The good, The Great and The BEST

Over the past 15 years, the Pac-10 conference has been blessed with dozens of spectacular players. From Tucson to Pullman, this is a look at the 30 best players since the 1987-88 season, broken down into three categories: good, great and best. If nothing else, this article should generate some healthy debate from its readers. This is very long and I will not break it down, so be forewarned.

We'll start with

The Good

30. Tyus Edney (5-10, 165 PG-UCLA, 1992-95). Edney is best remembered for his length-of-the-court basket to beat Missouri in the second round of UCLA's 1995 National Championship-winning tournament. The Bruin floor general was a three-time member of the All-Conference team. He had 1,515 points, 652 assists (sixth all-time in the Pac-10) and 224 steals (eighth) for his career as a collegian. He was drafted 47th overall in 1995. [10-3 NCAA record, including 1995 National Championship].

29. Sean Lampley (6-8, 240 PF-Cal, 1998-2001). The former Golden Bear was honored as the conference's Player of the Year in 2001 as he led his team to the NCAA tournament. He was also a member of the 2000 All-Conference team. Lampley had 1,776 points and 889 rebounds during his days in Berkeley. Went 45th overall in the 2001 draft. [0-1 career NCAA tournament record].

28. Isaac Fontaine (6-3, 195 SG-Washington State, 1994-97). Fontaine was twice chosen as a first-team All-Conference selection while he was a Cougar. He scored 2,003 career points, one of only 13 players to eclipse the 2,000-point plateau in Pac-10 conference history. "Ike" was not drafted out of college and is currently a star in the NBDL. [0-1 NCAA record].

27. Toby Bailey (6-5, 200 SG-UCLA, 1995-98). Bailey was vital in UCLA's winning of the 1995 National Title as he scored 28 points in the championship game victory over Arkansas as a freshman. Many experts projected Bailey to play no more than another year or two in Westwood before the NBA riches beckoned but his improvement was minimal over his final three years. Still, he was very good and was a three-time All-Conference performer while scoring 1,846 career points (20th all-time) for the Bruins. He was drafted 45th overall in the '98 draft. [11-3 NCAA record, including 1995 National Championship].

26. Tracy Murray (6-8, 215 SF-UCLA, 1990-92). Murray was a perfect weapon for the Bruins during his playing days. He was a tall wing player that could shoot from anywhere on the court. In fact, he may have been the purest shooter in the league over the past decade. A two-time All-Pac-10 performer, Murray scored 1,792 points for his career and was drafted 18th overall after skipping his senior season in 1992. [5-3 NCAA record].

25. Khalid Reeves (6-3, 200 SG-Arizona, 1991-94). Reeves had the league's second-highest point total ever for a single season when he scored 848 points for the Wildcats in 1994. He led Arizona to the Final Four in Charlotte that season and was named to both the All-Conference and All-American (second) team. He left school as Arizona's third all-time leading scorer with 1,925 points, good enough for 17th in Pac-10 history. Khalid was a lottery pick (12th overall) by the Miami Heat in 1994. [6-4 NCAA record, including '94 Final Four].

 24. Eddie House (6-1, 180 SG-ASU, 1997-2000). House was a two-time All-Pac-10 performer and was named 2000's Player of the Year. Although he resorted to some "strange" defensive techniques against Arizona's Gilbert Arenas, House was perfectly capable on the offensive side of the ball. Against Cal in 2000, the Sun Devil guard scored an incredible 61 points in a single game, matching Lew Alcindor's all-time record. House never played in an NCAA tournament while in Tempe, but he did manage to score 2,044 points (11th all-time) and "grab" 258 loose balls (3rd, all-time, steals) for his career. Drafted No. 37 overall in 2000.

23. Michael Wright (6-8, 245 PF-Arizona, 1999-2001). While Wright was in an Arizona uniform, he was a model of consistency. He was the 1999 Freshman of the Year in the Pac-10 and followed that up with two straight All-Conference honors. After helping Arizona to the National Championship game in 2001, he was named a 3rd team All-American. For his career, Wright averaged 15.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game while shooting 57.5% from the field. The New York Knicks drafted him 39th overall in 2001. [6-3 NCAA record, including 2001 Final Four].

22. Pooh Richardson (6-3, 190 PG-UCLA, 1986-89). The Bruin point guard made an immediate impact during his first season in Westwood by winning the co-Freshman of the Year award along with Arizona's Sean Elliott. Richardson was a three-time All-Conference selection and finished his career second on the Pac-10's all-time assists list with 833. Pooh was taken 10th overall in the '89 draft. [2-2 NCAA record].

 21. Michael Dickerson (6-5, 200 G/F-Arizona, 1995-98). The Seattle native was a two-time All-Conference player and helped lead the Wildcats to the 1997 National Championship with his explosive athleticism and scoring outbursts. In 1998, Dickerson joined fellow Wildcats Miles Simon and Mike Bibby on the All-American team (Dickerson a 3rd team choice, Bibby and Simon were on the 1st team). Dickerson had many memorable games while at Arizona but maybe none was more impressive than his 11-11 shooting performance in the second half against Washington State in 1998. Mike D scored 1,791 points at Arizona and was drafted 14th overall in '98. [11-3 NCAA record, including '97 National Championship].

20. Sam Clancy (6-7, 240 PF-USC, 1999-2002). Sam the Man was the most dominant big man in the conference over the course of his final two years at USC. He was an All-Conference selection in 2001 and followed that up by winning the Pac-10 Player of the Year award and being named a 2nd team All-American in 2002. Although he is only 6-7, Clancy was one of the nation's premier shot blockers (195 blocks for his career) thanks to his 7-2 wingspan. He finished his career with 1,657 points, 839 rebounds, 134 steals and 195 blocks and is a lock to land in the first round of this June's NBA draft. [3-2 NCAA record].

 19. Gilbert Arenas (6-3, 190 SG-Arizona, 2000-01). One of the best two-year careers in Pac-10 history belonged to the former Arizona Wildcat guard. Arenas was named MVP of the preseason NIT in his first four games as a freshman and got better with every game that followed. In 2001, Arenas was 1st team All-Conference, 3rd team All-American and was named Most Outstanding Player in the Midwest Regional as he led Arizona all the way to the National Championship game before losing to Duke. His 1,105 points are the second most of all-time at Arizona over the first two years of a career (Coniel Norman had 1,194). Arenas averaged 15.8 points and 1.94 steals per game for his career. The Golden State Warriors selected him 31st overall in 2001 and he was one of the most productive rookies in the NBA after the all-star break. [6-2 NCAA record, including 2001 Final Four].

18. Brevin Knight (5-11, 180 PG-Stanford, 1994-97). Knight was a three-time All-Pac-10 selection and was named 1994's Freshman of the Year in the conference as well. As a senior in 1997, Knight was a 2nd team All-American for Stanford. His very impressive career included scoring 1,714 points, handing out 780 assists (4th in Pac-10 history) and grabbing 298 steals (2nd all-time). He was drafted 16th overall in 1997. [4-3 NCAA record].

17. Casey Jacobsen (6-6, 190 SG-Stanford, 2000-02). While it is still not clear whether or not he will return to school for his senior year at Stanford, Jacobsen has already solidified his position on this list as one of the best players in the Pac-10 over the last 15 years. In his first year on The Farm, Jacobsen was named co-Freshman of the Year (along with UCLA's Jason Kapono) and was named The Sporting News' national Freshman of the Year as well. Oh, and he was a first-team All-Conference selection too. His next two years all he did was rack up two more All-Conference honors, get named a consensus first-team All-American in 2001 and score 49 points in one game against ASU as a junior. All of this while playing for a team that was ranked No. 1 in the nation for most of his career. Even if he has played his final college game, he still scored 1,723 points for his career and won the Pac-10 scoring title in 2002 (21.9 ppg). Jacobsen is not a lock to be a first round pick in this June's draft so he may be back to climb much, much higher on this list. [5-3 NCAA record].

16. Chris Mills (6-6, 210 F-Arizona, 1991-93). Mills began his career at Kentucky before a scandal caused him to transfer out West to Arizona. During his three years in Tucson, Mills scored 1,619 points (17.2 ppg), pulled down 689 rebounds (7.3 rpg), was a two-time All-Conference performer, was the 1993 Pac-10 Player of the Year and was named a 2nd team All-American in '93 as well. He helped lead Arizona to a 17-1 conference record as a senior on a team that finished 24-4 overall. Mills was drafted 22nd overall in 1993. [2-3 NCAA record].

The Great

 15. Baron Davis (6-2, 210 PG-UCLA, 1998-99). "The Baron" doesn't even have the two-year numbers to match Gilbert Arenas but what makes him one of the "great" players of the past 15 years in the Pac-10 was his intangible dominance on the court. As a freshman at UCLA, Davis was a landslide winner of the Freshman of the Year award and played well enough to earn the respect of the conference's All-American quartet of guards at Arizona. Davis has improved every year that he's played and is one of the most exciting and explosive athletes ever to come out of the Pac-10. As a sophomore (his final year at UCLA), Davis was named to the All-Conference squad and a 3rd team All-American. He averaged 13.6 points, 5.0 assists and 2.45 steals per game as a Bruin and was drafted with the 3rd overall pick in 1999. He is now an NBA All-Star for the Charlotte Hornets. [2-2 NCAA record].

 14. Shareef Abdur-Rahim (6-9, 240 PF-Cal, 1996). By far the best one-year wonder to ever play in the Pac-10, Abdur-Rahim dominated the way no freshman ever has in 1996. He became the first (and only) player to win both the Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year awards in Pac-10 history while also winning national Freshman of the Year honors as well as being named a 3rd team All-American in his single year in Berkeley. He averaged 21.1 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.86 steals and 1.25 blocks per game before leaving for the NBA early, where he was the 3rd overall draft pick by Vancouver in the '96 draft. [0-1 NCAA record].

13. Terrell Brandon (5-11, 175 PG-Oregon, 1990-91). After sitting out his freshman year at Oregon, "TB" had one of the best two-year careers in league history as a sophomore and junior. Brandon was twice an All-Conference selection and won the 1991 Pac-10 Player of the Year award as he led the conference with his 26.6 points per game scoring average. He scored 1,264 points (22.2 ppg, fourth-highest career scoring average in league history) in his two years for the Ducks and took his talents to the NBA after his junior season where he was the 11th overall pick in the '91 draft. [No NCAA apperances. NIT first round in 1990].

 12. Jason Terry (6-2, 180 PG-Arizona, 1996-99). Perhaps no player in the Pac-10 was more unselfish than Jason Terry was for Arizona over his first three seasons in Tucson. He was talented enough to start anywhere else in America, but instead he willingly accepted the role of sixth man behind All-Americans Mike Bibby, Miles Simon and Michael Dickerson during his sophomore and junior years. When he finally got his shot, he made sure the country took notice. As a senior, Terry was an All-Conference player, the Pac-10 Player of the Year and a 1st team All-American. But that wasn't all. He was named the 1999 National Player of the Year by multiple media outlets, including Sports Illustrated as well. Not bad for a career sub who only had one year to shine. It says something about just how good those Arizona teams were from 97-98 when the future NCAA Player of the Year is sitting on the bench. For his career, JT scored 1,461 points and had 245 steals (5th most in Pac-10 history). His senior year saw him average 21.9 points, 5.5 assists and 2.8 steals per game. He was drafted 10th overall in 1999. [11-3 NCAA record, including the 1997 National Championship].

11. Adam Keefe (6-9, 250 PF-Stanford, 1989-92). Keefe had a career that ranks up there with college basketball legends Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton (both of UCLA) in terms of scoring and rebounding ability. In fact, Keefe and Alcindor are the only two players in Pac-10 history to both rank in the top five for their careers in scoring and rebounding. The Stanford big man had 2,319 points (5th) and 1,119 rebounds (4th) while shooting 61.9% (9th) from the field for his career. He was a three-time All-Conference member and was named a 2nd team All-American in 1992. Keefe was the 10th overall pick in the '92 NBA draft. [0-2 NCAA record].

10. Damon Stoudamire (5-10, 170 PG-Arizona). Stoudamire did a little bit of everything during his time at Arizona. He was a three-time member of the All-Pac-10 1st team and he went to the 1994 Final Four. He won the 1995 co-Pac-10 Player of the Year award (along with UCLA's Ed O'Bannon) and had the most-impressive triple-double in league history (32 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists vs. Oregon). He experienced three first-round losses in NCAA play and he was a 1st team All-American in '95. For his career, Stoudamire scored 1,849 points, dished out 663 assists (5th in Pac-10 history) and made 272 three-pointers (3rd). As a senior for the Wildcats, "Mighty Mouse" had games of 45 and 40 points, respectively, while leading the league with 22.8 points and 7.3 assists per game. The expansion Toronto Raptors drafted Stoudamire 7th overall in 1995 and he won the NBA Rookie of the Year award during his first season in the League. [4-4 NCAA record, including '94 Final Four].

9. Miles Simon (6-4, 190 SG/PG-Arizona, 1995-98). A pure winner, Simon was "Mr. Clutch" down the stretch in big games while at Arizona. His late-game heroics are well known but two of his more memorable accomplishments include hitting a 65-foot shot at the buzzer to beat No. 5 Cincinnati as a sophomore and scoring 30 points against Kentucky to win the 1997 National Championship. Simon was the Southeast Regional's Most Valuable Player in '97 and then followed that up by winning the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player honors a week later. As a senior in '98, Simon was on the All-Conference team and was a 1st team All-American, helping to form an all-Arizona backcourt along with Mike Bibby. Simon scored 1,664 points for his career and was drafted 42nd overall in 1998. Injuries hindered his time in the NBA but he has since won MVP honors in Italy and the CBA (this year) and should be back in the League next season. [11-3 NCAA record, including 1997 National Championship].

8. Don MacLean (6-8, 220 F-UCLA, 1989-92). If you're anything like me, you hated this guy. But the one thing you had to concede was that Don MacLean was one heckuva player. The Pac-10's all-time leading scorer (2,608 points) was a member of the All-Conference team three times and was the 1989 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. As a senior, MacLean was a 2nd team All-American. He also finished his career with an impressive 992 rebounds, good enough for 14th all-time in conference history. It's amazing that it took four straight career-seasons from other guys to keep him from winning multiple Player of the Year awards. He was drafted 19th overall in '92. [6-4 NCAA record].

7. Harold Miner (6-5, 205 SG-USC, 1990-92). "Baby Jordan" was probably the most exciting and acrobatic player ever to come through the Pac-10. He was a scoring machine (23.5 points per game on his career, 2nd all-time) who got his points in a variety of ways, whether it be on threes, dunks or pull-up jumpers in the lane. In only three years, Harold Miner scored 2,048 points (10th all-time) and was an All-Conference player in each of his three seasons. He won the 1990 Freshman of the Year award, was named the Pac-10 Player of the Year in '92 and was a 1st team All-American that year as well. In fact, Sports Illustrated named Miner its National Player of the Year in 1992 also. He was selected with the 12th overall pick in the 1992 NBA draft and won the NBA's Dunk Contest shortly thereafter. [1-2 NCAA record].

6. Todd Lichti (6-3, 185 G-Stanford, 1986-89). Lichti was so good from Day One at Stanford that he became one of only three players in Pac-10 history to be selected as All-Conference four times. The weirdest part about it is that he made the All-Pac-10 team as a freshman while the two winners of the Freshman of the Year award (Sean Elliott and Pooh Richardson) did not. By the time Lichti was a senior, he was a 2nd team All-American and had scored 2,336 points (3rd all-time). It's too bad that he never played on a team that was very good [0-1 NCAA record]. He was drafted 15th overall in 1989.


5. Ed O'Bannon (6-8, 210 PF-UCLA, 1993-95). "Eddie O." had one of the best single seasons ever when he led UCLA to the 1995 National Championship and a 31-2 overall record. He won the National Player of the Year award as a senior, was a 1st team All-American and was co-Pac-10 Player of the Year (with Damon Stoudamire) to top it off. During his three-year stay in Westwood, O'Bannon was on the All-Conference team every year, scored 1,815 points and grabbed 820 rebounds. However, it isand always will behis senior year that best defines his career. In the NCAA Title game against Arkansas, O'Bannon had 30 points and 18 rebounds as the Bruins won their first National Crown since John Wooden left in 1975. For his performance, he was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 1995 NCAA Tournament. Ed O'Bannon was the 9th overall pick in the 1995 NBA draft. [7-2 NCAA record, including 1995 National Championship].

 4. Mike Bibby (6-2, 190 PG-Arizona, 1997-98). Bibby remains the only freshman in college basketball history to lead his team to a National Championship as a starting point guard. He was a member of the 1997 All-NCAA Tournament team after leading Arizona to its first-ever National Title that year in Indianapolis. He was also named both Pac-10 and National Freshman of the Year in '97. His sophomore year (his final year in Tucson before leaving early for the NBA), Bibby was a 1st team All-American, a member of the All-Conference team and the winner of the 1998 Pac-10 Player of the Year award. He left Arizona having averaged 15.4 points (1,061 total points), 5.5 assists and 2.36 steals per game and had an amazing mark in postseason play that helped him earn his legacy [9-1 NCAA record, including 1997 National Championship]. Bibby was drafted 2nd overall in 1998.

 3. Jason Kidd (6-4, 210 PG-Cal, 1993-94). The best two-year player in Pac-10 history, Jason Kidd was simply the best player around from the moment he set foot on campus at Cal in 1993. Let's see, where to begin? First, Kidd won the '93 Freshman of the Year award in the Pac-10 and was named All-Conference that year also. As a sophomore, he was once again All-Pac-10 but this time he won the Player of the Year award, too. He was an obvious choice to be a consensus 1st team All-American thanks to an all-around game that might have been the best in college basketball since Oscar Robertson left Cincinnati decades ago. Kidd recorded four triple-doubles in his two years at Cal and averaged 14.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 8.4 assists (1st all-time) and 2.5 steals (also 1st all-time) for his brief, 60-game career. Kidd could literally do it all. Even though he has sometimes been referred to as "Ason" (because he's got no "J"), Kidd found ways to put points on the board with his explosiveness and penetration ability. He is the point guard that all others are now compared to in terms of greatness. Even Mike Bibby, who was once called "Jason Kidd with a jump shot", still has a long way to go to match what Kidd has done over his career. Kidd was drafted 2nd overall in 1994 and is now considered the best point guard in the world (by everyone except Dick Vitale). [2-2 NCAA record].

2. Sean Elliott (6-8, 220 SF-Arizona, 1986-89). Elliott was the cornerstone in building what has become one of America's greatest basketball programs at Arizona. In his first year in Tucson, Elliott was named co-Freshman of the Year after scoring 499 points. The next three years he was on the All-Conference team each season, including winning back-to-back Pac-10 Player of the Year awards in 1988 and '89, becoming only the second person to do so since 1976 (UCLA's David Greenwood was the other in '78 & '79). In 1988, he led Arizona to its first-ever Final Four appearance and a 35-3 overall record (17-1 in conference play). He was a consensus All-American in '88 and was once again in '89 as well. In fact, Elliott won National Player of the Year honors in 1989, including the prestigious Wooden Award. Over his final two seasons, Arizona had a combined record of 64-7 (.901) overall and 34-2 against the Pac-10 (.944). Elliott left school as the Pac-10's all-time leading scorer with 2,555 points but now ranks second to Don Maclean (a mere 53 points behind). The Tucson native also had 808 rebounds while at Arizona. Sean Elliott was drafted 3rd overall in 1989 and was a two-time NBA All-Star before a kidney transplant forced him to retire early in 2001. [6-4 NCAA record, including 1988 Final Four].

1. Gary Payton (6-4, 180 PG-Oregon State). Payton arrived in Corvallis as a skinny kid from Oakland and left as one of the best players in Pac-10 history, maybe the best since the formation of the current ten-team membership. His first year at Oregon State, he won the Freshman of the Year award, thus serving notice to the rest of the conference of what lie ahead for his career. He was a three-time All-Pac-10 1st team selection, including Player of the Year in 1990. As a senior, he averaged 25.2 points, 8.1 assists and 3.4 steals per game and was a consensus 1st team All-American. He had games of 48 and 58 points, respectively, as a junior and senior and finished his career with 2,172 points (6th all-time). He still holds the career records for assists (938) and steals (321). In fact, he led the Pac-10 in assists all four years he played and in steals over his final three seasons. To put it simply, he was the best offensive and defensive player in the conference. Because of his outstanding senior campaign, Sports Illustrated named Payton (known as "The Glove", because of his cover his man defensively) its 1990 National Player of the Year. One of the more impressive feats that Payton accomplished was winning the Pac-10 Player of the Week award a record nine times. The next closest have seven each (Chris Mills and Harold Miner). Payton played on some less-than-stellar teams at Oregon State, even though the Beavers won a co-championship along with Arizona in 1990, and his postseason record reflects it. [0-3 NCAA record]. Payton was drafted 2nd overall in the 1990 NBA draft and has since been an annual member of the NBA All-Star team, the All-NBA 1st team and recently set a record by being named to his ninth straight All-NBA Defensive 1st team also.

Three Who Will Be On This List Next Year:

 Jason Gardner (5-10, 185 PG-Arizona, 2000-03).

*2000 NCAA Freshman of the Year, All-Pac-10, 3rd team All-American.

*2001 honorable mention All-American, National Championship Runner-up.

*2002 All-Pac-10, 2nd team All-American.

*1,512 points going into senior year means that he should become 14th player in Pac-10 history to go over the 2,000 point mark.

*464 career assists and 167 steals (career top 10 easily reachable).

*A virtual lock to break the Pac-10 record for career three-pointers made along with UCLA's Jason Kapono (Gardner has 252 makes, just 71 behind Stevin Smith for first all-time; Kapono has 253).

*8-3 career record in NCAA play (including 2001 Final Four) should get even better on preseason No. 1 team.

Luke Walton (6-8, 240 F-Arizona, 2000-03).

*Sixth man for most of 2000 and 2001 at Arizona.

*2002 All-Pac-10, 1st team All-American (Wooden)

*Averaged 15.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in 2002 including 27-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist triple-double against USC.

*878 points, 505 rebounds, 440 assists and 125 steals going into senior year.

*Along with Gardner, probably the two frontrunners to win 2003's NCAA Player of the Year award.

*8-3 career record in NCAA play.

Jason Kapono (6-8, 215 SF-UCLA, 2000-03).

*1,608 career points (lock to eclipse 2,000-point mark).

*2000 co-Pac-10 Freshman of the Year (along with Casey Jacobsen), All-Pac-10 team, CBS SportsLine's National Freshman of the Year.

*2001 All-Pac-10 team, 3rd team All-American.

*2002 All-Pac-10 team, honorable mention All-American.

*For his career, Kapono is 253-549 (46.1%) from three-point range.

*6-3 NCAA record, including three straight Sweet 16's.

**{TheThrill22 can be reached via e-mail at}**

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