The Top 5 in 25 is a series that will run through next week chronicling the top five players since the 1987-1988 season. We will be releasing all six schools in the next few days.
Click here to read Drexel’s Top 5 in 25 by Kevin Rossi.
Click here to read Penn’s Top 5 in 25 by Teddy Bailey.
Click here to read Temple’s Top 5 in 25 by Chase Senior.
Click here to read Villanova’s Top 5 in 25 by Mike Angelina.
Click here to read St. Joseph’s Top 5 in 25 by Matt Schultz.
La Salle basketball has been on quite a roller coaster ride over the past 25 years. Three head coaching changes, nearly two decades of absence from the NCAA tournament and a player rape trial that set the program back even further. Through all the adversity, however, the university was able to produce a solid list of basketball talent.
Unlike the other Top Five in 25 lists, La Salle’s five top players are all local, Philadelphia products. Channeling the deep, ingrained advantages of being a “Philly player”, the five below include some of the greatest players in the city in the last 25 years.
Guard, Doug Overton (1987-1991) - Doug Overton is La Salle’s all-time leader in assists and steals, so there’s not much to argue why this Philadelphia native is viewed as the best point guard to ever start for the Explorers. In his four years under coach Speedy Morris, Overton helped La Salle reach three consecutive NCAA tournaments from ’88-90.
Overton was a graduate of Dobbins Tech, the same high school that produced former McDonald’s All-Americans Horace Owens, Bo Kimble, and Hank Gathers.
In his freshman season, the team recorded 24 wins and went a perfect 14-0 against MAAC opponents culminating with an NCAA tournament appearance for the first time since 1983. As a junior, Overton was second on the team in scoring with 17.2 points per game for the 30-2 Explorers. His 45 points against Loyola Marymount is the fourth highest total of all-time (behind Randy Woods’ 46 in the same game).
Overton finished his La Salle campaign 12th in scoring, finishing with 1795 points. He is the career leader in all-time assists, with 671, and steals, with 277. A second round pick (40th overall) of the Detroit Pistons in the 1991 NBA Draft, his career as a NBA pro has included stints with the Bullets, Nuggets, Sixers, Magic, Nets, Celtics, Hornets, and Clippers. A 1997 Big 5 Hall of Fame inductee, Overton is now an assistant for the Brooklyn Nets.
Guard, Donnie Carr (1996-2000) - With his career starting near the beginning of La Salle’s time in the Atlantic 10, Donnie Carr turned in an excellent four years mired in bad team basketball. In any other period, the Roman Catholic product would have garnered national attention. Touted as a near equivalent of Kobe Bryant, there was talk that the two would team up at a local high school. When Carr chose La Salle, fan’s interest in Kobe spiked.
Kobe went pro, however, and Carr began to lead Broad and Olney. As a freshman, he averaged 23.9 points per game for the 10-17 Explorers. His following three seasons would have scoring averages of 18.0, 18.7 and 17.1, but the team would go only 47-67 in his four-year career.
Carr’s 2,067 career points put him fifth all-time in that category also making him one of four Explorers ever to surpass the 2,000 plus points mark. Carr ranks second in all-time in three-pointers made (308) and eighth all-time in assists (404).
Guard, Kareem Townes (1992-1995) - Perhaps the best La Salle player you’ve never heard of, Kareem Townes‘s three years at La Salle saw him average 23.8 points per game.
Leaving a year early to chase NBA dreams (EDIT: As a Prop 48 player with only three years of eligibility), Townes’ junior year showed that he was one of the top players in the nation. That season, the 6-foot-3 guard averaged 25.9 points per contest. The South Philadelphia High School product, who was the first player since Wilt Chamberlain to average over 40 points per game in the Philadelphia Public League (41.2 in his senior season), was highly recruited and chose La Salle after watching former teammate Lionel Simmons have a fantastic career under Speedy Morris.
Townes’ 1925 points is the eighth most in school history and his 23.8 point average is second only to Simmons’ 24.6 points per game. Even more shocking is that Townes accomplished this in three years at Broad and Olney. Townes’ 196 steals puts him seventh on the career list and his 300 three-pointers has him third, only 42 behind Darnell Harris (who achieved his feat in four years). He holds the record for most points in a game with 52, which he achieved against Loyola (Illinois) in 1995. His nine three-pointers in that game also stands as the most by an Explorer. Overall, Townes attempted more three pointers than any player in La Salle history, with 876.
Going undrafted in 1995, Townes made the final cuts for the Los Angeles Lakers, but never suited up for the team. After a couple stints in Europe and America’s semi-pro leagues, Townes had trouble with the law when, after just signing a $150,000 contract to play in Italy in 2001, he was charged and ultimately found guilty of attempting to sell drugs.
Guard / Forward, Rasual Butler (1998-2002) – Just three years behind a former high school teammate, Rasual Butler joined Carr at La Salle for two seasons. Standing 6-foot-7, Butler had immediate impact, averaging 14.2 points per game in his first season. That year saw La Salle at 8-8 in the Atlantic 10, their best finish in the conference to that point.
With the departure of Carr following the 1999-2000 season, Butler saw an uptick in his numbers. The increasingly proficient long-range shooter averaged 22.1 points as a junior and was a top player in the Atlantic 10. Though the team continued to struggle, their best player was silently preparing for years in the NBA.
Butler finished his career with 2067 points (5th), 120 blocks (3rd) and shot 36-percent from the three-point line for his career (9th). Drafted in the second round of the 2002 NBA draft by the Miami Heat, the guard has molded himself as a three-point threat and continued a good career with the Heat, Hornets, Clippers, Bulls and Raptors. Currently a free agent, do not be surprised when Butler, who was inducted into the La Salle Hall of Athletes in 2008, is picked up by a contending team.
Forward, Lionel Simmons (1986-1990) - If one were asked to name one player that epitomizes the legacy of La Salle basketball over the last 25 years, it would without a doubt have to be Lionel “L-Train” Simmons. Leading the ’86 team to the NIT championship game final as a freshman, the south Philadelphia product is the only 3,000 point scorer in La Salle history and ranks first or second in many Explorer all-time statistical categories.
Although only 6’7”, Simmons was college hoops’ version of Wilt Chamberlain based on the numbers he produced on both sides of the floor. The Explorer legend leads the school in all-time field goals made (1,244), free throws made (673), blocked shots (248), rebounds (1,429), scoring average (24.6) and total points in a season (908).
Such prodigious play by the 3-time MAA conference player of the year earned him national recognition as the outstanding forward was named AP National Player of the year in ’90 in his senior year at La Salle. In that season he averaged 26.5 ppg, 11.3 rbg, and 2 blocks.
In Simmons four years as an Explorer, he put up numbers that put him in the rankings as one of the best players in college basketball history. Simmons’ 3,217 points and 1,429 rebounds rank him second all-time among college basketball players to have over 4,000 combined points and rebounds in their career. The list includes Tom Gola and also features Hall of Famers Elvin Hayes, Oscar Robertson and Larry Bird.
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