Lister is one of only three players to play at the University during its 25 years in the Pac-10 conference and be named to the Arizona State Hall of Fame. He achieved that honor in 2000. The others are Byron Scott (1998) and "Fat" Lever (1998). After three years in maroon and gold he took his game to the NBA where he was selected late in the first-round by the Milwaukee Bucks. Lister went on to have one of the longest professional careers of any Sun Devil, playing for the bulk of two decades in the NBA on the Bucks, Seattle Supersonics, Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics.

5. Jeremy Veal (1994-1998)

To this day it's difficult to understand how Veal was as effective as he was in his Sun Devil career. Despite being a player with marginal athleticism and a supporting cast that was often, frankly, dreadful, Veal consistently played at a level that more closely maximized his potential than any other player at Arizona State in the past 25 years. No other player in Arizona State history has ever been named to the All-Pac-10 squad in two seasons (1997, 1998) and also made Honorable Mention in a third season (1996). In his senior season Veal averaged 20.8 points per game and was named Honorable Mention All-American by the Associated Press. He is the second-leading scorer in Sun Devil history with 1,984 career points and second in career field goals with 711. He is also fifth all-time at Arizona State in career assists and steals.

6. Mario Bennett (1991-95)

Quite possibly the most dominating low-post performer in Arizona State history, Bennett possessed an uncanny ability to explode off the floor and finish at the rim, usually with a thunderous dunk. A pure back-to-the-basket type of player, Bennett never had the face-up skills to succeed in the NBA, but at the college level he played his role as well as could possibly be expected. Bennett was also a very good post defender and he holds the career record at Arizona State for shots blocked in a career with 191. He also is the most efficient player in Sun Devil history, having converted a record 58.7% of his field goal attempts. Bennett ranks 11th at Arizona State in career scoring and eighth in rebounds. His off-court reputation was also the stuff of legends on the Arizona State campus and good or bad, it's unlikely anyone will be forgetting "Super Mario" anytime soon.

7. Ron Riley (1992-1996)

A high-flying athlete who threw down some of the most impressive dunks ever seen in Tempe, Riley was also a clutch three-point shooter and the second-most valuable player on the Sun Devils in the Sweet-16 season of 1995. Riley made the Pac-10 All-Freshmen team in 1992-93, a season in which he averaged 13.0 points, which is fifth all-time at Arizona State for freshmen. The following season, 1993-94, Riley was the second-leading scorer on the only Arizona State squad in Pac-10 history to see all five starters average in double figures in scoring (Riley, 14.2, Stevin Smith, 18.5, Mario Bennett, 16.2, Isaac Burton, 13.8, Dwayne Fontana, 10.7). Riley is also one of only three players over the last 25 years to average more than 10 points per game in four consecutive seasons, the others being Eddie House and Steve Beck. He was an honorable mention All-Pac-10 player in 1994-95 and shockingly again in 1995-96 despite a 20.1 per game scoring average. Riley is third all-time on the career scoring list at Arizona State and fourth in career steals.

8. Stevin "Hedake" Smith (1990-94)

Bar none, Smith is the most infamous basketball player in the history of Arizona State athletics. Notorious for his staring role in the point-shaving scandal that crippled Sun Devil basketball, Smith also happened to be a tremendous basketball player and that cannot be denied. This is a list of achievement and as such, Smith must be included. He is the fourth leading scorer in Sun Devil history and the most-prolific three-point shooter. He is second all-time in the Arizona State record books in career steals and fourth in assists. He holds single-game records for three point baskets made and attempted and is tied in the books with Lafayette Lever for most steals in a game.

9. Steve Beck (1983-1987)

Much of the 1980's is considered lost time for Sun Devil fans who had to watch the program suffer with Bob Weinhauer and Steve Patterson at the helm in-between the legendary run of Ned Wulk, and the infamous period of Bill Frieder. One player who often slips through the cracks in discussions of great Sun Devil basketball players is Steve Beck. But it shouldn't be the case. Despite not being the flashiest or most athletically impressive player Beck averaged in double figures in all four seasons as a Sun Devil and he was a four-year starter at the University. How many other players at Arizona State over the past 25 years can make that same claim? Exactly zero. Beck was an All-Conference and Honorable Mention Associated Press All-American in 1987. He is sixth on the career scoring list at ASU, fourth in free throw percentage, third in three-point field goal percentage and ninth in career steals.

10. Paul Williams (1979-1983) Sitting comfortably in the ninth spot on the career scoring list at Arizona State, Williams' stint as a Sun Devil begun as a key reserve in the early days of Lever/Lister and later, upon Lister's departure, he became a star in his own right. As a junior, in 1981-1982 he led the team to a best-ever 16-2 finish in the Pac-10 with a scoring averaged of 17.0 points per game. As a senior the following year he averaged 19.7 points, remarkable in that it came alongside a 21.6 point average by Byron Scott. In that season Williams made the All-Conference team and was named an Honorable Mention All-American by Street & Smith magazine and The Sporting News. Until Eddie House came along and took it away from him, Williams held the single-game scoring record at Arizona State with a 45-point outburst against USC on March 10, 1983. In that contest he set the record for field goals (20) and field goal attempts (31). He also was the leading rebounder on the team both as a junior and a senior.

11. Kurt Nimphius (1976-1980)

Nimphius played his first two seasons at Arizona State while the school was still in the WAC and then two more after the transition to the Pac-10. He was a three-year starter in the program and integral member of the 1979-80 team that went 15-3 in the Pac-10 and featured an unbelievable quintet of players that went on to play in the NBA (Nimphius, Scott, Lever, Lister, Sam Williams). Nimphius made the All-Pac-10 team that season and led the Sun Devils in scoring (16.6 ppg) and rebounding (9.6 rpg). He went on to a 10-year career in the NBA where he played with the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers, Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs and Philadelphia 76ers.

12. Chad Prewitt (1998-2002)

Over a four-year period Prewitt improved as much or more than any player at Arizona State in the past 25 years. Prewitt came to the school as a slightly-overweight, moderately-out-of-shape guy with not too much game and by the time his career was over he had transformed himself to the point were he was among the best players in the conference. Prewitt is eighteenth all-time on the Sun Devil career scoring list. He was arguably the most integral student-athlete in the program overhaul by Rob Evans and he wasn't even recruited by Evans; rather interim head coach Don Newman signed Prewitt and current Sun Devil Kenny Crandall in his one year on the job. Prewitt made the All-Conference team in 2002. He is one of only five players in the program's 25-year history as a member of the Pac-10 to be tabbed either as team MVP or CO-MVP in back-to-back seasons.

13. Alex Austin (1985-1990)

A rare five-year student-athlete at Arizona State in the late 1980's, Austin played two years, then missed a season and finished his Sun Devil career after two more years. He was a starter in all four seasons he played and ranks ninth in career rebounds and thirteenth on the career scoring list at Arizona State. Versatile, with a face-up game and nice three point shot for a bigger forward, Austin is also sixth all-time at ASU in three point field goals and fifth in three-point percentage

14. Bobby Lazor (1997-99)

Lazor is the only Sun Devil ever to have a two-year career result in over one thousand points (1,077). He reached that mark in fewer games than any player ever at Arizona State (62 games). He is tied for fourth all-time in the Sun Devil record books for career scoring average (17.4) and sixth all-time in rebounding average (8.3). Lazor made the All-Conference team in 1999 after being named an Honorable Mention for the squad in 1998. He was also a model student-athlete; the only Academic All-American (first-team) at Arizona State in almost 40 years.

15. Mike Batiste (1996-1999)

The first game in his Sun Devil career as mid-year transfer, Batiste dropped 28 points against Arizona in a game at the then-University Activity Center. Unfortunately Arizona State gave up more points in that contest to the Wildcats than ever before, or since, on their home court. ASU lost 127-99. Nevertheless Batiste went on the have one of the best careers of any Junior College transfer to play at the school. The only two Arizona State players to have reached the 1000-point club in fewer games are Al Nealey (1957-1960) and Bobby Lazor (1997-1999). Batiste was an All-Pac-10 selection in 1999.

16. Sam Williams (1978-1981)

Williams a starting forward on both of the second place Pac-10 teams in the early1980's and he made the All-Conference team in 1981 after being names an Honorable Mention following the previous campaign. He, along with Alton Lister and Kurt Nimphius made up what is arguably the best Sun Devil frontcourt ever, in 1979-1980. Williams is fifth on the career blocked shots list at ASU.

17. Arthur Thomas (1984-1988) A three year starter at guard, Thomas was on a team that averaged less than six Pac-10 wins per season over his four years with the program. It was arguably the lowest period in Sun Devil hoops over the past 30+ years and as such, a lot of the better players in this period of time in the program are somewhat overlooked. Thomas is one such player. He quietly climbed to sixteenth on the career scoring list, eleventh on the career assists list and he frequented the free throw line enough to reach fourth all-time at ASU in converted attempts.

18. Bobby Thompson (1983-1987) In his first season with the program Thompson sent a still-standing freshman record for assists with 114. He went on to lead the team in assists in each of the following two seasons and he also led the team in steals in two seasons. He is number one at Arizona State in career assists and tenth in career steals.

19. Isaac Austin (1989-1991) One of the best two-year players at Arizona State in recent memory, Austin was a key ingredient in the ending of the program's seven-year below-.500% drought in the Pac-10. Behind his team leading 16.3 points per game and 8.7 rebounds per game the Sun Devils tied for third in the conference in 1990-1991. He is fifth at ASU among two-year players in career points and rebounds. Austin made the All-Pac-10 team in 1991.

20. Lester Neal (1991-1993) Lester led the Sun Devils in rebounding in each of his two seasons at the University with 7.5 and 9.0 averages respectively. He averaged 9.5 points per game in his first season and 11.5 in his second. He is fourth on the career rebounding average list for two-year players with an average of 8.2 per game.

21. Isaac Burton (1993-1995)

Junior College transfer who helped Arizona State to a Sweet-16 in the NCAA-Tournament and later was found to have played a role in the point shaving scandal that shook Arizona State to its core. Burton was a smooth and athletic scoring guard who averaged 14.0 points per game in his Sun Devil career and ranks seventh in scoring among two-year players at the University. He is also fifth among all Sun Devils all-time in accuracy from the free throw stripe (80.9%).

22. Curtis Millage (2001-2003)

If there was ever a player at Arizona State that could appropriately be called "lightning in a bottle" it was Curtis Millage. There has never been a quicker Sun Devil. Millage wasn't particularly astounding, skills-wise, but on the court but he was one of the fiercest and most emotional competitors to ever wear maroon and gold. He is eighth all-time in scoring at ASU for two-year players and he was a key player on the first Sun Devil squad to make it back to the NCAA-Tournament since 1995.

23. Tommy Smith (1999-2003)

The fact that Smith had the potential to do so much more does not negate the fact that he is twentieth on the all-time scoring list at Arizona State and second only to Mario Bennett in career blocked shots. Smith is the only player to lead Arizona State in blocked shots in three consecutive years since the statistical category was implemented into the record books in 1978. He also holds the single-game record for field goal percentage with an 11-11 performance against Washington on February 10, 2001.

24. Dwayne Fontana (1990-1994) A four-year player at Arizona State, Fontana was among the first recruits brought in by Bill Frieder after he took over the program in 1990. He led the team with an 8.6 rebounding average in 1993-94 and is currently in tenth place on the career list in total rebounds. He averaged double figures in each of his last two seasons at the University. Additionally he is 22nd on the career scoring list at Arizona State with 1113 points.

25. Jamal Faulkner (1990-1992)

Another two-year impact player who started in each of his seasons in Tempe, Faulkner was a scoring forward who averaged about 14.0 points per game in his two seasons on campus. In 1990-91 he helped guide the team, in Bill Frieder's first season, to its first above-.500% finish in eight years.

Note from the Author:

An attempt has been made to make this list as factually accurate as possible. It is entirely possible that there have been factual errors or omissions that deserve mention and/or correction I apologize in advance for these things. You may e-mail me about anything you may find, or do not find, and wish to point out.

One important note: Players that are still active were not under consideration for this list. It's the reason you do not see Ike Diogu above. Certainly Diogu would crack this list if active players were included. Also not included in the Top-25 were players that only played in the Pac-10 for one season. Tony Zeno immediately comes to mind as a player who would have likely made this list were that not a criteria. There may be others as well that fall into this later category.

As with most rankings lists like this there is no formula used; it is entirely unscientific and to say that it is unbiased would be incorrect. It certainly is based in part on my personal feelings -- and therefore bias -- about the value of certain players over their careers as Sun Devils. I, like anybody else, have favorites and guys I perhaps did not particularly care for. If that shows on this list, good, it should. If you don't like it, make your own list. I'd love to read it and have an interesting debate!

Happy New Year Sun Devils!!

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