All-Time Best College PGs from NYC
March 5th, 2012| by Lost Lettermen
NYC’s Best Point Men
For decades, New York City has produced tough, smart point guards that have gone on to success in college basketball. Many claim that the once-great crop of NYC high-school players has shrunk, but we examine a large group of the best floor generals who were reared on the city’s asphalt.
Most recently, we have seen Connecticut’s Kemba Walker, a Bronx native, lift his school to a national title in 2011. With all eyes on the Big Apple this week for the Big East Tournament, we have ranked the 10 best college basketball point guards from New York City ever. Where did Walker rank on the list? And who joined him?
10. Tiny Archibald (UTEP)
Archibald’s high-school years in the South Bronx held him back from being a blue-chip recruit heading into college. He only played 1 1/2 years of prep ball and had problems with academics. However, he went to Arizona Western College before transferring to UTEP, which gave the talented playground legend a shot. He averaged 20.0 points in three seasons playing for Don Haskins.
That jump-started a career in which became one of the top point guards in NBA history and a champion with the Boston Celtics. But it was his time at Texas-El Paso that introduced Archilbald – and his his ability to get into the paint at will – to the national stage.
9. Stephon Marbury (Georgia Tech)
Marbury is the head of a basketball family from the Coney Island section of Brooklyn. His cousin Jamel Thomas played at Providence and another cousin, Sebastian Telfair, was a celebrated high school point guard who currently plays for the Phoenix Suns. But Marbury was hailed as the next great NYC floor general from a young age, when he earned the nickname “Starbury” on the NYC blacktop.
That earned him a spot at Georgia Tech, where he played just one season before being taken with the fourth overall selection in the 1996 NBA draft. During his one season in Atlanta, Marbury led the Yellow Jackets to the Sweet 16 alongside Matt Harpring by averaging 18.6 points and 4.5 assists – and plenty of YouTubeable moments.
Forget all the crazy antics afterward, Marbury was a one-year star in the ACC.
8. Pearl Washington (Syracuse)
Another flashy guard from Brooklyn, Washington played with a particular flair that has made him a favorite for Syracuse fans to this day.
He was a stereotypical New York guard who played with no fear and had the ball on a string, so to speak. Washington became famous for his “shake-and-bake” move that helped him win Big East Rookie of the Year in 1983-84 and earn a spot on All-Big East teams in all three seasons that he was in college while averaging 15.7 PPG during his career.
Perhaps most importantly, Washington helped lift a Syracuse program – in terms of legitimizing it to recruits – which made the Final Four in 1987, when Washington would have been a senior season if he hadn’t left early for the NBA.
Still, the man nicknamed for Earl “The Pearl” Monroe was a nightmare for opposing defenders and a dream come true for the Orange.
7. Kenny Smith (North Carolina)
Younger fans know Smith for his role on TNT’s “Inside the NBA” as the guy trading barbs with Charles Barkley.
But Smith played at noted basketball power Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens before heading to North Carolina, where as a freshman he played alongside Michael Jordan. Smith averaged 9.1 points and 5.0 assists as a role player for the Tar Heels that season.
For his career, he was a steady four-year player who averaged 12.9 points and 6.0 assists; Smith was an All-American as a senior in 1986-87, when he posted 16.9 points and 6.1 assists per game. That season, UNC lost in the East Regional final to Syracuse, which prevented Smith from a Final Four appearance while he was in college.
Smith often refers to his New York background during his TV work – joking that his name isn’t “Kenny” but instead “Ken – NY.” In truth, Smith used his confident New York swagger en route to a meaningful role on perennially talented UNC squads.
6. Mark Jackson (St. John’s)
Jackson, the current coach of the Golden State Warriors, was a true pass-first point guard. He played with Chris Mullin and Walter Berry on the 1985 Final Four team as a sophomore at St. John’s. That season, Jackson averaged just 5.1 points and 3.1 assists but has said that the tutelage of Mullin and Berry helped him for the rest of his career. He led the Red Storm to 31 wins in 1985-86, when he averaged a college career-high 9.1 assists. Jackson ended his college career by averaging 18.9 points and 6.4 assists as a senior.
A player who was at ease in transition, Jackson honed his game in Brooklyn and turned into one of the finest guards in NYC history. He was a poster child for the heyday of St. John’s basketball, which cut its teeth in great rivalry games with Georgetown and Syracuse.
Sure, he went on to a pro career in which he is the third all-time assist leader in NBA history. But he played under the bright lights of Manhattan well before he was a guard for the New York Knicks.
5. Rod Strickland (DePaul)
Strickland, a native of The Bronx and currently on John Calipari’s staff at No. 1 Kentucky, put forth a legendary college career at DePaul in which he he was a two-time All-American. He led the Blue Demons to NCAA tournament appearances in all four seasons, including two Sweet 16 appearances in 1986 and 1987. He averaged 20.0 points as a senior in 1987-88 and shot a remarkable 53.4% from the field for his career – as a point guard.
Before embarking on an NBA career that spanned nearly two decades, Strickland etched his name through DePaul’s record book. He is among the school’s all-time leaders in scoring average (16.6), assists (557) and steals (204).
4. Khalid Reeves (Arizona)
One half of a backcourt that included Damon Stoudamire, Reeves helped lead Arizona to the 1994 Final Four. He averaged 15.0 points through his four years with the Wildcats, for whom he was recruited out of basketball power Christ the King High School in Queens. Reeves was a prolific scorer as a senior, averaging 24.2 points en route to All-American honors that season and almost willing the Wildcats to a national title.
Reeves, who became the 12th overall pick in the 1994 NBA draft, remains one of the all-time scorers in Arizona history and one of NYC’s top point men even though he has largely been forgotten by basketball fans due to an underwhelming NBA career.
3. Kemba Walker (Connecticut)
Hailing from The Bronx, Walker became the latest New York player to take his talents north to Connecticut, where he had perhaps the greatest career in school history. Walker led the Huskies to the 2011 national championship by averaging 23.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.9 steals during a junior year in which he single-handedly carried a team laden with young players to the promised land. His game-winning shot over Pittsburgh in the Big East tournament was hit with the swagger of someone bred in NYC, a catalyst for a remarkable run through March and preceded his NCAA tourney Most Outstanding Player Award.
But that’s just part of the story for Walker, who replaced the injured Jerome Dyson during his freshman season to help lead UConn to the 2009 Final Four. He scored 23 points in the Elite Eight against Missouri. Most importantly, though, Walker was the epitome of a leader and an extension of Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun on the floor. What better compliment is there than that?
2. Kenny Anderson (Georgia Tech)
Anderson, who was perhaps the most-celebrated prep player in New York City history, carried enormous expectations into his freshman season at Georgia Tech. He responded by helping the Yellow Jackets to their first-ever Final Four in 1990, when they lost to powerhouse and eventual national champion UNLV. Anderson averaged 20.6 points, 8.1 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 2.3 steals as a member of “Lethal Weapon 3” – a celebrated trio of Anderson, Dennis Scott and Brian Oliver. Quite a debut, huh?
He followed that up with a sensational sophomore season, in which he averaged 25.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 3.0 steals with Scott and Oliver no longer around. He carried Georgia Tech into the NCAA tournament, where they were ousted in the second round. But the Queens native, who had his moments in the NBA, never would quite hit a fever pitch like he did in the ACC.
1. Bob Cousy (Holy Cross)
Known to most as a legend in Massachusetts for his play at Worchester’s Holy Cross and with the Boston Celtics, Cousy was born and raised in New York City on the East Side of Manhattan. He brought his city game to the Crusaders, whom he helped lead to an NCAA title in 1947 and a Final Four appearance the following season. He averaged 15.2 PPG in his four years at Holy Cross, scoring an average of 19.4 as a senior during an era of plodding pace.
Cousy’s biggest contribution to the game was his style, which was unlike any that had been seen at point guard. “The Cooz” had a flair that brought a street-ball style more than 50 years before anyone had heard of “The Professor.” But still, the future six-time NBA champion, NBA MVP and Basketball Hall of Famer was way more substance than style.