This is the first installment in a series of articles featuring the All-Time Best Michigan Basketball players, coaches, and more. Many of the players on the Best of Michigan Basketball lists could be listed at multiple positions. I tried to keep the players at a position that best suited their game.
#10 – Daniel Horton: Horton was the guy Tommy Amaker thought would lead Michigan to the next level and he almost did. Michigan came close to breaking their NCAA Tournament drought during the Horton/Amaker era. In 2003-04 Michigan finished the regular season 18-10 and just missed the NCAA Tournament, they would go on to win the NIT and Horton was the MVP of the tournament. Again in 2005-06 Michigan just missed the NCAA Tournament with an 18-11 record.
At the end of his career, Horton ranked 11th on Michigan’s career scoring list with 1,614 points. He ranked fourth in school history with 484 career assists and his career average of 4.4 apg ranked fifth.
Horton was also a good three-point shooter as he drained 233 triples in his career, good for fourth in school history. He also holds Michigan’s freshmen record with 74 three pointers.
Horton was an outstanding free throw shooter, his career percentage of 79.56 ranks ninth on Michigan’s all-time list. In his senior season Horton shot 90.10% from the charity stripe, which is the second best single season mark in school history. Horton is tied for second on Michigan’s career steals list with 187; his career average of 1.7 steals per game is second on Michigan’s all-time list.
#9 – Ernie McCoy: McCoy starred as a center and a guard during his Michigan career (1926-29). He was a defensive stalwart and he was known for his playmaking ability.
McCoy was the captain of Michigan’s 1928-29 team that went 13-3 and he earned All-American honors while playing guard for the Wolverines that season.
McCoy was inducted into Michigan’s Hall of Honor in 1986.
In 1940 McCoy returned to Michigan and served as an assistant football coach and eventually as the head basketball coach and assistant athletic director.
In 1950 McCoy was named athletic director at Penn State and he served in that capacity for 18 years.
#8 – Eric Turner: Turner was a three-year starter at Michigan (1981-84) before leaving school early to pursue a career in the NBA. He was a tremendous all around player. Turner averaged 14.4 points and 5.0 assists per game as a Wolverine.
Turner ranks sixth in school history with 421 career assists. His career average of 5.0 apg is third best in school history. He also averaged 1.16 steals per game during his career, which is ninth on the all-time list.
Hi sophomore season was his best statistical season as he averaged 18.1 ppg and 5.9 apg. Turner was a 1981 All-American selection.
Turner was selected in the second round of the 1984 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons. His NBA dreams were never realized.
#7 – Derrick Walton: Walton finished his career with 1,471 points, good for 22nd in Michigan’s record book. His 499 career assists ranks fourth all-time at Michigan. He is tied for fourth in school history with 233 made three-pointers. His career free throw percentage of 83.67 is second best in school history and he ranks seventh with 146 career steals.
On Dec. 19, 2015, Walton recorded the fifth triple-double in school history with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists in a victory over Youngstown State.
Only two Michigan Basketball players (Louis Bullock and Gary Grant) started more games in their career than Walton (126).
Walton had a stellar senior season averaging 15.5 points, 4.9 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game. He also drained 98 three-pointers, which is the third most in a single season at Michigan. Walton’s 4.9 apg were the fifth most in a single season at Michigan. He set a school record with 16 assists in Michigan’s win at Nebraska (March 5, 2017).
Walton was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2017 Big Ten Tournament, leading the Wolverines to a Big Ten Championship. He led Michigan to the Sweet 16 in the 2017 NCAA Tournament. In 2017 he was an All-Big Ten second team selection. In 2016 he was an All-Big Ten third team selection.
He became the first Michigan Basketball player and 13th Big Ten player to surpass 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 400 assists.
#6 – Rumeal Robinson: He will always be remembered for sinking two, game-clinching, free throws with three seconds remaining in overtime of the 1989 National Championship game. Robinson was a three-year starter during his Michigan career (1987-90). He followed up the National Championship season by earning All-American honors in 1990.
Robinson ranks second in school history with 575 career assists. His career average of 5.75 apg is a school record. He is also the only Wolverine to ever have two seasons with an assist average of 6.0 per game or higher (6.30 and 6.13).
His top assist game was in Michigan’s 1989 Sweet Sixteen match up against North Carolina, he dished out 13 assists in the win.
Not only could he dish it out but Robinson was an expert ball hawk. He notched 150 career steals, which is good for sixth on the all-time list. His career steals per game average of 1.50 ranks third in school history.
Robinson was drafted in the first round of the 1990 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks. He played in the NBA for six seasons.
#5 – John Townsend: Known as one of the best playmakers of his era, Townsend became Michigan’s fourth consensus All-American in 1938. Townsend earned All-Conference honors three times during his career (1936-38). He also was the captain of the 1937-38 team.
He was known as “The Houdini of the Hardwood” and he is generally considered Michigan’s best basketball player of the Pre-Cazzie Russell.
The 6-foot-4 Townsend was considered a forward and center but his game and talents seem better suited to list him among the great point guards. He was considered the best ball handler in the conference. In the book Champions of the West, you will find this description, “On the basketball court Townsend was simply amazing. The leading scorer on the team each of his three years, he was also known for his passing ability…”.
Townsend was elected into Michigan’s Hall of Honor in 1980 as part of the third induction class. The only basketball players to be inducted before him were Cazzie Russell and Rudy Tomjanovich
#4 – Rickey Green: A transfer to Michigan from Vincennes (Ind.) Junior College, Green had two sparkling seasons for the Wolverines (1975-77). The lightning fast Green averaged 19.9 ppg in his first season with the Maize and Blue. In that season Michigan advanced to the National Championship game and lost to Indiana.
Green averaged 19.5 ppg the next season and helped Michigan win a Big Ten championship. Green was a 1977 All American selection and the runner-up for National Player of the Year.
His career scoring average of 19.7 ppg ranks eighth on the school’s all-time list.
A 1976 Sports Illustrated article said, “Green is simply a scoring and ball-handling machine who can accelerate to the basket in the blink of a defender’s eye.”
Green was drafted in the first round of the 1977 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors and played in the NBA for 14 seasons.
#3 – Gary Grant: A lockdown defender, Grant notched a school record 300 steals in his Michigan career (1984-88). He also owns the top 3 single season steals averages with 2.69, 2.55, and 2.35 steals per game. Grant is also Michigan’s career leader in assists with 731. He ranks fourth on Michigan’s all-time list with 2222 career points. Grant’s career three-point field goal percentage of 46.11% ranks third on Michigan’s all-time list. He had 14 10-plus assist games in his career, which is a school record. In December 1987, Grant set a school record with 14 assists in a game, that record stood until 2017.
Grant’s 11 double-doubles (points-assist) are the most by any Wolverine.
Grant was the first Big Ten player with 1,000 points, 600 assists, and 200 steals. He was the 1985 Big Ten Freshmen of the Year. He was twice selected as the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year (1987, 88). Grant was a first team All-Big Ten selection twice (1987-88) and a 1988 All-American.
Grant was selected in the first round of the 1988 NBA Draft by the Seattle Supersonics. He enjoyed a 13 year career in the NBA.
During Burke’s freshman campaign, Michigan won a share of the Big Ten Championship, the first time in 26 years that the Wolverines had accomplished that feat. In his sophomore season they finished one game shy of tying for a second consecutive Big Ten title.
As a sophomore, Burke had a season for the ages as he made a clean sweep of all the National Player of the Year Awards and became Michigan’s fifth consensus All-American. He was the driving force on a special team that went 31-8 and advanced to the Final Four, ultimately losing to Louisville in the championship game.
The 727 points Burke tallied as a sophomore is the fifth best single season total in school history. Burke set the single season assist record with 260 and ranks seventh all-time with 416 career assists. He averaged 18.6 points per game and was 12th in the nation with 6.87 assists per game. Burke also led the country with a 3.0 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Burke came up big in clutch situations for Michigan. On March 12, 2013 in a game against Michigan State, he had two steals in the final 25 seconds to seal a key victory. In a Sweet 16 match up against Kansas, Burke was held scoreless in the first half, then scored 23 points in the second half and overtime. His 30-foot shot that sent the game into overtime was an instant tournament classic.
For his career, Burke averaged 16.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game.
#1 – Jalen Rose: A member of the Fab Five, Rose played three seasons at Michigan (1991-94) before bolting for the NBA. He led Michigan in assists all three seasons he played and in scoring twice. Rose started in 101 of his 102 career games and scored in double digits 98 times.
Rose joined Gary Grant as the only Wolverines with 1,500 points, 400 rebounds, 300 assists, and 100 steals in their career.
Rose’s career average of 17.9 points per game ranks 10th in school history. He dished out 401 assists in his career, good for seventh on the all-time list. Rose drained 124 three pointers as a Wolverine which is also good for seventh on the all-time list.
In a 1992 Sports Illustrated article Rose was described as Michigan’s spiritual leader and its most insolent trash talker.
Rose was a two-time All-American (1992, 94). He holds the school record for most points scored by a Freshman with 597.
Rose was selected in the first round of the 1994 NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets. He played in the NBA for 13 years. He was known as “The Natural” for his ability to master multiple positions on the court—point guard, shooting guard and small forward.
Best of Michigan Basketball