Counting down MSU’s top 50 basketball players all-time: No. 6 – Greg Kelser

This is the 45th 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. 6 – Greg Kelser
Forward, 1975-79, Detroit

The Skinny: Kelser is the best player, that wasn’t a guard, in the history of MSU’s program. He was a star before he was Magic Johnson’s running mate, averaging 21.7 points and 10.8 rebounds as a sophomore in 1976-77. And once Magic arrived, Kelser was the perfect complement — wiry, quick, a terrific leaper and finisher around the basket, a smooth and coordinated offensive player.

Greg Kelser was a star before Magic Johnson arrived at MSU. When Magic did, the duo – and Jay Vincent – led the Spartans to their first national championship in 1979. (LSJ file)

His career averages of 17.5 points and 9.5 rebounds are unmatched by any forward or center in the era of four-year college basketball (beginning in 1972). He remains fourth on MSU’s All-Time scoring list, behind only Shawn Respert, Steve Smith and Scott Skiles. Kelser was three times All-Big Ten, twice on the second team, and a first-teamer and first-team All-American as senior.

He was the first Big Ten player to tally more than 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a career, and remains the only MSU player ever to reach both of those marks.

Kelser was most brilliant during two NCAA tournaments. As a junior, he averaged 21.6 points and 12.3 rebounds in wins over Providence and Western Kentucky, and a loss to Kentucky in the regional finals. A year later, during the national championship run, he averaged 25.4 points and 10.6 rebounds in five games, including 34 points in against Notre Dame to send the Spartans to the Final Four. That output stood as the school’s NCAA tournament scoring record until last season, when Adreian Payne scored 41 against Delaware.

Kelser nearly left East Lansing after his freshman season, staying mostly because fired coach Gus Ganakas told Kelser MSU was the place for him. It worked out.

Kelser was the eighth overall pick in the 1979 NBA draft, selected by the Detroit Pistons. Bad knees cut short a six-year pro career.

Why he’s No. 6: Whether this is justifying Kelser’s ranking as too high or too low is in the eye of the beholder. He could be argued as high as No. 3 or as low as No. 8. What keeps Kelser from being higher is he was a sidekick. Not his fault, but he won big with Magic and played on two forgettable teams before him. What puts him ahead of Robinson is the winning, and that MSU doesn’t win a national title with Magic without Kelser. And how different MSU basketball history would be if that didn’t happen.

For nearly two decades after this duo finished playing at MSU, they provided an enormous sense of pride and credibility to an often middling program. Both were (and remain) present and part of Spartan basketball. Kelser’s program impact is immense.

Rank MSU’s top 10 players yourself

Poll results will be updated at Greenandwhite.com.

Previously …
No. 7: Johnny Green
No. 8: Mike Robinson
No. 9: Jay Vincent
No. 10: Morris Peterson
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

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments | | |

Counting down MSU’s top 50 basketball players all-time: No. 7 – Johnny Green

This is the 44th 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. 7 – Johnny Green
Forward, 1957-59, Dayton, Ohio.

The Skinny: Known as Jumpin’ Johnny Green, no MSU player pre-Magic-Kelser is more celebrated. Green was extraordinary statistically and won at an unprecedented level. The 6-foot-5 power forward, a Marine veteran who didn’t begin on MSU’s varsity until he was 23, is famous for two things: rebounding and the 1957 Final Four, MSU’s first Final Four.

Johnny Green’s 16.4 career rebounding average, set from 1957-59, remains by far the best at MSU. (MSU Athletic Communications)

Green’s career rebounding average of 16.4 dwarfs every other player in the history of the program. Horace Walker is next at 13.8, followed by Bill Kilgore at 11.3. Green three season averages (14.6, 17.8 and 16.6) are Nos. 4, 1 and 3 in the MSU record books.

He and Walker both are tied for the most and second-most rebounds in a single game, each with games of 29 and 28 rebounds. Green also had at least 10 other games of 20 or more rebounds.

His 1,036 career rebounds remain third all-time at MSU, behind Greg Kelser (1,092) and Draymond Green (1,096), despite playing 52 fewer games than Kelser and 82 fewer than Draymond Green.

Johnny Green also scored plenty, mostly around the rim, averaging, 13.2, 18 and 18.5 points during his career, during which he was a first-team All-Big Ten selection all three years. His last two, he was also an All-American.

As a sophomore in the 1957, Green led MSU past Notre Dame, 85-83, in its NCAA opener, with 20 points and 27 rebounds.

Two games later, in the Final Four, Green finished with 11 points, 19 rebounds and eight blocks, as MSU lost to eventual champion North Carolina, 74-70, in triple-overtime.

Green also led MSU back to the NCAA tournament in 1959, where in his final game he scored 29 points and pulled down 23 rebounds in a loss to Louisville in the regional finals. The Spartans wouldn’t return to the NCAA tournament until Magic arrived on campus nearly two decades later.

Why he’s No. 7: The winning separates him from Mike Robinson and Terry Furlow. The era keeps him out of the top six. Fair or not, Green played in an era of missed shots and mostly below-the-rim basketball. A leaper like Green stood out — and cleaned up. In 1957, Hal Greer recorded the fifth-best field-goal percentage in college basketball at 54.6 percent. Last season, 36 players were better than that.

But until Magic, no player was more important to MSU’s program. And one could argue, beyond Magic and Mateen Cleaves, Johnny Green is still No. 3.

Rank MSU’s top 10 players yourself

Poll results will be updated at Greenandwhite.com.

Previously …
No. 8: Mike Robinson
No. 9: Jay Vincent
No. 10: Morris Peterson
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

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments | | |

Counting down MSU’s top 50 basketball players all-time: No. 8 – Mike Robinson

This is the 43rd 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. 8 – Mike Robinson
Guard, 1971-74, Detroit

The Skinny: If Mike Robinson had arrived at MSU two years later, when the NCAA began allowing freshmen to play, he’d be a household name. He should be anyway among MSU fans. He is the greatest career scorer in Spartan basketball history, averaging 24.2 points over his three seasons — three full points better than the next in line, Shawn Respert, the school’s all-time leading scorer and, more fairly, almost a point higher than Respert’s average for his final three seasons.

Mike Robinson’s 24.2 career scoring average is the best at Michigan State by a full three points per game, among players who played at least two seasons. (MSU Athletic Communications)

Robinson remains 10th in scoring at MSU with 1,717 points and is the only three-year player in the top 20. Julius McCoy is No. 22, with 1,377 points.

Robinson, a guard shy of 6-feet, arrived at MSU two years before the NCAA allowed freshmen to play. He averaged 24.7 points as a sophomore in 1971-72, 25.7 as a junior, and 22.4 as a senior. Had he not played through an injury for a week during that final season, he’d have been a three-time Big Ten scoring champion — a feat accomplished only four times by anyone in the conference, dating back to the early 1900s. As it stands, Robinson, teammate Terry Furlow and Jay Vincent are the only Spartans to lead the Big Ten in scoring twice, with Robinson and Johnny Green the lone three-time first-team All-Big Ten selections in Spartan history.

Robinson four times scored 35 points or more, with a career high of 40 against Northwestern in 1973.

Why he’s No. 8: The easiest argument is that Robinson belongs higher, in the top five. The reason he’s not is he simply didn’t win enough.

Robinson played two seasons each alongside Furlow (No. 12 on this countdown), Lindsay Hairston (No. 21) and Bill Kilgore (No. 41). All four were together during Robinson’s junior season, with Kilgore and Hairston as starters. His senior year, Furlow and Hairston were in the lineup with him.

And yet in all three of Robinson’s seasons, MSU finished with an identical 13-11 record, never better than tied for fourth in the Big Ten.

A 2008 quote from Robinson to Jack Ebling best explains what went wrong, especially that senior year, as Furlow came into his own as a scorer.

“It was pretty frustrating at the time,” Robinson told Ebling for a profile on MSUSpartans.com “I really think we had more talent than Magic (Johnson) did five years later. But we had a lot of distractions and too many politicians on the team. Some egos were way out of control.”

Robinson also said that if he had been there in 1974-75, the player walk-out against coach Gus Ganakas wouldn’t have happened.

Nonetheless, in a program with a legacy of tremendous winning, especially recently, Robinson’s legacy is only points — albeit a ton of them.

Rank MSU’s top 10 players yourself

Poll results will be updated at Greenandwhite.com.

Previously …
No. 9: Jay Vincent
No. 10: Morris Peterson
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

Posted in Uncategorized | 19 Comments | | |

Counting down MSU’s top 50 basketball players all-time: No. 9 – Jay Vincent

This is the 42nd 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. 9 – Jay Vincent
Forward / center, 1977-81, Lansing

The Skinny: If Vincent had been healthy, MSU’s lopsided 1979 NCAA tournament run could have been a series all-out drubbings, Larry Bird’s Indiana State club included. Vincent, a 6-foot-7, 230-pound sophomore and MSU’s starting center, suffered a stress fracture in his right foot in the NCAA tournament opener against Lamar. He’d already scored 11 points in 13 minutes.

Jay Vincent starred at Lansing Eastern High School, won a championship at Michigan State with cross-city rival Magic Johnson, and then was a two-time Big Ten scoring champion as a junior and senior. (MSU Athletic Communications)

Paired with his crosstown high school rival Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Greg Kelser, this was among the great trios ever in college basketball. Vincent, who averaged about 13 points most of his sophomore season, played a combined 31 minutes the rest of the tournament after the injury. That scoring total was misleading. Vincent sacrificed much of his offensive game his first two seasons on campus — as great talents also have in the Tom Izzo era.

His best years offensively were his last two. Vincent was twice the Big Ten scoring champion, averaging 22.1 and 24.1 in conference play as a junior and senior, and was an All-American in 1980-81. The personal accolades came on losing teams, the performances despite defenses tailored to stop him.

Vincent remains MSU’s sixth-leading scorer all-time, behind Shawn Respert, Steve Smith, Scott Skiles, Kelser and Kalin Lucas. His three performances of 35 or more points are the most ever by an MSU big man. Vincent was an incredibly skilled and versatile interior player, the 24th overall pick in the 1981 NBA draft, before a nine-year NBA career.

Why he’s No. 9: Vincent is one of only three MSU players to win two Big Ten scoring titles. The others, Mike Robinson and Terry Furlow. His prime at MSU was wasted on otherwise bad teams, but he was the best forward in the country, Jud Heathcote said at the time. And, most importantly, the Spartans don’t win a national championship with Magic, without Jay. They wouldn’t have even made the NCAA tournament in 1979, because they wouldn’t have won nine straight in Big Ten play to win a share of the conference title and the league’s automatic bid to the 32-team NCAA tournament.

Vincent was talented enough to carry bad teams to upsets. In 1980, as junior on an ninth-place Big Ten squad, he scored 21 and pulled down 14 rebounds as MSU beat No. 6 Ohio State by 20. MSU defeated Michigan twice that year and came close twice against league-champ Indiana. A year later, on an eighth-place team, Vincent tallied 24 points and 10 rebounds in an overtime win against an Iowa club with 13 Big Ten wins.

Rank MSU’s top 10 players yourself

Poll results will be updated at Greenandwhite.com.

Previously …
No. 10: Morris Peterson
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

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments | | |

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

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments | | |

Counting down MSU’s top 50 basketball players all-time: No. 11 – Draymond Green

This is the 40th 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. 11 – Draymond Green
Forward, 2008-12, Saginaw

The Skinny: Green’s senior season is one of the great years in MSU basketball history, in terms of production, leadership and winning beyond expectations. He averaged 16.2 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 2011-12, carrying an otherwise fairly immature group to 29 wins, a Big Ten championship, a Big Ten tournament title and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Green was a consensus All-American after that season, one of three in MSU basketball history. Mateen Cleaves and Magic Johnson are the others.

Draymond Green is considered one of the two great leaders of the Tom Izzo era, along with Mateen Cleaves. Both were consensus All-Americans at MSU. Magic Johnson was the only other consensus All-American in program history. (LSJ file)

In the Tom Izzo era, Green is considered alone in a class with Cleaves in terms of ability to steer and will a team. He played Final Four clubs his first two seasons — as the go-to guy on the final possession as a sophomore — and won three Big Ten titles. As a senior, Green was selected as the Big Ten player of the year and the National Basketball Coaches Association’s player of the year.

He is the school’s all-time leading rebounder (1,096), one of four over 1,000. He and Greg Kelser are the only at MSU to finish with more than 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds. And while that has a lot to do with playing in a school-record 145 games — 82 more than Johnny Green, for example — so does era. Green and Antonio Smith are tied for the most rebounds per game averaged in a season (10.6) at MSU since Kelser’s 10.8 in 1976-77.

Green is also second at MSU in career steals, third in blocked shots and the only player other than Magic and Charlie Bell to record a triple-double. Magic had eight, Green three, Bell one.

Green was not only a post player, but essentially MSU’s point forward. He became increasingly difficult to guard as he added a 3-point shot to his game, making 89 3s over his final two seasons.

Why he’s No. 11: Green vs. Terry Furlow (No. 13 on this list) was an interesting debate. The big-time scoring numbers vs. big-time winning and leadership. Era has a ton to do with Green’s place here. Not old-timers vs. modern players as much as MSU’s modern era. Final Fours and Big Ten titles are commonplace. But when putting together an historical list, that can’t diminish them.   Green won at an exceptional rate and, at the end, MSU won big almost solely because of his play and leadership.

Previously …
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

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments | | |

Counting down MSU’s top 50 basketball players all-time: No. 12 – Terry Furlow

This is the 39th 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. 12 – Terry Furlow
Guard, 1972-76, Flint

The Skinny: Furlow might be the greatest scorer in MSU history, a matter record as much as folk lore. He averaged 29.4 points as a senior — which remains a school record. In one week that season, the 6-foot-4 shooting guard scored a still-program-record 50 points against Iowa, 48 at Northwestern and then 42 against Ohio State. Those are the two highest scoring totals in a single game ever at MSU, followed by the fourth-highest total — all a decade before the 3-point shot.

Terry Furlow’s 29.4 scoring average in 1975-76 remains No. 1 in MSU history. He also produced top two scoring games at MSU, 50 and 48, in the same week. (MSU Athletic Communications)

Furlow was twice the Big Ten scoring champion, averaging 20.2 in league play in 1974-75 and 31 a year later. Mike Robinson and Jay Vincent are the only other Spartans to ever accomplish the feat twice. Furlow was twice first-team All-Big Ten and an All-American in 1975-76.

He left MSU as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,777 points, eventually passed by freshman teammate Greg Kelser, who admired Furlow and has said no one outworked him.

The Philadelphia 76ers selected Furlow with the 12th overall pick in the 1976 draft. He had his best NBA season in 1979-80, before dying in a car accident on May 23, 1980 in Ohio.

Why he’s No. 12: After writing the above, this section feels as if it should be titled, “Then why the hell is he only No. 12?” The answer is comparative (as with everyone on this list) and has something to do winning and leadership.

Furlow was one of the 10 players on the 1975 team who walked out in protest, arguing racial bias from coach Gus Ganakas, before a visit from national power Indiana. The suspension of those players for the game against the Hoosiers led to a 107-55 home defeat.

Furlow’s teams, despite including Mike Robinson, Lindsay Hairston, Robert Chapman and, briefly, Kelser, never finished higher than fourth in the Big Ten, the fallout of the walkout a year earlier hanging over Furlow’s final season.

By contrast, Draymond Green (still to come on this list), for example, led a relatively unheralded group to the Big Ten title a couple years ago, with more than his on-court scoring and rebounding talents.

Previously …
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

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments | | |

Counting down MSU’s top 50 basketball players all-time: No. 13 – Ralph Simpson

This is the 38th 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. 13 – Ralph Simpson
Wing, 1969-70, Detroit

The Skinny: Had Simpson simply stuck around another season, he’d be somewhere in the top 10, maybe the top five. But his one season at MSU in 1969-70 was so spectacular it surpasses a lot of distinguished careers. Simpson’s sophomore season (before freshmen were allowed to play) is among the best individual winters in Spartan history. Simpson averaged 29 points, seven times scoring 35 or more, with a season-high 42. He also averaged 10.3 rebounds (including one 20-rebound game), and was selected as an All-American and first-team All-Big Ten.

Ralph Simpson averaged 29 points and 10.3 rebounds during his only season at MSU, in 1969-70. (MSU Athletic Communications)

Simpson left for the ABA’s Denver Rockets after that season, and had an up-and-down, decade-long pro career in both the ABA and NBA. Had he stayed at MSU another couple seasons (back when most players played out their eligibility), his career would have intersected with Mike Robinson and Bill Kilgore, and MSU basketball history might be different. Instead, Robinson played one losing season at MSU — 9-15 overall, 5-9 in the Big Ten — and the first Robinson-Kilgore team two years later finished a modest 13-11 and fifth in the league standings.

Why he’s No. 13: The numbers are that good, as was the player. As a talent alone, there aren’t a dozen better who’ve played in East Lansing than Simpson. But longevity and impact matter here. Marcus Taylor’s one terrific February put him at No. 50 on this list, Jason Richardson’s All-American sophomore season has him at 29. Simpson’s presence at MSU didn’t lead to anything after him, or even wins while he was here.

Previously …
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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Counting down the top 50 MSU basketball players all-time: No. 14 – Julius McCoy

This is the 37th 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. 14 – Julius McCoy
Forward, 1953-56, Farrell, Pa.

The Skinny: If McCoy had come a long a year or a couple decades later, he might be even higher on this list and a household name for even younger generations of Spartan fans. McCoy’s 27.2 points per game in 1955-56 remain fourth all-time at MSU. He scored 1,377 points in three seasons in East Lansing, and remained the Spartans’ leading career scorer until Mike Robinson passed him almost 20 years later.

Julius McCoy averaged 27.2 points and 10 rebounds in 1955-56. (MSU Athletic Communications)

McCoy, MSU’s first star of the Big Ten era, was a big-time athlete — a Pennsylvania high school 100-meter champion and a coveted football halfback. The 6-foot McCoy, a slasher on the court, averaged 18.6 points as a sophomore and, limited by an ankle injury, 16.7 as a junior. As a senior, McCoy’s 27-point, 10-rebound average earned him All-American and first-team All-Big Ten honors.

He scored 40 or more points four times at MSU. His 45 points against Notre Dame in December of 1955 is tied for the third-most points scored by a Spartan.

Why he’s No. 14: McCoy, who died in 2008, played on two winning teams that finished in the upper half of the Big Ten. But he never played on a memorable MSU team, despite his career overlapping with Al Ferrari and Jack Quiggle. Had McCoy had another year of eligibility, he would have been on the 1957 Final Four club, with sophomore Johnny Green, and he’d probably be more widely known. Still, to average 27 points and shoot better than 42 percent in the mid-1950s is an amazing feat. McCoy was a modern elite athlete trapped in the film “Pleasantville.”

Previously …
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

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments | | |

Counting down MSU’s top 50 basketball players all-time: No. 15 – Sam Vincent

This is the 36th 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. 15 – Sam Vincent
Guard, 1981-85, Lansing

The Skinny: Vincent’s career is overshadowed by his contemporary, Scott Skiles. The two played three seasons together and MSU’s best year in the 1980s, 1985-86, happened with Skiles but post-Vincent. Vincent, though, was an All-American and twice selected first-team All-Big Ten. He’s one eight Big Ten scoring champions at MSU, averaging 23.7 points in conference play in 1985 — the year before the 3-point shot became a permanent part of college basketball.

Sam Vincent led the Big Ten in scoring in 1985, averaging 23.7 points per game, scoring a career-high 39 against Purdue and 32 in his lone NCAA tournament game. (MSU Athletic Communications)

That he and Skiles were in the same backcourt in 1984-85 and the team finished 20-12, fifth in the Big Ten and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament, speaks to the dearth of consistent interior talent at MSU in that era, relative to today.

In his only NCAA tournament game, Vincent scored a game-high 32 points in 39 minutes. He started 109 of 110 games at MSU, scoring 11.7 points per game as freshman and 16.6 as a sophomore, leading MSU in scoring that season and as a senior.

Vincent starred at Lansing Eastern, winning the state’s first Mr. Basketball award in 1981. He scored 61 points in a game during his senior season, which broke Magic Johnson’s Lansing city scoring record. He later played seven seasons in the NBA — winning a title with the Boston Celtics as a rookie in 1986 — and coached the Charlotte Bobcats for one season in 2007-08.

Why he’s No. 15: We’re beginning to step into an uber-elite class on this countdown list, and Vincent belongs. He remains MSU’s seventh-leading scorer (1,851 points) despite playing between 20 and 30 fewer games than players do today. Just as players such as Charlie Bell shouldn’t be punished for modest stats on great teams, Vincent can only be knocked down the list so far for lack of winning. He’d be a big-time player at MSU today. He’s part of a legacy of great guards that sustained MSU and kept the program quasi-relevant until the Izzo era took hold.

Previously …
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

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments | | |