UC Men’s Basketball: Most Important Athlete of Every Decade | Sports

University of Cincinnati Senior Guard Sean Kilpatrick celebrates after the Bearcats defeat University of Connecticut Huskies 61-56 in Fifth Third Arena on March 2, 2013.

With the start of NCAA basketball approaching, it’s time for Bearcat fans to get involved in the hardwood season. Take a look at the University of Cincinnati’s greatest basketball player in each decade, from their 50s to 10s, based on their career in Queen City.

1950s: Oscar Robertson (1957-60)

This is a no-brainer. Oscar Robertson is considered one of the most prolific NCAA Division I basketball players of all time. “The Big O” is widely considered to be the best player to ever play red and black. Robertson has posted video game-like numbers in his three seasons as Bearcat.

He averaged 33.8 points per game (ppg) and 15.2 rebounds per game (rpg), both of which rank first in school history. His 33.8 ppg is 13.7 points higher than Lloyd Batts in second place. Robertson accumulated 2,973 career points in just three seasons, still good for 11th place in NCAA Division 1 history and 828 points higher than his closest competitor in Bearcat history.

A three-time All-American Consensus First Team, he was named Sporting News Player of the Year every year he played for UC. In the 1960 NBA draft, Robertson was drafted by the Cincinnati Kings (now Sacramento) and became an NBA MVP and 12-time All-Star.

Considered one of the best point guards the game has ever seen, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in 1980.

1960s: Ron Bonham (1961-64)

Bonham, a two-time consensus All-American (one first team, one second), led the Bearcats to their second consecutive NCAA championship in 1962. He averaged 19.6 ppg over his three year career, good for third place among the Bearcats, just behind him Oscar Robertson and Lloyd Batts.

Bonham poured in 24.4 ppg for his senior season, the sixth highest scoring average in school history. Bonham was selected as the final choice in the first round of the 1964 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics and spent two years with the team that won the NBA championship during those two years.

After the suspension of the 1966 season, Bonham moved to the Indiana Pacers, then a member of the American Basketball Association, before retiring from basketball.

1970s: Pat Cummings (1974-79)

Cummings’ name is a 6-foot-9 troop in the post and tops the UC record books in several categories. His 756 field goals are the second best in school history, and his 1,762 career points are good for eighth place.

Cummings scored an efficient goal and set the UC record in a season for percentage of field goals with 64.2% as a junior. His career percentage of 58.1% is just behind Kenyon Martin. Cummings was drafted as a junior by the Milwaukee Bucks in the third round of the 1978 NBA draft. Due to a rule at the time, he was able to end his senior season before moving to the NBA.

Cummings made the most of that senior season and was named Metro Conference Player of the Year after dominating the competition with 24.5 ppg, the fifth highest single-season mark ever made by a Bearcat.

His production this season wasn’t limited to his offense as he hit a career high of 11.3 RPG. Cummings played 12 seasons in the NBA for five teams and played in nearly 700 games for the association.

1980s: Roger McClendon (1984-88)

McClendon, one of the foremost shooters in Bearcat history, shot 47.6% from beyond the three-point line in his junior season, a mark that is still the best in program history. Though the three-point line was only introduced to Queen City for his final two years, McClendon scored 1,789 points in his four-year career, the sixth highest ever scored by a Bearcat.

McClendon was a high profile recruit, a four year old starter for head coach Tony Yates, and averaged over 12 ppg each season of his career. McClendon drove his hot shooting from deep in his junior year to a scoring average of 19.9 ppg, the highest in the Metro Conference.

McClendon has also made it on the defensive side of the ball this season, counting 1.7 steals per game (spg), the third highest in the conference. Upon graduation, McClendon suffered an injury in a professional summer league and was not drafted into the NBA.

1990s: Danny Fortson (1994-97)

Fortson receives the nod for the 1990s over Kenyon Martin for his three year elite performance to Martins. In his three years as a bear cat, Fortson averaged 18.8 ppg, fourth in school history. With his 1,881 career points, he finished fifth on the school’s all-time list.

Fortson was a two-time Conference USA Player of the Year and led UC to the NCAA tournament every season of his career, including a trip to the Elite Eight in 1996. Fortson averaged over 20 in both his second and junior seasons ppg and nine rpg and was named Consensus Second and First Team All American.

Fortson was voted 10th overall in 1997 by the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Draft and achieved an average of 20.1 minutes per game in 10 seasons in the NBA.

2000s: Deonta Vaughn (2006-10)

As a four-year-old starter, Vaughn preceded Steve Logan and played Logan’s two in four seasons in the 2000s. The 6-foot-1 Vaughn has set a career record of 511 assists, which now ranks second in program history behind Troy Caupain.

Vaughn was an extremely successful goalscorer. His 313 career three-pointers are most associated with Sean Kilpatrick of a Bearcat. Vaughn shot the deep ball with a 34.3% clip, good for the fifth all-time at UC. A strong second campaign of 17.3 ppg and 4.2 assists per game (apg) earned Vaughn a spot on the First Team All-Big East roster.

A skilled defense attorney, he recorded 172 steals in his four years, the third ever in Bearcat history. After his numbers dipped slightly as a senior, Vaughn continued to play basketball overseas.

2010s: Sean Kilpatrick (2010–14)

While Oscar Robertson is the strongest consensus player in Bearcat history, Sean Kilpatrick has possibly the strongest case of being in second place. Kilpatrick has played in more games than anyone in Bearcat history, and his 2,145 career points are second only to Robertson.

His 313 field goals behind the arch are most associated with Vaughn for a UC player. It also ranks among the top 5 in program history for field goals scored, three-point percentage, free throw percentage, thefts and player efficiency rating.

A native of New York, Yonkers helped the Bearcats reach the NCAA tournament in all four seasons. Kilpatrick averaged 20.6 ppm in his busy season to run the American Athletic Conference and helped him get named Consensus Second Team All-American.

After not being drafted in the 2014 NBA draft, Kilpatrick spent time with five NBA teams from 2014-18, appearing in 157 games. In 2019 he signed a contract to play in the EuroLeague abroad.

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