With this year's BYU Basketball season nearly upon us, I decided to take a look back at the program's history and come up with an all-time starting lineup. I spent the past few weeks pouring over BYU's records books, historical player bios, player statistics, and as much video as I could get my hands on and the result is my historical BYU dream team of sorts.
Without any further interruption, here is my BYU Basketball starting five:
Danny Ainge (1977-1981)
Danny Ainge is arguably the best basketball player in BYU history. Whether you agree with that statement or not, it's hard to argue against Ainge being the most complete. If someone was to combine Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery into a single player you'd have Danny Ainge. Ainge set BYU's career points (2467), assists (539), and steals (195) records in 1981. His assists record would hold for 21 years until is was broken by Matt Montague in 2002. Despite playing at a time when the 3-point field goal did not exist, Ainge's career points record would stand for 30 years until Fredette would surpass it in 2011. If one was to adjust Fredette's stats to count all his 3-point field goals as 2-point field goals, Ainge would still hold the record. Ainge's steals record would also stand for three decades, broken by Emery in the 2011 season. Ainge remains 2nd on the BYU record books in all of those categories.
Ainge led the Cougars to the best finish they have had in the NCAA Tournament advancing to the Elite 8 in 1981. Ainge's coast-to-coast drive and lay-in with 7 seconds remaining to give BYU the win over Notre Dame in the Sweet Sixteen is one of the most well-known plays in NCAA Tournament history and the most iconic play in BYU Basketball history. Among his accomplishments at BYU, Ainge started all 118 games he played in for the Cougars, set the NCAA record for consecutive games scoring in double figures (112), named a consensus first team All-American during his senior year, won several National Player of the Year awards in 1981, and played in the NABC All Star game. Ainge did all of this while also pursing his professional baseball career, splitting time between the Cougars, Toronto Blue Jays and their Triple-A affiliate, Syracuse Chiefs from 1979 to 1981.
After BYU, Ainge was drafted by the Boston Celtics in the 2nd Round of the 1981 NBA Draft. Ainge played 14-years in the NBA where he won two NBA Championships, played in six NBA Finals, 193 playoff games, and one NBA All Star game. Ainge also spent three years as the head coach of the Phoenix Suns and is currently the Executive Director of Basketball Operations for the Boston Celtics. Ainge became the first BYU player to have his jersey retired when his #22 was hung from the rafters of the Marriot Center on March 8, 2003.
Jimmer Fredette (2007-2011)
There hasn't been a player that has suited up for the Cougars that was more exciting to watch than Jimmer Fredette. When Fredette had the ball in his hands he was a threat to spot up and hit a shot from almost anywhere on the floor. Fredette sent Provo into a frenzy for two years leading the Cougars to a 62-11 record during his junior and senior years and racking up 20+ points in 55 games during that two-year period. In his senior year alone, Fredette broke BYU's single season record for points (1068), points per game (28.9), field goal attempts (765), field goals made (346), 3-point field goal attempts (313), 3-point field goals made (124), 3-point field goals made per game (3.4), consecutive games with a 3-point field goal (29), free throws made (252), and 20-point games (33). That same season, Fredette lead BYU to its best finish in the NCAA Tournament (Sweet 16) since Ainge. With six of the top ten single game scoring performances in BYU history (52, 49, 47, 45, 43, 42) including four of the top five, it is safe to say that Fredette is the best scorer BYU has ever had.
Among his many accomplishments Fredette was named the 2011 National Player of the Year by multiple organizations and a 2011 consensus first-team All-American. Fredette also received the 2011 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, won an ESPY for Collegiate Male Athlete of the Year, was the subject of a parody song ("Teach Me How to Jimmer"), and his own verb ("Jimmered"). Fredette's career stats rank 1st in points (2599), 3-point field goal attempts (752), 3-point field goals made (296), and free throws made (627), 2nd in field goal attempts (1843), free throw percentage (.882), free throw attempts (711), and games played (139), 3rd in field goals made (838) and 20-point games (63), and 4th in assists (515) and steals (167) in BYU.
Following his career at BYU, Fredette was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 10th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft and was immediately traded to the Sacramento Kings. The upcoming 2013-14 NBA Season will mark Fredette's 3rd season with the Kings.
Devin Durrant (1978-1980, 1982-1984)
During his time at BYU, Devin Durrant had to share the spotlight with several of BYU's all-time greats including Danny Ainge, Fred Roberts, Greg Kite and Michael Smith. Starting every game of his career, the former McDonalds' All-American had no problem shining among other stars though. Durrant scored in double figures 19 times, led the Cougars in scoring in six games and in rebounding in five, was one of 12 players on the America All Star team in China, and that was just his freshman season accolades. Durrant was BYU's second leading scorer during his sophomore season prior to leaving on a mission to Madrid, Spain for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Returning from his mission in time for the 1982-83 season, Durrant didn't miss a beat leading BYU and the WAC in scoring and earning WAC Player of the Year and Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American honors in his junior year. During his junior year, Durrant helped the United States secure a bronze medal in the World University Games scoring 25 points in the bronze medal game. Durrant was a consensus All-American and was named the U.S.Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) District 7 Player of the Year following his senior season. His 866 points, 27.9 points per game, and 27 20-point games that season place him second in BYU's single season record books in each of those categories. Durrant's teams went a combined 79-38, winning three WAC Championships, and making three trips to the NCAA Basketball Tournament.
Durrant was as good at drawing fouls as anyone in BYU history, going to the free throw line 820 times (a school record) in his career. His career numbers rank 2nd in free throws made (621), 3rd in points per game (19.5), 4th in points (2285), field goal attempts (1527), field goals made (832), consecutive games started (117), and 20-point games (57).
Following his career at BYU, Durrant was selected by the Indiana Pacers with the 23rd overall pick in the 1984 NBA draft. He played one season with the Pacers and a brief stint with the Phoenix Suns before pursuing a career in Europe. Durrant was inducted into the BYU Hall of Fame in 1995. In 2000, the Deseret News named Durrant as one of the top 10 college basketball players in Utah over the previous 100 years. In the same year, Sports Illustrated named Durrant one of the 50 most influential sports figures in the history of the state of Utah.
Krešimir Ćosić (1969-1973)
Krešimir Ćosić may be the most interesting story in BYU Basketball history. Ćosić was born and grew up in the war torn area that is now present day Croatia. He came to BYU after being baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Hugh Nibley, one of the most well-known LDS Church scholars. It wasn't just Ćosić's unique history that make him such an influential player in BYU Basketball History though. The 6'11" Ćosić had the skills of a point guard in the body of a center and played an exciting brand of basketball that kept the Marriott Center rocking. In fact it was said of the Marriot Center that "[Stan] Watts built it, Marriott paid for it, and Ćosić filled it."
During his time in Provo, Ćosić set many BYU records that have since been broken. He ranks 6th in rebounds in a single game (23) and 8th in assists in a single game (12). His single season numbers rank 2nd and 4th in rebounds per game (12.8, 12.6), 3rd, 8th, and 9th in double-doubles (20, 15, 12), 5th and 7th in rebounds (341, 332), 7th in points per game (22.3) and 9th in 20-point games (19). Among BYU's career leaders, Ćosić ranks 1st in double-doubles (47), 2nd in rebounds (919) and rebounds per game (11.6), 4th in points per game (19.2), and 5th in 20-point games (38).
During his junior and senior years, Ćosić became the first foreign-born player to receive NCAA All-American honors. His other accolades while at BYU include two WAC Championships, two NCAA Tournament appearances, being named first-team All-WAC in three consecutive years, and WAC Player of the Year honors.
Ćosić was selected in both the 1972 and 1973 NBA Drafts, but decided to forgo a professional career in the United States to return home to Yugoslavia. Ćosić had a very successful international career, winning six Yugoslavian League Championships, two Italian League Championships, and a European Cup Championship as a member of several different European Basketball Clubs. He also won two World Championships, three European Championships, and three Olympic medals as a player on the Yugoslavian National team, including a gold medal in the 1980 Moscow games. Ćosić would go on to coach the Yugoslavian National Team to two additional Olympic medals, coaching the likes of Toni Kukoc and Vlade Divac. In 1994, Ćosić became one of the first individuals to receive the FIBA Order of Merit for his role in furthering the sport of basketball in Europe.
Ćosić died in 1995 of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. A year later, Ćosić became only the third international player to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In 2006, he became only the second BYU basketball player to have his jersey retired and the following year he became a member of the FIBA Hall of Fame's inaugural class.
Shawn Bradley (1990-1991)
Shawn Bradley may be the biggest recruit BYU has ever landed. At 7'6" and a McDonalds All-American coming out of high school, Bradley chose BYU over Arizona, Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, and UCLA. Although Bradley's time at BYU was short, he had a big impact for the Cougars during the 1990-91 season. A defensive specialist, Bradley nearly broke BYU's career blocks record in a single season coming only 31 blocks short of Greg Kite's 208 career record. Bradley's 177 blocks that season crushed Kite's season record of 81. Bradley would average 5.2 blocks during his 34-game BYU career, a BYU season and career record, and he appears 8 times among BYU's top ten single game block leaders. His most impressive defensive performance came against Eastern Kentucky. Bradley blocked 14 shots against the Colonels, tying the NCAA record set by Navy's David Robinson in 1986. Bradley would also have a career night offensively against Eastern Kentucky scoring a career high 29 points.
Bradley would lead the Cougars to a 21-13 record and an upset victory over Virginia in the first round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. His 10 blocks against Virginia set a NCAA Basketball Tournament single game record. Ironically that record would be broken by LSU's Shaquille O'Neal against the Cougars the following season. Bradley was named the WAC Freshman of the Year, received All-WAC defensive team honors, and was named an Honorable Mention All-American by the Associated Press following his freshman season at BYU. Bradley would leave on a mission to Sydney, Australia for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints following his freshman season and would never return to BYU.
Following his mission, Bradley was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers with the 2nd overall pick in the 1993 NBA Draft. During his 12-year career in the NBA he played for the 76ers, New Jersey Nets, and Dallas Mavericks averaging 8.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game. Bradley was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team in 1994, led the NBA in blocked shots in the 1997 season, and played a short stint with the German National Team alongside Mavericks' teammate Dirk Nowitzki. Bradley also had a small role in the 1996 basketball film Space Jam.
Now that you've seen my list, it's your turn. Who is in your BYU Basketball all-time starting five and why?