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Counting down MSU’s top 50 basketball players all-time: No. 10 – Morris Peterson

This is the 41st in a 50-day summer series, counting down the top players in Michigan State basketball history, as I see them. The criteria is impact and performance at MSU only, professional career irrelevant. Have your own opinion? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

No. 10 – Morris Peterson
Wing, 1995-2000, Flint

The Skinny: Before he became “Sweet Mo Pete,” Peterson was an immature and unheralded wing who was left home on trip to Maui. Four years later, he was every bit his nickname, the Big Ten’s player of the year, an All-American, a first-round NBA draft pick, and national champion.

Morris Peterson scored 16.8 points per game as a senior, despite averaging just 12 shots. (LSJ file)

Peterson was the first member of the Flintstones on campus, redshirting during Tom Izzo’s first season as head coach. Peterson’s career climb was steady until he was a star — a smooth, efficient and versatile scorer, a terrific rebounder and interested defender.

During his senior season, Peterson averaged 16.8 points and six rebounds, leading the Spartans through a non-conference slate minus the injured Mateen Cleaves, and in the second half of the national title game, when Cleaves was hobbled by a sprained ankle.

Peterson was the MVP of the Midwest Regional that year, scoring 21 in a win over Syracuse and 18 against Iowa State, with just one turnover in two games. In the ensuing Final Four, he scored 20 of MSU’s 53 points in a win over Wisconsin, and then led the Spartans in scoring for the fourth straight game with 21 in the national championship against Florida.

Peterson became a bona fide star in 1999-2000, no longer a sidekick. Without Cleaves, he tallied 31 points and five steals in a December upset at then-No. 2 North Carolina. Peterson’s career-high 32 came later that season against Michigan, part of a five-game blitz of Northwestern twice, Illinois, Michigan and No. 6 UConn, when MSU won by an average of nearly 24 points per game.

As a junior, Peterson averaged 13.6 points and 5.7 rebounds, becoming the first sixth man to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors. He scored a game-high 19 to help MSU beat Kentucky in the regional finals, advancing to its first Final Four in 20 years.

Why he’s No. 10: Peterson was the modern era’s Greg Kelser, the national title running mate next to a program-changing point guard. Like Kelser, his resume stands alone just fine.

Peterson is arguably the most efficient offensive star in MSU history. He shot better than 50 percent over his final two seasons, and played in an egalitarian offensive era. Peterson’s 16.8 points per game as a senior came on an average of just 12 shots. By comparison, Terry Furlow took 24 shots a game his final season, Scott Skiles and Steve Smith 19 each, Shawn Respert 17 and Kelser 14.

Peterson was an equal partner with Cleaves on one of two national championships in MSU history. And he was an integral piece of the group that began all that is today for Spartan basketball.

Rank MSU’s top 10 players yourself

Poll results will be updated at Greenandwhite.com.

Previously …
No. 11: Draymond Green
No. 12: Terry Furlow
No. 13: Ralph Simpson
No. 14: Julius McCoy
No. 15: Sam Vincent
No. 16: Charlie Bell
No. 17: Horace Walker
No. 18: Kalin Lucas
No. 19: Adreian Payne
No. 20: Drew Neitzel
No. 21: Lindsay Hairston
No. 22: Maurice Ager
No. 23: Paul Davis
No. 24: Andre Hutson
No. 25: Lee Lafayette
No. 26: Gary Harris
No. 27: Darryl Johnson
No. 28: Jack Quiggle
No. 29: Jason Richardson
No. 30: Stan Washington
No. 31: Antonio Smith
No. 32: Eric Snow
No. 33: Chet Aubuchon
No. 34: Mike Peplowski
No. 35: Keith Appling
No. 36: Shannon Brown
No. 37: Kirk Manns
No. 38: Goran Suton
No. 39: Alan Anderson
No. 40: Branden Dawson
No. 41: Bill Kilgore
No. 42: Pete Gent
No. 43: Al Ferrari
No. 44: Ken Redfield
No. 45: Chris Hill
No. 46: Raymar Morgan
No. 47: Kevin Smith
No. 48: Kevin Willis
No. 49: Matt Steigenga
No. 50: Marcus Taylor

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7 Responses to Counting down MSU’s top 50 basketball players all-time: No. 10 – Morris Peterson

  1. avatar David Schmidt says:

    Congrats on going home to become the sports writer at LSJ for MSU. As an alum I have watched your short videos w/Joe Rexrode and for the last number of days I get up every morning here in the Chicago burbs and await the next player on your list. Then about half a dozen of us email each other and agree, disagree or kid each other. You have added fire to the GREEN nation. We appreciate your efforts and wish you continued good success in your career. Hope you stay at LSJ.

    David A. Schmidt
    Class of 70.

  2. avatar Spartan 81 says:

    He will unless he is offered a million dollar contract by the mothership and moves to Bristol Conn

  3. avatar Spartan 81 says:

    Thanks Graham,

    I remember standing on a table in Chicago during that Syracuse game and leadin 75 strangers in the MSU fight song. Have you decided on the. Order of 3-6 yet or are you still debating it back and forth every day, you mentioned to Joe it was like splitting hairs

  4. avatar specialbubs says:

    Looking at that list I just don’t see how Draymond Green is not in the top 10. And I was at MSU during the Scotty Skiles era so it’s not that I lack any historical perspective. As soon as I saw him at 11 I was stunned. He’s top 5 in my book.

  5. avatar Izzo4Prez says:

    I had always wondered what would have happened if the Pistons had selected Mo Pete.

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