There is no better place to hold it than the basketball hotbed that is the Hoosier state. From “The Region” down to Evansville, with stops in South Bend, West Lafayette, Indianapolis, Bloomington, and Muncie and every small town in between, Indiana’s love for basketball runs deep.
So with that in mind, here’s our look at some of the state’s best homegrown (whether born, raised, or both) college players through the years. Listed in chronological order.
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John Wooden, Purdue (1930-’32)
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We know what kind of college basketball coach Wooden was at UCLA (10-time national champion), but the legend was a solid player during his day. Born in Hall, Indiana, Wooden played high school ball in Martinsville, where he was a three-time all-State selection. At Purdue, the guard was a star in the pre-NCAA days. He earned All-Big Ten, All-Midwestern, and first-team All-American honors as a Boilermaker. A statue of Wooden, the player, is located on the Purdue campus.
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Don Schlundt, Indiana (1952-’55)
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For those who don’t know who Schlundt is, pay attention because he just might be the best player in the history of the storied college basketball program. The 6-foot-9 Schlundt, who prepped at South Bend’s Washington Clay High School, was a three-time All-American for the Hoosiers. When his collegiate career had finished, Schlundt was Indiana’s all-time leading scorer with 2,192 points (23.3 points per game career average) — a record that lasted for more than 30 years.
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Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati (1958-’60)
The legendary Robertson was born in Tennessee, but his family moved to Indianapolis prior to his second birthday. The “Big O” was a star at Crispus Attucks High, and his 1954 team lost to upstart, Hoosiers-inspired Milan in the semi-state round. At Cincinnati, Robertson was truly dominant, averaging 33.8 points and shooting 53.5 percent while also pulling down 15.2 rebounds per contest. When his three years at Cincinnati finished, Robertson was named UPI College Player of the Year three times and also a three-time, first-team All-American.
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Terry Dischinger, Purdue (1960-’62)
The Terre Haute native was a Parade All-American in 1958 as a high schooler. But, Dischinger’s dominance did not end on the prep level. He averaged 28.3 points in three seasons for the Boilermakers, including 30.3 in his final 1961-62 campaign. Dischinger, who went on to win a basketball gold medal for the United States at the 1960 Olympics and was a three-time NBA All-Star, twice earned first-team All-American honors and also received a second-team distinction
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Dave Schellhase, Purdue (1964-’66)
Shortly after Dischinger left Purdue, Schellhase took on the mantle of the program’s next star. In his three seasons with the Boilermakers, the former prep star from Evansville averaged 28.8 points for his career and scored 57 against Michigan in February 1966. That was the same season he led the nation in scoring at 32.5 points per contest. A first- and second-team All-American, Schellhase was the first Purdue player to register 2,000 career points (finished with 2,074).
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Michael Warren, UCLA (1966-’68)
Fans of the successful 1980s TV drama Hill Street Blues probably remember Warren as police officer Bobby Hill. However, before he was a big television star, Warren, a South Bend native and product of Central High School, was an All-American for John Wooden’s great UCLA teams. Known then as Mike Warren, he was a starting guard for three seasons and averaged 13.7 points for his career. The 5-foot-11 Warren, who played alongside the great Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) was also considered one of the nation’s top defenders while winning two national titles with the Bruins.
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Rick Mount, Purdue (1968-’70)
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Lebanon’s Mount was Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in 1966 and holds the distinction of being the first high school player to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated. Known as “The Rocket,” Mount stayed close to home to play collegiately at Purdue. There, the legendary No. 10 helped the Boilermakers reach the Final Four in 1969 and scored a school-record 61 points against Iowa as a senior. Mount averaged 32.3 points for his career and was a two-time, first-team All-American.
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Junior Bridgeman, Louisville (1973-’75)
A standout from East Chicago (the heart of “The Region” in Northwest Indiana), Bridgeman led Washington High School, which also featured UCLA-bound Pete Trgovich and future major-league pitcher Tim Stoddard, to an undefeated season and 1971 state title. At Louisville, Bridgeman averaged 15.5 points, shooting 51.7 percent, and 7.6 rebounds for his three-year career. He was twice named Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year (1974, ’75) and helped the Cardinals reach the 1975 Final Four. Bridgeman went on to enjoy a solid NBA career, mostly with the Milwaukee Bucks.
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Kent Benson, Indiana (1974-’77)
The pride of New Castle, Ind., Benson was Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in 1973 after totaling almost 1,500 points and pulling down nearly 1,600 rebounds in high school. When Benson’s career with the Hoosiers was done, however, he solidified himself as perhaps the best big man in the history of the program. He was a two-time first-team All-American, averaging 15.3 points and 9.0 rebounds for his career. Benson was a major factor in helping the 1975-76 Hoosiers win the national title and become the last team to go an entire season without a loss (32-0). He was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player that season.
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Larry Bird, Indiana State (1977-’79)
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“The Hick from French Lick,” Larry Legend.” Call him whatever, but many basketball experts, analysts, and fans consider Bird to be the best player to hail from the Hoosier state. Despite a troubled family life, Bird averaged 31 points and 21 rebounds at French Lick’s Springs Valley High. Homesick and overwhelmed at Indiana University, Bird eventually landed at Indiana State, where he rebuilt his legendary basketball status. He averaged 30.3 points, shot 53.3 percent, pulled down 13.3 boards, and dished out 4.6 per game as a Sycamore. The Boston Celtics legend was a two-time All-American and the Naismith National Player of the Year in 1978-79 when he helped Indiana State go 33-0 before losing to Magic Johnson and Michigan State in that famed national championship contest.
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Scott Skiles, Michigan State (1983-’86)
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Say what one will about Skiles’ off-court issues at Michigan State, but the Plymouth High School legend is still one of the greats in Spartans history. In his four collegiate seasons, Skiles averaged 18.2 points — including 27.4 when he was named Big Ten Player of the Year in 1986 — and shot 51.6 percent. He also averaged 5.5 career assists and was a second-team All-American as a senior. His No. 4 was retired by the university.
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Steve Alford, Indiana (1984-’87)
Another Hoosiers’ star from New Castle, though born in Franklin. Alford won a gold medal as a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic basketball team then further made a name for himself as one of the great college players of all time. Alford, a career 53.3-percent shooter for the Hoosiers, averaged nearly 20.0 points for his college career, and 22.5 as a junior and 22.0 during his 1986-87 senior season when was named Big Ten MVP and helped Indiana win its most recent NCAA title. He was also a two-time first-team All-American.
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Damon Bailey, Indiana (1991-’94)
There are those basketball pundits inside or out of the state of Indiana who feel Bailey’s career with the Hoosiers was a bust. That’s probably not fair, considering the hype and immense pressure surrounding Bailey, arguably the best high school basketball player in Indiana history — a Mr. Basketball and McDonald’s American out of Bedford North Lawrence High School. While Bailey wasn’t as dominant as many Hoosiers’ fans expected, he was a four-year starter under Bobby Knight, totaled 1,741 points, and averaged 19.6 with 4.3 assists and rebounds as a senior. He also helped Indiana win two Big Ten titles, reach the Final Four in 1992 and post 108 victories while earning third-team AP All-American honors as a senior.
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Eric Montross, North Carolina (1991-’94)
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A McDonald’s All-American from Indianapolis’ Lawrence North, the 7-foot Montross averaged a career-high 15.8 points on 61.5-percent shooting during the 1992-93 season, which North Carolina capped with that memorable national title-game victory over Michigan and the Fab Five. A two-time second-team collegiate All-American, Montross averaged at least 11.2 points and 7.0 rebounds in each of his final three seasons at North Carolina.
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Glenn Robinson, Purdue (1993-’94)
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Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in 1991 from Gary Roosevelt, the “Big Dog” fueled his legacy further on the college level. Another standout performer for the Boilermakers, Robinson made the most of his two seasons in West Lafayette. As a sophomore, the 6-foot-8 Robinson averaged a national-best 30.3 points and 10.1 rebounds to be named both AP and Big Ten Player of the Year. During those two seasons at Purdue, Robinson averaged 27.5 points and 9.7 boards.
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Bonzi Wells, Ball State (1995-’98)
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One of the great mid-major players of all time, Wells took his starring act from Muncie Central High a few blocks west to Ball State. With the Cardinals, he averaged 25.4 points and 8.8 rebounds as a sophomore. For his career, the 6-foot-5 Wells averaged 21.4 points, 7.3 boards, 3.3 assists, and 3.0 steals while also twice winning Mid-American Conference Player of the Year (1996, ’98) and a third-team All-American by The Associated Press in 1998. Wells, who also enjoyed a solid 12-year NBA career, had his No. 42 retired by Ball State.
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Jared Jeffries, Indiana (2001-’02)
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Another Indiana Mr. Basketball, Jeffries starred at Bloomington North High School. Then did not travel far for college. One of the Hoosiers’ most high-profiled prospects (which is saying a lot), Jeffries made the most of his two seasons with the Hoosiers. He was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2001 when he averaged 13.8 points, 6.9 boards, and 2.4 assists. One season later, Jeffries was the league’s player of the year for averaging 15.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 2.1 assists while leading Indiana to its most recent NCAA Championship Game appearance.
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Sean May, North Carolina (2003-’05)
The 2002 Mr. Basketball from Bloomington North High School, where he was a teammate of Jared Jeffries, May did not follow in father Scott’s footsteps to Indiana, but chose the brighter lights of North Carolina, instead. May apparently made the right choice, averaging 15.8 points and 10.0 rebounds over three seasons at Chapel Hill, while also helping the Tar Heels win the 2005 national championship. In the process, May was named Final Four Most Outstanding Player that season.
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Greg Oden, Ohio State (2006-’07)
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Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in 2006 out of Indianapolis’ Lawrence North High School, Oden played just one collegiate season. Still, it was good enough to earn a spot on this list. The 7-foot Oden averaged 15.7 points on 61.6-percent shooting, 9.6 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks while earning AP All-American honors and helping the Buckeyes reach the national championship game. Yes, we know it was one season and Oden’s pro career was a bust, but it was certainly worth celebrating.
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Luke Harangody, Notre Dame (2006-’10)
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Another product of “The Region,” Harangody starred at Merrillville’s Andrean High School. But he really came into his own with the Irish. The Big East Player of the Year in 2008, Harangody averaged at least 20.4 points and 9.1 rebounds in his final three seasons (career-high 23.3 points, 11.8 boards in 2008-09) in South Bend. He’s the first Notre Dame men’s basketball player to be named first-team All-Big East three straight seasons and was a three-time All-American (second team) selection.
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E’Twaun Moore, Purdue (2008-’11)
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A star at East Chicago’s Central High School, where he averaged 21.2 points as a senior and led his team to a state championship, Moore remained successful during his college years in West Lafayette. Moore averaged 15.3 points, including 18.0 his senior season, 4.4 rebounds and nearly 3.0 assists while starting all but four of the 140 games he played for the Boilermakers. A two-time AP honorable mention All-American, Moore, who totaled 2,136 points, was also an All-Big Ten selection in each of his four seasons — twice as a first-teamer.
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Tyler Zeller, North Carolina (2009-’12)
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The first of two Zeller brothers that will round out this list, and one of three to earn Indiana Mr. Basketball honors. Born in California, Zeller grew up in Washington, Ind., and helped Washington High win two state titles. One during his senior season, when he averaged 33.1 points and 11.0 rebounds. Another Hoosier to play at North Carolina, Zeller won a national title with the Tar Heels in 2019 and averaged 16.0 points and 8.4 boards in his final two seasons. In 2012, Zeller was named ACC Player of the Year and second-team All-American.
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Cody Zeller, Indiana (2012-’13)
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Three years after brother Tyler was named Indiana Mr. Basketball, Cody earned the same honor for Washington High School after averaging 24.6 points and 13.1 rebounds as a senior en route to winning his third state title. Passing up a chance to play with Tyler at North Carolina, this Zeller attended Indiana, where he averaged 16.1 points, shot 59.1 percent, and grabbed 7.3 rebounds per contest in his two collegiate seasons. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year and two-time All-Big Ten selection was the fourth overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft by Charlotte — for which he still plays today.
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Kyle Guy, Virginia (2017-’19)
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Out of Lawrence Central, northwest of downtown Indianapolis, Guy was an Indiana Mr. Basketball and McDonald’s American. In the last two of his three seasons at Virginia, Guy averaged 14.8 points and made 41.1-percent of his 3-pointers. However, it was the 2019 NCAA Tournament in which Guy truly shined. He had 25 points and 10 rebounds in an Elite Eight win over Purdue and earned Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors after scoring 24 in that overtime, title-game victory over Texas Tech. Guy was also a two-time All-ACC first-teamer and third-team AP All-American.
Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.