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BTP Roundtable: Favorite Big Ten Players

BTP's staff takes a look at some of its favorite Big Ten basketball players from the past and present.

Andy Lyons

Here at BT Powerhouse we have staffers that come from all around Big Ten country and have followed different schools for their entire lives. So we thought we would reminisce on some of our favorite Big Ten players and their best moments. So get ready to turn back the clock and remember some of the Big Ten's best:

Drew Hamm: I struggled for quite some time while trying to think of my favorite Big Ten basketball player of the past. I decided to limit my scope to the time I was in college (which was a really long time), and so I started looking at players from 2003 on. I obviously hold Wisconsin near and dear to my heart, and the crown jewel of Wisconsin's 2003 recruiting class (sorry Brian Butch and Kammron Taylor) was JUCO transfer Zach Morley. The 6'8, 225 pound forward instantly became a fan favorite at the Kohl Center with his flowing locks and floor burn accumulating style of play. I fell in love with Morley instantly (on the basketball court only, I'm no homewrecker) and couldn't stop following his moves on the court. In his two seasons in Madison he averaged 8.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.7 apg, 0.9 spg, and 1,000,000 hearts stolen per game as the Badgers' top option off the bench. According to THE INTERNET, Morley is currently plying his trade in Germany and is filling up the stat sheet with Alba Berlin. There have been many better players to pass through Wisconsin's locker room, but none have been higher on my list than Zach Morley.

Martin Weiss: Past: Zack Novak & Stu Douglass. I know we were only supposed to pick one, but to me these guys have grouped together. In many ways, they are the definition of Beilein players. Two three-star recruits, Novak & Douglass were rotation players as freshmen, but more importantly, they laid the foundation that Michigan Basketball would build on for the next four years. They were classic Beilein players: under recruited guys who played all out no matter what the situation. Between Novak & Douglass, they played every position on the court, with Novak specializing as an grossly undersized power forward at 6'4''. While they were never the best players on the court, they both had every intangible imaginable. They were captains in their junior and senior years, and were true leaders, especially in their senior year. It was the most talented team they had played on at Michigan with Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. gaining most of the press and accolades, but it was the base of Novak and Douglass that allowed the more talented players to shine while still playing in the Beilein system. Simply put, without Novak & Douglass, Michigan Basketball wouldn't have the national relevance they have today.

Present: Spike Albrecht. I remember the first time I saw him play. I happened to find two tickets to an exhibition game against Slippery Rock while at work. They were free, so I went. Of course, Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr. and crew lead a quick demolition job on the starters, but the backup point guard really stood out. He played with no fear and had the two things you look for in a backup point guard- ball control and three point shooting. From that game on, I told anyone who would listen to look out for number 2 when he stepped on the court. Spike makes the plays that rarely show up in the box score, the same way Zack Novak and Stu Douglass did for Michigan in the early Beilein years. While the National Championship game 17-point outbreak (and Kate Upton tweet) gave Spike 15-minutes of fame, Michigan fans will continue to love the perennial backup point guard. Plus, how can you not love a 5'11, 180lb white kid with the nickname Spike in today's college basketball? With a name like that, he's gotta be good.

Aaron Yorke: Jamelle Cornley is my favorite ever Big Ten basketball player. Why? Well, it starts with the fact that he attended my alma mater, Penn State, but other than that? His toughness and leadership inspired a Penn State team that hadn't qualified for the postseason in eight years to win a franchise-record 27 games in 2008-09. That magical ride featured 10 Big Ten wins as well as a run all the way through the NIT. Without Cornley scoring 14.4 points per game and leading the team with 6.3 rebounds per game, the Lions probably don't make it anywhere near Madison Square Garden that year. I'll always remembering Cornely grabbing rebounds and scoring over much larger opponents, as well as the way he played through the NIT with a heavy wrap on his shoulder. He's the man.

Andy Patterson: Past: As an Illinois fan the honor has to go to Dee Brown.  The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Illini pride, is Dee Brown popping his orange jersey at the camera.  He was lighting fast on both sides of the floor.  Opposing players quickly found out if they gave Dee any space, he would blow by them for an easy layup.  On defense he would pick your pocket so fast that guys would look dumbfounded at what just happened.  He was one of the best players on the best Illini team and he had a swagger that Illini fans have not seen in a long time.

Present: My favorite current player would have to be Malcolm Hill.  He is very young but has already proven a lot over his short career.  Malcolm set on the bench while Illinois was going through one of the longest losing streaks in more then twenty years, but when Coach Groce called his number he was ready to go.  He stepped up as a starter and added energy along with a much needed consistent three point shot.  Over the summer he has already added 20 pounds of muscle and I think he is primed for a big season.  This season with a bigger body and a more refined skill set, he is going to be a load of fun to watch.

Nick Moyle: Past: Growing up on the East Coast, I was always a Big East fanatic. I loved Syracuse, St. John's and the Big East Tournament at MSG, one of the greatest events in the realm of sports. However, one Big Ten player made a huge impression on me as a child; the incomparable Mateen Cleaves. Before I even saw the man play a game, I just fell in love with his name. "Mateen Cleaves." It just rolled off the tongue so smooth, as if just by saying it, he was already the best player on the court. I remember watching Cleaves dash his way through the 2000 NCAA Tournament, dishing dimes, picking pockets and loving life, en route to a National Championship and Most Outstanding Player honors. I was always disappointed his pro career never quite panned out, but Cleaves will forever remain in my pantheon of all-time college basketball greats.

Present: I've always leaned towards players who approach the game with ferocity and enthusiasm, someone who can inject life into an otherwise lifeless team. That's exactly what I saw last year in Wisconsin Badger freshman Nigel Hayes. The 6-7, 250 lbs., man-child made his fair share of rookie mistakes, but his presence off the bench was never less than an injection of adrenaline to a team that sometimes got bogged down in shooting too many threes. Hayes really found his groove as the Big Ten season got underway, proving to be the deciding factor in several victories that kept the Badgers rolling right into the NCAA Tournament. Hayes had an excellent showing against Baylor in the Sweet 16, providing 10 points and 6 rebounds in just 18 minutes of frenetic play off the bench. Hayes will take on a larger role in the Wisconsin game plan this year. I'm excited to see how the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year responds.

Bryan Steedman: Past: When it comes to the Boilermakers and my favorite Big Ten player two different guys come to mind, though they're probably not the two you'd expect. If I was basing this solely on their skill level I'd probably pick JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore, who definitely were two of my favorite Big Ten guys (same for Carl Landry, Carson Cunningham, Brian Cardinal, etc.). But my favorite Big Ten player of the past would be a tie between Ryne Smith and Kelsey Barlow (oh the irony). My liking of Smith actually has some basis as he attended the same high school I did (Whitmer, he was a grade below) and I grew up going to a basketball camp every summer that was taught by his father, who happened to be a math teacher and the basketball coach at Whitmer. The cockiness and arrogance (at times) from someone who could just light up opponents from beyond the arc was amazing to watch. Of course then you have Kelsey Barlow, or as a lot of the Purdue fan base refers to him: GDB (God Dammit Barlow, also the name of my fantasy football team last year). His career had its ups and downs and he could be frustrating to watch but his athleticism was amazing to see and he was entertaining to say the least...

Jared Sullinger posterized by Kelsey Barlow (via RunTheFloor)

Present: Most likely A.J. Hammons. There'll be plenty of new options this upcoming season but out of the remaining options I'd definitely have to go with A.J. (and stay loyal to Purdue here). His career here didn't start off on the best foot and there are still flaws he's working on correcting but when he takes over a game it's a sight to see. Sometimes it involves the seven footer destroying opposing bigs down low on offense. Other times its Hammons recording a half dozen blocks in a game. Either way Purdue's attitude has been relatively vanilla as of late and no one has developed into "that guy" so Hammons is a logical pick. Though I'd admittingly love to see another cocky shooting guard come here in the vein of Smith or D.J. Byrd, with Kendall Stephens a possibility to surpass Hammons this year as my favorite.

Andrew Holmes: Present: Basil Smotherman, and it isn't even close. He wasn't a star as a freshman, but he had some really nice hustle plays that stood out in a lackluster year for the Boilers. The best being his tip following a missed free throw to end the first half against IU. The other reason I like him so much? His awesome name that he clearly stole from a Victorian Era bare-knuckle boxer. My second choice would be Terran Petteway, also from everything I've seen and heard I think I'm going to love incoming freshman Isaac Haas for Purdue.

Past: Tough call, I like and respect a lot of Big Ten players from different teams and different eras. Some examples include Deron Williams, Marcus Landry, Chris Kramer, and guys I never got to see play like Magic, John Wooden, and Bob Knight (I imagine he was a really scrappy player at Ohio State). In the end though my choice was a little more obscure than those other guys. A.J. Moye was my basketball hero back in junior high, even before the famous block against Duke. I remember Moye as a pretty talented player, but what I most remember him for is having more "heart" than Shane Falco, Rocky, the whole cast of "Hoosiers" and Rudy combined. As an added bonus, his four-syllable name was perfect for crowd chants.

Jason Dorow: Growing up my favorite player was Vincent Grier. He was a freak athlete able to throw down some vicious dunks, and he scored at a prolific rate. Grier led the Gophers in scoring in both seasons he spent in Minnesota (2004-06), and he carried them to the NCAA tournament in 2005. Grier had a lot of flare and liked to put on a show but it never took away from his game. He did the little things too, shooting over 70 percent from the free throw line and averaging roughly six rebounds per game as a shooting guard. Grier was one of the few bright spots for Gopher basketball in the first decade of the 21st century, and I'll always remember watching him put Williams Arena on its feet.

I don't really have a favorite current player, but I have mad respect for Gary Harris and John Shurna. Both guys played with the demeanor of an NBA veteran when they were just 20 years old. Harris's game is incredibly well-rounded, and his on-going motor makes up for his lack of size. Shurna scored in so many ways and nearly elevated Northwestern basketball to a place it had never been before, the NCAA tournament. Arguably the best player to ever call Welsh-Ryan Arena home, Shurna changed the basketball mindset in Evanston.

Thomas Beindit: Past: As a fan, every once in awhile, you get the experience of truly witnessing something special happen on the court for your team.  Sure, the top programs get to see it a little more often than others, but once every blue moon, you get to witness some of the players and moments that define the program for all-time.  As a student at Michigan, I was fortunate enough to witness one of those players and several of those moments that fans will be talking about for generations.  My favorite player of all-time is Trey Burke.  During Burke's sophomore season, he not only won Big Ten Player of the Year, but he also won National Player of the Year.  To put this into perspective, the Big Ten has had just 2 winners of the Wooden Award since 1994.  It doesn't happen that often.  On top of that, he led Michigan to the National Championship game, including one of the most improbable comebacks Michigan fans have ever seen in an upset of #1 seeded Kansas.  For anyone wondering whether Trey Burke was the real deal, that game alone answered any questions.  No single player can win a game for a team, but there aren't many games out there that came closer than Burke's incredible performance on that night.  Of course, Burke did far more than lead a comeback against Kansas.  He led one of the most talented Michigan squads in program history (5 NBA Draft picks so far) and still separated himself from his teammates.  He was something special and I'm just happy I was around to witness it first hand.

Present: Over the past few seasons, one of my favorites things to do during games has been throwing up a "LEVERT ALERT" on Twitter after a great play by Caris LeVert.  When LeVert originally committed to Michigan, I figured he would take a redshirt and then progress from there.  He had a ton of potential, but was young, small, and his game was raw.  For Michigan fans, he has progressed incredibly well and is in serious consideration for Big Ten Player of the Year this season.  He has been a fun player to watch and I truly believe he will be at least All-B1G by the end of next season.  The best part about watching him play is his diverse skillset.  He can literally do it all.


What is your favorite Big Ten player?  Let us know in the comments.