Top 10 Best Michigan Basketball Players

Top 10 Best Michigan Basketball Players

The University of Michigan Wolverines have a history of being a football school. Ask anyone, and they’ll easily rattle off a list of former Wolverine football players. But the Wolverines are also known for dominating in many other sports, basketball being one of them. Below are the best Michigan Wolverines basketball players of all time.

Who Are the Best Michigan College Basketball Players of All Time?

  1. Glen Rice
  2. Juwan Howard
  3. Chris Webber
  4. Cazzie Russell
  5. Rudy Tomjanovich
  6. Trey Burke
  7. Gary Grant
  8. Campy Russell
  9. Jamal Crawford
  10. Jalen Rose

1. Glen Rice

  • 1989 Second-Team All-American
  • 1989 NCAA Champion
  • 1989 Big 10 Player of the Year
  • University of Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor
  • His number, 41, was retired by Michigan

Originally born in Arkansas, Glen Rice moved to Flint, Michigan, when he was young. After playing basketball for Flint Northwestern High School, Rice went on to play for the University of Michigan for his entire college career. During his junior year, Rice was invited to try out for the Olympic basketball team, but ultimately was cut. Rice’s senior year (1989) saw his best season yet, where he helped lead the Wolverines to the NCAA Championship. During that season, he averaged 25.6 points per game. During this tournament, he scored 184 points. He continues to have the tournament record for most points scored today and was named Most Outstanding Player while also being named to the All-American Second Team. Rice went on to be the fourth overall pick in the 1989 NBA Draft by the Miami Heat.

2. Juwan Howard

  • Averaged 15.3 points per game
  • Averaged 8.9 rebounds per game
  • Averaged 2.4 assists per game
  • 51% Shooting record
  • During his college career, the Wolverines went a combined 80-22
  • 1994 All-American Associated Press Third Team
  • 1994 NCAA tournament All-Midwest Team

A Chicago native, Howard was a promising prospect from the start. He was a top 12 player during his high school career and was a member of many All-American teams. Right before his freshman year as a Wolverine, he competed in the U.S. Olympic Festival. Howard was known as a strong and dedicated player who once played through the flu in a tournament game. After his time in college, he was the fifth overall pick in the NBA Draft by the Washington Bullets/Wizards and had a 19-year professional playing career. Howard later became the head coach for his alma mater, the Michigan Wolverines, in 2019.

3. Chris Webber

  • 1992 Big 10 Freshman of the Year
  • NCAA All-Tournament Team (1992,1993)
  • Finalist for the John R. Wooden and Naismith College Player of the Year awards
  • 2021 Naismith National Basketball Hall of Fame inductee
  • Named 1993 Unanimous First-Team All-American

After his time at Detroit Country Day, Webber was widely recruited to play college basketball. He was instrumental in leading DCD to three MHSAA championships. After high school graduation, he played for the University of Michigan for two years. Webber was the leader of a group of players known as the Fab Five, a group of five freshmen that entered in 1991, and took the Wolverines to two NCAA Championship Games. He was named to the All-American First Team and was a finalist for two awards: the John R. Wooden award and Naismith College Player of the Year award. Following the University of Michigan basketball scandal, Webber was convicted of perjury and banned from affiliation with the Wolverines until 2013. Webber went on to be the first pick in the 1993 draft by the Orlando Magic, becoming the first college sophomore to be a number one overall pick since Magic Johnson.

4. Cazzie Russell

  • Led the Wolverines to three Big 10 Championships (1964-1966)
  • Three-time All-American selection (1964 Second-Team, 1965-1966 First-Team)
  • Two-time Big Ten Player of the Year (1965, 1966)

During his high school career, Russell was named the Chicago Sun-Times Boy’s Player of the Year. At the University of Michigan, Russell led the Wolverines to three Big 10 championships and two final four appearances, as well as a second place finish in the 1965 NCAA Tournament. He was named the National College Player of the Year in 1966. After his time with the Wolverines, Russell was the first pick in the 1967 draft by the New York Knicks and was part of the All-Rookie team in 1967. Russell played for four different teams over the course of a twelve season career in the NBA. Russell’s number 33 was retired by the University of Michigan. In 1991, he was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame and the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.

5. Rudy Tomjanovich

  • 1973 All-American
  • Holds the highest total rebounds in Michigan history (1,039)
  • 1968 Second-Team All-Big Ten honors

A native Michigander, Tomjanovich played for the Wolverines for three years. He was known to have a strong jump shot and had an instinct for quickly grabbing rebounds. During his time, he set the record for rebounds. In 1968, he received Second-Team All-Big Ten honors. In the ‘69 and ‘70 seasons, he earned first-team honors. Following his college career, Tomjanovich was the second overall pick of the 1970 NBA Draft, where he was picked by the San Diego Rockets. He played for them for the rest of his career. Both the Rockets and the Wolverines retired Tomjanovich’s #45 jersey.

6. Trey Burke

  • 2013 Naismith Award recipient
  • 2013 Big Ten Player of the Year
  • 2013 Bob Cousy Award recipient

During his high school career, Burke participated in the Amteur Athletic Union. His freshman year with the Wolverines saw him named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Burke was a second team selection to the National Association of Basketball Coaches Division I All-District team. He also earned team MVP, making him the eight freshman to earn this honor, as well as the Gary Grant Award, which is given to the player with the most assists. Burke was one of sixty finalists for the Bob Cousy award, eventually becoming one of the 20 finalists. In 2012, Burke was at his college career high of 30 points which established a school record for the Big Ten Conference men’s basketball tournament. Following a strong college career, Burke was the 9th selection in the 2013 NBA draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves and was traded to the Utah Jazz for the 14th and 21st pick. 

7. Gary Grant

  • 1988 All-American
  • Two time All-Big Ten First-Team (1987, 1988)
  • Two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year (1987, 1988)

Known as “the General,” Gary Grant held several Wolverine records. After being recruited heavily from McKinley high school, Grant started 128 of 129 career games while guiding the Wolverines to a 100-29 record and helping them appear in four NCAA Tournaments consecutively. Throughout his career, Grant won Big Ten Rookie of the Year, was named to the All-Big Ten first team, and won Big 10 Player of the Year. Grant continues to hold several Wolverine records, including career starts, career assists, career steals, career minutes, career turnovers, single-season assists per game, single-season steals, single-season turnovers, single-game assists, and single-game steals. Following his time with the Wolverines, Grant went on to be drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics but had his rights traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. 

8. Campy Russell

  • 1974 Big Ten Player of the Year
  • 1974  Consensus Second-Team All-American
  • Led the Big Ten in scoring in 1974 (24 points per game)

After playing for Pontiac Central, Campy Russell was considered the best prep school basketball player and a top recruit. He was selected as Michigan High School Player of the Year twice and MVP in three postseason all-star games. With a solid team alongside him, Russell led the Wolverines to a tie with Indiana for first place in the Big Ten conference. Under Russell, the Wolverines qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1966. After his college career, Russell played for the Cleveland Cavaliers and the New York Knicks.

9. Jamal Crawford

  • Averaged 16.6 points per game
  • Averaged 4.5 assists per game
  • Second on the team for blocks with a 0.9 per game average

In one year with the Michigan Wolverines, Jamal Crawford made an impression. In high school, he was named to the 1999 Parade Magazine high school All-American second-team and was a top ten prospect by Recruiting USA. He averaged 16.6 points and 4.5 assists per game as a freshman at Michigan. Shortly after his freshman year, he declared for the 2000 NBA Draft. Crawford was the eighth overall pick in the draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers but was traded to the Chicago Bulls.

10. Jalen Rose

  • Inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 2017
  • 1992 NCAA All-Tournament
  • 1994 First-Team All-Big Ten

A Detroit native, Jalen Rose started his career by playing under Perry Watson at Southwestern High School. A part of the Fab Five, Rose helped lead his team to two consecutive NCAA Championship Game appearances. Rose played for the Wolverines for three years before being the 13th pick in the first round of the 1994 by the Denver Nuggets. In his 13-year NBA career, Rose played for a total of six teams. After his basketball career, Rose worked as Sideline Reporter for TNT and has also worked for ABC/ESPN and in 2012, he became a host for the NBA Countdown.

Honorable Mentions

  • Roy Tarpley
  • Tim Hardaway
  • Dan Fife
  • DeShawn Sims
  • Maceo Baston
  • Sean Higgins
  • Terry Mills
  • Loy Vaught
  • Louis Bullock
  • John Tidwell


Who is the best Michigan men’s basketball player of all time?

The best Michigan men’s basketball player of all time is Glen Rice. He played for four seasons with the Wolverines and helped lead them to the NCAA National Championship title in his final year. During that season, he averaged 25.6 points per game. After his college career, he was selected with the fourth overall pick of the 1989 NBA Draft by the Miami Heat.