Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Kansas Jayhawks logo at mid court prior to the game between the Kansas Jayhawks and the TCU Horned Frogs at Allen Fieldhouse. Credit: William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

When you think of the college basketball bluebloods, one of the first schools that comes to mind is the Kansas Jayhawks. The Jayhawks have won six national championships, played in 16 Final Fours, won 15 conference championships, and produced a bevy of All-Americans and NBA legends.

The Jayhawks’ basketball legacy goes back to the grandfather of basketball Dr. James Naismith, who was the coach at Kansas for nine years.

Here is our list of the 10 greatest Kansas Jayhawks men’s basketball players of all time.

10. Jo Jo White, point guard

Jo Jo White is a two-time second-team All-American who played for the Jayhawks in the late 1960s. He also made the All-Big Eight team three times in a row during his college career. White played in two very important games in the history of basketball. The first was Kansas’s NCAA Tournament loss to Texas Western, the first division I school to start an all-black lineup. He also won a gold medal in the 1968 Olympics while playing for a U.S. team that was without several Black stars who had dropped out or protested due to civil unrest in the country. White not only had a stellar college career but he also had an outstanding NBA career, mostly with the Boston Celtics.

Kansas Jayhawks guard Frank Mason III (0) guards Oregon Ducks guard Payton Pritchard (3) during the second half in the finals of the Midwest Regional of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Sprint Center.
Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

9. Frank Mason III, point guard

A little-known fact about Kansas point guard Frank Mason is that he went to the same high school as Hall of Famer and former Philadelphia 76er Moses Malone. Ironically, he’s also second in school history behind Malone. Mason was an All-American, named Big 12 Player of the Year, and became National Player of the Year. In his senior season, he became the first player in Big 12 history to average 20 points and five assists during the regular season. He bounced around the NBA and G League in his pro career, though he was named G League MVP in 2020.

8. Devonte’ Graham, point guard

A year after Frank Mason did it, Devonte’ Graham was named consensus first-team All-American and Big 12 Player of the Year in 2018. In his senior season, he averaged 17.6 points and 7.2 assists a game. He ended his Kansas career fifth in school history in assists (632), second all-time in three-point field goals made (296), and second all-time in three-pointers attempted (723). He was a part of four Big 12 regular-season champs, and two Big 12 Tournament winners, and played in the 2018 Final Four.

7. Raef LaFrentz, forward/center

When you think of great Kansas players, Raef LaFrentz comes to mind for many Jayhawk fans. LaFrentz was a two-time All-American and two-time Big 12 Player of the Year in 1997 and 1998. He averaged 15.8 points and 9.1 rebounds per game while shooting 55.5 percent from the floor overall during his college career. He ended up ranked second all-time in points (2,066) and rebounds (1,186). LaFrentz played in the NBA for a decade and the Jayhawks retired his No. 45.

6. Clyde Lovellete, center

Clyde Lovellete has the distinction of being the first basketball player to win an NCAA national title, the Olympics gold medal, and an NBA championship. While at Kansas, he led the Jayhawks to the 1952 NCAA title. He also garnered MOP honors while racking up 141 points during the Final Four. The two-time first-team All-American led the Big Seven in scoring three times and led the nation in scoring as a senior (28.4). He was named Helms College Player of the Year in 1954. He played for several teams in the NBA, winning a title with the Minneapolis Lakers and two more with the Boston Celtics. Lovelette was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1988.

5. Drew Gooden, power forward

The 2002 NABC Co-National Player of the Year, Drew Gooden racked up tons of accolades during his time with KU, including being a first-time All-American, Big 12 Player of the Year, and named to the Big 12 All-Defense Team. In 2002, Gooden led the nation in rebounding as the Jayhawks went 33-4 and won their first conference title since 1998 before advancing to the Final Four. Gooden is only the third Kansas player to garner at least 1,500 points, 900 rebounds, 100 blocks, and 100 steals in his college career. His No. 0 jersey was retired in 2003. A member of the 2003 NBA All-Rookie First Team, Gooden has a solid NBA journeyman career.

4. Nick Collison, power forward/center

Nick Collison, along with Kirk Henrich, helped power Kansas to back-to-back Final Fours in 2002 and 2003, losing in the 2003 title game to Syracuse. The two-time first-team All-Big 12 Team member was also named Big 12 Player of the Year and consensus first-team All-American in 2003. At the time he finished his college career as the leading scorer in the history of the Big 12 Conference. He left Kansas ranked second in scoring, third in rebounding, and second in blocks. His No. 4 jersey was retired at Kansas and he went on to have a long NBA career with the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise.

Kansas Jayhawks former player Paul Pierce cheers before the game between the Kansas Jayhawks and the North Carolina Tar Heels during the 2022 NCAA men's basketball tournament Final Four championship game at Caesars Superdome.
Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

3. Paul Pierce, small forward/shooting guard

While Paul Pierce is best known for his time with the Boston Celtics, he was a huge star with the Kansas Jayhawks first. In his first season with KU, he earned honorable mention All-Big Eight honors, was selected second-team Freshman All-American, and was named Big Eight Co-Freshman of the Year alongside Chauncey Billups. As a sophomore, he won the first of two Big 12 Conference tournament MVP awards after averaging 21.7 points and guiding Kansas to the title. In his junior year, he was named First Team All-Big 12 Conference and First Team All-American while scoring 777 points, the fifth-most single-season point total in school history. He left KSU as the fifth-leading scorer in school history (1,786 points) and 11th in rebounds (676). He is a member of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, College Basketball Hall of Fame, and Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

2. Wilt Chamberlin, center

Wilt Chamberlin was a dominant force when he played for the Jayhawks in the late 1950s. The two-time consensus All-American was named NCAA Tournament MOP in 1957 despite Kansas losing to North Carolina in the finals. In two seasons at KU, he averaged 29.9 points and 18.3 rebounds per game, leaving the school with 1,433 points and 877 rebounds in his career in 48 games. Chamberlain left after his junior season to pursue a professional career but his No. 13 jersey was retired by the school and he is a member of the College Basketball Hall of Fame.

Kansas Jayhawks forward Danny Manning (25) in action during the 1987 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Freedom Hall.
Credit: Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

1. Danny Manning, power forward

Danny Manning is No. 1 on this list for several reasons. First, he is a NCAA basketball champion, having led Larry Brown’s 1988 team to a title. A three-time All-American (twice first-team), three-time Big 8 Player of the Year, and NCAA Tournament MVP, he also won another NCAA title with Kansas as an assistant coach in 2008. He left KU as its all-time leading scorer and rebounder and was also the leading scorer in Big Eight Conference history. He won just about every individual accolade in 1988, including the Wooden, Naismith, and NABC awards. His NBA career might not have panned out as hoped but he’ll be a legend in Lawrence, Kansas forever.

About Stacey Mickles

Stacey is a 1995 graduate of the University of Alabama who has previously worked for other publications such as Sportskeeda and Saturday Down South.