Now that it’s December and the Eagles have won the NFC West (4-0) but lost to almost everyone else (2-5-1), there’s no better time to turn to college basketball. In Philly, that means the Big Five.
As Philly hoops fans know, city teams repeatedly have produced the nation’s best players, from St. Joseph’s Jameer Nelson recently to Villanova’s Paul Arizin in the 1940s.
To start the new season, I figured I’d select each Big Five team’s all-time top 10 players, and also name each school’s best team. First up: St. Joe’s.
The first team:
1. Jameer Nelson (2000-04)
He was the consensus 2004 college player of the year, leading the Hawks to a perfect regular season (27-0) and into the Elite Eight. Nelson is St. Joe’s all-time leader in scoring (2,094), assists (713), and steals (256), and currently plays for the Orlando Magic.
2. Cliff Anderson (1964-67)
A 6-foot-4 rebounding machine, Anderson holds career school records for total rebounds (1,228), single-season average (15.5 rpg.), and single-season scoring average (26.5), among others. He was tenth nationally in rebounding as a sophomore (15.5), and eighth in the country in scoring as a senior (26.5).
3. Mike Bantom (1970-73)
The Hawks’ sole basketball Olympian (1972), Bantom averaged 20.0 points and 13.7 rebounds for his career. The 6-9 center is the school’s second all-time leading rebounder (1,151) and led St. Joe’s to two NCAA tourneys. His nine-year NBA career (1973-82) is the longest of any Hawk.
4. George Senesky (1939-43)
The 6-3 forward is the only Hawk to lead the country in scoring, with 23.4 ppg. as a senior when he was named the Helms Foundation Player of the Year. Senesky scored more than half of his career points that season (515 of 969). He played eight NBA seasons and coached the Philadelphia Warriors to the 1956 NBA title.
5. Bobby McNeill (1957-60)
A complete player, the 6-1 McNeill had career averages of 17.2 points, 5.4 assists, and 4.9 rebounds. McNeill led St. Joe’s to consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time in school history and two NCAA tourneys before playing two NBA seasons.
The second team:
Jim Lynam (1960-63)
Paul Senesky (1947-50)
Tony Costner (1980-84)
Delonte West (2001-04)
Maurice Martin (1982-86)
The best team: 2003-04.
It’s hard to argue with a team that went unbeaten during the regular season (27-0) and was ranked No. 1. Nelson and West—the best backcourt in school history—led a perfectly balanced team that included eventual NBAer Dwayne Jones, eventual A-10 co-Player of the Year Pat Carroll, and defensive stopper Tyrone Barley. Coach Phil Martelli’s team finished 30-2, reaching the Elite Eight; St. Joe’s has reached the Elite Eight three times (’04, ’81, ’63) and the Final Four once (’61).
Other top teams:
1960-61: Ramsay’s 25-5 Final Four team featured Lynam, Jack Egan, Vince Kempton, and Frank Majewski.
1965-66: Ramsay’s last team was the preseason No. 1 team in the country and was led by Anderson, Matt Goukas Jr., Billy Oakes, and Tom Duff and finished 24-5.
1962-63: Lynam, Bill Hoy, Jim Boyle, Tom Wynne, and Steve Courtin directed Ramsay’s 23-5 Elite Eight team.
1980-81: Coach Lynam’s 25-8 team, which upset No. 1 DePaul on the way to the Elite Eight, featured Costner, Boo Williams, and Bryan Warrick.