The all-time San Diego State Aztecs men’s basketball team

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Credit: SDSU

Here we are, locked under quarantine. Whatever will we do?

I thought I’d work on an all-time Aztecs basketball team. To make it more fun, though, I wanted to get as many fan responses as possible and write about that. There were only 15 responses, which is better than nothing, but not as much as hoped.

Here are the rules:

It’s a tough thing to do, though, narrowing down all the great players through Aztec history to only 10, so some people listed honorable mentions as well.

One thing that makes the process tricky is determining the criteria. In my case, I didn’t give one, which will make some readers unhappy as they see players they think don’t belong on the list. So keep in mind while reading that the people that voted likely used at least slightly different criteria than others.

Below is an example.

The criteria is purposefully vague to (hopefully) make it more fun for those that participate. With that in mind, here’s how the votes were tallied.

A vote as a starter earned three points, an election as a bench player earned two points, an honorable mention earned one point. There were 15 votes, so 45 points are the maximum. Is that the most scientific way to do it? No, but it helps kill time while on quarantine. With that in mind, let’s get to it. Stats listed are career averages for years as an Aztec, except for PIPM, which is career-high.

Your Starting Lineup:

PG: Xavier Thames (37 Points) – Honorable Mention All American, MWC POY, 7th in KenPom POY, 6.69 PIPM. 10.7 Pts. 2.6 Rebs, 2.8 Asts, 45.2 eFG%

SG: Malachi Flynn (39 Points) – All American*, MWC POY, MWC DPOY, 5th in KenPom POY, 6.65 PIPM. 17.6 Pts, 4.5 Rebs, 5.1 Asts, 53.2 eFG%.

SF: Jamaal Franklin (34 Points) – Honorable Mention All American, MWC POY, 5.54 PIPM. 13.7 Pts, 7 Rebs, 1.9 Asts, 48.4 eFG%.

PF: Kawhi Leonard (45 Points) – 2nd Team All American, 6th in Kenpom POY, 5.82 PIPM. 14.1 Pts, 10.2 Rebs, 2.2 Asts, 47.3 eFG%.

C: Michael Cage (33 Points) – 2nd team All American, 2x WAC POY. 16.5 Pts, 11.8 Rebs, 0.9 Asts, 54.8%.

This exercise was conducted last year, and three of these five players made my starting five. After doing it again after this season ended, this was the starting lineup that came to mind for me. It has been changed since then for reasons that will be explained later, but it is quite hard to argue with this lineup on an accolades/talent basis. This lineup may not do well in the current era of basketball because it lacks spacing, but in terms of accolades, it’d be hard to argue with. One could argue that a guy like Malcolm Thomas should be in the lineup, or maybe Tony Gwynn. While that’d be understandable, it would be swapping him out with a guy who won POY or All American awards, and Thomas, Gwynn, etc. were neither of those. So if accolades and talent are the metrics, as they likely were for most people, this is the lineup.

Bench Lineup: 

6: Malcolm Thomas (23 Points) – 5.54 PIPM. 11.2 Pts, 7.9 Rebs, 2.3 Asts, 54.2 eFG%.

7: Brandon Heath (23 Points) – MWC POY, 2.44 PIPM. 17.5 Pts, 3.4 Rebs, 3.2 Asts, 49 eFG%.

8: Skylar Spencer (21 Points) – 2x MWC DPOY, 3.78 PIPM. 3.8 Pts, 4.5 Rebs, 0.3 Asts, 58.1 eFG%.

9: Billy White (19 Points) – 4.48 PIPM. 9.7 Pts, 4.6 Rebs, 1.2 Asts, 60.9 eFG%.

10: Marcus Slaughter (14 Points) – 13.9 Pts, 8.9 Rebs, 1.3 Asts, 48.8 eFG%.

The bench lineup shows a lot about the makeup of Aztecs’ teams and the culture around the program. The Aztecs have been at their best when they had great big men, and great defensive big men specifically. There is only a single guard in the bench lineup, and it’s the all-time leading scorer in SDSU history.

Here are the rest of the players with how many points they got:

D.J. Gay 12
Tony Gwynn 11
Matt Mitchell 10
J.J. O’Brien 9
Randy Holcomb 7
K.J. Feagin 5
Yanni Wetzell 4
Chase Tapley 4
Trey Kell 4
Tim Shelton 3
Jalen McDaniels 3
Winston Shepard 2
Mohamed Abukar 2
Chad Nelson 2
Jordan Schakel 2
L.eonard Allen 2
Dakarii Allen 2
Jeremy Castleberry 1
Dwayne Polee II 1

Perhaps the most surprising picks are D.J. Gay, Tony Gwynn, and Chase Tapley. Here’s why:

D.J. Gay: He was a fan favorite from a time not that long ago, so he shouldn’t suffer too much from fans not remembering, and Steve Fisher often referred to him as the most important player on the 2011 Sweet 16 team. That mention is reflective of the talent that has come through SDSU since Gay has worn an Aztec jersey.

Credit: Sports Illustrated

Tony Gwynn: I shouldn’t say I’m surprised about Tony not making the team. He played in the late ’70s and early ’80s, his senior year was Michael Cage’s freshman year. Gwynn also never won any POY awards or anything like that. He is the all-time leader in Assists for SDSU men’s basketball, though which is worth something. Gwynn has 111 more assists than the next closest competitor (Richie Williams) despite playing in 20 fewer games. So while it is understandable that there are multiple reasons for Tony Gwynn not making the list, it is still quite surprising.

Chase Tapley: This one really surprised me. Chase Tapley got as many points as Yanni Wetzell. Wetzell talent cannot be denied but Tapley’s has skills that can’t be ignored. He’s the 4th all-time leading scorer, 14th in assists, 4th in steals, and 5th in 3pt fg%. At the time he graduated, he had been on every Aztec team to win a March Madness game. This isn’t to say fans are dumb, because like I said, everyone had their own criteria. This one just really surprised me, that’s all.

That does it for the fan-voted all-time team. If you would like to see my all-time team and some analysis as to why I chose who I chose and put them where I did, continue to page 2.


2 thoughts on “The all-time San Diego State Aztecs men’s basketball team

  1. Whom ever picked the this Top has no knowledge of Basketball. San Diego State Basketball enjoyed more success and National recognition when Kawhi Leonard and Chase Tapley arrived on the MESA! Chase Tapley played in four (4) consecutive NCAA Tournaments and he is not Top 10? Chase is SDSU 4th Career scorer; 4th FG made; 4th 3PG made and etc but he is not Top 10? Heck, his stats and accomplishments not enough to get him in SDSU Basketball Hall of Fame!

    There is no way Thames, Franklin and Flynn should be in Top 5. This is a person’s my favorite or player I like the most list. Thames and Flynn both chose Washington State over SDSU. Obviously, they could not WIN at Washington State until they arrived on the MESA. Here’s the real Top 5. Heath, Cage, Leonard, Tapley and White!

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