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Wednesday, December 24, 2003
Give 'em the ball

ESPN.com

The seconds are ticking down, the game is on the line, the play has been called. So, who's going to get the nod when it comes to taking those last shots?

We've asked the folks at ESPN to give us their choices this season and throughout the years of college basketball. Here are the names they came up with:

Dick Vitale
THIS SEASON ALL-TIME
Jameer NelsonJAMEER NELSON,
Saint Joseph's
This year, I would take Jameer Nelson of Saint Joseph's to have the ball in his hands at the end of a game. He can handle the rock, fake out the opposing defender and hit the J! It is so important to be able to set up your shot, run the clock down and nail it, baby.
Steve AlfordSTEVE ALFORD,
Indiana
There have been a lot of great clutch players over the years, guys like Jerry West, Michael Jordan against Georgetown, John Havlicek, Chris Mullin, just to name a few. But give me Steve Alford. His jump shot was so smooth and he was automatic.

Jay Bilas
THIS SEASON ALL-TIME
Gerry McNamaraGERRY MCNAMARA,
Syracuse
Overall, McNamara is the best shooter in the country. He has deep range, can shoot off screens, the catch or the dribble ... and he can get his own shot. If someone runs at him, he can find the easy opportunity for another, and has the smarts and savvy to know the right play. More importantly, McNamara is a winner, pure and simple. He has always been counted upon to carry the heaviest load in tough situations, and he is the ultimate competitor. He not only wants to take the biggest shots, he would demand it, and he would never fear missing. McNamara is the type of kid that would think only of making it, without considering the "what-if's" of missing. There are several others who would be good choices, but I'd take McNamara, and I'd be on the winning side because of it.
Christian LaettnerCHRISTIAN LAETTNER,
Duke
I may be biased because I was an assistant coach at Duke when he was a player, but I would choose Laettner -- hands down. I don't know if I'm biased, or if I just know better, but I wouldn't hesitate to have Laettner take the last shot for me in a college game. He was the toughest nut I ever saw in a college uniform. No player in NCAA Tournament history has stepped up to take bigger shots on a bigger stage than has Laettner, and it is no coincidence that he has hit them all. He hit not one, but two buzzer shots to get his team to the Final Four -- one against Connecticut in 1990 and one against Kentucky in 1992. No other player has made more than one, and few have done that. As if that were not enough, Laettner hit the free throws to beat UNLV in the 1991 Final Four, and not one person in America thought he would miss. Laettner may not have been the best ever, but he was the best clutch player in college basketball history.

Andy Katz
THIS SEASON ALL-TIME
Jameer NelsonJAMEER NELSON,
Saint Joseph's
The senior continues to prove he's a money player, beating Cal this past weekend with a jumper in the final seconds. Nelson can create as well as any player in the country. He has a tremendous ability to control his body, hang in the air and somehow get a shot off in traffic. He also does a great job of recognizing spacing, clock and situation. His wings are always ready for his quick passes because he can get the ball to them, regardless of where he is on the court. But if the game has to be won, Nelson will likely keep the ball and make the shot.
Michael JordanMICHAEL JORDAN,
North Carolina
MJ can take the last shot of any game I'm watching. We all know about the shot he made to beat Georgetown in the national championship game. But during his time at UNC, he was the consummate big-game player. Sure, there are plenty of other choices like Christian Laettner of Duke, or heck, even Bryce Drew of Valparaiso. But Jordan could create the shot as well as make the shot. If a team needed that one bucket, how could you not pick Jordan to be the guy?

Digger Phelps
THIS SEASON ALL-TIME
Ben GordonBEN GORDON,
Connecticut
The junior guard has the maturity to take and make the last shot. UConn is on a mission to win it all, and Gordon is a key reason why. He's hitting 52 percent from the field this season and 54 percent from 3-point range. Gordon has stepped up when UConn has needed him. I really like his game.
Oscar RobertsonOSCAR ROBERTSON,
Cincinnati
The Big O averaged a triple-double for an entire season. He's the best of the best. I'd put the ball in his hands because I'd be confident he could make the last shot, but if he got double- or triple-teamed, he had the vision to find an open teammate. Other guys on my list include Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and John Havlicek.

Fran Fraschilla
THIS SEASON ALL-TIME
Jameer NelsonJAMEER NELSON,
Saint Joseph's
I was thinking of Ben Gordon's 42 percent career 3-point shooting percentage for UConn, but having been on the Nelson band wagon since last season, I am going to put the ball in his hands. First of all, he is the ultimate competitor. He is at his best in big games. Secondly, he has been a four-year starter and has "seen it all" experience. Thirdly, you cannot keep him out of the lane, so he is capable of making a play for himself or his teammates. Nelson is a pin-point passer. Finally, while not a great shooter, he makes almost 80 percent of his free throws. So, with his tank-like body, he will handle punishment in the lane and finish you off at the line.
Bill WaltonBILL WALTON,
UCLA
I am going to go with the "big red head" from UCLA. It was a tough choice between the two best college centers, in my opinion, of all time -- Walton and fellow Bruin alum Lew Alcindor. And, yes, Digger Phelps will remind me of the turn-around jumper Walton missed at Notre Dame that ended the UCLA 88-game winning streak. Walton did, however, have the greatest performance in NCAA championship game history, with a 21-22 effort from the field vs. Memphis State in 1973. And, I believe, he is the greatest passing big man in collegiate history, so he could handle being double- or triple-teamed with the clock winding down.

Jimmy Dykes
THIS SEASON ALL-TIME
Jaime LloredaJAIME LLOREDA,
LSU
Entering this week, over 30 players in Division I basketball were averaging more than 20 points a game. But only one was shooting better than 70 percent through his first five games -- and his name is Jaime Lloreda. Lloreda is now shooting only 65 percent, but still averaging 22 ppg. Given those numbers, I'd want him to take the last shot to win a game.
US ReedU.S. REED,
Arkansas
I would be mistaken if I didn't pick my former teammate at Arkansas. In March 1981, my freshman year at Arkansas, I saw him make a shot from beyond halfcourt to beat Louisville at the buzzer in the NCAA Tournament. His amazing basket sent us into the Sweet 16. If a guy can throw one in from halfcourt under the pressure of March Madness, first-hand experience tells me he's the guy I'd want taking the last shot.

Larry Conley
THIS SEASON ALL-TIME
JJ RedickJ.J. REDICK,
Duke
I like the Duke guard for the last shot because he has such a solid, good-looking shot. I'd rather put the ball in this sophomore's hands because he can get open and he wants it. If I were to go with a post player, I'd want to get the ball to UConn junior center Emeka Okafor. Once he gets his hands on it, he's likely either to make the shot or to get fouled.
Oscar RobertsonOSCAR ROBERTSON,
Cincinnati
Talk about a big-time player who loved the spotlight. The Big O dominated college basketball during his time at Cincinnati. He didn't shy away from any challenge. I always admired that about him. My runner-up is Jerry West, who was a great shooter. West was dependable. When he had the ball, you knew good things would happen for West Virginia.

Brad Daugherty
THIS SEASON ALL-TIME
McCantsRASHAD MCCANTS,
North Carolina
The Tar Heels' guard is a fearless offensive player. The sophomore isn't afraid to take a 3-pointer, and he isn't afraid to take the ball to the basket. Come clutch time, he's capable of hitting a big shot because he isn't afraid to take it. Because of his combination of skill and confidence, I'll give the last shot to McCants.
JordanMICHAEL JORDAN,
North Carolina
MJ was fearless and had the ability to hit the jumper or drive to the basket. As a freshman, Jordan hit the shot to win the 1982 NCAA title for North Carolina. Other guys in the conversation include: Christian Laettner, who in his college career hit two buzzer-beaters to send Duke to two Final Fours; Isiah Thomas, a big-time shot-maker for Indiana; and Danny Ainge at BYU.