Greatest Ivy League Basketball Players
The odds of playing college basketball are minuscule, no matter where you play in high school. But the odds of playing college basketball for an Ivy League college? That's getting into some pretty rare air.
The eight institutions that make up the Ivy League — Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton and Yale — almost all have proud basketball traditions and have produced their own fair share of All-Americans and even some NBA and WNBA talent through the years. What's more, some of the accomplishments these players achieved off the court far outweigh whatever they did on it. Even if it was pretty great.
Here's a look at the greatest men's and women's basketball players from each of the eight Ivy League colleges.
Yale: Chris Dudley
Height/Weight: 6-foot-11, 235 pounds
Career highlights: Three-time All-Ivy League (1985-87), NBA Eastern Conference champion (1999)
Bottom line: No Ivy League player had a longer NBA career than former Yale center Chris Dudley, who played 16 seasons and is still famous to this day for getting dunked on by Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal … and then throwing the ball at O'Neal.
Dudley was the fifth person in his family to attend Yale — following both of his parents, his grandfather and his uncle — and he was a high school basketball star in San Diego before making his way to New Haven.
While he was dominant throughout his last three seasons at Yale, he dominated the most during his senior season in 1986-87 when he averaged 17.6 points, 13.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocks but was somehow beaten out for Ivy League Player of the Year by Penn's Perry Bromwell.
Yale: Tonya Lawrence
Career highlights: Ivy League Player of the Year (1989), three-time All-Ivy League (1988-90)
Bottom line: Tonya Lawrence remains the only Yale women's basketball player to earn Ivy League Player of the Year honors and the only player in program history to earn All-Ivy League First Team honors three times.
Lawrence is still No. 3 on Yale's career-scoring and -rebounding lists and holds the career record for most defensive rebounds and most field goals in a single season. She played pro basketball in Belgium for one season after her college career.
Princeton: Bill Bradley
Height/Weight: 6-foot-5, 205 pounds
Career highlights: Three-time All-American (1963-65), AP College Player of the Year (1965), Final Four Most Outstanding Player (1965), UPI College Player of the Year (1965), two-time NBA champion (1970, 1973), NBA All-Star (1972), two-time Sporting News College Player of the Year (1964, 1965)
Bottom line: Bill Bradley is hands down the greatest Ivy League men's basketball player of all time — a three-time All-American who led Princeton to the 1965 Final Four and was named Final Four Most Outstanding Player.
Bradley also swept every major national college player of the year award in 1965 before becoming a Rhodes Scholar. Studying at Oxford delayed his NBA career for several years, but when he finally landed in the league, he helped lead the New York Knicks to a pair of NBA championships in 1970 and 1973.
Even though Bradley also won an Olympic gold medal in 1964, perhaps his greatest accomplishment was serving as a U.S. Senator for almost 20 years following the end of his playing career.
Princeton: Bella Alarie
Position: Center/Power Forward
Career highlights: Two-time AP/WBCA All-American (2019, 2020), three-time Ivy League Player of the Year (2018-20), four-time All-Ivy League (2017-20)
Bottom line: Bella Alarie was a two-time All-American and three-time Ivy League Player of the Year for Princeton as she lit up opponents for four years — never more so than in her junior year when she averaged 22.8 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.8 blocks.
Alarie was selected No. 5 overall in the 2020 WNBA Draft by the Dallas Wings and played two seasons for the franchise before announcing she would sit out the 2022 season for personal reasons.
Only time will tell what's next for Alarie, but it's likely to be something great, as she comes from a long line of high achievers. Her father, Mark Alaire, was an All-American basketball player at Duke and played five seasons in the NBA. Her mother, Rene Augustine, was Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division, and her grandfather and fellow Princeton grad Norman Augustine is a former CEO for Lockheed-Martin.
Penn: Matt Maloney
Position: Point Guard
Height/Weight: 6-foot-3, 192 pounds
Career highlights: Three-time All-Ivy League (1993-95), Ivy League Player of the year (1995), NBA All-Rookie Team (1997), CBA All-Rookie Team (1996), three-time Ivy League champion (1993-95)
Bottom line: Matt Maloney played his freshman season at Vanderbilt before transferring to Penn, where he led the school to a 42-0 record in Ivy League play over the next three seasons.
Maloney was a three-time All-Ivy League pick and capped his career as the Ivy League Player of the Year in 1995 — he also led Penn to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances before having a pretty respectable NBA career. Maloney played seven seasons in the NBA despite going undrafted and was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team in 1997 when he started all 82 games for the Houston Rockets.
Penn: Diana Caramanico
Career highlights: AP All-American (2001), three-time Ivy League Player of the Year (1999-2001), four-time All-Ivy League (1998-2001), Ivy League Rookie of the Year (1998)
Bottom line: Penn's Diana Caramanico is in the conversation for the greatest women's basketball player in Ivy League history and the only First Team AP All-American to ever come out of the Ivy League. Caramanico, a three-time Ivy League player of the Year, still holds the Ivy League career-scoring record with 2,415 points and is the only player in Penn history — men's or women's basketball — with over 2,000 career points.
Caramanico led Penn to its first Ivy League championships and first NCAA Tournament appearance as a senior in 2001, as the Quakers went 14-0 in Ivy competition. She also set the single-game scoring record with 42 points against Albany as a senior.
A native of Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, she played two seasons of pro basketball for Racing Club of France following her college career and led France's second division in scoring each year.
Harvard: Jeremy Lin
Position: Point Guard
Height/Weight: 6-foot-3, 200 pounds
Career highlights: Three-time All-Ivy League (2008-10), NBA champion (2019), CBA All-Star (2020)
Bottom line: Few players in NBA history have captured the public's imagination and become as famous as fast as former Harvard star Jeremy Lin in 2012 when he led the New York Knicks to the NBA playoffs — a period known as "Linsanity" in NBA circles.
Lin's foundation for his pro career began at Harvard, where he was a three-time All-Ivy League pick and finished his career as the first Ivy League player with at least 1,450 points, 450 rebounds, 400 assists and 200 steals in their career.
He ended up playing 10 seasons in the NBA, including an NBA championship with the Toronto Raptors in 2019 before playing three more seasons in the Chinese Basketball Association.
Harvard: Allison Feaster
Career highlights: Three-time Ivy League Player of the Year (1996-98), four-time All-Ivy League (1995-98), Ivy League Rookie of the Year (1995), two-time AP/WBCA All-American (1997, 1998), WNBA All-Star (2004)
Bottom line: Allison Feaster was a two-time High School All-American at Chester (S.C.) High before making her way to Harvard, where she became a two-time All-American and three-time Ivy League Player of the Year.
Feaster is one of two players in Ivy League history with more than 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds for her career along with Princeton's Bill Bradley. Like Bradley, Feaster had her defining moment at the NCAA Tournament as a senior when she led No. 16 seed Harvard to a 71-67 win over No. 1 seed Stanford — the first No. 16 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed in NCAA Tournament history for men or women.
Feaster was the No. 5 overall pick in the 1998 WNBA Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks and played 10 years in the league and almost another decade after that overseas. Feaster has been the director of player development for the Boston Celtics since 2020.
Dartmouth: Rudy LaRusso
Position: Power Forward/Center
Height/Weight: 6-foot-7, 220 pounds
Career highlights: Three-time All-Ivy League (1957-59), five-time NBA All-Star (1962, 1963, 1966-69), NBA All-Defensive Team (1969)
Bottom line: Dartmouth star Rudy LaRusso was a demon on the boards, setting an Ivy League single-game record with 32 rebounds against Columbia in 1959. After LaRusso dominated the Ivy League for three seasons, he went on to play 10 seasons in the NBA and was a five-time NBA All-Star and made the league's first NBA All-Defensive Team in 1969. For his NBA career, LaRusso averaged 15.6 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists and gained a certain measure of pop culture fame for his guest-starring role on the hit television series "Gilligan's Island" in 1966.
LaRusso died of Parkinson's Disease in 2004. He was 66 years old.
Dartmouth: Gail Koziara
Career highlights: Three-time Ivy League Player of the Year (1980-82)
Bottom line: While Gail Koziara's basketball career is something most people could dine off of for the rest of their lives, it's what she did after she hung up her sneakers that really blows us away.
Koziara — now Gail Koziara Boudreaux — was a two-time state champion and Parade All-American at Chicopee (Mass.) Comprehensive High before making her way to Dartmouth, where she was a three-time Ivy League Player of the Year, two-time Academic All-American and ended her career as the school's leading scorer and rebounder. She was also a four-time Ivy League champion in the shot put.
After graduating from Dartmouth and then business school at Columbia — gotta love the double Ivy League degrees — Koziara went to work in corporate leadership in the health care insurance industry. In 2008, Koziara was hired as executive vice president at UnitedHealth Group and rose to CEO of the company in 2011, overseeing a company that served more than 45 million customers and saw more than $120 billion in annual revenue … which grew to almost $250 billion by the time she left to become CEO of GKB Global Health in 2015.
What kind of absolute swag do those kinds of jobs wield? Since 2008, Koziara has been a mainstay on the Forbes Magazine list of the 100 Most Powerful Women in the World, rising to as high as No. 10 in 2020. In 2022, she received the Theodore Roosevelt Award from the NCAA — the highest individual honor the NCAA can bestow on someone.
Cornell: Ryan Wittman
Position: Small Forward
Height/Weight: 6-foot-6, 215 pounds
Career highlights: Ivy League Player of the Year (2010), Ivy League Rookie of the Year (2007), All-American (2010), three-time All-Ivy League (2008-10), three-time Ivy League champion (2008-10)
Bottom line: The son of former NBA player and NBA head coach Randy Wittman, Ryan Wittman opened his college career by scoring 18 points in a win over Northwestern, setting the school record for most points by a freshman in their debut and the first win for Cornell over a Big Ten opponent in 39 years.
Wittman proceeded to light up the Ivy League for the next four years on the way to being a three-time All-Ivy League selection, then Ivy League Player of the Year and an AP All-American as a senior in 2010.
Cornell: Jeomi Maduka
Career highlights: AP All-American (2008), Ivy League Player of the Year (2008), Ivy League Rookie of the Year (2006), four-time All-Ivy League (2005-09)
Bottom line: Cornell's Jeomi Maduka is probably the only player on this list who can claim to be her school's very best of all time in two sports — basketball and track and field.
In basketball, Maduka was the first Cornell player named Ivy League Player of the Year in 2008 and a four-time All-Ivy League pick and AP All-American in 2008. In track and field, she was the 2009 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships runner-up in the long jump and ended her career with seven All-American honors in track and field and was an All-Ivy League pick 16 times across the two sports.
Columbia: Jim McMillian
Position: Small Forward
Height/Weight: 6-foot-5, 215 pounds
Career highlights: Three-time All-American (1968-70), three-time All-Ivy League (1968-70), NBA champion (1972), Italian League champion (1972), three-time Haggerty Award winner (1968-70)
Bottom line: No player in Columbia history stands above Jim McMillian, a Brooklyn native who scored 1,758 points in just three years of college basketball in a time when freshmen weren't even allowed to play on the varsity team — he is still No. 2 on the Ivy League career-scoring list and averaged 22.5 points per game for his career.
McMillian was as good as any college basketball player in the country during his time at Columbia before being selected No. 13 overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1970 NBA Draft and winning an NBA championship with the franchise in 1972 alongside legends like Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Gail Goodrich. McMillian would eventually play 12 seasons of pro basketball — 10 in the NBA followed by two years in the Italian League. McMillan died in 2016, at 68 years old.
Columbia: Judie Lomax
Career highlights: Ivy League Player of the Year (2010), two-time All-Ivy League (2009, 2010), AP All-American (2009)
Bottom line: Judie Lomax transferred to Columbia after one year at Oregon State and became the first women's basketball player in NCAA Division I history to lead the nation in rebounding two years in a row — she averaged over 14 rebounds both seasons — and was the first Columbia player to be named Ivy League Player of the Year when she earned the honor in 2010.
Lomax only played two seasons for Columbia but finished her career second in program history in rebounds and field-goal percentage.
Brown: Cedric Keakumensah
Height/Weight: 6-foot-9, 245 pounds
Career highlights: Two-time Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year (2013, 2014), three-time All-Ivy League (2013-15)
Bottom line: Brown doesn't have a great history of men's basketball success — they play in the tiny Pizzitola Sports Center (capacity 2,800) and have the least amount of NCAA Tournament appearances of any Ivy League school.
One thing they do have is a two-time Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year in former forward Cedric Keakumensah, a Worcester, Massachusetts, native who won the honor in back-to-back years in 2013 and 2014 and was a three-time All-Ivy League pick.
Brown: Liz Walter
Career highlights: Two-time Ivy League Player of the Year (1987, 1988), Ivy League Rookie of the Year (1986), three-time All-Ivy League (1986-88)
Bottom line: Arguably the greatest high school player to ever come out of Wyoming, former Sheridan High star Liz Walter was a two-time state champion before making her way to the Ivy League, where she was the two-time Ivy League Player of the Year in 1987 and 1988 during her sophomore and junior seasons at Brown.
Then, Walter did something that's almost unheard of. Before her senior season, she quit, and she did so for the most Ivy League reason possible — to study biology in low-level rainforests in Costa Rica and Jamaica. Maybe that's why she's not in the Brown Athletics Hall of Fame?