Monday, December 28, 2009

Favorite Players of the Decade

We've done a best players countdown. We've unveiled our ideal team. We've given you a list of the most hated players of the decade. What's next?

Our favorites.

They weren't necessarily the most talented scorers or the best rebounders. For whatever reason, these are the guys that we simply loved watching or always found ourselves rooting for. We've enlisted the help of some of our fellow bloggers in putting together this list.

ROB DAUSTER, Ballin' is a Habit

Kevin Pittsnoggle, West Virginia: There was a lot to love about Kevin Pittsnoggle. At 6'11", Pittsnoggle was a two-guard that sprouted to 6'11". Blessed with a three point stroke as smooth as silk, the tattoed big man shot his way into the hearts of the college hoops nation as he led the West Virginia Mountaineers to the Elite 8 of the 2005 tournament. That tournament run made Kevin one of the few players whose name became a verb; how many times did you hear someone say "you have been Pittsnoggled" in the 2005 tournament. The biggest reason I loved Pittsnoggle? He was nothing more that a good ole country boy that happened to be 6'11" with a jump shot. Proof? He gave up pro ball to become a teacher and raise a family back in West Virginia.

JJ Redick, Duke: Yup, I'll admit it. I loved JJ Redick. Mostly, it was because I was a poor man's Redick. 6'3", white, and unathletic, but with in-the-gym range. I used to watch Duke games on TV and make notes as to how Redick set up his man coming off of screens and how well he moved without the ball to get the sliver of daylight he needed to get off a shot. I could have done without the cockiness, but hey, cockiness is part being a great player. You need to think you are going to make every shot if you actually want to make every shot. While I poured my heart out rooting against the Dukies in those days, I secretly cheered every time JJ banged a triple from 28 feet with a hand in his face.

Taliek Brown, UConn: I'm from Connecticut, and thus am a lifelong Husky fan. As such, I probably could easily detailed a top 100 list of my favorite UConn players from the aughts. If I did, Brown would have topped that list. An excellent defender and facilitator, Brown was the glue that held together the 2004 Huskies title team.

Blake Griffin, Oklahoma: There was no player in the country more interesting to watch than Griffin during his sophomore season. A physical specimen, Griffin was a poster waiting to happen. But it was more than just the dunks. Griffin played the game hard (who can forget when he cleared the scorer's table against Texas Tech) and displayed the sportsmanship and professionalism you rarely see out of a college sophomore. Think about it: would you have reacted if an opposing player punched you in the nuts or flipped you over their shoulder? I would have. Griffin didn't. You also have to love the fact that Griffin went back to school for a year just so he could play with his brother for the last time.

Deron Williams, Illinois: I loved the 2005 Illinois team, and Deron Williams was my favorite player on that team. Williams did not look like a guy that would be a great point guard. Stocky, chubby, baby fat, whatever you want to call it, Williams looked like he would have been better off as a full back, not as a guy that would eventually become one of the best point guards in the NBA. The comeback he led against Arizona in the 2005 NCAA Tournament was one of the most exciting finishes in the history of the NCAA Tournament.

TROY MACHIR, Ballin' is a Habit

Patrick Ewing Jr., Georgetown

I love energy guys. There is nothing better than a sixth man who can come off the bench, make a big play, and ignite the crowd. Ewing made a career of doing this. After all, he was named the 2008 Big East 6th Man of the Year. He wasn't be best player on the court, but he was usually the most athletic, and he always gave 110%.

A big part of Georgetown's legacy as a basketball program is their tradition. Big dominant centers like Morning, Mutumbo and of course Patrick Ewing. Ewing Jr. was brought in to help restore the tradition, and when you wear a #33 blue and grey uniform with "Ewing" written on the back, your play on the court becomes secondary to the purpose you serve.

Ewing was the type of player that you love to watch live. He fed off the crowd and in turn would return the favor with a big block, or fast-break dunk. He always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Having been born the summer after the Hoyas title game loss to Villanova, I never got a chance to watch the elder Ewing play for the Hoyas, but every time I watched Ewing Jr. play, I felt like I was watching a bit of his father as well. In short, it was an honor to watch him play. Thats why he makes this list.

Ronald Ramon, Pitt

There are three reasons Ramon makes this list. First, and least important, he played AAU ball for the New York Gauchos with one of my best friends and current euro-baller Kizmahr Grell. The second reason is that he always reminded me of "Spanish" from Old School. The final reason, and most important, was the buzzer-beater he had against WVU in the backyard brawl. If you forgot about it, here you go:

There are a few reasons this shot was so great. First, it was a game-winning buzzer-beater. Second, it was in the "Backyard Brawl", one of the fiercest college rivalries in the country. And third, he hit the shot at home, from the corner, right in front of the student section. There's got to be no better feeling than winning the game on a buzzer-beater literally in your own student section. I remember watching the game on TV and thinking "wow you really can't script that any better". Ramon stood in front of the towering student section looking like a heroic greek god. It is moments like these that makes the game of college basketball so special.

Adam Morrison, Gonzaga

A lot has been written about Morrison in the past few weeks here at B.I.A.H. He was mentioned as being one of the most hated players of the decade, and one of the best.

In this writers opinion, watching Morrison play was an honor. He gave every tall, gangly, pale white kid hope that they too can become successful collegiate athletes. I could write for days about his trademark 'stache, his long flowing locks, or his goofy retro socks, but what really made me respect Morrison was the aftermath of the Sweet Sixteen game against UCLA. A large majority of the hoops world will forever mock Morrison for falling to the court in tears after his team had blown the game.

But you know what? I look at that scene and see a guy who left it all on the court. Emotion is part of the game, and he played basketball full of it. He was out there carrying his entire team on his shoulders, as he had done all year. Tell me you wouldn't at least have to fight back tears if the same thing had happened to you, in the final game of your collegiate career? I loved everything about Morrison. I loved the 'stache, the retro high socks, the long t-shirts, his late-game moxy, and yes, the crying.

Kevin Pittsnogle, West Virginia

This should be a no-brainer. Whether it was his last name, his remarkable 3-point shooting abillity or the goofy tatoos, there was something for everybody to love about Kevin Pittsnogle. He was a cult hero at WVU and turned into a nationwide star due in large part to his 3-point shooting and his hilarious last name.

If you think the previous statement was false, take a look at this: your very own Kevin Pittsnogle thong. Seriously, just google his name and you will be provided with an hours worth of hilarious pictures, videos and articles documenting this redneck's storied collegiate basketball career.

There is so much I want to say about Pittsnogle, but not nearly enough space to do so. Instead I will leave you with this: the single greatest fan sign ever made.

Deron Washington, Virginia Tech

Every time Virginia Tech played on ESPN, I tuned in for the sole purpose of watching Deron Washington. He was arguably one of the most athletic players of the past decade and he frequently put his athleticism on display. He wasn't the most flashy of dunkers, but every time he dunked, his torso was above the rim. Another reason he makes the list is because Washington shares a similar dislike for the Duke Blue Devils. He was constantly going at it with Greg Paulus, Lee Melchionni and Kyle Singler.

It was this dunking ability that made him so fun to watch. If you need any more convincing, please watch the following tutorial on how to properly posterize somebody:


Thanks to Rob for allowing me to take part in this project. And as he told me, this was harder than I thought it would be. As a UConn fan I’ve decided not to pick any Huskies for this list; I could easily come up with at least three players to put on the list (there are two natives of the state though). So here are my five, and a couple of them are a bit “under the radar”.

Keydren “Kee Kee” Clark, Saint Peter’s 2002-06

Many folks are under the assumption that it was just Duke’s JJ Redick who was chasing after Curtis Staples’ (Virginia) all-time three pointers made record. Not exactly; the prolific scorer (3,058 career points) from Saint Peter’s alternated the top spot with Redick until the Blue Devil pulled ahead for good in the NCAA Tournament. Kee Kee led the Peacocks all the way to the MAAC final as a senior before falling to Iona. A phenomenal player who could hang 30 on anyone despite the amount of attention he received from opposing teams.

Ryan Gomes, Providence 2001-05

The pride of Waterbury, CT (who also was the basis of a classic Jim Calhoun postgame tirade) finished his career as PC’s all-time leader in both points (2,138) and minutes (4,077). His teams weren’t always the best but you knew that Ryan was bringing it every night. And he finished “Senior Night” with the appropriate flourish as well, leaving his shoes at midcourt of the Dunkin’ Donuts Center when checking out for the final time.

Jared Jordan, Marist 2003-07

In terms of the consummate floor general Jared goes down as my favorite of the decade. The West Hartford, CT native led the nation in assists in both his junior and senior campaigns, becoming the first player to do so at the Division I level since Southern’s Avery Johnson did so in he eighties. Nicknamed “The Magician”, Jordan teamed with Will Whittington to lead the Poughkeepsie school to the 2006-07 MAAC regular season title.

Brandin Knight, Pittsburgh 1999-2003

Much of the credit for the resurgence of the Pittsburgh program goes to Ben Howland (with a nod to Jamie Dixon for keeping it going) and rightfully so. But without Knight, the heart and soul of the program, a few of the things that program accomplished may not have happened. Now an assistant to Dixon, Brandin is the school’s all-time leader in assists and steals. The lasting image of him that I have is his limping back out onto the floor late in the 2003 Big East Tournament final and nearly winning the game with a half court shot in regulation. His toughness and leadership were cornerstones of that program and his impact still exists.

Brandon Roy, Washington 2002-06

Remember when the talk about Roy centered on him possibly going to the NBA straight out of high school? It’s a good thing that he didn’t for himself, the Washington program and college hoops fans. He missed the first half of that freshman campaign but by the time he was a senior B-Roy was a star. His versatility led the Huskies to the Sweet 16, where they dropped an epic battle to Connecticut in DC. Whatever there was to do on the floor, Brandon could get it done.

RTMSF, Rush the Court

Tayshaun Prince, Kentucky

There was one five-minute stretch of a game in particular that made Prince an absolute legend. His first half performance against UNC in the 2001-02 season where he stepped off the bus shooting threes and dropped five bombs before the first tv timeout -- each one deeper than before -- was fall-off-the-couch phenomenal. It took until he entered the NBA as part of the 2004 World Champion Pistons for people to realize just how good the Fresh Prince was on both ends of the court, but I loved his somewhat peculiar game and caught him every time I could.

Chris Paul, Wake Forest

When I saw him in his very first game, I thought I was looking at the second coming of Isiah Thomas (w/o the sexual harrassment and destruction of the CBA, but with the surreptitious nut-punches!). While he was at Wake Forest for two years, no matter which higher-rated player he was playing against (JJ Redick, Ray Felton, Jameer Nelson, etc.), I always had the feeling he was the best player on the floor. CP3 has pretty much lived up to the hype in the interim, and it became clear just how good he was in 2006 when, after he had alighted to the NBA, the same Wake Forest team minus Paul went from the top #2 seed in the NCAA Tourney to a 17-17 (3-13 ACC) disaster.

Kevin Durant, Texas

I'd imagine he will be on everyone's list. How could he not be? Even though Greg Oden ended up going #1 in the draft and his team played in the national title game that year, Durant was the player you set aside time to watch his games. There was a sense of wonder with KD that you didn't get with other one-and-dones like Michael Beasley or Derrick Rose (both of whom were superb in their own right) that anything could happen that night. I'm not sure why that was the case, but maybe it had to do with the fact that he appeared so effortless as he eviscerated the opponent. Definitely one of my favorites of the decade.

Josh Childress, Stanford

I doubt anyone else has this guy on his list, but I loved the game that the mini-fro'd Childress brought to bear in his three years at Stanford. During the near-undefeated season for the Cardinal in 2003-04, J-Chill was everywhere. I can't count how many times I was watching where it appeared that Stanford was finally going to lose, only to have Childress make some long three or get a steal and dunk to start the comeback. The most notable of which, was the half-court buzzer-beater game against Arizona (JC put Stanford in position to win that one).

Corey Brewer, Florida

Brewer was the consummate do-everything guy for the two-time champion Gators. Can you tell the type of players I like best? Often tasked with defending the other teams' best player, you could count on him to get in the shorts and harass whoever that might be. The work he in particular did on UCLA's Jordan Farmar and Aaron Afflalo in successive years in the Final Four was remarkable - both of those guys are probably still having nightmares of Brewer's long arms following them all over the court. Without Brewer's 'glue guy' hawking the perimeter and adding timely buckets off the glass and through the offense, Florida probably doesn't win one, much less two, national titles.

JAMESON FLEMING, Bleacher Report

Demetris Nichols/Jonny Flynn/Andy Rautins/Wes Johnson, Syracuse

I've spent the last four years watching Syracuse basketball so naturally a few players stood out from the Orange that would always be near and dear to my heart and were major factors in my love for the sport. I couldn't pick just one as each has had their moments. Nichols got me hooked on college basketball in 2007. His epic 37 point outburst vs. St. John's is the most impressive individual outing I've seen in person. Flynn is self-explanatory. That smile and incredible natural skills make him impossible to not love unless you pledge allegiance to Georgetown. Rautins is that feel good story. He only received a scholarship from Syracuse because his dad Leo played there and now he's developed into one of the best all-around players in the Big East. Wes Johnson quickly has become known as the one-and-done because there's nothing stopping Johnson from being a top five lottery pick in March.

JamesOn Curry, Oklahoma State

He's responsible for everyone on this planet calling me JamesOn instead of Jameson for a year and frankly I didn't care. He was one of the sleekest shooters in the game his senior year and his occasional absurd outbursts from deep made him one of the more entertaining players of the decade.

Kevin Pittsnogle, West Virginia

There will forever be the legend of Pittsnogle in Morgantown. Anyone whose name is turned into a verb (you got Pittsnogle'd) is worthy of legendary status.

LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor

He's got one of the sweetest names in college basketball and one of the sweetest strokes to go with it. I saw him live in Orlando for the Old Spice Classic where he played terribly, but his shot is so smooth and effortless that it's hard to imagine him every getting in a prolonged shooting slump. He's always thinking attack, attack, attack.

Chuck Hayes, Kentucky

I grew up a Kentucky fan (in Pennsylvania, it's a long story) and Hayes represented everything that was right with the college game. He was an incredibly hard worker and hustler out on the court. He was never really that talented, but he always found ways to get the ball in the hoops and was always the first guy on the floor. That mentality somehow got him into the NBA despite being incredibly undersized (6'6'' power forward).

MATT NORLANDER, College Hoops Journal

Ron Mercer, Kentucky

Oh, you probably forget how sweet Mercer was. And smooth. He was so smooth. Mercer was a key cog in the '90s Kentucky dynasty and when he wasn't on the floor it just wasn't the same squad. Dominant, deep and talented always, but not the smooth-oiled machine Mercer made them. I shoot the ball the way I do today because of Ron Mercer.

Jameer Nelson, St. Joe's

If you didn't like the 2004 St. Joe's team, then you're no friend of mine. Nelson steered that ship, and it's pretty clear how important he was to that team. If I made a list of my five biggest disappointments in college basketball history, the Hawks failing to reach a Final Four would be on it. It was such a SOLID team, you know? Nelson was probably the toughest college player I've ever seen. Yeah, way tougher than Hansbrough.

Taylor Coppenrath, Vermont

I grew up four miles from UVM's campus. Coppenrath singlehandedly won about 20 percent of Vermont's games for them during his career. His quirky delivery, knack for the ball and old-school style around the rim made him instantly likeable and a great television watch.

Kevin Durant, Texas

More fun to watch than Beasley and Griffin, he set the Big 12 trend we've seen in recent years. Durant could score from about anywhere on the floor and make it look like he was shooting hoop in his driveway. Rick Barnes openly admitted to not knowing how to coach Durant, at times. Rick Barnes haters are not surprised by this.

Allen Iverson, Georgetown

Hate to admit it, but I loved watching Iverson as my love for the sport blossomed in the mid-'90s. He was so quick, everyone I knew in the mean playgrounds of Vermont tried to emulate his crossover style.


Jameson said...

Nice to see we are all in love with Kevin Pittsnogle.

Troy Machir said...

There were some great choices: Pittsnogle, LaceDarius Dunn, Tayshaun Prince, Taylor Coppenrath.

I had a long list of guys I wanted to add. Most notably Roy Hibbert, Jarvis Varnado, Aaron Brooks, and Bamable Osby. Thats right, Bambale Osby. I hate Maryland, but that guy had the best hairdo EVVA. period. game over.

Marc said...

I'd like to add Hakim Warrick to that list of Cuse players that were a joy to watch. G-Mac and Melo were obviously great and fan favorites, but Hakim had the smoothest, most naturally talented game at both ends of the court that I think he was the best to watch. Not to mention the biggest block in Cuse basketball history (vs Kansas).

Also, Greivis Vazquez for obvious reasons...

Troy Machir said...

I also liked the Kevin Durant pick. i can remember watching the 3OT thiller vs. OKST and thinking it was the greatest game I've ever seen.

Also I would have added Jason Williams of Duke. Until I saw JJ Reddick play, JWill was the best player I had ever seen play.