This is not meant as a definitive list.
Far from it.
And we want to make that clear right from the start.
But . . . we have some time on our hands at the moment.
(OK, a lot of time.)
So we decided to have some fun with one of the Capital Region sports scene’s most-often discussed questions: From the area’s rich history in boys’ basketball, which players were the best?
Figuring out a pure ranking is next to impossible given the surplus of worthy players and the vast differences between the eras. But putting together hypothetical five-man lineups, plus a coach, is easy enough to do, and a blast to put together. So four members of The Daily Gazette’s sports department — Michael Kelly, Mike MacAdam, Jim Schiltz and Adam Shinder — spent the last several days participating in a snake-style fantasy draft picking up teams.
Our criteria for inclusion for players was relatively simple. A player needed to spend multiple seasons playing for one of the Capital Region’s high schools, but did not need to graduate from an area high school. Players, though, are listed with the final area high school they played for during their high-school careers. The entirety of a player’s basketball career was considered.
Every player and coach that was picked is either a member of multiple halls of fame or is on their way to such a distinction. Numerous players and coaches that were not picked were certainly deserving of landing on one of these four teams, to the point that a team made up solely of undrafted players would dazzle with its quality.
And with all that out of the way . . . Shinder, as our newest staff member, will get us going.
Shinder takes . . . Sam Perkins (Shaker)
I’ll start out with what I feel is a pretty safe pick at No. 1 overall. Perkins started his high school career at Samuel J. Tilden in Brooklyn, but after transferring to Shaker was a two-time first-team all-state selection and the state’s 1980 large-school player of the year.
Perkins’ post-high school career is certainly the most accomplished of any Capital Region product, as a three-time All-American at the University of North Carolina, a 1982 NCAA champion, a 1984 Olympic gold medalist, the No. 4 pick in the 1984 NBA Draft and a 17-year NBA veteran who averaged double figures in scoring in each of his first 13 seasons.
He’s also 6-foot-9, 235 pounds, could play any of the three frontcourt spots and once made eight consecutive 3-pointers in a game, tying what was then the NBA record. Plug him into any era, you’ve got a guy you can build my team around.
Kelly takes . . . Barry Kramer (Linton)
The best part about Shinder’s opening pick is that the majority of readers will look at it, nod and move on . . . and, then, there’s a smaller, passionate group of readers who will be incredibly upset that Perkins — “Who barely played here!” they’ll scream — was picked No. 1.
And I’m here for those readers.
So I’m taking Kramer, who many judge — see what I did there? — to be the greatest homegrown basketball talent the Capital Region has produced.
The quickest description of a career revered by many: Kramer won multiple area titles as a high school player, was an All-American at both the high school and college levels, and was the No. 6 pick in the 1964 NBA draft.
With a versatile 6-foot-4 scoring machine off the board, how do you want to respond, Mac?
MacAdam takes . . . Pat Riley (Linton)
*Ahem, shuffles stack of notes*
— All-American in high school and college, starred at Linton High, where his team defeated Power Memorial (featuring a 6-10 freshman center named Lew Alcindor) for the championship of a Christmas tournament in 1961. That gym is now named after Riley.
— As a junior playing for Adolph Rupp at the University of Kentucky in 1965-66, named SEC Player of the Year and All-NCAA Tournament Team as the Wildcats reached the NCAA championship game before losing to Texas Western.
— First round NBA draft pick in 1967 who played 10 seasons and won an NBA title with the L.A. Lakers in 1972.
— Padded this resume by doing a few things as an NBA coach and executive, too.
Your move(s), Jimbo.
Schiltz takes . . . Jimmer Fredette (Glens Falls)
The one-time Section II career scoring leader was a must-see act while playing at Glens Falls. You went to watch a game, but you couldn’t keep your eyes off the talent who scored from everywhere, but also created for others with excellent ball-handling. He scored more than 2,000 points during his Glens Falls career, and led them to a state-title game.
He later led BYU to heights it hadn’t seen in years while gaining national attention for himself, and was voted the national player of the year.
Had a slew of huge scoring performances at both the scholastic and collegiate levels. I always marveled at his shooting range.
Had a few NBA runs and also achieved superstar status overseas.
Schiltz takes . . . Sidney Edwards (Linton)
The guy played three years for the Harlem Globetrotters! Do I need to say any more?
OK, I will.
Graduated from Linton in 1970 with well over 1,000 points, and poured in 50 in a Section II tournament win vs. rival Mont Pleasant. Averaged 21-15 as junior and 27-17 as senior when he was named a high school All-American as well as The Daily Gazette’s player of the year. His senior team finished 22-0 and is considered among the best in area history.
He later played on scholarship at Houston and in the NCAA tournament. Averaged 15-10 as a senior, and had 20 rebounds in his final game with the Cougars. Closed his college career among Houston’s leaders in several categories.
MacAdam takes . . . Greg Koubek (Shenendehowa)
It was over a decade before Kevin Huerter and Joseph Girard III were even born that Koubek became the first Section II player to earn the title of Mr. New York Basketball (sharing it with King Rice of Binghamton).
He picked up that little piece of hardware after leading the Plainsmen to a state championship as a senior in 1987 and capping his career with 1,972 points and 682 rebounds.
Koubek went on to play 146 games for Duke University, becoming the first player in NCAA history to play in four Final Fours. In his last college game, the senior captain started and helped the Blue Devils beat Kansas for the 1991 national championship.
Kelly takes . . . Kevin Huerter (Shenendehowa)
There are some that will say Huerter is picked too early here because he’s so young, while others will say his relative inexperience kept him from being picked before this spot.
Count me in the latter camp. Huerter’s NBA career is only in its second season, but he’s already well on his way to becoming one of our area’s most accomplished professional basketball players. He’s a steal at No. 7 overall, just like he was a steal at No. 19 in the 2018 NBA draft for the Atlanta Hawks.
Huerter hasn’t had the chance to play two full NBA seasons yet, he’s already scored only 27 fewer NBA points than Fredette has in his professional career. Huerter is on his way to becoming one of the area’s most accomplished professional players, and he’d appear to be a slam-dunk pick to make the most cash playing the sport from the Capital Region.
Meanwhile, before playing at the University of Maryland for two seasons, Huerter starred on the high school level. He led Shenendehowa to a state championship as a junior and an appearance in the state semifinals as a senior, and swept every major state individual award as a senior in 2016. He’s played a couple summers with USA Basketball teams, too.
Shinder takes . . . Luther “Ticky” Burden (Philip Schuyler)
True confession time: I was really hoping Huerter would last one more spot, he was absolutely my pick here if available. Since I’m the relative newcomer to the region of this group, Huerter is also a guy I’ve actually seen play, which I was hoping would make up for my relative lack of schooling in the region’s history.
With Huerter off the board, I’ll dive into that history and snag Burden, a legend in Albany who scored 28.7 points per game as a junior in college at Utah and led the U.S. national team in scoring at the 1974 FIBA World Championships, with his 20.2 points per game at that tournament, which held up as the best American mark at the world championships until Kevin Durant surpassed him in 2010.
Burden’s pro career was brief — a year in the ABA with the Virginia Squires and two in the NBA with the New York Knicks — before running into knee problems that ended his time in pro basketball.
At his peak, Burden was an explosive scorer in the era before the 3-point shot. I’ll gladly pair him in my backcourt with …
Shinder takes . . . Talor Battle (Bishop Maginn)
Battle was the star point guard for coach Rich Hurley’s stellar Bishop Maginn teams, leading the Golden Griffins to the 2007 Class AA state championship game as a senior and scoring 2,161 points as a high schooler. He went on to become maybe the greatest player in Penn State history, setting the program’s all-time scoring record. In his junior season of 2009-10, Battle was the only power-conference player in the entire country to lead his team in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals. He was the first player in the history of the Big 10 to reach 2,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists for his career.
Oh, and he almost never came off the floor. Battle averaged a ridiculous 35.8 minutes per game over a four-year college career, averaging more than 37 minutes per game in each of his final three seasons in Happy Valley. He led Penn State to the NIT title in 2009 and an NCAA Tournament berth in 2011 while earning multiple All-Big 10 honors.
Kelly takes . . . Willie Deane (Schenectady)
I thought Ticky might make it back to me, but I’ll happily secure Deane with a selection that completes the opening 10 picks of our draft fun.
Deane was an all-conference player at Purdue University and won multiple championships during his years playing professionally overseas.
But, man, he was someone you needed to see when he played at the high-school level. He was a force, and someone who just attacked, attacked and attacked in scoring 1,500 career points for the Patriots. The Schenectady team he led as a senior won 28 games and the 1998 state championship, and memorably won its Section II final with a 71-37 romp.
MacAdam takes . . . Dick Suprunowicz (Mont Pleasant)
Going old school on you whippersnappers with this one, and risking the wrath of the Suprunowicz family for singling out one of three Schenectady School District Athletic Hall of Famers (Mack and Walt are also inductees).
You could count the number of games Dick’s Mont Pleasant team lost his last two years on one hand — even if somebody cut off all your fingers and your thumb.
In three years as a starter before graduating in 1947, Suprunowicz experienced just one loss, then moved on to Syracuse University, where he started all three years that he was eligible (freshmen weren’t allowed on the varsity).
SU went 55-25 during those three seasons, but my favorite bullet point in his Schenectady City School District Athletic Hall of Fame induction notes is “his outstanding play vs. Bob Cousy of Holy Cross” to earn Athlete of the Week from the — albeit biased, but otherwise journalistically sound — Syracuse Daily Orange.
Schiltz takes . . . James Thomas (Schenectady)
Though the 6-foot-8 power forward left Schenectady High School for Hargrave Military Academy after his junior year, he certainly left his mark as the premier front line player on one of Section II’s best teams ever. That was the Patriots 28-1 state championship edition in 1997-98 that won the first of Schenectady’s two NYSPHSAA Class A championships. Thomas had 20 points and 13 rebounds in a semifinal win over Newburgh Free Academy and scored 18 in the title-game win over Hempstead, and made the all-tournament team.
Thomas averaged over 14 points and 12 rebounds and delivered numerous strong defensive efforts during his junior year at Schenectady, and was a Gazette All-Area first-team selection along with teammate and star guard Willie Deane. As a sophomore, Thomas helped Schenectady reach the Section II title game.
Thomas played four years at Texas and amassed 1,149 points and 1,077 rebounds. His 2003 team was a top seed in the NCAA tournament and lost to eventual champion Syracuse in the semifinals.
Thomas was the NBA Development League Rookie of the Year in 2004-05 and had stints with the Portland Trail Blazers, Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers and Chicago Bulls. He also played at the international level, and with the Albany Patroons in 2006 when he was selected the CBA’s top rookie and made the league’s all-star first team and all-defensive team.
Schiltz takes . . . Lionel Chalmers (Albany)
The quick and explosive 6-foot-0 guard played three varsity seasons at Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons before spending his senior year at Albany, when, in 1999, he led the Falcons to the Big 10 championship and a spot in the Section II Class A final. Averaged 29 points as a junior and departed ND-BG with a school record 1,530 points. Averaged 22.4 points at Albany when he repeated as a Daily Gazette All-Area first-team selection and was named a Big 10 first-team all-star for the third time.
His Xavier teams won two Atlantic 10 regular season titles and two Atlantic 10 tournament titles, and reached the NCAA tournament four times highlighted by the school’s first run to the Elite 8 during his final campaign. Chalmers scored 1,556 points at Xavier.
Chalmers spent time with three NBA teams including the Los Angeles Clippers, who drafted him in the second round in 2004, and went on to excel overseas with several teams.
MacAdam takes . . . Joseph Girard III (Glens Falls)
I like to have a little mystery in my life. That way, you can approach each day with a sense of wonder at what the world might offer.
(Related: I also bet on horse racing.)
This is not a typical draft of speculation, but a historical, conceptual one. Nevertheless, I’m OK with picking a work-in-progress of JG3’s stature based on his ridiculously unprecedented body of work as a high school player and one promising college season as a freshman starting point guard at Syracuse.
Because his career is still as fresh as a new nylon net waiting for 30-footers to rip through it, I won’t belabor his stats or achievements other than to mention the 4,763 career points at Glens Falls, where he led his team to Class B state and federation championships last year as a senior. Next up on the NYS scoring list is Lance Stephenson with 2,946 . . . and players such as Kenny Anderson, Jimmer Fredette, Stephon Marbury, Lew Alcindor, Christian Laettner and Elton Brand.
Kelly takes . . . Luther Rackley (Troy)
I need a big man, so I’ll take the 6-foot-11 center who graduated from Troy in 1965 before embarking on a stellar career at Xavier and an NBA career that spanned from 1969 to 1974. As a senior at Xavier, Rackley averaged 17.5 points and 14.0 rebounds before he was the No. 37 pick in the 1969 NBA draft.
Not too bad with the No. 15 pick in our draft here.
Within area lore, Rackley is known as the top player on Troy High School’s 1965 squad that finished 22-0 and was considered at the time to be one of the nation’s best teams.
Shinder takes . . . Craig Forth (Columbia)
After back-to-back guard picks the last time around, it’s time to add an Extremely Tall Human to my roster, and who better to fit that bill than the 7-foot-1 Forth, who ended his career at Columbia in 2001 as the school’s all-time leader in points, rebounds and blocked shots?
Also, this finally provides an opportunity to dip into massive, blatant Syracuse Orange homerism, as Forth’s final two years at Syracuse coincided with my first two years on campus, so I saw him play a ton of basketball. Forth’s career stats at Syracuse won’t blow anyone away as he was never a top offensive option on teams that featured the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Hakim Warrick and Gerry McNamara, but the guy started all 136 games of his four-year career, was the starting center on the 2003 NCAA champions and was always a reliable defensive presence anchoring Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone.
I was also there for the final game of his college career, when Syracuse lost to Vermont in the opening round of the 2005 NCAA Tournament in Worcester, Massachusetts, and thinking of T.J. Sorrentine hitting that 3-pointer from the parking lot in overtime just got me depressed.
Shinder takes . . . Joe Cremo (Scotia-Glenville)
Another guy I saw firsthand, Cremo was the linchpin of one of the most impressive team runs in recent Section II history as his Scotia-Glenville teams won both the state and Federation Class A titles in 2014 then repeated as the NYSPHSAA champions in 2015. A true three-level scorer, Cremo scored 2,159 points for the Tartans, and during his four varsity seasons, Scotia-Glenville put up a completely absurd record of 92-7 while winning four straight Class A area titles before graduating in 2015.
Cremo then proceeded to author a fantastic three years at UAlbany, where he was the America East Rookie of the Year and Sixth-Man of the Year as a freshman, a second-team all-conference pick as a sophomore when he set the program’s single-season record for minutes played, and was a first-team all-conference selection during a phenomenal junior season where he averaged 17.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game while shooting 45.8% from 3-point range.
After scoring 1,469 points in three seasons for the Great Danes, he spent 2018-19 as a grad transfer at Villanova, playing a reserve role on a Wildcats team that won the Big East conference tournament.
Kelly takes . . . Dick Grubar (Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons)
With my final pick, I need someone to manage my team of scorers in Willie Deane, Kevin Huerter, Barry Kramer and Luther Rackley.
So I’m looking for another guard, and it’s easy enough to spot the one I need is Grubar who helped lead the University of North Carolina to back-to-back-to-back trips to the Final Four in the 1960s. The 6-foot-4 Grubar from Schenectady played in 92 career games for the Tar Heels, and averaged 13 points per game as a senior before he was drafted in both the ABA and NBA drafts.
He never played for the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA, but did briefly play for the Indiana Pacers in the ABA.
MacAdam takes . . . Antoni Wyche (Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons)
He was The Daily Gazette Player of the Year in 1995 as a senior, and also played for a powerhouse Bishop Gibbons team with Antonio Delgado, Kashif Hameed and Joe Taylor that won the Section II Class B championship in 1994 and reached the state quarterfinals.
Wyche finished his high school career with 1,266 points, then played 108 games at the University of Notre Dame, serving as captain in his senior year.
He gets bonus points in my book for providing the opportunity to mention that, in his long pro career, he averaged 21 ppg while helping Fersped Rabotnicki win a Macedonian First Division Championship; averaged 26 ppg for Club de Mayas in Mexico; and played for Kouvot in Finland, Niigata Albirex in Japan and teams in Qatar and Jordan.
Schiltz takes . . . Rashaun Freeman (Schenectady)
As a junior, the 6-foot-9 Freeman was the frontline centerpiece on Schenectady’s NYSPHSAA Class A title team that went 28-1 during the 2000-01 season. In a 63-43 state semifinal win over Niagara Falls, he had 25 points and nine rebounds, and in the 69-45 title-game win over Hempstead the all-tournament team selection had 18 points and nine boards.
Freeman averaged 15.1 points as a junior at Schenectady, and 17.8 as a senior in another 20-plus win season.
Freeman was a three-time Atlantic 10 first-team all-star while at the University of Massachusetts and was selected the league’s rookie of the year. He graduated from UMass fourth on its all-time scoring list (1,744) and third on its all-time rebounding list (998). UMass played in the NIT his senior year in 2007.
Freeman played at the international level at such places as France, Germany, Belgium and Russia, and was on several league championship teams while earning all-star and MVP honors.
Schiltz takes . . . George Mardigan (Coach — Watervliet)
In a three-decade run at his alma mater, Watervliet, George “Burch” Mardigan led his Cannoneers to a Section II-record 546 wins (only 158 defeats) with 14 Section II championships. Five of those teams won regional titles, and his 1990-91 edition went 28-0 in capturing NYSPHSAA and federation Class C championships.
Mardigan, a retired history teacher known for in-depth study of opponents, his sideline antics and a trusty maroon towel slung over his shoulder, never had a losing team when he stepped away from the program early in the 2007-08 season. Twelve of his teams won 20 games or more. He oversaw a 43-game win streak. His first Section II title came in 1982 at the Class CC level, and his last came in 2007 at the Class B level.
His long list of standout players includes Kevin Yanni, Andre Cook, Yorden Huban, Todd Birmingham, Dom Fruscio and Brian Fruscio, who is currently coaching and building his own impressive resume at Albany Academy.
MacAdam takes . . . Walt Przybylo (Coach — Canajoharie, Nott Terrace, Linton)
I don’t know if Pat Riley invented this line that’s sometimes used in reference to somebody’s coach, but the first time I heard it was while covering a D.A.R.E. speaking engagement by Riley in Rotterdam.
Asked about his former high school coach, he said, “Walt Przybylo forgot more about basketball than I’ll ever know.”
Riley said this in the late 1980s, while he was in the midst of coaching the L.A. Lakers to four NBA championships.
At Nott Terrace and Linton, Przybylo had a record of 270-96, including two Blue Devils teams that went undefeated. At one point, his teams from 1959 to 1961 played 46 straight games without losing. His 1969-70 team went 22-0 and finished the season ranked No. 1 in the state.
The gym at the now merged Schenectady High may have Riley’s name on it, but the floor itself, where all of the real basketball stuff happens, bears that of Przybylo.
Kelly takes . . . Jim Zullo (Coach — Shenendehowa, Broadalbin-Perth)
Zullo’s Section II career includes stints at two schools, but his entire high school coaching career includes time at four schools stretched across three sections.
Zullo’s teams won hundreds of games between stops at schools of all sizes, and his tenure at Shenendehowa included six area titles and he also had championship success at Broadalbin-Perth during a short stint leading the Patriots.
Of course, I’ve buried the lead here: His Shenendehowa team featuring Greg Koubek and Brendan O’Sullivan won the 1987 Class A state championship.
Shinder takes . . . Francis “Dutch” Howlan (Coach — St. Mary’s Institute, Bishop Scully)
Haven’t played to the Amsterdam crowd yet, might as well wrap up this draft by going to that well and taking a coach who was absolutely beloved during his 30-plus year run at St. Mary’s Institute and Bishop Scully. Howlan won 468 games with the Gaels and Mohawks, including the Section II Class B title in 1981, as he ran the program from 1953 to 1987 — with the exception of a one-year gap for illness in the 1979-80 season.
Howlan had a reputation for coaching excellent big men, so I have no doubt he would have taken great advantage of the 14 feet of human being in the post with Perkins and Forth.
(Selections are listed with which number draft pick they were selected.)
Barry Kramer, 2; Kevin Huerter, 7; Willie Deane, 10; Luther Rackley, 15; Dick Grubar, 18; coach Jim Zullo, 23.
Pat Riley, 3; Greg Koubek, 6; Dick Suprunowicz, 11; Joseph Girard, 14; Antoni Wyche, 19; coach Walt Przybylo, 22.
Jimmer Fredette, 4; Sidney Edwards, 5; James Thomas, 12; Lionel Chalmers, 13; Rashaun Freeman, 20; coach George Mardigan, 21.
Sam Perkins, 1; Luther “Ticky” Burden, 8; Talor Battle, 9; Craig Forth, 16; Joe Cremo, 17; coach Francis “Dutch” Howlan, 24.
Editor’s note: In future weeks, we plan to conduct more Daily Gazette fantasy drafts covering other regional sports, programs and athletes. If readers have any suggestions for topics they’d like to see examined, please send them to [email protected].