Ranking the greatest Gonzaga basketball players of all time
Gonzaga has the best starting five in college basketball this year, and is only four games away from an unbeaten season. The men's basketball program has had many talented players, but who are the best?
We sifted through college basketball history to rank the five best Gonzaga players of all time. This list only covers the time players spent in Spokane. That is why John Stockton, a legend in the NBA who only had one standout year in college, is not on the list.
5. Blake Stepp (2000-2004)
Stepp is the point guard who kept Stockton off the list.
He started all four of his years in Spokane and wrote his name in the school record books. He won the WCC Freshman of the Year in 2001, and then became the only Gonzaga player to win the WCC Player of the Year award twice (2003 and 2004).
Stepp ranks third in school history in assists and set the school single-game mark (16). He also ranks in the top 10 in points, and his 288 made three-pointers rank second in program history. He was elected into the conference’s Hall of Fame in 2012, and retired from basketball in 2006, after multiple knee injuries.
4. Ronny Turiaf (2001-2005)
Turiaf was an import from France who played with Stepp for three years and became a dominant force inside.
Turiaf was named to the All-WCC first team in all but his freshman season, and kept the Player of the Year trophy in the program’s grasp after Stepp left. He earned the honor in 2005, when he averaged 15.9 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.
He set the school record for most made free throws. He also ranks in the top five in both rebounds and blocks, and in the top 10 in points.
I had a chance to catch up with former Zag great Ronny Turiaf, who is living in L.A. -- for the moment (more on that in a moment). Ronny takes great pride in seeing how far Gonzaga has come, saying "We all added a brick to the Gonzaga empire." Well said, @Ronny_Turiaf pic.twitter.com/hQd7mFIRHV— 𝚂𝚊𝚖 𝙰𝚍𝚊𝚖𝚜 (@SamAdamsTV) March 22, 2018
Turiaf is considered one of the most popular characters in the program’s history. He also opened the door for multiple international players to come to Gonzaga.
Turiaf went on to play 10 seasons in the NBA and won a championship with the Miami Heat in 2012.
3. Kevin Pangos (2011-2015)
Another player who made an impact right away was Pangos, as the guard earned WCC Freshman of the Year and secured a spot on the All-WCC first team in his debut season. Pangos was named first-team All-WCC all four years of his college career and WCC Player of the Year in 2015
The most prolific shooter in school history, Pangos dropped a school-record nine three-pointers against Washington State in just his second game in a Gonzaga uniform.
He left with a school-record 322 made threes, which broke Stepp’s record of 288. He also finished ranked in the top five in steals and points, and sixth in assists.
2. Adam Morrison (2003-2006)
Yet another WCC Freshman of the Year for Gonzaga, Morrison averaged scoring in double figures in his first year, then exploded onto the national scene the next two seasons.
In his junior year, Morrison and JJ Redick of Duke battled for the National Player of the Year and eventually split the award.
Morrison led the nation in scoring, at 28.1 points per game in 2005-2006, and he shot nearly 50% from the floor and almost 43% from three-point range. He topped 40 points in five games, and despite playing just three years, he ranks third in scoring in school history.
His college career ended in heartbreak, as Gonzaga surrendered a 17-point lead to UCLA in the final moments of the Sweet Sixteen, which left the memorable image of Morrison collapsed on the floor in tears.
Morrison was selected third in the 2006 NBA Draft but lasted just four years in the league.
1. Frank Burgess (1958-1961)
Burgess scored nearly 2,200 points in his three years on the court for Gonzaga, the most in program history. He holds the record for scoring average, at 28.1 points per game, along with the most made baskets and the most field goal attempts. He ranks second in free throws made and attempted.
Pretty impressive, no?
Remember that Burgess did all those things before the existence of the three-point shot, and after he spent four years in the Air Force.
He set the school record for points in a game, when he dropped 52 against UC Davis. Former teammate Charlie Jordan said, “Frank would have averaged 40 or 50 points a game” had he played in the three-point era.
Burgess was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers, but opted to play in the American Basketball League for two years, then went to law school and eventually became a U.S. District Court Judge in Washington.
He died in 2010 from cancer, but his number still hangs in the rafters at McCarthey Athletic Center to honor Gonzaga's greatest player.