It’s always been a given that Dan Issel is the greatest player in UK history. The guy holds the scoring record and has held that record for 43 years now. He still has 4 of the top 10 scoring games in UK history. And he did all of this in 3 seasons, as freshman were not allowed to play during Issel’s time. We debate so many things within the UK fanbase though: greatest team, greatest shot, retired jerseys, best coach, etc etc, maybe it’s time we look a little deeper into the certainty that Issel was the greatest player in UK history. Because I think you can argue Jack Givens was the greatest. Look at the numbers:
Points: 2,138 (1st)
Rebounds: 1,078 (1st)
Assists: 98 (not ranked)
Points: 2,038 (3rd)
Rebounds: 793 (12th)
Assists: 270 (26th)
Now, it seems hard to argue against the guy who is 1st in both points and rebounds, right? But, follow me for a second as I argue Givens should be given a serious look:
1) TOTAL POINTS CONTRIBUTED
-Yes, Issel scored 100 more points than Givens during his career. But, Givens actually played a role in 2,578 points (his scoring plus 540 points in assisted baskets) while Issel played a role in 2,334 points. So, while Issel scored more than Givens, he actually played a role in less points than the Goose. Remember, basketball isn’t all about scoring.
2) SHOTS ATTEMPTED/PACE OF PLAY
-In Issel’s senior season, the one in which he scored a school record 948 points, he also attempted 667 shots to get those points, the most shots attempted in 1 season in UK history. In Jack Givens’ senior year, he only attempted 430 shots. If Givens had attempted the same number of shots that Issel did that season, he would have scored 150 more points than he actually did in 1978 and Givens would be the school’s all-time leading scorer, not Issel. The point being, Issel’s records are incredible. There is no denying that. But he also played on a team where he was required to take an extreme number of shots. Despite the fact that Issel played 3 seasons and Givens 4, Goose only attempted 47 more shots than Issel.
SHOTS PER SEASON
Sophomore: Givens 494, Issel 390
Junior: Issel 534, Givens 459
Senior: Issel 667, Givens 430
3) BIG GAME RESULTS
-When trying to compare 2 guys and their individual skills, it’s tricky to include team success into that discussion. But, you have to include the fact that Givens won a title and Issel never made a Final Four into the talk. And not only did Givens win a national title, he did so scoring 41 points in the title game. While Issel’s scoring prowess is undisputed, in the 3 games that UK was eliminated in the NCAA Tournament during Issel’s career, he scored 19, 13, and 28 points. And fouled out of his final game with 10 minutes to play. Point being, Givens has that big game moment that Issel doesn’t.
I think this post is more a highlight of the career of Goose Givens, and the belief he may have the most complete career of any UK player in history. It’s my belief that Givens could have played in the era of Issel and scored nearly as many points as Issel. But in the late 1970’s, the game had slowed down and thus less shots were being attempted. Plus, Givens’ teams were generally deeper and the shots were spread out more. If Givens had been allowed to shoot the ball as often as Issel, he likely would have scored nearly as much in his final 3 seasons as Issel.
That being said, what Issel accomplished on an individual level in 3 years is unquestioned. The fact he is both the scoring and rebounding leader after just 3 seasons is quite amazing. I just think when talking about the greatest player in UK history, Issel should be 1A and Givens 1B.