I’m ready to go.
Attempting to decipher the greatest LSU team but given only four consecutive years from which to choose was a pretty difficult task. I needed a combination of dominance on both ends of the court, athleticism, cohesion, and team success from that era. While my first inclination was to jump straight to the 2006 Final 4 team that could have also sported current NBA players Brandon Bass and Anthony Randolph alongside Tyrus Thomas and Glen Davis, I had to take a step back and reconsider what 4 year stretch had the most talented players at every position instead of simply the deepest front court. So after some careful consideration, I decided to run with the 1988-1992 LSU Tigers.
When thinking LSU guards, Chris Jackson’s name was the first one out of my mouth. Jackson is easily considered the second best guard to ever grace the LSU campus – number one is the Pistol himself, Pete Maravich who holds some of the most unimaginable records that when a player gets within 1,000 of his career mark, it makes all of the front pages (and that’s without a three-point line or a season in which freshmen were allowed to play varsity). Jackson took a page from Maravich and rewrote all of the NCAA records for freshmen, and had he stayed his last two years, many of Pistol’s records could have been in serious jeopardy.
Not that Jackson ever looked like he got tired, but if the pace needed to slow down or there was some foul trouble issues, TJ Pugh would be a more than serviceable back-up. Pugh is the complete opposite of Jackson, always looking to pass first and never taking a shot unless it was a layup. His leadership on the floor was unmatched and he always seemed to have control of the game at all times. His greatest asset was definitely his knack for finding the open man and orchestrating the most exciting alley-oop in college basketball. Youtube: Shaw-Shaq Redemption; but before Brian Shaw, that was the Pugh-O’neal connection.
Filling in at the shooting guard slot would be Maurice Williamson, Mike Hansen, and Jamie Brandon. Although a bit undersized for the 2, Williamson more than made up for it with his speed and athleticism. His non-stop motor was a perfect complement to Jackson and the two of them were major contributors when the pace was fast (i.e. LSU’s 148-141 win over Hank Gathers and Loyola Marymount). Mike Hansen was as pure of a shooter as they come so don’t even consider leaving him to trap Jackson or double down on either Shaq or Stanley in the post. Just start penciling in the “3” on the stat sheet if he’s open behind the arc. Jamie Brandon was an ultra-versatile 6’7″ machine. He played extended time at the 1 and 2, and when the situation called for it, Coach Dale Brown never felt uncomfortable sliding him in at the small forward. If the opponent wants to run, Jackson and Williamson/Hansen are your men; if the opponent tries to dictate the tempo and slow it down, Pugh will get it done while Brandon creates mismatches in the post with his size.
Each of the LSU forwards chosen were more than able to play both the 3 and the 4. Vernel Singleton was one of the more athletic forwards the SEC ever saw. While only 6’7″, Singleton used his jumping ability to corral rebounds with the best of them and then used his speed to outrun opponents, finishing with his spectacular leaner dunk. While Vernel was running to the paint, Justin Anderson and Clarence Ceasar were busy filling the wings and spotting up for the three ball. Anderson was definitely not the most athletic player on the court, but a great combination of senior poise and spectacular shooting made him stick on opponents’ scouting reports. Ceasar could also shoot with the best of them, particularly from the left corner off of a double-down on Shaq. But what made Clarence most effective however was the wingspan he used to set records in the steals department. He would be a definite lock in late-game situations when there was a need for a defensive stop.
Every team needs a captain who not only has the skills to take over a game, but can also keep everyone focused on the ultimate goal – winning. Ricky Blanton epitomizes the term “leader.” As a sophomore in 1986, Blanton filled in at center despite being only 6’7″ and led the Tigers to the Final 4 as an #11-seed, the lowest seeded team to ever reach the final weekend before George Mason matched the feat exactly 20 years later. Through effort, hustle, and determination, Blanton willed each of his teams to exceed expectations and reach lofty heights.
With the exception of UCLA’s Lew Alcindor/Bill Walton duo, you will not find a greater combination of big men within a four year time frame. Everyone knows the impact Shaq has made on the game is astronomical, but did you know that Stanley Roberts was actually better than Shaq when the two played together during the 1989-1990 season? Roberts possessed that rare combination of strength and touch, making him virtually unguardable. He could overwhelm you in the paint and then step out and knock down the 15-footer. Meanwhile, Shaq just straight abused the opposition on both sides of the floor through sheer size and muscle. There was no stopping O’neal unless you pulled a Carlos Groves (youtube it). Geert Hammink was a more than serviceable big man who filled in spots during the Shaq era before coming into his own during his senior season. That year, he put up numbers of 15 and 10, leading the SEC in the rebounding category. So we knew the talent was certainly there; Hammink just needed the minutes necessary to display his full arsenal.
Overall, this collection of LSU Tigers was truly something special. Pure talent, leadership, and intangibles, all coached by the great Dale Brown, who is considered one of the greatest recruiters and motivators NCAA basketball will ever see. I feel more than blessed that I was able to watch each of these young men play at the Deaf Dome. Geaux Tigers!!!
(Note: All player bios and statistics at the end of this article were collected from the official LSU website – www.lsusports.net)
Guard – Chris Jackson 1988-1990 (LSU All-Century Team Member)
In just his freshman and sophomore years, Jackson was a two-time consensus SEC Player of the Year lighting up scoreboards across America. After scoring 48 and 53 points in the first month of his college career, he went on to become the most celebrated freshman of all time, setting an NCAA freshman scoring record, averaging 30.2 points per game. He became just the second freshman ever to make the Associated Press first-team All-America squad and the first ever to make the U.S. Basketball Writers Association’s All-America team.He finished his short career as the seventh leading scorer in school history with 1,854 points (29.0 ppg). His records for freshman include most points in a game (55), most points in a season (965) and season average (30.2). He won accolades throughout the country as he starred on the court while fighting an ongoing battle with Tourette’s Syndrome. Jackson was chosen to the second team on the Louisiana Association of Basketball Coaches All-Louisiana Team of the Century.
FRESHMAN SEASON (1988-89) Recorded the best freshman season in the history of NCAA basketball, as he set the NCAA record for points by a freshman (965), average points by a freshman (30.2) and single-game points by a freshman (55 at Ole Miss on March 4, 1989) … Became the second freshman to make the Associated Press All-America First Team and the first to be named All-America by the United States Basketball Writers of America … Also garnered First-Team All-America honors from The Sporting News and the United Press International … Became the first Tiger since Rudy Macklin (1981) to be named First-Team All-America … Was a finalist for the Eastman Award and was third in voting for the AP National Player of the Year award … Named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year by the AP, UPI and the Coaches, and was a member of the Knoxville News-Sentinal SEC All-Freshman Team … Won five Jefferson Pilot Rookie of the Week awards and three JP Player of the Week awards .. Was also the ESPN co-Sports Person of the Week and Sports Illustrated Player of the Week … Won Dick Vitale’s “Windex Player of the Week” award … Led the SEC in scoring (30.2) and free-throw percentage (81.5) … Twice set Maravich Assembly Center scoring records, hitting 48 against Louisiana Tech on Dec. 6, 1988, and then 50 against Tennessee on Feb. 11, 1989 … Was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated on Feb. 20, 1989, and on the cover of The Sporting News … His SEC scoring title was the 12th in LSU basketball history since 1933 … Scored 48 points in the third game of his collegiate career against Louisiana Tech, hitting 18-of-29 field goals … Two games later, scored 53 against Florida behind a 16-of-17 performance at the free throw line … Became the first LSU player since “Pistol” Pete Maravich to score 50 points in a game … Set the school record for single-game three-pointers and three-pointers attempted (9 of 20) at Ole Miss on March 4 … Posted one double double with 48 points and 10 assists against Florida on March 1, 1989.
SOPHOMORE SEASON (1989-90) Left LSU after his sophomore season to pursue a career in professional basketball … Named a First-Team All-American by the AP, United States Basketball Writers Association and Naismith … Named to the All-America Second Team by the UPI, Basketball Times, Basketball Weekly and The Sporting News … A unanimous First-Team All-SEC selection by the AP and Coaches, while being named the SEC Player of the Year for the second-straight time by the AP, UPI and Coaches … Scored double figures in 63 of 64 career games, with more than 20 points 52 times, more than 30 points 28 times, more than 40 points 11 times and more than 50 points four times … Led the Southeastern Conference in scoring (27.8) and free throw percentage (191 of 210, 91.0), while ranking second in three-pointers per game (2.8) … Set school records for single-game three-pointers (10 vs. Tennessee on Feb. 10, 1990), career three-pointers (172 from 1988-90), single-season three-point attempts (246 in 1989-90), career three-point attempts (462 from 1988-90), consecutive free throws made (35) and single-season free throw percentage (.9095 in 1989-90) … Finished his career ranked sixth in LSU history in scoring (1,854), second in scoring average (29.0), sixth in field goals made (664), eighth in free throws made (354), second in free-throw percentage (86.3) and fifth in three-point field goal percentage (37.2).
Forward – Ricky Blanton 1984-1989 (LSU All-Century Team Member)
After converting from guard to center, Ricky Blanton became one of the key performers in LSU’s 1986 Final Four run as a sophomore. Blanton was named to the 1986 NCAA Southeast Regional All-Tournament team after averaging nine points and nine rebounds in five NCAA Tournament games. As a sophomore, the Miami native scored in double figures 11 times, averaged five rebounds per game and led the team in field goal percentage (94-159, .591). After missing the 1986-87 season with a knee injury, Blanton came back with a vengeance for his junior campaign in 1987-88 where he started all 30 games and led LSU in scoring (17.0 ppg) and rebounding (8.8 rpg). Blanton, who served as team captain, also scored in double figures 25 times, including a season high 31 points against Southern. He was named to the 1988 Coaches’ All-SEC team, the AP All-SEC team and the SEC All-Tournament team. As a senior in 1988-89, Blanton again served as team captain and led the Tigers to their sixth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. In two of the most memorable games in LSU history, Blanton played the role of hero scoring the game-winning layup to defeat #2 Georgetown in New Orleans and hitting a three-pointer with three seconds left to upset nationally ranked UNLV. Blanton started all 32 games and averaged 20.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game and was named to the 1989 Coaches’ All-SEC team and the AP All-SEC team. Blanton currently sits at 15th all-time in LSU history in scoring with 1,501 points and 14th in rebounding with 766. He is also ninth all-time in assists with 314. He was drafted in the second round of the 1989 NBA draft by the Phoenix Suns.
Center – Shaquille O’neal 1989-1992 (LSU All-Century Team Member; LSU Jersey #33 Retired at LSU; LSU Athletic Hall Of Fame)
Shaquille O’Neal brought LSU to new heights during his three years with the Tigers and the 7-1 center became a national celebrity in the days of saturation coverage of basketball by the media. But he earned his celebrity status with great play and an intimidation factor that made him the envy of coaches throughout the country.
O’Neal’s College Records and Highlights:
- Two-time consensus Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and first-team All-American, 1991-1992. Most Valuable Player on SEC Coaches Defensive Team, 1991-1992.
- National Player of the Year as chosen by the Associated Press (Rupp Award), United Press International, L. A. Gear and Sports Illustrated, 1991. Winner of the Tanqueray World Amateur Athlete of the Year Award, 1991.
- Southeastern Conference Athlete of the Year, 1991-1992. National Player of the Year as chosen by L. A. Gear, 1992 and runner-up for the Naismith Award and the John Wooden Award, 1992.
- Set SEC record for most blocks in a season three consecutive years (115-1990, 140-1991, 157-1992). Set SEC record for career blocks with 412. Blocked five or more shots in a game 45 times in 90 career games.
- Set SEC single game record with 12 blocks against Loyola Marymount in Feb. 1990. Blocked 11 shots against Brigham Young in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, setting a then-tournament standard for a single game, 1992.
- Averaged a national sophomore-record 5.0 blocked shots a game, 1991. National leader in blocked shots (5.2 average), 1992.
- National leader in rebounding (14.7 average), 1991. Second nationally in rebounding (14.0 average), 1992.
- First player to lead the Southeastern Conference in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and blocked shots in the same season, 1991. Led SEC in rebounding, field goal percentage, blocked shots and second in scoring, 1992. First player to lead the SEC in rebounding three straight seasons since Charles Barkley of Auburn, 1982-84.
- Finished with 1,217 rebounds, seventh all-time in the Southeastern Conference, second all-time at LSU.
- Finished with 1,941 points, fourth all-time at LSU behind only Pete Maravich (3,667-1967-70), Durand Macklin (2,080-1976-78; 79-81) and Howard Carter (1,942-1979-83).
- Career field goal percentage of 61.0 percent is second all-time at LSU and in the SEC (minimum 1,000 attempts).
- Had six career triple-doubles (points, rebounds and blocks in same game).
- Was the third LSU player (Pete Maravich and Chris Jackson) to have at least two 700-plus point seasons at LSU.
- Was the first LSU player to record back-to-back 400-plus rebound seasons.
JUNIOR SEASON (1991-92)
LSU center Shaquille O’Neal was named the SEC Player of the Year for the second-straight time and was named National Player of the Year by L.A. Gear … Was the runner-up for both the Naismith National Player of the Year award and the John Wooden Award … A consensus First-Team All-American by the AP, UPI, NABC/Kodak, United States Basketball Writers Association, Basketball Weekly and Basketball Times … A unanimous selection to both the AP and Coaches’ All-SEC Teams … For the second-straight season, he was named the MVP on the Coaches’ All-SEC Defensive Team and the SEC Athlete of the Year … Led the Tigers to their ninth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance … Was the nation’s leading shot blocker, averaging 5.23 blocks per game … Ranked second in the nation in rebounding at 14.0 per game … Along with leading the SEC in blocked shots and rebounds for the third-straight season, he led the league for the second-straight season in field goal percentage (61.5) and was second in scoring (24.1) … Became the first player since Charles Barkley of Auburn (1982-84) to lead the SEC in rebounding for three-straight seasons … For the third time in as many seasons, he set the SEC record for blocked shots with 157 and finished his career with a league and school-record 412. He blocked 11 shots in LSU’s 94.83 win over BYU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, setting a single-game tournament record … Blocked seven or more shots eight times … Along with Ronnie Battle of Auburn and Todd Day of Arkansas, scored a league-high (and career high) 43 points in LSU’s victory over Northern Arizona on Dec. 28, 1991 … Twice named SEC Player of the Week (Jan. 20 and March 9) … Finished his career as the school record holder in the following categories: single-game blocked shots (12 vs. Loyola-Marymount on Feb. 3, 1990), single-season blocked shots (157 in 1991-92), career blocked shots (412 from 1989-92), blocked shot season average (5.23 in 1991-91) and blocked shot career average (4.6 from 1989-92) … Ranked fourth in career scoring (1,941), fourth in career scoring average (21.6), fourth in career field goals (786), second in career field goal percentage (.610), eighth in career free throws (369), second in career rebounds (1,217) and third in career rebound average (13.5) … Finished his career with six triple doubles and 73 double doubles … Was the third LSU player (along with Pete Maravich and Chris Jackson) to have at least two 700-plus point seasons … Was the first LSU player to record back-to-back 400-plus rebound seasons.
SOPHOMORE SEASON (1990-91)
College basketball’s Player of the Year as chosen by the Associated Press, United Press International, Sports Illustrated and L.A. Gear … Winner of the prestigious Tanqueray World Amateur Athlete of the Year Award … In winning the AP’s Adolph Rupp Award, he became the first Southeastern Conference player to receive the honor named for the former Kentucky coach … Runner-up for the John Wooden Award … Finalist for the Naismith Award and Mercedes-Benz United State Basketball Writers Association Player of the Year Award … A consensus First-Team All-American and the consensus SEC Player of the Year also gave LSU its first SEC Athlete of the Year Honor … Finished the season as the nation’s leading rebounder, averaging 14.7 per game … Became the first player since Xavier McDaniel of Wichita State in 1985 to win the title with more than 14 rebounds per game … Joins Akeem (later Hakeem) Olajuwon of Houston (1984) and Artis Gilmore (1970-71) of Jacksonville as the only 7-footers to win the rebound title … Finished the season ranked seventh in the nation in scoring (27.6), 18th in field goal percentage (62.8) and third in blocked shots (5.0) … He was the first SEC player to lead the league in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and blocked shots in one season … Broke his own SEC record for blocks in a season with 140 … In just two seasons at LSU, O’Neal ranked third on the SEC list for career blocked shots with 255 and has 1990-91 average of 5.0 is an NCAA record for sophomores, topping the previous mark of 4.13 y Duane Causwell of Temple in 1989 … Scored 747 points in 1990-91, marking the seventh time an LSU player scored better than 700 points in a season … After two seasons at LSU, stood in eighth place in career rebounds with 796 and 17th in LSU’s career scoring chart with 1,219 … Had 25 double double games, including the third triple double of his career against Florida (31 points, 21 rebounds, 10 blocks) … Scored a Maravich Assembly Center record 53 points against Arkansas State on Dec. 20, 1990, and set the building records in the process for free throws made (17) and attempted (21) … Player in just 28 of the 30 games after suffering a leg injury late in the season.
FRESHMAN SEASON (1989-90)
A consensus First-Team All-SEC choice as well as a member of the Knoxville News-Sentinal Freshman All-SEC Team .. Member of the First-Team Freshman All-America Team selected by Basketball Times and Basketball Weekly … Earned Honorable Mention All-America honors from the AP, UPI and The Sporting News … Blocked a league-record 115 shots (sixth-best in the nation), becoming the first SEC player to block more than 100 shots in a season … Averaged 3.6 blocks per game, becoming the first league player to average more than three blocks per game … Destroyed the SEC’s single-game record for blocked shots, first blocking 10 against Texas on Jan. 2, 1990, and then 12 against Loyola-Marymount on Feb. 3 … Blocked six or more shots seven times … Third on the season in scoring (13.9) behind LSU greats and future NBA players Chris Jackson (27.8) and Stanley Roberts (14.1) … Led the SEC and ranked ninth nationally in rebounding (12.0) … Started 28 of the 32 games .. Posted 21 double doubles and two triple doubles (Texas and Loyola-Marymount) … Season high of 26 points came off the bench against Lamar on Dec. 4 … Had a season-high 24 rebounds against LMU … Led the South Team to the gold medal in the summer of 1990 at the U.S. Olympic Festival … Scored 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the festival opener against the West Team … In four Festival contests, scored 98 points (24.5 avg.), and grabbed 24 rebounds (13.8 avg.) … Set Olympic Festival records for single-game points (39), tournament points (98), tournament rebounds (55), single-game field goals (14), single-game free throw attempts (14), single-game blocked shots (10) and tournament blocks (27).
Center – Stanley Roberts (1989-1990)
Stanley Roberts, the other half of the LSU version of the twin towers, was named to the All-SEC third team. Had 60 blocks and tied an SEC record for single-game field goal percentage when he hit 10 of 10 attempts against Loyola Marymount (Feb. 3, 1990). Averaged 17 points and 10.2 rebounds in the last four games.
Pre-LSU — Roberts was a Parade All-American, averaging 25.2 points and 9.8 rebounds as a senior … Was named all-state sophomore, junior, and senior years at Lower Richland and was the South Carolina player of the year twice and the Gatorade South Carolina Athlete of the year his junior and senior seasons … He played on two state championship teams at Lower Richland, three state AAU championship teams, one national AAU runners-up team and one national AAU title squad … National AAU Tournament MVP … Selected to play in the Dapper Dan and McDonald’s all-star games … The seven-footer was rated as the third top high school player available his senior year behind Alonzo Mourning of Georgetown and Billy Owens of Syracuse.
Center – Geert Hammink (1989-1993)
- Leading rebounder in SEC (1992-93 season) with 10.2 rebounds per game average.
- Named to Coaches’ All-SEC First Team. Also named to First Team Associated Press All-SEC team.
- Named to 1993 SEC All-Tournament team.
- Named to Morris News Service Players’ All-SEC team.
- Equaled or upped his career high in seven consecutive games early in the 1992-93 season, including three games in the Maui Invitational where he earned All-Tournament honors.
- Career highs of 27 points and 20 rebounds.
- In final season averaged 15.3 points per game with 10.2 rebounds.
- First player from the Netherlands to join Coach Dale Brown.
- Only player to average both double points and double rebounds in the SEC in 1993.
- First round draft choice of the NBA’s Orlando Magic.
Guard – Maurice Williamson (1989-1993)
- Ranks fifth in career statistical leaders in three-pointers made with 92.
- Career three-point percentage is 8th best at LSU.
- In 1989-90 season, named third team All-SEC by UPI.
- Named Louisiana Sports Writers Association Collegiate Player of the Week following a career performance (28 poins, 3 assists) against Florida on Jan. 16, 1993.
- Finished with 120 career steals, 10th all-time at LSU.
- Averaged 12.2 points during sophomore season (1989-90).
- Scored a career high 31 points and dished out 10 assists in win at Vanderbilt (Feb. 18, 1990)
- Father is NBA great John Williamson.
Guard – Mike Hansen (1990-1993)
- Ranked second on 1992-93 team in 3-pt. field goal percentage with .452, trailing only Jamie Brandon.
- Ranks second all-time in three-pointers made at LSU with 113 behind only Chris Jackson.
- During the 1990-91 season, scored double figures in 16 of the 26 games, including 31-point efforts at Tennessee and Illinois.
- Ranked third on team in scoring and assists during his sophomore season (1990-91).
- Team captain, 1991, 1993.
- Spent summer of 1991 as only non-professional player on the 12-man Spanish National Team.
Forward – Justin Anderson (1991-1992)
- Transferred to LSU after three years at UC Irvine where he was named to the Big West Conference All-Freshman team.
- Scored in double figures nine times during his senior campaign including a 21-point performance against Kentucky in an SEC Tournament game.
- Hit 45 of 92 three point attempts for 48.9 percent, setting a school record for single season and career averages.
Guard – TJ Pugh (1990-1992)
- As a junior, led the SEC in assists with 196, the second most in a season in LSU history.
- In 58 career games at LSU, he had 253 assists and only 112 turnovers, one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios in school history.
- Led the league as a junior with an average of 6.5 assists per game, ranking 21st in the nation.
- In 30 games as a junior, Pugh had less than five assists only seven times and had eight or more assists 11 times.
Forward – Vernel Singleton (1988-1992)
- Cited as one of the nation’s most underrated players by the Sporting News.
- Finished his career in the top 10 at LSU in both scoring and rebounding. Scored 1,513 points (ninth best) and pulled down 784 rebounds (also 9th best). He is one of just five players in LSU history to finish his career in the top 10 in both scoring and rebounding joining Durand “Rudy” Macklin, Shaquille O’neal, Bob Pettit, and Leonard Mitchell.
- Played 125 games in four years, starting 102; recorded 23 double-doubles.
- All-SEC freshman team member in 1989.
- Coaches All-SEC selection in 1991.
- Third team Associated Press All-SEC in 1992.
- Finished his career with 432 free throws made (4th most in LSU history), 136 steals (tied for 6th best), .560 career field goal percentage (6th all-time), and 67 career blocks (6th best at LSU).
- Scored career high 27 points vs Ole Miss on Jan. 19, 1991 and pulled down 15 rebounds against Tennessee on Jan. 11, 1989.
Forward – Clarence Ceasar (1992-1996)
FRESHMAN SEASON (1991-92)
Earned All-SEC Freshman honors … Played in all 31 games, starting 28 … Put his name in the school record books with a school record 2.9 steals per game average … Had 90 steals on the season … Hit for double figures in 19 games … 63 three-pointers made during the season was the fourth highest at LSU … Grabbed a season high 11 rebounds in win vs Alabama (Feb. 29) … Recorded 7 steals in a game three different times.
PRE-LSU — Averaged 24.2 points and 12.5 rebounds per game in leading his team to the district championship … The prep All-American was invited to play in the Dapper Dan and Nike high school all-star games as well as the Louisiana High School Coaches Association all-star event.
Guard/Forward – Jamie Brandon (1991-1994)
FRESHMAN SEASON (1991-92)
Appeared in 29 games for LSU, starting 20 … Fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 10.5 points per game … Led team in assists with 103 … Scored in double figures 15 times, including a string of 10 consecutive games … Led the team in free throw percentage.
PRE-LSU — Averaged 28.7 points per game and 10 rebounds a contest in leading Martin Luther King High School of Chicago to the 1990 Illinois High School Association Championship … Named Mr. Basketball in the state of Illinois.
Editors Note (KO): I’ll have the UK version up soon, although I won’t be going into near this much detail. This is borderline Pulitzer material.