Previously in this series, we took a deep dive into the best Mountaineer football player to wear every uniform number, and recently began our examination of the top performers to don each number in basketball. Today, our look at the best of those who wore 10-15.
Though WVU first fielded an intercollegiate basketball squad in 1903, the first recorded use of jerseys with numbers by Mountaineer basketball players wasn’t until 1933. Since the early ‘50s, college basketball players have been limited in what digits they could wear. To ease the ability of officials to relay fouls to the scorer’s table, high school and college basketball players can only have numbers that can be signaled by hand: 0-5, 10-15, 20-25, 30-35, 40-45 and 50-55. At times in the ’30s and ‘40s, a Mountaineer would wear a uniform with a 6, 7, 8 or 9, but since 1950, it’s always been a number that contained only 0-5.
Joe Stydahar, a College and Pro Halls of Fame football player for WVU, also was a force on the basketball court for the Mountaineers from 1933-36 where he was one of those who wore numbers no longer allowed. He wore multiple numbers during his hoop days, including #16, #27 and #43, though he finished his career with #44. Of course, #44 has become West Virginia’s most famous basketball number, as it was also worn by Hall of Famers Jerry West and Rod Thorn. No Mountaineer men’s basketball player has donned #44 since Thorn graduated in 1963.
Like Stydahar, many WVU men’s basketball players have worn multiple numbers during their careers. When more than one uniform number was used, I tried to focus on the digit that was associated the most with that individual.
I’ll admit that many very worthy candidates were relegated to the honorable mention category in this series because there were simply so many good ones from which to choose. But when you only can have one winner per number, someone has to be left out. Obviously this list is completely subjective, so feel free to express your own opinions on our BlueGoldNews.com message boards.
Previously In The Series
10 – Clayce Kishbaugh (1955-57). A native of the Harrison County, West Virginia, town of Nutter Fort, Kishbaugh was a key member of some of the Mountaineers’ most successful teams. He served as a co-captain, along with Hot Rod Hundley, for WVU’s 1956-57 team, which posted a 25-5 record. A 6-foot-2 guard, Kishbaugh’s Mountaineers went 65-25 in his three seasons on the varsity and earned NCAA berths each of those years. He scored 833 points during his time at WVU, averaging more than 12.5 points in both of his final two seasons. A graduate of Roosevelt-Wilson High in Clarksburg, Kishbaugh was a high school teacher, coach and athletic director in Zanesville, Ohio, for 30 years following his time at WVU. He passed away in 2012.
Honorable mention – Don Weir, Greg Jones II, Jermaine Haley
11 – Lowes Moore (1977-80). One of the most dynamic basketball players to ever wear the Gold & Blue, Moore had high-flying ability well beyond his 6-foot-1 height. A native of Mt. Vernon, New York, Moore arrived at West Virginia in the fall of 1976, and spent his freshman season coming off the bench as a backup behind a point guard named Bob Huggins (whom you may have heard of). Moore took over as WVU’s starter the next year following Huggins’ graduation and immediately became the driving force behind the Mountaineer offense. He led West Virginia in scoring as a sophomore (21.3 ppg), junior (17.3 ppg) and senior (16.4 ppg). His 1,696 career points are still the 10th most in school history, and he’s also among the top 25 Mountaineers in both assists (344) and steals (132). He scored 20 or more points 37 times in his WVU career. Moore was voted first-team all-Eastern 8 in both 1978 and ’79, while earning second-team recognition in 1980. He was drafted by the New York Nets in the third round in 1980 and played three seasons in the NBA and then eight seasons in the CBA. Following his playing days, he served as the executive director of the Boys & Girls Club in his hometown of Mount Vernon for 28 years. He was inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.
Honorable mention – Moo Moore, Butch Goode, Jim McCormick, Earnie Hall, Tony Washam, Holman Harley, Chris Leonard, Joe Alexander, Nate Adrian, Emmitt Matthews
12 – Tarik Phillip (2015-17). Another of the many uniform numbers that was a tough call on this list. Rudy Baric is a WVU Sports Hall of Famer who was instrumental in West Virginia’s de facto 1942 national championship with its NIT title. In addition, Norman Holmes was a very good player in the ‘60s who helped break down the color barrier within WVU’s basketball program and the Southern Conference. But it’s impossible to ignore what Tarik Phillip meant to Mountaineer teams during a three-year span from 2014-17. The 6-foot-3 guard from Brooklyn, New York, was originally ticketed for the University of South Carolina but had to take a detour to Independence (Kansas) Community College. After one year in junior college, Phillip was recruited to West Virginia, where he combined in the backcourt with the likes of Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles and Jaysean Paige, and helped WVU to records of 25-10, 26-9 and 28-9. All three of his Mountaineer squad earned NCAA Tournament berths and two advanced to the Sweet 16. His 3-pointer with 28 seconds left against Buffalo in the 2015 NCAA Tournament first-round matchup – one of only six treys Phillip had that entire season – allowed West Virginia to hold on for a 68-62 win that year. A tough, hard-nosed guard perfectly suited for the “Press Virginia” style of the time, Phillip’s offense got better through his career. He wound up scoring 814 points in his three seasons at WVU to go along with 154 steals and 238 assists. He was the Big 12’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2017. Since leaving West Virginia, Phillip has spent three seasons playing professionally overseas and one year playing in the U.S. as part of the G League. Because Tarik’s mother has English citizenship, he has also been able to be a member of Great Britain’s national team in recent FIBA events.
Honorable mention – Rudy Baric, Frank Spadafore, Joedy Gardner, Paul Popovich, Buddy Quertinmont, Norman Holmes, Curtis Price, Rich Coles, Dana Perno, Taz Sherman
13 – Deniz Kilicli (2010-13). West Virginia’s ‘Is-Tan-Bull,’ Kilicli came from Turkey to the U.S. as a high schooler, initially attending and playing basketball at Mountain State Academy in Beckley, West Virginia. That led to his recruitment and ultimate signing at WVU. The college career for the 6-foot-9, 260-pound center had to wait 20 games as his freshman season was delayed by an NCAA penalty. Kilicli had played on a club team in Turkey, and while Deniz wasn’t paid, some of his teammates were, which was an NCAA violation at the time, though that rule has since been rescinded. Once he was eligible, Kilicli became a powerful inside force for the Mountaineers, whether it was coming off the bench as a freshman during WVU’s Final Four season or later in his career as a starter. His hook shot was his best offensive weapon, helping him score 899 career points, while he also amassed 454 rebounds, 42 blocks and 288 fouls (22nd in school history). Kilicli’s engaging personality made him a fan favorite, and he was good enough on the court to be voted honorable mention all-Big 12 as a senior. Deniz has played professional basketball in Turkey since leaving West Virginia nine years ago. In 2015 he married Busra Cansu, who is a member of the Turkish national volleyball team. She was part of a squad that finished ninth at the 2012 Olympics in London.
Honorable mention – Brooks Berry, James Long, Teddy Allen, Isaiah Cottrell
14 – Wil Robinson (1970-72). One of the greatest offensive players in West Virginia history, Robinson averaged 24.7 points per game during his three varsity seasons at WVU. Only Jerry West (24.8 ppg) has averaged more, and only West (2,309 career points), Hot Rod Hundley (2,180) and Da’Sean Butler (2,095) have scored more than Robinson’s 1,850 during their time with the Mountaineers. A 6-foot-1 guard from Uniontown, Pennsylvania, Robinson averaged at least 20 points in each of his three varsity seasons, a stat only Hundley has equaled. Robinson was always very good, but he took his game to another level as a senior. He averaged 29.4 points per game, which is better than any Mountaineer before or since, and broke the 30-point barrier 13 times and scored at least 40 eight times. He owns six of the top seven scoring performances by a Mountaineer at the WVU Coliseum, including the high of 45, which he achieved against Penn State in 1971. A first-team all-American in 1972, Robinson was drafted in the fourth round by the Houston Rockets, but never played in the NBA, though he did spend one season with the Memphis Tams in the ABA. A graduate of Laurel Highlands High School, Robinson was inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 1997 and Pennsylvania’s state hall of fame in 2017. After his playing career, he worked for many years as the district manager for a shoe retailer, living near Buffalo, New York.
Honorable mention – Jack Shockey, Ronnie Retton, Ricky Ray, Tony Robertson, Vic Herbert, J.J. Crawl, Darris Nichols, Gary Browne, Chase Harler
15 – Marsalis Basey (1991-94). A native of Martinsburg, West Virginia, Basey was part of WVU’s ballyhooed freshman class of 1990, which also included guard Mike Boyd and forwards P.G. Greene, Ricky Robinson and Phil Wilson. At 5-foot-8, Basey was the point guard of the group and ultimately had the most successful collegiate career of the five. A backup as a true freshman, he assumed a starting role midway through his sophomore season and held that job for 74 games until the end of his career. He scored a total of 1,168 points during his four years with West Virginia to go along with 514 assists, which is third in school history, and 182 steals, the eighth-best total ever at WVU. Also a good enough athlete to be a top-flight football and baseball player (he spent four seasons in the minor leagues), Basey was a third-team all-Atlantic 10 selection as a junior and a second-team choice as senior. After graduating from WVU, Marsalis returned to his hometown of Martinsburg where he has coached basketball and runs his own business.
Honorable mention – Don Vincent, Lee Patrone, Ed Harvard, Larry Harris, Dave McCardle, Jess Hutson, Drew Schifino, Lamont West