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New Jersey schools and players have left their imprints on NCAA Division I Final Fours. The roll call begins with Princeton, Rutgers and Seton Hall reaching the biggest stage in their sport.
From a future two-time NBA champion and three-term U.S. Senator to the son of a legendary Hall of Fame high school coach, there are Jersey players who’ve excelled in the March Madness spotlight.
To warrant consideration for this mythical All-Time New Jersey Final Four team, a player must have had a sustained contribution in high school or college basketball in the state.
Here is the squad:
After winning a gold medal at the Summer Olympics in 1964, Bradley was the NCAA Player of the Year in 1965, when he led Princeton to the Final Four. Following a semifinal loss to Michigan and Cazzie Russell, Bradley’s future Knicks teammate, Bradley scored 58 points in a consolation game win over Wichita.
Bradley, a native of Crystal City, Mo., averaged 30.2 points as a senior and had 2,503 career points, still a Princeton record. After winning a pair of NBA titles with the Knicks, he was a three-term U.S. senator from his adopted state of New Jersey.
The author of seven books, Bradley is the corporate director of Starbucks and a partner at investment bank Allen & Compas in New York City.
Little known fact: Bradley hit .316 in his only season as a first baseman at Princeton.
Honorable mention: Mike O’Koren, Hudson Catholic (North Carolina, 1979); Phil Sellers, New York City (Rutgers, 1976); Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, St. Patrick’s (Kentucky, 2012); Willie Glass, Atlantic City (St. John’s, 1985); Luol Deng, Blair Academy (Duke, 2001); Chris Ford, Holy Spirit (Villanova, 1972); James Bailey, Massachusetts (Rutgers, 1976); Brian Zoubek, Haddonfield (Duke, 2010).
The Camden native starred on two Louisville Final Four teams. The Cardinals lost to Houston in the national semifinals in Thompson’s freshman year, and he scored 13 points as Pervis Ellison led Louisville past Duke in the title game in 1986, Thompson’s senior year.
Thompson, a 6-foot-7 forward, averaged a team-high 14.9 points (slightly better than Milt Wagner, his teammate at Camden and in college) and 7.8 rebounds as a senior. A first-round pick of the Atlanta Hawks in 1986, Thompson, who played five NBA seasons, averaged 8.6 points as the Lakers won the NBA championship in 1987.
Thompson, who won two championships while playing in Israel, credits his becoming a born-again Christian as a Laker with helping him end his dependence on drugs.
Little known fact: Thompson is now a pastor in Boca Raton, Fla.
Honorable mention: Karl-Anthony Townes, St. Joseph Metuchen (Kentucky, 2015); Joakim Noah, Lawrenceville School (Florida, 2006-2007); Lance Thomas, St. Benedict’s (Duke, 2010); Dan Werner, CBA (Florida, 2007); Charlie Villanueva, Blair Academy (Connecticut, 2004); Hollis Copeland, Ewing (Rutgers, 1976); Anthony Avent, Newark Shabazz (Seton Hall, 1989); Darryl Walker, New York City (Seton Hall, 1989); Terry Bross, Immaculata (St. John’s, 1985).
The Jersey City native is arguably the best point guard in NCAA history. He played in three Final Fours, winning two. He’s the all-time leader in assists (1,076).
After a near-perfect career playing for his father at St. Anthony of Jersey City, Hurley was Duke’s floor leader as the Blue Devils won national titles in 1991 and 1992. He was the Most Outstanding Player of the 1992 Final Four. The Sacramento Kings made him the seventh overall pick of the 1993 NBA Draft, but his pro career suffered a setback when he was seriously hurt in a car accident following a game in his rookie season.
After his shortened five-year pro career, Hurley eventually went into coaching. First, as an assistant to his brother, Dan, at Wagner, and than as head coach at Buffalo and Arizona State, where he’s led the Sun Devils to the last two NCAA tournaments.
Little known fact: Between playing and coaching, Hurley was a thoroughbred racehorse owner and breeder. He owned Songandaprayer, which ran in the 2001 Kentucky Derby.
Honorable mention: Eddie Jordan, Washington D.C. (Rutgers, 1976); Jim Boylan, St. Mary, Jersey City (Marquette, 1977); Gary Waters, Reading Pa. (Princeton, 1965); Gerald Greene, New York City (Seton Hall, 1989); Chad Kinch, Perth Amboy (UNC-Charlotte, 1977), Ramon Ramos, Puerto Rico (Seton Hall, 1989); Abdel Anderson, Belleville (Rutgers, 1976), Marcus Townes, St. Joseph Metuchen (Loyola Chicago, 2018).
Raised in Plainfield, Williams played at St. Joseph of Metuchen, where he developed into a McDonald’s All-American. At Duke, he averaged 14.5 points as a freshman and an ACC-leading 21.6 as a junior, his last college season.
The National Player of the Year in 2012, the 6-foot-2 shooting guard averaged 25.7 points in the NCAA Tournament on the way to an 82-72 victory over Arizona in the championship game.
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The Chicago Bulls made Williams the second overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, but his career never achieved its potential after he was injured when he crashed his motorcycle in June 2003. Williams is now a college basketball analyst for ESPN.
Little known fact: Williams played varsity volleyball in his senior year of high school.
Honorable mention: Jim Spanarkel, Hudson Catholic (Duke, 1978); Mike Dabney, East Orange (Rutgers, 1976); Dwight Wilbur, Don Bosco Tech (Villanova, 1985); Milt Wagner, Camden (Louisville, 1982, 1983, 1986); Malachi Richardson, Trenton Catholic (Syracuse, 2016); Curtis Silva, Roselle Catholic (South Carolina, 2017); Da’Sean Butler, Bloomfield Tech (West Virginia, 2009).
The 6-3 guard was the top scorer on a Seton Hall team that was the runner-up in the 1989 Final Four. Morton was from The Bronx, and the Pirates recruited him out of Walton High School.
He averaged 12.4 points for his career, topped by 17.3 in his senior year. He had 1,621 career points.
If it were not for a controversial call that led to two free throws by Rumeal Robinson with three seconds remaining in overtime that gave Michigan its 80-79 title-game win, Morton would have been the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. He scored 35 points, 25 in the second half, in leading Seton Hall back from a double-digit deficit.
A first-round pick of the Cavaliers (25th overall) in the 1989 NBA Draft, Morton averaged 4.8 points in his three-year career. He later played in the CBA, Spain, Italy and The Philippines.
Little known fact: After his playing days, Morton was an assistant coach at St. Peter’s and Fordham.
Honorable mention: Kevin Freeman, Paterson Catholic (Connecticut, 1999); Pat Sullivan, Bogota (North Carolina 1991, 1993, 1995); Tim Mullen, Ridgewood (Virginia, 1984); Andrew Gaze, Australia (Seton Hall, 1989); Kevin Walls, Camden (Louisville, 1986).