Hank Gathers (Loyola Marymount, 1987-1990): The 2nd man to lead the nation in both boards and scoring, Gathers was a 6-foot-7 center who outran them all and loved offensive rebounding. He’s truly the greatest player who ever died during an official game. Tragic.
Tyler Hansbrough (North Carolina, 2005-2009): Hansbrough was the basketball equivalent to Tim Tebow, but he played a year earlier. He got us ready for Tebow. He was the pre-Tebow. He was the Prebow.
Lionel Simmons (La Salle, 1986-1990): The list of players who’ve scored 2,000 points and snagged 1,000 rebounds is long. The list of players who scored 3,000 points while snagging 1,000 rebounds isn’t. The L-Train finished with 3,217 and 1,429. He’s the best player from the cable-TV time who almost no one outside his hometown ever saw more than once.
Christian Laettner (Duke, 1988-1992): Strangely, I’ve always thought Laettner was slightly overrated as a collegiate and really underrated and vastly underused as a pro. But the dude made the most memorable shot of all time and played in 23 NCAA tournament games over four years. At the time, the maximum number of tournament games anyone could play in a given season was six. The math isn’t hard.
Len Bias (Maryland, 1982-1986): Though the NBA potential of Bias was not to be, there’s no disagreement over his dominance in the ACC. Anyone who played against him seems to insist he was the best college athlete they ever faced, which is one of the nice upsides to dying young.
Ralph Sampson (Virginia, 1979-1983): Truly the most skilled 7-foot-4 player of any generation, particularly if you like your 7-4 center to sometimes play shooting guard. A three-time Naismith player of the year, Ralph was one of the best college basketball players to ever see.