Point Guard – Isiah Thomas (1979-1981)
Every kid who grew up watching basketball in the 90’s should have no problem remembering Thomas. He was a member of the Bad Boy Pistons in the NBA and still has an ongoing rivalry with Michael Jordan. Zeke, as he is also known, is one of the best players in Pistons history, is a member of the NBA Hall of Fame, and is often thought of as one of the best players in the history of the NBA. There would be no NBA without his career at Indiana playing for Coach Knight.
Thomas to Indiana almost didn’t happen. In the recruiting process the guard received letters saying that coach Knight mistreated his players and then when the former head coach went to Thomas house he got into a shouting match with the family over a dispute about where the rest of the family wanted Thomas to go to school. After arriving at Indiana, the point guard almost didn’t make it. Coach Knight threatened to send him home on several occasions his freshman year, because Thomas was too flashy and was not playing the way coach Knight wanted him to. Coach Knight didn’t care who you were, how good you were, or how many points you scored. He was going to force you to run his philosophy and run his offense. He knew it worked and he was going to show that it was his way. No single player was above the system.
Thomas got it together to have one of the best two year careers in Hoosier history. The point guard averaged 15.4 points per game and 5.7 assists over his career. Those numbers are good but there was so much more to them. The guard was so good that he actually forced the hand of Knight and forced him to change his style of play to put his star in a better position to lead the team. It paid off because the Hoosiers won the NCAA Title in 1981 and Thomas was the catalyst for that team. In addition to the National Championship, Thomas was first team All-American, MVP of the Final Four, and the 1980 USA Basketball Athlete of the Year.
The accomplishments for Thomas are not going to be as long as some of the other players on this list but that is because he only played in Bloomington for two seasons. Thomas is still legendary in Bloomington, students won’t likely give him a standing ovation in a lecture hall anymore, but he was so good that he will always be welcome back with open arms at Indiana. The point guard turned his success at Indiana into being the second overall pick in the 1981 NBA draft to the Pistons.