Who are the NCAA best college basketball players in history?
The National Collegiate Athletic association (NCAA) has produced several stars in the past and will continue to do so.
In sports like basketball, baseball, hockey, and American football, products from the NCAA have shone on a professional scale as they did as scholars.
In the world of basketball, many players have featured in the NCAA during their college years and even further it to professionalism.
We take a look at some of these NCAA Best Basketball Players of all time and their performances
Table of Contents
The NCAA Best College Basketball Players in History
20. Ralph Sampson
University of Virginia; 1979-1983
Houston Rockets 1983 1st overall pick, Ralph Sampson, played college basketball in the University of Virginia from his freshman year to his final year.
In his 3rd year, he won the 1981 National Collegiate Player of the Year award and kept the title till his last year in 1983.
The 7-foot-4-inch Ralph Sampson played at the center and impressively recorded an average of 11.4 rebounds, 16.9 points, and 1.2 assists per game.
He is placed 5th among players with the highest rebounds in the NCAA with 1,511.
19. Tim Duncan
Wake Forest University, North Carolina; 1993-1997
The 2020 Naismith Hall of Fame inductee, Tim Duncan, recorded professional success and collegiate success.
As a player at Wake Forest University, he led his team to the NCAA championship in all four seasons.
Along with recording a college career average of 12.3 rebounds per game, 16.5 points, and 2.3 assists per game, Duncan was named the 1997 National Collegiate Player of the Year.
He also won the ACC Player of the Year on two occasions and the Consensus All-American on two occasions.
Among his college career highlights, was the 29 double-doubles Duncan recorded in 31 games played during the 1997 season.
Duncan totaled 1,570 rebounds through his college career, making him the 2nd player in the NCAA rebound ranking.
18. Tyler Hansbrough
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; 2005-2009
Tyler Hansbrough, who now plays in the Chinese Basketball Association, had relative success in the NCAA than in the NBA.
He recorded an average of 20.2 points per game, 8.6 rebounds per game, and 1.1 assists per game through his four years in Northern California.
Hansbrough won the NCAA Player of the Year award in 2008, the ACC Player of the Year in 2008, the Consensus First-Team All American awards in 2007-2009, and the NCAA basketball championship with the Tar Heels in 2009.
He also became ACC’s leading scorer and all-time rebounder in the college’s history.
Hansbrough is the NCAA’s all-time free thrower, with 982 in total.
17. Shaquille O’Neal
Louisiana State University; 1989-1992
Shaq O’ Neal is most remembered for his professional success in the NBA as a 15-time NBA All-Star, 3-time NBA All-Star MVP, and 3-time NBA finals MVP.
O’Neal was an NCAA basketball player at the Louisiana State University.
The 7-foot-1-inch center was consistently recording 21 points and grabbing 13 rebounds per game.
O’Neal also recorded six triple-doubles in the NCAA, a stat which is rare in that level. O’Neal, who recorded an average of 1.7 assists, 13.5 rebounds, and 21.6 points, won the Consensus All-American award twice.
He also won the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year award twice.
16. Lionel Simmons
La Salle University, Philadelphia; 1986-1990
Lionel Simmons, nicknamed “L-Train,” won the National Collegiate player of the year in his final year at college.
Although chronic injuries ended his professional career prematurely, Simmons’s years at college were decorated with personal awards because of his impressive performances.
He averaged 24.6 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game.
Simmons holds the record for being the only player in the NCAA to record a career total of 3,000 points and 1,100 rebounds.
He is also the only player to record double figures in 155 consecutive games.
15. Artis Gilmore
Jacksonville University; 1970-1971
Artis Gilmore spent five years in the NCAA, but just two seasons in the Jacksonville University.
In his two successful seasons in Jacksonville, he recorded 24.3 points and 22.7 rebounds per game, placing him among the other four NCAA players to record 20 points and rebounds per game.
He led the Jacksonville Dolphins to the NCAA championship game in 1970 and was named a Consensus All-American in his two seasons.
14. Magic Johnson
Michigan State University; 1977-1979
Naismith Hall of Fame inductee Magic Johnson is one of the most significant point guards ever in basketball.
Magic Johnson unsurprisingly had his share of success in the NCAA.
He won the NCAA championship in 1979 and was named the NCAA championship MVP.
He was also named a Consensus All-American on two occasions while he averaged 17.1 points, 7.9 assists, and 7.6 rebounds per game through his 3-year collegiate career.
13. Christian Laettner
Duke University; 1988-1992
Laettner was a lethal player for the Blue Devils of Duke University.
He led the team to consecutive NBA championship wins in 1991 and 1992 and won the latter’s National Collegiate Player of the Year award.
He won the consensus All-American award twice and recorded 7.8 rebounds, 16.6 points, and 1.8 assists per game.
12. Jerry West
West Virginia University; 1957-1960
What more can be expected from the man whose silhouette is on the NBA’s logo than an impressive record in all levels of his career?
Jerry West had as much success he had in the NBA in the NCAA.
West recorded 30 double-doubles in about 31 games in 1960 and won the NCAA Tournament’s most outstanding player of the year in 1959 despite losing out on the title.
Through the course of West’s career, he averaged 13.3 rebounds, 24.8 points, and 2.8 assists per game.
11. Wilt Chamberlain
University of Kansas; 1956-1958
Wilt Chamberlain was every opposing team’s nightmare as a professional and collegiate.
In 1957, he won the 1957 NCAA Tournament’s most outstanding player of the year even though his team lost the title.
He also won the Consensus All-American twice and averaged 29.9 points per game and 18.3 rebounds per game.
10. Larry Bird
Indiana State University; 1976-1979
A small and frequently overlooked Indianan team became a formidable team in the NCAA during Larry Bird’s 3-year stint.
He recorded an average of 30.3 points, 4.6 assists, and 13.3 rebounds.
He also led the Indianans to the NCAA championship game in 1979; although the team lost, he was named the Year’s National Collegiate Player.
9. David Thompson
North Carolina State; 1972-1975
David Thompson led the North Carolina State University to the NCAA championship in 1974.
He won the National Collegiate Player of the Year in 1975 and the ACC’s Player of the Year 3 years consecutively from his sophomore to final year.
He recorded 8.1 rebounds and 26.8 points per game.
8. Jerry Lucas
Ohio State University; 1959-1962
Lucas had recorded an impressive stat in high school and continued his form in college.
It is not surprising he wounds up among the list of NCAA best college basketball players.
He won the NCAA title in 1960 and was named the NCAA Most Outstanding Player of the Year in 1960&1961.
Lucas is also a 2-time Consensus National College Player of the Year, 2-time NCAA rebounding leader 2-time Mr. Basketball USA, and 2-time First-Team Parade All American.
He totaled 14,053 points, 12,942 rebounds, and 2,732 assists.
7. Elvin Hayes
University of Houston; 1965-1968
Elvin Hayes shone for Houston Cougars in what became the NCAA game of the century against the UCLA Bruins in 1968.
He recorded 39 points and 15 rebounds and outshone UCLA’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Hayes was a regular top scorer for the Cougars as he recorded 27,313 and 16,279 rebounds in total.
He became a 2-time Consensus All-American and had his jersey number, 44, retired by the cougars.
6. Tom Gola
La Salle University, Philadelphia; 1951-1955
Since his introduction to the La Salle Explorer’s team, Gola had been making impacts.
He led the team to the NCAA basketball championship in 1954 as a freshman.
He is known for his rebounding skills as he recorded a total of 2,201, the highest in the NCAA’s history.
Gola became a 3-time Consensus All-American and had his jersey number, 15 retired by the college team.
5. Oscar Robertson
University of Cincinnati; 1957–1960
“The Big O,” as Robertson is dubbed featured as a point guard for the Cincinnati Bearcats in the NCAA.
He was an all-rounder that could handle, defend and score with comfort.
He led the NCAA in scoring for three seasons in 1958-1960 and was named Consensus All-American in all three seasons.
After leaving the college, his #12 jersey was retired.
Throughout his NCAA career, Robertson scored 26,710 points, 9,887 assists, and 7,804 rebounds in total.
4. Bill Russell
University of San Francisco; 1953–1956
Celtics’ veteran center, Bill Russell, was an impressive player in his college basketball years.
He averaged 15.1 points and 22.5 rebounds per game.
He led his team to the 1955 and 1956 NBA championships and was the most outstanding player for the earlier.
He also won the WCC and UPI Player of the Year award in 1956.
3. Bill Walton
In the early 1970s, Bill Walton was the name from UCLA that echoed collegiate level basketball.
He became a 3-time National College Player of the Year and 2-time NBA champion.
He led his college teams’ 2-season unbeaten run and 88-game winning streak.
Undoubtedly, Walton is a legend in the NCAA.
2. Pete Maravich
Louisiana State University; 1967-1970
Maravich was a shooting guard for the Louisiana Tigers.
He was an offensive-minded player that scored 44 points per game before the existence of the 3-point line.
Maravich holds the record of the highest point-scoring player in the NCAA as he recorded 44.2 points per game during his 4-year stint.
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
A list of NCAA best college basketball players without the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would be incomplete.
The Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame inductee is one of the greatest players in NBA’s franchise history but, more impressively, the greatest in the NCAA’s history.
Kareem was a dominant figure during his days as a collegiate. He recorded 24.6 points per game, 11.2 rebounds per game, and 3.6 assists per game.
He is a 3-time National College Player of the Year and consensus All-American.
Abdul-Jabbar’s NCAA record and continuity in the NBA makes him worthy of his rank in the list.
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There you have it – NCAA Best College Basketball Players of all time.
NCAA has played a significant role in the breeding of stars in various sports, especially basketball.
NCAA accounts for a considerable percentage of basketball players in the NBA.
The basketball players in the list above bear evidence of that. So far, they are the proven best in college basketball history.
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