The question came this past Sunday via Twitter from a reader named Ian.
“Where do you think Jevon Carter ranks in the all-time greatest [list of] WVU players?” he asked. “I get Jerry West, but what about beyond that?”
It got the wheels turning.
The first thought, of course, was “way up there.” But Ian’s question was a good — and fun — one. How far “up there?”
If I had to guess I’d say I’ve covered around 400 Mountaineer basketball players and watched — or in the case of West, admired — others. I understand the background of those like Charleston native Mark Workman, possibly the school’s best-ever shooting center.
Also, fortunately, I’ve cultivated relationships with former coaches and players in order to pick their brains. Which I did for this piece.
The result? A short list of WVU’s all-time best guards from this viewpoint. Those I spoke with felt that was the most fair way to proceed. “If you’re talking about all the players, Jevon is in the top 30 or 40,” one said. “If you’re talking about the top guards, he’s in the top eight or 10.”
“He just works so damn hard,” said another former player. “He’s just willed us to a couple wins already this season. He’s put this team on his back at times.”
Anyway, let’s get to it, shall we?
1. West — He’s the best to ever play hoops at WVU. He’s one of the best to ever play in the NBA. He’s “The Logo.” And let’s not quibble over if he was a guard, forward or center in Morgantown. He was, is and always will be WVU basketball.
2. “Hot Rod” Hundley — West is from Chelyan; Hundley was from Charleston. And it’s a heck of a 1-2 punch at the top of the list for the Kanawha Valley. Hundley was an All-America player in Morgantown and was the first player chosen in the 1957 NBA draft. In 89 games at WVU, Hundley, 6-foot-4, 185 pounds, averaged 24.5 points.
3. Rod Thorn — As with the first two, you can’t wave off Thorn because his era was long ago. In 1964 he was selected in the first round of the NBA draft by the Baltimore Bullets and went on to an eight-year pro career. In 82 games with the Mountaineers he averaged 21.8 points. He was one of the most honored backcourt players his senior season. Afterward, he soared as an NBA coach, general manager and administrator.
4. Ron “Fritz” Williams — He averaged 20.1 points for WVU, which is sixth all-time in Mountaineer history. More impressive, though, is he was drafted with the ninth pick of the 1968 NBA draft by the San Francisco Warriors AND in the 14th round of the NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys. Not bad, eh? Played eight seasons in the NBA.
5. Greg Jones — There, I wrote it. As one of the former players said, “you couldn’t hold him down.” In sum, Jones was dynamic. He was a two-time Atlantic 10 Player of the Year. His steals record of 251 stood from 1983 until this season. And he was a scorer. Jones remains No. 6 all-time with 1,797 points.
6. Carter — There, I said that too. “He’s the quarterback,” said one ex-player. “He makes sure everyone is in the right spot. Then he does what’s necessary.” He currently leads WVU in scoring, assists, steals, free throw shooting (except for Chase Harler’s 2-for-2) and is three rebounds off Sagaba Konate’s lead on the boards. In sum, Carter works hard. He plays hard defense. Aside from West, I’ve never seen a Mountaineer work harder at defense.
7. Da’Sean Butler — Feel free to criticize this. Butler is WVU’s No. 3 all-time scorer behind West and Hundley with 2,095 points. He was one of 10 Wooden Award finalists as the national player of the year. He helped take the Mountaineers to their second Final Four. But was he a guard? Was he a small forward? I think he’d consider himself the latter, but I saw him as the former — even with Truck Bryant, Joe Mazzulla and Casey Mitchell on board in 2010. So consider this a tip of the hat to Butler. He deserves to be on any “all-WVU” list.
8. Wil Robinson — I realize Robinson remains WVU’s No. 2 all-time scorer by average to this day at 24.7 from 1970-72. I know he was selected by the Houston Rockets in the fourth round of the NBA draft. But the former third-team All-America pick didn’t incorporate defense a la Carter or Jones. The man was a scorer first and foremost.
9. Lowes Moore — This lefty, who played from 1976-80, had one of the purest strokes you’ll ever see. He finished with 1,696 points, which remains No. 9 all-time. He played three years in the NBA after being drafted by the New Jersey Nets.
10. Tony Robertson — It’s tough to put Robertson high on the list because he spent two years at a junior college. Yet the man had talent. A 6-5 guard, he averaged 18 points and played for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks in 1977-78 and the Golden State Warriors in ’78-79.
11. Juwan Staten — The precursor to Carter and his toughness, Staten was an All-Big 12 selection for the Mountaineers and a preseason candidate for player of the year honors before his senior season.
12. Seldon Jefferson — The New York native helped WVU usher in Big East basketball, along with names like Damian Owens, Brent Solheim and Gordon Malone. In the Mountaineers’ first league game, Jefferson outscored Georgetown’s Allen Iverson 26 to 22.
13. Mike Gansey — The St. Bonaventure transfer was a standout on the Kevin Pittsnogle teams of coach John Beilein. Now an assistant general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Gansey could shoot the proverbial lights out, hitting 52.6 percent of his shots.
14. Dale Blaney — “The Lowrider” auto racer was once so highly regarded as a Mountaineer guard the Los Angeles Lakers — guided by then general manager Jerry West — drafted Blaney in 1986. He was said to have a good shot at making the team, but quit to concentrate on racing.
15. (tie) Marsalis Basey and Steve Berger — The school’s top two all-time leading assist leaders. Basey, 5-8, was a terrific athlete that also played in the Houston Astros baseball farm system. Berger, 5-11, leads WVU with 574 career assists. Basey is from Martinsburg; Berger from Boomer.
So there ya go. Let the debate begin.