The Greatest Starting Five Who Played College Basketball in Michigan

The state of Michigan has a storied basketball history. Across the years the state has produced some of the greatest names in college basketball. A few players had short college careers, but they still implanted a mark on the state's college basketball fans.

We've looked across Michigan from the biggest to the smallest colleges and universities that play men's college basketball. What we've come up with is a starting five of the greatest basketball players to play collegiately for schools in Michigan.

Our list of great Michigan college basketball players spans more than a half a century. Many are anticipating another great moment in Michigan basketball when state residents can bet on Michigan sports. Many have won collegiate awards and are champions in their own right.

For now, we'll have to be content with using our Michigan Lottery promo code to play the lotto numbers. Like missing sports betting, there are probably a few names omitted from our honorable and special mention list.

It shows that many talented young men have played their college basketball in the state. However, when it's legal, we'll bet on the starting five we've put on the court. We'll match our five Michigan college greats up against any state's best five, and when the day comes, bet on it.

Point Guard – Earvin "Magic" Johnson Jr. – Michigan State University

The man, who would eventually become the orchestrating leader of Show Time in Los Angeles, first led the Michigan State Spartans to an NCAA Tournament Championship. Ironically, it was to be the first of a string of legendary head-to-head battles with Larry Bird.

Johnson was born in East Lansing and chose to stay in his hometown to attend college. At 6'9", he was something of an anomaly as a court leader. With long eyes and an uncanny ability to make no-look passes, Johnson constantly displayed a superior talent level even in college.

His choice of colleges between his hometown school and rival Michigan Wolverines was determined by his insistence that he play point guard. Spartan head coach Jud Heathcote welcomed the idea and the rest is basketball history.

During his two years for the Spartans, Johnson began to display his consistent knack at playing according to game situations. When his ball distribution skills were needed, he handed out one assist after another.

In the games where his team needed a basket, Johnson took on the responsibility, invariably coming through successfully. The player that would be known by one name, Magic, finished his college career averaging over 17 points per game, and nearly eight rebounds and assists.

In his final season, he launched his legacy going forward into the NBA. Johnson led the Spartans over Bird's Indiana State team in what is still the most watched college basketball in history.

Together, these two superstars would usher in a new era in professional basketball. As a college player in Michigan, Earvin Magic Johnson Jr. is a hard act of follow as the floor general for our Michigan starting five.

Shooting Guard – George Gervin – Eastern Michigan University

The player we selected to man the small forward spot didn't have a long college career. However, as a sophomore at Eastern Michigan University, the story of the Iceman began. George Gervin was born in Detroit, Michigan.

Gervin was little more than a second-thought on his Martin Luther King High School basketball team. A sudden growth spurt ahead of his senior season shot the often troubled teenager up more than three-inches to a lanky 6'5".

To augment his height spurt, Gervin spent hours perfecting an artistically spectacular jump shot. His 31 point, 20 rebound senior high school season was enough to grab the attention of Cal State Long Beach head coach Jerry Tarkanian.

The Detroit city boy was shell-shocked when he hit the California coast, and couldn't find the emotional stability to ride out one semester. He returned to Michigan where he enrolled at Eastern Michigan University.

After sitting out one season, Gervin lit up the scoreboard to the tune of over 29 points per game. It was during his lone season for the Eagles that people began to remark that his uncanny ability to make shots was as if he had ice in his veins.

While he didn't officially earn his legendary nickname until a couple of seasons into his professional career with the San Antonio Spurs, opponents knew what it was like to be seemingly iced by Gervin's pinpoint shooting accuracy.

He went on to earn five All-NBA first team honors, making nine all-star game appearances. Even though he only played one season in Ypsilanti, Eastern Michigan retired his number 24.

His college accolades were limited, but we'll take the Iceman as our starting shooting guard.

Small Forward – Glen Rice – University of Michigan

A pair of the greatest starting college guards from the state of Michigan both had short but noteworthy collegiate careers. Not so with our starter at the small forward. Glen Rice played his full four seasons in Ann Arbor, starting for the Wolverines his final three.

Even as a freshman, Rice played in every Michigan. His ability to score and rebound were blatant. During his second season for the Wolverines, Rice's talent began to fulfill expectations. Rice averaged nearly a double-double during his sophomore season.

However, his greatest college accomplishments were yet to come. Rice grew into one of the most prolific scorers in Michigan and NCAA basketball history. He still holds five University of Michigan men's basketball scoring records including career points.

During his fourth and final season in Ann Arbor, Rice would lead his Wolverines to the pinnacle of college basketball. His 32 points and 11 rebounds in the overtime championship victory over Seton Hall helped win him the Most Outstanding Player Award.

Rice took the 1989 NCAA Tournament by storm. He scored 184 points in leading Michigan to the title, a record that still stands today. His deadeye marksmanship from three-point range helped become the 4th pick in the 1989 NBA Draft.

Power Forward – Dave DeBusschere – University of Detroit

There are a few power forwards in Michigan college basketball history worthy of this starting spot. Nevertheless, it's hard to argue with the four-year block of consistency that Dave DeBusschere posted during his career at the University of Detroit Mercy.

Oddly enough, DeBusschere was almost as equally talented in another sport. After leading the Titans to a post-season berth all three of his college seasons, DeBusschere signed a professional baseball contract before going to the NBA.

In 1963, DeBusschere blanked the Cleveland Indians while scattering six hits. Still, basketball was his first love, and it showed in his on-court tenacity. Offensive players are often not known for the excellence on defense, but DeBusschere was a tenacious defender.

However, his production on offense while a college power forward was what was most incredible. Not only was he the focal point of the Titan's offense, DeBusschere hauled down over 19 rebounds per game during his college career.

His career scoring average was just less than 25 points per game, including a career best 26.8 during his final season. The University of Detroit Mercy retired DeBusschere's number 22, as did the New York Knickerbockers. The consummate example of the complete player, Dave DeBusschere gets the nod at starting power forward.

Center – Roy Tarpley – University of Michigan

We've got a boatload of points from our first four starting players, so we're going to put some teeth into our team defense. As our man in the middle, we selected former Michigan Wolverines center Roy Tarpley.

Tarpley could still score the basketball and posted outstanding rebound numbers during his four-year career in Ann Arbor. However, Tarpley also rejected nearly three shots per game his final three seasons. He still holds the Wolverine record for most blocked shots in a single game.

Often, his block shot numbers would be less than what they might have been because teams simply stayed out of the lane. Tarpley's presence under the basket allowed his Wolverine teammates to become ball hawks.

Despite being more known more for his tremendous defense, Tarpley still averaged nearly 20 points per game and over 10 rebounds during his junior year. Michigan won the Big Ten Championship and Tarpley was awarded the conference's Player of the Year Award.

Every great starting five has a dominating big man in the middle. For our greatest starting five in Michigan college basketball history, we chose a shot blocker. There have been a number of great big men in Michigan college basketball, but Roy Tarpley gets our call to start at center.

Honorable Mention

Tom Izzo, guard, Northern Michigan University -
Yes, this is the same Tom Izzo that is potentially the greatest head coach in Michigan college basketball history. Izzo was also a four-year letterman and All-American guard for the Northern Michigan Wildcats.

George Duncan, forward, Wayne State University – Nicknamed "Baby" during his four-year career leading the Warriors, Duncan still holds the record for most points scored at Wayne State, 50 during his senior season. Duncan also helped guide the Warriors to a berth in the 1956 NCAA Tournament.

Rickey Green, guard, Michigan – When a fellow named Magic played his college basketball in your state, it's tough to earn a starting nod at the same position. Nonetheless, Rickey Green was a true superstar for the Michigan Wolverines, averaging nearly 20 points per game during his college career.

Spencer Haywood, forward/center, University of Detroit Mercy – Like DeBusschere, Haywood was a dominating force for the Titans. In his only college season, Haywood averaged over 32 points and 22 rebounds per game. Haywood had multiple college games where he yanked down more than 30 rebounds in a single game.

Rudy Tomjanovich, forward, University of Michigan – Tomjanovich was a tenacious rebounder for the Wolverines, and still holds a number of school records. He was twice named All-Big Ten and an All-American his senior season in Ann Arbor.

Special Mention

Draymond Green, forward, Michigan State University; Dan Roundfield, forward, Central Michigan; Dan Majerle, guard, Central Michigan; Mateen Cleaves, guard, Michigan State University; Jalen Rose, guard, University of Michigan

Campy Russell, forward, University of Michigan; Chris Webber, forward, University of Michigan; Terry Furlow, guard, Michigan State University; Reggie Harding, center, Harlem Globetrotters; Robert "Tractor" Traylor, center, University of Michigan.