There are more than a few traditional powers within the ranks of college basketball. Though Iowa is not among them, they do have a rich history throughout the years, particularly in its Big Ten days and they are one of the best basketball teams in Iowa, no doubt. But who are the best Iowa Hawkeyes basketball players of all time?
There is a long list of talented players who have left their mark on the program. With so many players dotting the history of Iowa basketball, coming to the top 10 is definitely a challenge.
Best Iowa Hawkeyes Basketball Players of All Time
In this article, we will review the players who have made the biggest impact while wearing an Iowa Hawkeyes uniform. We’ll take a look at their individual accomplishments, their impact on the program, and their legacy in Iowa basketball history.
It would be a shame to mention the best Hawkeyes players only to leave so many great options completely unmentioned. Here are a few that could be argued for the list easily, though there are far too many others to mention in this space.
Chris Street, PF (1990-93)
Street is on the list though his story is a sad one. He was a prominent member of the Hawkeyes during his three seasons with the team. He even managed to set the record for consecutive free throws made at Iowa.
He had the size and talent to become a potential player in the NBA going forward. Unfortunately, he would never get that chance. In early 1993, during his junior season, he was killed in a car accident. Iowa retired Street’s number 40 and the Chris Street Award was created. It was given to the Hawkeye player or players who most exhibited the enthusiasm, intensity, and spirit that Street brought to the team.
Reggie Evans, PF (2000-02)
The Hawkeyes of the early aughts had their struggles, but they did have a standout in Evans. Though Evans was never known for his offensive game, he managed to stand out in other ways.
For starters, he was one of the most tenacious on the floor on any given night. He was an excellent rebounder and never shied away from contact. Most of all, he gave unmatched hustle, particularly on the defensive end. Some even feel like he was the best Hawkeye from 2000-2010, showing his value to the program.
10.) Andre Woolridge, G (1994-97)
Kicking off our list of best Iowa Hawkeyes basketball players of all time is Andre Woolridge. Andre was initially part of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, being named to the Big Eight Conference all-freshman team in 1993. The following year, he chose to transfer to Iowa in order to play under head coach Tom Davis.
During his three seasons at Iowa, he became a prominent player. In his junior season, he wound up making first-team All-Big Ten, averaging more than 13 points and 6 assists per game, leading the Hawkeyes to the NCAA tournament.
Woolridge finished out his career by earning another first-team All-Big Ten nod as well as a third-team All-American nod as a senior. During a time when Iowa basketball was struggling to maintain national prominence, Woolridge helped get them back to the big stage.
— Iowa Men’s Basketball (@IowaHoops) June 20, 2017
9.) Don Nelson, F (1959-62)
Don Nelson may be best known as a long-time coach. Given he had stops with the Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, and Milwaukee Bucks, it is hard to remember that he was a star at Iowa first.
Nelson managed to make varsity at a time when freshmen didn’t typically make it. Nelson became a prolific scorer during his time at Iowa, averaging more than 23 points as a Junior and as a Senior.
Don was going up against future Hall of Fame talent at Ohio State (Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek), Indiana (Walt Bellamy), and future NBA All-Stars at Purdue (Terry Dischinger).
Nelson left the program with 1,522 points over his career, making him the all-time leading scorer in the history of the program.
— Iowa Men’s Basketball (@IowaHoops) May 12, 2022
8.) Kevin Gamble, SG (1985-87)
A junior college transfer, Gamble was part of a vaunted 1985 recruiting class that included BJ Armstrong, Ed Horton, and Roy Marble, all of whom played in the NBA.
Gamble was a bench player until Tom Davis arrived, elevating Gamble to a starting position as a senior.
He helped lead the team to 17 straight wins and an Elite Eight appearance in the NCAA tournament, thanks to Gamble hitting the winning shot against Oklahoma in the round of 16.
His career may have been short but Gamble made the most of his time at Iowa and will be remembered as one of the best Iowa Hawkeyes basketball players ever.
— Ryan M. Jaster (@Hawkologist) March 20, 2022
7.) John Johnson, SF (1968-70)
Johnson began his career with Northwest College in Wyoming before coming to the University of Iowa. During his time with the Hawkeyes, he made a name as one of the most prolific scorers in the history of the program.
He not only set the single-season record for points in a season, averaging 27.9 per game, but had the top two performances in Hawkeyes history with 49 and 46 points respectively. During both his years at Iowa, he led the team in scoring as well as rebounding before becoming the 7th overall pick in the 1970 NBA Draft.
John Johnson is without a doubt one of the most famous former Iowa Hawkeyes basketball players.
— Iowa Men’s Basketball (@IowaHoops) June 23, 2016
6.) Greg Stokes, PF/C (1981-85)
The 1980s produced some of the best talents to walk on campus for Iowa. Stokes spent four years with Iowa, rising to prominence as a starter as a junior in 1983. He became a force for the Hawkeyes, averaging 36 minutes per game as a junior and senior.
During those seasons, he would become a scoring force. In his junior season, he averaged 14.9 points per game, 6.9 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game.
He would up his points per game to 19.9 and rebounds to 8.4 per game as a senior, capping off his strong career with the Hawkeyes before moving on to the NBA.
Greg Stokes is the school's fourth all-time leading scorer with 1,768 points. After an All-Big Ten senior season (19.9 ppg), Stokes was selected by Philadelphia in the 1985 NBA Draft. #TBT #Hawkeyes pic.twitter.com/CEvkHSfemC
— Iowa Men’s Basketball (@IowaHoops) May 24, 2018
5.) Roy Marble, SG/SF (1985-89)
Marble was part of the vaunted 1985 recruiting class that would see several future NBA players join the roster.
Roy would show why he was later made a first-round pick by the Atlanta Hawks, becoming one of the most prolific scorers in the history of the program.
When Marble left Iowa, he did so as the all-time leading scorer with 2,116 points. He was a major part of the Hawkeyes having successful runs during the mid-1980s, including an Elite Eight performance and a school record 17 straight wins that year.
Sadly Roy passed away in 2015, just 48 years old, after a battle against cancer.
RIP Roy Marble, Iowa basketball great, and one of the Big Ten's best all-time players: http://t.co/BT4niiAcTe
— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) September 11, 2015
4.) BJ Armstrong, PG (1985-89)
Before Armstrong was running alongside Michael, Scotty, and the rest of the Bulls, he was a standout with Iowa. He had one of the most illustrious careers of any Hawkeye, displaying an unmatched prowess as a passer.
By the time he left school, he was first on the all-time list with 517 assists (he is currently sixth). When he left, he was also fourth in points (1,705), and sixth in steals (178) showing what kind of all-around impact player he was for Iowa.
His senior season was his best, seeing him average 18.6 points and 5.4 assists per game while also displaying a keen eye from three-point range, where he shot 44.3% over his career. His number 10 would eventually be retired by the Hawkeyes.
— Iowa Men’s Basketball (@IowaHoops) June 25, 2015
3.) Fred Brown, G (1969-71)
Starting off the top three in our list of best Iowa Hawkeyes basketball players of all time is Fred Brown. “Downtown Freddie Brown” was an all-state player by the time he joined the Hawkeyes for the 1969 season. His outside shooting skills are what earned him the nickname, something that would follow him through a successful collegiate career as well as his NBSA career.
Brown’s most notable contribution to the Hawkeyes came during the 1971 season as a senior. In his second year as a starter, Brown averaged 27.6 points per game, earning him a third-team All-American nod from the Associated Press.
It is no surprise that Brown was a crowd favorite during his time at Iowa. His prolific performances as a junior and senior endeared him to the campus fanbase and etched his name among the greats.
Hey #Hawkeyes! Did you know that Iowa Athletics Hall of Famer Fred Brown was a Two-Time Letterwinner and his scoring average was the 10th best in the NCAA?? Come check out more about Fred and the rest of the Iowa Men’s Basketball Team. 🐥🖤💛🏀 pic.twitter.com/6w4uzBjkhh
— UI Hall of Fame (@UofIHallofFame) February 12, 2019
2.) Ronnie Lester, PG (1976-80)
Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson recruited Lester to Iowa. He started as a freshman and was a mainstay during his four seasons in Iowa City. He earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in 1978 and 1979.
During his senior season in 1979, Lester would leave his legacy. That season, he earned All-American honors and would help bring the Hawkeyes to a share of the Big Ten title that season. More importantly, he was the catalyst behind the Hawkeyes’ run to 1980 Final Four.
That Final Four appearance is a case of “what if,” however. Lester injured his knee just 12 minutes into the game after scoring 10 of the first 12 Hawkeye points. The team would fall to eventual NCAA Champion Louisville that night, leaving many to wonder what could have been.
— Iowa Men’s Basketball (@IowaHoops) July 29, 2017
1.) Luke Garza, C/F (2017-21)
There aren’t many modern Hawkeyes on the list, but Luke Garza is definitely one of the best Iowa Hawkeyes basketball players of all time. He became a force the day he showed up on campus but really broke out in his sophomore season. Averaging 13.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, he garnered All-Big Ten Honorable Mention.
As a junior, he became a force. He was on the watch for every major award, winning both Big Ten Player of the Year as well as National Player of the Year by the Sporting News. His 23.9 points per game and 9.8 rebounds earned him All-American honors as well.
Garza returned for his senior season, scoring a Hawkeye Arena-record 41 points. In his senior season, he would pass Roy Marble to become the leading scorer in the history of the program. He again won Player of the Year for the Sporting News, the first to win back-to-back since Michael Jordan.
He also became the only Hawkeye ever to be named consensus First-Team All-American and Big Ten Player of the Year twice. There is no question that he was the most dominant Hawkeye ever.
— The Iowa Hawkeyes (@TheIowaHawkeyes) March 7, 2021
Credits on Featured Image