Michigan State is notorious for their number of quality shooting guards/small forwards. Below is my list of the top 10 in MSU history. I categorized these positions together because of Jud Heathcote’s and Tom Izzo’s coaching strategies. As we know, Heathcote and Izzo love to utilize the fast-break offense, and this list is comprised mostly of wings that played for each of them. If we think back to the 2005 Final Four team, when Shannon Brown and Maurice Ager were playing on the wings, no one can really decipher who was the shooting guard or who was the small forward.
Just a heads-up, Steve Smith is not on this page because he was put on the top 10 point guard list.
10. Ralph Simpson (1969-70)
Simpson only played for Michigan State for one year and some might think that he doesn’t belong on this list, but his numbers are hard to ignore. In just one season with the Spartans, the 6’5″ shooting guard averaged 29 points per game. Simpson also averaged 10.4 rebounds during that season, which ranks sixth in school history. He was named to the NABC All-American Third Team that year as well. His career high of 42 points came early in the season when the Spartans beat Western Michigan. Two weeks later, he dropped 40 points on Oregon.
9. Stan Washington (1963-66)
Stan Washington played for three seasons for the Spartans under two different coaches, Forrest “Forddy” Anderson and John Benington, and finished his career averaging a double-double. He averaged 18 points per game, which ranks sixth in among Spartans all-time. The 6’3″ wing was also a tremendous rebounder averaging 10.5 boards throughout his career, which ranks fifth in school history. Washington made the All-Big Ten Third Team in 1964, Second Team in 1965, and First Team in 1966.
8. Jason Richardson (1999-01)
J-Rich probably would have been much higher on this list if he would have stayed all four years instead of two. However, Richardson has been one of the most successful Spartans in the NBA. The 6’6″, 225 pound guard is one of the most freakishly, athletic players that has ever worn the green and white. He is widely known for his ability to dunk the ball, winning the NBA Slam Dunk contest in 2002 and 2003. Richardson was part of two Big Ten titles, one Big Ten Tournament crown, two Final Fours, and one National Championship. As a starter in his sophomore year, he averaged 14.7 points per game, which helped him make the All-Big Ten First Team that year as well as the Consensus All-American Second Team.
7. Shannon Brown (2003-06)
Another player who was extremely gifted with dunking the ball, Brown, left after three great seasons in a Spartan uniform. Along with his disgusting elevation, the 6’4″, 210 pound guard from Illinois was able to contribute, and start, from the beginning because of his ability to defend and shoot. Allied with the senior leadership of Alan Anderson, Chris Hill, and Kelvin Torbert that fueled the 2005 Final Four run, sophomore Shannon Brown was the key component in the victory over Kentucky in the Elite Eight scoring a game-high 24 points while shooting 5 of 6 from three-point range. During Brown’s junior year, and final season, as a Spartan, he averaged 17.2 points per game. Brown was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team in 2004, the All-Big Ten Second Team in 2006, and the Big Ten All-Defensive team in 2006. Watch one of Brown’s monstrous dunks during his Spartan career. Brown was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the 2006 NBA Draft.
6. Maurice Ager (2002-06)
Mo Ager was one of the lankiest and most athletic Spartans to ever play at Michigan State. His 1,554 points rank 13th in school history just ahead of Mateen Cleaves. He was named to the Big Ten Second Team in both 2005 and 2006 and made the NCAA Tournament All-Regional Team in 2005. The 6-foot-5 Ager also led the team in scoring in 2005 with 464 points and in 2006 with 656 points. His unbelievable 36-point performance against Gonzaga in a triple-overtime loss in the quarterfinals of the 2005 Maui Invitational ranks 11th for most points in a single game in school history. My personal favorite moment of Ager’s Spartan career came in the 2005 Sweet Sixteen against Duke. Ager dunked on Duke’s J.J. Redick and the Spartans beat them in one of the craziest weekends ever in college basketball. Ager’s stellar career came to a sad ending when the 6-seeded Spartans lost to 11-seed George Mason in the first round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament. Ager was selected by the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the 2006 NBA Draft.
5. Terry Furlow (1972-76)
The 6’4″ wing holds the school record for most points per game in a single season, averaging 29.4 points as a senior year in 1976. In that same season, which was the last for Spartan head coach Gus Ganakas, the senior captain scored 50 points in a game against Iowa, which is the single-game record in the school’s program. Furlow also recorded games of 48, 42, 41, 40, and 38 points during his outstanding career. The Converse Yearbook named Furlow to the All-American Second Team. Furlow won the Big Ten scoring title in 1975 and 1976 and his 1,777 career points rank eighth in Spartan history.
4. Sam Vincent (1981-85)
The younger brother of Spartan great Jay Vincent, Sam Vincent was very fortunate to have Scott Skiles in the backcourt with him for his last three seasons in a green and white uniform. Sam Vincent and Skiles put up outstanding offensive numbers together, with Vincent averaging 16.8 points per game in his career. The 6’2″ guard won the Big Ten scoring title his senior year while averaging 23.7 points in the conference season, and joined his brother, Jay, as the only Spartan brothers to earn All-America accolades. Vincent was named First Team All-America by the Sporting News in 1985. He finished with 1,851 points which places seventh all-time in Spartan history.
3. Mike Robinson (1971-74)
The 5’11″ guard won back-to-back Big Ten scoring titles in 1972 and 1973 and averaged 24.2 points per game as a Spartan. In 1974, Robinson was named Second Team All-America by the Converse Yearbook. Robinson’s career high of 40 points came against Northwestern in his junior season. His 1,717 career points rank 10th in Spartan history. Who knows how many points he could have had if freshmen were eligible to play before 1972? That goes for Stan Washington and Ralph Simpson too!
2. Morris Peterson (1995-00)
One of the four original “Flintstones” that included Antonio Smith, Mateen Cleaves, and Charlie Bell, Mo Pete was the most prolific scorer of the bunch. The stars from Flint represent what Spartan basketball is all about: toughness, defense, and rebounding. However, Mo Pete’s career at Michigan State got off to a very slow start, as he lived in Tom Izzo’s “doghouse.” He only wanted to shoot and didn’t have a care in the world on the defensive end. Then, in his sophomore season, Mo Pete broke his wrist after hitting iron on a slam dunk. When he returned, Peterson was forced to wear a cast, called “The Club,” which is credited with helping him becoming a better defensive player. In 1999, Mo Pete was named first-team All-Big Ten, despite only starting one conference game. In the 2000 National Championship season, The 6’4″, 215 pound Sporting News First Team All-American was named Big Ten Player of the Year and was also a National Player of the Year candidate. He was the Midwest Regional MVP in 2000, averaging 16 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. Along with 10 career double-doubles, Mo Pete stands at 12th place on MSU’s all-time scoring list with 1,588 points. One of Peterson’s most memorable moments in a green and white uniform was in the 2000 Elite Eight game versus Iowa State at the Palace of Auburn Hills. With 2:15 remaining in the game, the Spartans were beating the Cyclones by one, 62-61. During a timeout, Peterson, who was being overplayed all night, told Coach Izzo to run the backdoor play. Coach Izzo put his trust in the senior and the alley-oop dunk put a dagger in Iowa State and sent the Spartans to their second straight Final Four.
1. Shawn Respert (1990-95)
Known for his textbook jump shot, Respert was the “fire” to Eric Snow’s “ice” in the early to mid-90′s at MSU. The 6’1″, 195 pound Respert was not a highly-recruited player because coaches didn’t think he could make the transition from forward to guard. Dwayne Stephens, a former teammate of Respert, said in the movie, The Greatest Stories of Michigan State Basketball, that Respert was the hardest worker that he ever played with. “He would come in early, take a million shots, stay after practice,” Stephens said. “There were practices where he would go the entire practice without missing a shot.” Respert was a UPI Third Team All-American in 1994 while averaging 24.3 points per game. His career high came against Minnesota in 1994 when Respert scored 43 points in the Spartan’s victory. In 1995, Respert was a Consensus First Team All-American, the Big Ten Player of the Year, and won the Big Ten scoring crown while averaging 25.6 points that season. His 2,531 points rank #1 all-time at MSU along with the 331 three-pointers that he splashed through the net in his career. Though the Spartans didn’t win any championships during Respert’s career, his game-changing ability makes him MSU’s all-time #1 wing player. Watch Respert absolutely tear apart the Wolverines in Ann Arbor in 1995. Respert’s number, along with Peterson’s, hangs proudly from the rafters in the Breslin Center.
Also, be sure to check out the rest of the Best of Michigan State Basketball series: