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Bob Ryan

Ivy climbers

Running down the league's NBA honor roll

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By Bob Ryan
Globe Columnist / February 15, 2012
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In the NBA, Linsanity currently rules. That’s well understood.

With all the attention on Jeremy Lin’s Harvard background, it’s an appropriate time to pay homage to the Ivy League’s historic contribution to the NBA and its forerunner, the Basketball Association of America. And, yes, there really is one.

The Ivies may not have contributed to professional basketball along the lines of, say, the Big Ten, Atlantic Coast Conference, Big East, and the other heavyweights, but along with the politicians, diplomats, captains of industry, actors, and scholars, they have also given the world a few basketball players.

I present to you the all-time NBA team of Ivy Leaguers.

STARTING FIVE

■Forward, Bill Bradley (1967-77). Knicks. Princeton 1965. 6 feet 5 inches.

I mean, duh. Without question one of the top 10, perhaps even top five college players of all-time, the future United States Senator needed a little time before settling into his role with the Knicks. Once it was determined that he was not an NBA guard, he became a clever small forward and a key member of the 1970 and 1973 champion Knicks. An excellent midrange shooter, a superior passer and a dogged defender, Bradley attained folk hero status as the team’s indispensable glue guy. His career average of 12.1 points per game does not begin to state his value.

■Forward, Rudy LaRusso (1959-69). Lakers, Warriors. Dartmouth 1959. 6 feet 7 inches.

I can still hear Johnny Most ranting about “Roughhouse Rudy!’’ Well, maybe not. “He wasn’t so tough,’’ recalled Tom Heinsohn. “And he was a ‘fish’ on defense the first couple of years. But he was a much better offensive player than people remember. One night Elgin [Baylor] didn’t play, and Rudy got 50.’’ Correct, Tommy. That was on March 14, 1962, against the Hawks. LaRusso was a four-time All-Star with career averages of 15.6 points and 9.6 rebounds.

■Center, Chris Dudley (1987-2003). Cavaliers, Nets, Trail Blazers, Knicks. Yale 1987. 6 feet 11 inches.

Not exactly an elegant player, with career averages of 3.9 points and 6.2 rebounds a game, Dudley took up very useful space in the middle for 16 years. He could block shots, and in 1991-92, he led the league in offensive rebound percentage. Of course, there was that little problem at the free throw line (career .457). As a rookie, he was nicknamed “Quag’’ by Cavs general manager Wayne Embry, as in, “He rises out of the quagmire to get his rebounds.’’

■Guard, Geoff Petrie (1970-76). Trail Blazers. Princeton 1970. 6 feet 4 inches.

A first-round pick in the draft (No. 8 overall), he was a great player done in prematurely by knee problems. Shared 1970-71 Rookie of the Year honors with Dave Cowens. A career 21.8 ppg scorer who played in two All-Star Games. Averaged 24-plus three times. Had a pair of 51-point games (a record for an NBA Ivy alum) against the Rockets, once home and once away, in 1973.

■Guard, Brian Taylor (1972-83). ABA: Nets. NBA: Kings, Nuggets, Clippers. Princeton 1972. 6 feet 2 inches.

Averaged a career 14.0 ppg in the ABA and was a starter on two championship teams. Averaged 12.3 in 330 NBA games. In both leagues, he was a 3-point bombardier, leading the league in 3-pointers made (90) in 1979-80, the first year the rule was in effect. Two-time ABA All-Star.

SIXTH MAN

■Jim McMillian (1970-79). Lakers, Braves, Knicks, Trail Blazers. Columbia 1970. 6 feet 5 inches.

Replaced the legendary Elgin Baylor in the Los Angeles lineup, and that night the team embarked on a record 33-game winning streak. Noted for moving without the ball and having a very quick release. Mid-career run of 18.8, 18.9, and 18.6 points per. Had a quick, curious descent from prominence, but at peak value was a very nice player.

REST OF BENCH

■Forward, Corky Calhoun (1972-80). Suns, Lakers, Trail Blazers, Pacers. Penn 1972. 6 feet 7 inches.

A pro’s pro kind of sub. Career averages of 5.2 points and 3.6 rebounds in 542 regular-season and 18 playoff games. Noted for contributing large sums of money back to the alma mater and for having attended Jack Benny Junior High School in hometown of Waukegan, Ill.

■Forward, John Hummer (1970-76). Braves, Bulls, Supersonics. Princeton 1970. 6 feet 9 inches.

15th pick in 1970 draft. Never quite lived up to that lofty status. Had single-game career highs of 24 points and 16 rebounds.

■Forward, Ernie Beck (1953-61). Warriors, Hawks, Nats. Penn 1953. 6 feet 4 inches.

An all-time Ivy great. Still Penn’s career leader in points per game (25.9), rebounds per game (19.0), and single-game scoring (47). Solid role player and member of 1956 champion Philly Warriors.

■Guard, Armond Hill (1976-84). Hawks, Supersonics, Clippers, Bucks. Princeton 1976. 6 feet 4 inches.

Played in 468 regular-season and 16 playoff games, mostly for Atlanta. More of a playmaker and defender than scorer, but did average 10.2 a game for the ’78-79 Hawks.

■Guard, Dave Wohl (1971-78). 76ers, Trail Blazers, Braves, Rockets, Knicks, Nets. Penn 1971. 6 feet 1 inch.

There was an obvious attraction for six teams, but not enough for anyone to keep him for very long.

■Guard, Matt Maloney (1996-2003). Rockets, Bulls, Hawks. Penn 1996. 6 feet 3 inches.

It was all about the 3-pointer, starting with his rookie year, when he nailed 154 of them and made second-team All-Rookie. Played more than 20 minutes a game four times.

■Center, Dave Newmark (1968-71). NBA: Bulls, Hawks. ABA: Cougars. Columbia 1968. 7 feet.

Sorry. Best I can do. Big men of promise do not ordinarily gravitate to the Ivies, but do keep your eye on current Yalie Greg Mangano, who has a chance to play for pay. Newmark averaged 5.3 points and 3.9 rebounds per in 145 NBA games.

SPECIAL MENTION

■Tony Lavelli. Yale 1948.

Somerville-bred Yale All-American best known for a great hook shot and for playing accordion at $125 a shot at halftime of Celtics games in the ’48-49 season. Scored 20 in first game with Celtics. No, kiddies, I’m not making this up.

■Jack Molinas. Columbia 1953.

Coulda been a great player, but was imprisoned by a criminal mind. A convicted fixer of college games and admitted dumper in some of the 29 games he played for the 1953-54 Fort Wayne Pistons. Not making this up, either.

■Bud Palmer. Princeton 1946.

Leading scorer on 1946-47 Knicks, and 11.7 ppg scorer in 148 regular-season games. Became one of the first NBA national voices in ’50s telecasts. Dashingly handsome and suave, he was a sought-after endorser of products. Spent seven years in John Lindsay administration as New York City’s “Official Greeter.’’

COACH

Butch van Breda Kolff. Lakers, Pistons, Suns, Jazz. Princeton 1945.

Bill Bradley’s college coach took the Lakers to the Finals in 1969 and 1970. A true Runyonesque character whose postgame routine was closing up bars with the press, unlike today’s joyless mentors, who head to the videotape.

GENERAL MANAGER

Jack McCloskey. Trail Blazers. Pistons. Penn 1948.

Coached the Trail Blazers, but made his real mark as GM/architect of 1989 and 1990 world champion Pistons.

OK, Mr. Lin. There’s your legacy.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist and host of Globe 10.0 on Boston.com. He can be reached at ryan@globe.com.

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