The Houston Cougars men’s basketball program is one of the most storied and successful in the country, producing multiple Hall of Famers and NBA All-Stars. As we celebrate the rich history of the program, let us take a look at some of the best players to ever don the red and white. Here are the top 10 greatest Houston Cougars basketball players of all time.
1) Elvin Hayes
Elvin Hayes, the Greatest Houston Cougars Basketball Player of All Time, began his collegiate career as a freshman in 1965. He was an immediate force, scoring 25 points per game and leading the Cougars to their first NCAA tournament appearance. He averaged an impressive 28.4 points and 17.2 rebounds over the course of his college career and finished with 2,884 points, still a school record.
Throughout his college career, Hayes was named to multiple All-American teams and was the Southwest Conference Player of the Year in 1967 and 1968. He was also named the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four in 1968 and went on to be drafted first overall by the San Diego Rockets in the 1968 NBA Draft.
Hayes’ professional career was equally as impressive, as he averaged 21.0 points and 12.5 rebounds per game over 16 seasons in the NBA and was an 11-time All-Star. He is widely considered one of the best power forwards of all time and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1990.
Elvin Hayes will always be remembered as one of the greatest Houston Cougars basketball players of all time, and rightfully so. His impressive college and professional career set him apart from his peers and his influence is still felt today.
2) Hakeem Olajuwon
When it comes to the greatest Houston Cougars basketball players of all time, there is no question that Hakeem Olajuwon has earned his place at the top of the list.
Olajuwon began his career at the University of Houston in 1981 as a relatively unknown player. However, he quickly established himself as one of the best players in the nation, leading the Cougars to an NCAA championship in 1983. He was named National Player of the Year and was later inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame.
Throughout his college career, Olajuwon set numerous records, including most points scored in a single season (1,755) and most rebounds in a single season (561). He also set the record for most blocks in a single season with 208.
During his three-year career with the Houston Cougars, Olajuwon averaged 15.8 points, 11.1 rebounds and 4.7 blocks per game. He was also an excellent defender, using his quickness and agility to shut down opposing players.
Hakeem Olajuwon is undoubtedly one of the greatest basketball players of all time, and his legacy with the Houston Cougars will live on forever. His contributions to the university and the game of basketball have earned him a spot among the greatest Houston Cougars of all time.
3) Clyde Drexler
Clyde Drexler is widely regarded as one of the greatest Houston Cougars basketball players of all time. He is the school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,207 points and a three-time All-American selection. In addition, he was the consensus National Player of the Year in 1983.
Drexler was one of the most talented players in college basketball at that time, as he led the Cougars to two consecutive Final Fours in 1982 and 1983. In 1982, he was named Southwest Conference Player of the Year after averaging 21.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.8 steals per game. He also earned MVP honors at the Final Four after posting 30 points, 14 rebounds and 7 assists in an 83-78 semifinal loss to eventual champions North Carolina.
Drexler went on to have an illustrious NBA career, spending 15 seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004 and his jersey number, 22, was retired by the University of Houston in 2008. Drexler will always be remembered as one of the greatest Houston Cougars basketball players ever.
4) Otis Birdsong
Otis Birdsong is one of the greatest Houston Cougars basketball players of all time. A four-time NBA All-Star, he was a dominating force in college and professional basketball for over a decade. He was a key player for the Cougars during his time there, leading them to multiple NCAA tournament appearances.
Otis Birdsong was an incredible shooter, as he shot over 50% from the field and over 80% from the free throw line during his college career. He also had an impressive ability to create his own shot, whether it be driving to the basket or shooting a jump shot. Otis’ hustle and hard work were unmatched, as he would often take charges and dive for loose balls on defense.
On top of his offensive prowess, Otis was also an elite defender. His 6’4 frame allowed him to guard both small and power forwards, and his long arms made him a disruptive force on the defensive end. He was able to read opponents’ plays and anticipate their moves, making him an invaluable asset for the Cougars.
Otis Birdsong was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019 and is remembered as one of the greatest Houston Cougars players of all time. His impact on the Cougars program still lives on today and his legacy will continue to be celebrated for years to come.
5) Calvin Murphy
Calvin Murphy is without a doubt one of the greatest Houston Cougars basketball players of all time. As a member of the Phi Slama Jama teams in the late 1970s, he played an integral part in the success and legacy of the program.
Murphy was a 5-foot-9 guard who could dominate on both ends of the court. He had a knack for scoring, averaging over 20 points per game in all four years of his college career. His ability to shoot from deep and get to the rim made him a deadly offensive weapon. In addition to his scoring prowess, he was also known for his passing and leadership.
Murphy ended his college career as the all-time leading scorer in Houston history with 2,121 points, a record that still stands today. He also led the team to three NCAA Tournament appearances and two Final Four trips. After graduating, Murphy was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993 and is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in school history.
6) Michael Young
Michael Young is widely considered one of the greatest Houston Cougars basketball players of all time. During his four years in Houston, Young was a true leader and one of the most dominant players on the court.
Young was a two-time All-American in college, averaging 16.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game during his senior season. He was also named to the All-Conference USA team three times and was a two-time conference player of the year. During his senior season, Young helped lead the Cougars to their first Final Four appearance in school history.
Off the court, Young was an inspirational figure for his teammates. He was a leader who always encouraged and motivated his teammates to play hard and strive for excellence. His leadership on and off the court is still remembered by many today.
Young’s impact on the Cougars program has been felt for decades, and his legacy will live on for years to come. He is undoubtedly one of the greatest players in Houston Cougars basketball history.
7) Rob Williams
Rob Williams is one of the most iconic names in Houston Cougars basketball history. He was an All-American at the University of Houston, and he led the Cougars to three NCAA Tournament appearances, including a Final Four in 1982. Williams was a prolific scorer, averaging over 20 points per game in his senior season, and was named Southwest Conference Player of the Year in 1981 and 1982. He was also a superb defender, ranking second in the nation in steals during his senior year. Williams’ number 34 jersey was retired by the University of Houston in 1982, and he was inducted into the school’s Hall of Honor in 1985. To this day, he remains one of the greatest players to ever don a Houston Cougars uniform.
8) Dwight Jones
Dwight Jones is widely considered one of the greatest Houston Cougars basketball players of all time. During his four-year collegiate career from 1968 to 1972, he scored 2,426 points, which was a school record at the time and still ranks second in team history. He was a two-time All-American, winning the award in 1970 and 1972, and was named Southwest Conference Player of the Year in 1971.
In addition to his scoring prowess, Jones was an excellent rebounder and passer. He set the Houston single-game record with 21 rebounds against TCU during his freshman season, and he led the Cougars in assists three times during his career. He also helped lead the team to four NCAA tournament appearances and three Southwest Conference titles.
Jones was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in the 1972 NBA Draft and went on to have a successful 10-year professional career. He was a member of the 1975 NBA All-Star team and remains one of the most decorated players in Houston Cougars basketball history.
9) Joe Young
Joe Young is one of the greatest players in Houston Cougars basketball history. He played for Houston from 2011 to 2015, and he left a legacy that will last forever.
During his time at Houston, Young was a two-time All-American, winning the title in 2014 and 2015. In addition, he was a three-time All-Conference USA selection and was named the conference player of the year in 2015. On top of that, Young was an NCAA Tournament All-Tournament team selection in 2014 and was named to the C-USA All-Tournament Team three times.
Young was an offensive force on the court, averaging over 20 points per game in his final two seasons at Houston. He also set several school records, including most three-pointers made in a career (257) and most points scored in a single game (41).
Young is remembered fondly by all Cougar fans for his incredible play on the court and for being a true leader for his team. He was known for his hustle, determination and passion for the game, traits that have become synonymous with Houston basketball.
His impact on the program can still be felt today, as the Joe Young Court at Hofheinz Pavilion honors his legacy. He will forever remain one of the greatest players to ever don the red and white.
10) B.J. Tyler
B.J. Tyler is one of the most beloved players in the history of Houston Cougars basketball. He starred at the University of Houston from 1992-1996 and was a four-year starter and two-time All-American. Tyler was one of the most dominant players in college basketball during his tenure, leading the Cougars to four NCAA Tournament appearances and two Sweet 16s.
Throughout his four years at Houston, Tyler averaged 19 points, 4.5 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per game. He was known for his tenacious defense, often taking on the opposing team’s best player on the defensive end. Tyler was also an exceptional leader, helping lead the Cougars to four 20-win seasons and a top 10 ranking in the AP Poll during his time at Houston.
In 1996, Tyler was named Conference USA Player of the Year, an honor he shared with former teammate Clyde Drexler. He went on to be selected as the 24th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Seattle SuperSonics. Despite a brief professional career, Tyler left an indelible mark on the Houston Cougars basketball program and will always be remembered as one of the greatest players to ever wear the Cougar red.