The all-time best players from the Big 5 schools

Posted: February 10, 2014

WELL, HERE we are in the depths of the annual midwinter sports doldrums. The Eagles are done, the Phillies haven't begun yet, the Sixers are toast, the Flyers seem horribly inconsistent, and Wing Bowl is over.

The only thing Philly sports fans have left to get through this difficult stretch are the city's six Division I basketball teams. The sky could be the limit for the Villanova Wildcats; the Saint Joseph's Hawks definitely will play in the postseason (although it might be the NIT); Drexel could have a chance to run the table in its conference tournament; and Temple, La Salle and Penn are rebuilding.

Earlier in the week, I was thinking about each team's respective chances, and I started to go down memory lane and think about the great players I have had the pleasure of watching in the Palestra. I decided to pick the most outstanding players for each school and an all-time team from all of the the Big 5 schools. I know this list might spark the ire of some of you Big 5 fanatics, and others might applaud it, but regardless, I hope you enjoy reminiscing about these great players as much as I did.

Saint Joseph's

First Team

Cliff Anderson

Mike Bantom

Jameer Nelson

Matt Guokas

Bob McNeil

Second team

Tony Costner

Steve Courtin

Murray Kempton

Rashid Bey

Delonte West

Penn

First Team

Bob Morse

Corky Calhoun

Jerome Allen

Ernie Beck

David Wohl

Second team

Ron Haigler

Michael Jordan

Zack Rozen

Stan Pawlak

Matt Maloney

Temple

First Team

Guy Rodgers

Hal Lear

Mark Macon

Eddie Jones

John Baum

Second team

Nate Blackwell

Rick Brunson

Aaron McKie

Pickles Kennedy

Pepe Sanchez

La Salle

First Team

Tom Gola

Larry Cannon

Ken Durrett

Lionel Simmons

Michael Brooks

Second team

Doug Overton

Fatty Taylor

Rasual Butler

Steve Black

Donnie Carr

Villanova

First Team

Wali Jones

Hubie White

Howard Porter

Bill Melchionni

Paul Arizin

Second team

Alex Bradley

Chris Ford

Randy Foye

Kerry Kittles

Ed Pinckney

I know most people would disagree on nearly every part of this list, and even I had second thoughts. For St. Joe's, it was hard to leave out Billy Hoy, Joe Gallo and Bernard Blunt.

For my beloved Quakers, it seems impossible to leave out Phil Hankinson, current Penn AD Steve Bilsky, Jeff Neuman and the great Joe Sturgis.

La Salle was easiest, although it would have been nice to include Tim Legler, the greatest outside shooter in Explorers history.

For the Temple Owls, the toughest part was putting Aaron McKie, who had a great pro career with the Sixers, on the second team.

And for the Villanova Wildcats, it seems impossible to leave out John Pinone and Scottie Reynolds, the latter of whom led in an improbable team of Smurfs to the Final Four in 2009

Although picking each school's best players seemed difficult, it was relatively easy, compared with picking an all-time team. Here's what I came up with:

All-time teams

First Team

Tom Gola

Ken Durrett

Guy Rodgers

Clifford Anderson

Bobby McNeil

Second Team

Howard Porter

Mark Macon

Ernie Beck

Jameer Nelson

Hal Lear

Third Team

Larry Cannon

Bob Morse

Wali Jones

Matt Guokas

Lionel Simmons

I'm certain every Big 5 fan will disagree with this list in some respects, and I'm not even sure I like it.

The reason I chose McNeil over Nelson is because, as a 16-year-old kid in New York, I went to Madison Square Garden and saw this little Catholic school from Philadelphia play the Cincinnati Bearcats with Oscar Robinson. Robinson was hailed as the greatest player in college basketball, and Cincinnati eventually prevailed in a tense struggle, but McNeil outscored and outplayed the "Big O."

I never saw Beck play, and I'm sure some purists would probably argue he deserves to be on the first team ahead of Anderson. It's also very hard to pick a first team without a Villanova Wildcat on it. In any event, it's time for me to stop writing before I change my mind.

PS: The All-Time MVP is an easy choice: The late, great, Tom Gola who was almost as great a basketball player as he was a person!

PSS: In compiling this list I used the Daily News' Dick Jerardi, one of the country's best college basketball writers, as my sounding board.


Email: asktheguv@gmail.com

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