Who are the best men’s basketball players in Wichita State history?
How about the best players from their respective eras? Instead of trying to rank all of the standout players spread across different eras, The Eagle examined players from the same era to select an all-decade team for each decade in the modern era of Shocker basketball.
Starting with the 1950s, The Eagle picked the best starting lineup — trying to adhere to a traditional lineup of two guards, two forwards and a center — complete with a bench of five players and a head coach.
On Wednesday, the 1950s and 1960s all-decade teams were released. Here is The Eagle’s picks for the 1970s and 1980s.
The 1970s all-decade team
5-9 guard (1967-70)
Carney and Dave Stallworth are the only Shockers in history to average 20 or more points in their career. Although Carney only played one year in the decade, he gets the nod thanks to averaging 23.2 points his senior year. The two-time All-Missouri Valley selection averaged 20.1 points for his career.
6-6 guard (1968-72)
Harris was a prolific scorer his final two seasons at WSU, averaging 18.7 points his junior year and 18.3 points his senior year. He also averaged 8.0 rebounds for his career.
Lynbert “Cheese” Johnson
6-5 forward (1975-79)
New York City
Johnson is one of the most popular players in program history, in part due to his infectious personality and in part due to his style and supreme scoring ability. He ranks fifth all-time in program history in scoring with 1,907 points, averaging 17.3 points for his career, and third all-time in rebounds with 1,027 rebounds. He averaged 11.2 points for WSU’s only NCAA Tournament team of the decade in 1976 and then delivered a spectacular senior season under Gene Smithson, averaging 22.2 points and 10.6 rebounds.
6-8 forward (1968-72)
The 70s are going with a huge lineup with Benton, who just so happens to be WSU’s all-time leading rebounder for career average at 12.7 per game, serving as the power forward. In his last two seasons, Benton averaged 16.1 points and 16.8 rebounds, a WSU single-season record, and 16.2 points and 14.0 rebounds.
6-10 center (1973-77)
Despite playing in just essentially three seasons, Elmore is third all-time in blocks (132) and can man the middle for the all-decade team. Elmore averaged 14.1 points and 12.4 rebounds for his career, recording 15.8 rebounds per game in his senior season.
The bench: Calvin Bruton (5-7 guard from Jamaica, N.Y.); Bob Wilson (6-2 guard from Indianapolis); Vince Smith (6-4 guard from St. Louis); Rich Morsden (6-3 forward from Kansas City); Robert Gray (6-6 forward from Kansas City).
Head coach from 1971-78
Although Gene Smithson came along in 1978 and started to turn the program around, his best moments didn’t come until the 1980s. That leaves Miller as the choice to man the sidelines for the ‘70s team after he compiled a 97-90 record in seven seasons. The highlight was the 1975-76 team, led by a balanced scoring attack from Gray, Bruton, Elmore, a freshman Johnson and Bob Trogele, which finished with an 18-10 record, won the regular season championship in the Missouri Valley and reached the NCAA Tournament, losing in the first round.
The 1980s all-decade team
6-3 guard (1979-81)
Picking a point guard was the most challenging selection for this squad, but there’s no doubt Smithson fits right in. Known for his tremendous leadership and heady play on the court, Smithson averaged better than five assists in both of his seasons playing for his father at WSU and averaged 13.0 points in the 1980-81 season.
6-4 guard (1981-85)
There are few Shockers who played the game and shot it as smoothly as Sherrod, who ranks among WSU’s career leaders in points (1,765, seventh), steals (148, seventh) and assists (384, seventh). And if there was a three-point line when he played, there’s no doubt he would have been near the top of that list, too. He averaged 18.5 points on 51% shooting and 4.1 assists as a senior. Playing on a team like this with so many talented bigs, Sherrod would be the play-maker for the Shockers on the perimeter.
6-8 forward (1981-85)
There’s a case to be made that McDaniel — who simply became known as the “X-Man” or “X” — is the most dominant Shocker of all time. For starters, he led the country in scoring (27.2) and rebounding (14.8) in his senior season. He is the best rebounder in WSU history with 1,359 career boards, more than 300 more than second place, and ranks second all-time in scoring with 2,152 career points, and owns the career highest field percentage at 56.4%. Could he play small forward? That might be a stretch in the modern version of basketball, but there’s no denying how formidable a front line of peak McDaniel, Levingston and Carr would be for opponents.
6-9 forward (1979-83)
“The Big Dog” was a high school All-American at Heights and decided to stay at home and delivered one of the greatest Shocker careers of all time. He ranks fourth all-time in scoring with 1,911 career points, 10th in career rebounding and is WSU’s all-time blocks leader with 209, exactly 62 more than second place. He averaged 22.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in his senior season. Carr scored 47 points in his final college game, a single-game record that still stands at WSU.
6-8 center (1979-82)
Nicknamed “The Good News,” Levingston certainly brought a lot of that in his three seasons for the Shockers. He averaged a double-double each season, peaking at 18.5 points and 11.4 rebounds in his sophomore campaign, before declaring early for the NBA Draft and becoming a top-10 draft pick. Levingston, fourth all-time in program history in rebounds, was dynamite paired with Carr — imagine if he played with McDaniel at his peak. Good luck scoring in the paint on this team.
The bench: Tony Martin (6-3 guard from Willingboro, N.J.); Karl Papke (6-6 guard from Wichita); Steve Grayer (6-8 forward from Macon, Ga.); Gus Santos (6-7 forward from New York City); Sasha Radunovich (6-10 center from Yugoslavia).
Head coach from 1978-86
Was there ever any doubt who would be coaching the all-80s team on the sideline? Smithson brought the MTXE (Mental Toughness Xtra Effort) moniker to WSU and used it to revive the program, winning 74 games and 82% of games during a three-season stretch from 1980-83. But it’s also fair to point out that the final two years of that run, a 23-6 season in 1981-82 and a 25-3 season in 1982-83 did not continue in the postseason due to the program being placed under NCAA probation on Smithson’s watch. But the highs were incredibly high, none more than a 66-65 win over KU in New Orleans to advance to the 1981 Elite Eight.
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