The 21st century has been the golden era for WCC basketball. All-Americans, NCAA tourney runs, and expansion have made the WCC one of the best non-BCS basketball conference.
There have been some great players to come through the WCC in this time, so let’s rank the ten best players to play in the WCC since the turn of the century. This list is comprised based off statistics, importance to the team and the conference, and team success.
Honorable Mentions: Tyler Haws (BYU), Dior Lowhorn (USF), Kevin Foster (SCU), Jeremy Pargo (GU), Matt Bouldin (GU)
10. Derek Raivio (2003-2007)
Derek Raivio is the first Zag on the list, but he certainly will not be the last.
Raivio is best known for his amazing free-throw percentage, 92.7%, which is second all-time in NCAA history. However, Raivio was a great all around point guard for the Zags.
In the Gonzaga record books, Raivio is ranked 12th in scoring, second in steals, fourth in assists and fourth in three-point field goals made. He led Gonzaga to the NCAA tournament every year in his career, and was named co-conference player of the year his senior season.
9. Anthony Ireland (2010-2014)
Anthony Ireland will go down as one of the most underrated players in conference history. Flying as under the radar as anyone with three first-team all conference awards can, Ireland put together an amazing career despite never having enough talent around him to push himself into stardom.
Ireland was mesmerizing every time he stepped onto the court, doing everything he possibly could to help his team. In LMU history, he is ranked 3rd all time in scoring, 3rd in assists, 2nd in steals, and 1st in games started, games played, and minutes played. A true leader, Ireland always played his best when it mattered most during the WCC tournament, and had many memorable performances in Las Vegas over the years.
8. Dan Dickau (2000-2002)
Dan Dickau might be the best transfer in the WCC during this time period. Playing his first two years at the University of Washington, Dickau decided to transfer to Gonzaga after his sophomore year.
In the beginning of the Gonzaga golden age, Dickau took the WCC by storm, winning conference player of the year honors his senior season. Averaging 21.0 points, 4.7 assists and 3.0 rebounds, he was also named a first team All-American his senior season. He brought Gonzaga to a No. 6 national ranking his senior year and a Sweet Sixteen appearance his junior year, getting it done on the national stage. He was really the first Gonzaga basketball player since John Stockton to be known on such a national level, and his play his final two seasons certainly helped the Zags retain their position on top of the WCC and in the national spotlight.
7. John Bryant (2005-2009)
The only Santa Clara Bronco on this list, big John Bryant was an absolute force in the WCC during his four years. At 6’11 and 280 pounds, Bryant was one of the most imposing players not only in the WCC, but in the entire country.
His senior season, he led the nation in double-doubles and finished second in rebounding behind Blake Griffin, with 14.2 per game. For his efforts, he won conference player of the year and was an honorable mention All-American. He is ranked 7th all time in conference history in rebounds, and 3rd all time in blocks.
He certainly is the best rebounder in the WCC during this time period, and is 2nd all time in Santa Clara school history for it as well.
6. Kelly Olynyk (2009-2013)
Kelly Olynyk may have the most unique story of anyone on this list.
After having fairly average freshman and sophomore years at Gonzaga, he decided to redshirt before his junior year. Spending a whole year getting stronger and more mobile, Olynyk emerged as one of the most dominant players in the country during his junior season. He was named conference player of the year and a first team All-American, averaging 17.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game on his way to leading the Zags to their first ever #1 ranking and #1 seed in the NCAA tourney.
A true force down low, Olynyk left after his junior season and was taken 13th overall by the Boston Celtics in the 2013 NBA draft. His junior season was a testament to his hard work to improve his body, and he will be remembered for bringing the school and the conference to the highest it has ever been.
5. Blake Stepp (2000-2004)
When Dan Dickau left in 2002, Blake Stepp took over the reigns and went higher than he ever could. Stepp is the only two-time WCC player of the year award recipient in the 2000s, winning the award in his junior and senior seasons. Maybe the most decorated Zag in history, Stepp was also a second team All-American his senior year and led them to a No. 2 national ranking, their highest ever at that stage.
Consistent throughout his entire career, Stepp also won WCC newcomer of the year his freshman year. After Blake Stepp, the term “Guard U” was coined, referring to their long line of accomplished point guards to play in Spokane.
4. Omar Samhan (2006-2010)
Love him or hate him, Omar Samhan was one of the most important players in the WCC since 2000.
As one of the most dominant players and most dominant personalities, Samhan made the Saint Mary’s Gaels a force in the last part of the decade. On the court, Samhan was a monster, finishing his career ranking 14th in WCC history in scoring and 12th in rebounds, ranking as the second best Gael in history in both categories.
A crucial component of this ranking as well is the transition that his career marked in Gael basketball history; after his senior season, Saint Mary’s had become a legit WCC contender every year. His off the court antics may have rubbed some the wrong way (especially Gonzaga fans), however, he is one of the most influential figures in WCC basketball in a long time.
3. Matthew Dellavedova (2009-2013)
Perhaps all you need to know about the importance of Matthew Dellavedova to the Saint Mary’s basketball program is that his number is already retired, only the second in Saint Mary’s history.
Much like Samhan, Dellavedova marked a new era for Saint Mary’s basketball, and for WCC basketball in general. Finishing as the all time leader in scoring, assists, and games played in Saint Mary’s history, he may be the most decorated Gael of all time.
A deadly three point shooter, Dellavedova was always a scoring threat on the court. Also, he holds a WCC player of the year award in his junior season, winning the WCC tournament that year and being the tournament’s most outstanding player.
2. Ronny Turiaf (2001-2005)
At the end of Ronny Turiaf’s career, it was hard to imagine any player being a better Zag. Everything he did exemplified the Gonzaga Bulldog’s dominance over the conference since the turn of the century. No player was more charismatic, no one had more heart, and no one was as good as he was.
A three time first team all-WCC performer and WCC player of the year his senior season, Turiaf certainly was a beast in the paint. However, apart from being one of the most liked players of all time, Turiaf brought that something special to the team. Whether you call it heart, effort, or emotion; Turiaf simply was a winner. He may have the most successful NBA career of anyone on this list, being called an NBA “journeyman” over his 9 year career. It’s difficult to conceive that there would be any Zag better than he was, until the person who is number one in our list came to Spokane…
1. Adam Morrison (2003-2006)
There is no player in the history of the West Coast Conference that has done as much as Adam Morrison to bring it to national prominence. The 2005-2006 season was not only one of the best WCC stories in the last decade, but one of the best in all of college basketball.
It is hard to capture everything that Morrison was that season, but here are some highlights: he led the nation in scoring at 28.1 points per game, him and JJ Redick split all of the national player of the year awards, he made Gus Johnson lose his mind against Oklahoma State, and he ended his college career in one of the most memorable crying scenes in all of sports.
Dropping 40+ points on multiple occasions that year, he simply was the best player on the court every time-and by a large margin.
Do you agree with this list? Who was left off that you believe should be on there?
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