Ranking the Best Dunkers in College Basketball in 2014-15
As college football pads clash around the country, college basketball fans can look forward to their own kind of slams from top dunk artists. The most crowd-pleasing, momentum-swinging play in hoops gives the game's best athletes a showcase for their talents.
Michigan State lost one elite finisher in Adreian Payne, but he wasn’t the only Spartan to make an impact in this category. Rim-rocking forward Branden Dawson returns to East Lansing as the team leader, as well as one of the top highlight factories in the Big Ten.
Here is a look at Dawson and the rest of the dozen best dunk specialists in the country, rated according to how impressive their slams are (for both power and flair) and how many chances they’re likely to get to show off their skills in 2014-15.
12. Marcus Lee, Kentucky
Skinny though he is, Marcus Lee (220 pounds) has the leaping ability to generate serious force on some of his jams.
As in other areas of his game, finesse is not exactly a priority, but he does love his alley-oops and follow jams.
Kentucky creates its share of fast-break opportunities, but an absurdly talent-rich front line means that Lee will be on the bench for most of them.
11. Winston Shepard, San Diego State
Winston Shepard doesn’t generate quite as much torque on his slams as many players on this list.
The long-armed Aztec thrives on the finesse game, and he’ll get an occasional putback dunk as well.
A weak half-court offense will make it easy for defenses to key on Shepard, but SDSU will run at every opportunity.
10. Stanley Johnson, Arizona
Stanley Johnson is immensely strong for a wing player, but it doesn’t always show up in his dunks.
He saves most of his flash for dunk contests, opting more for getting the job done during games.
He’ll be the Wildcats’ best fast-break option by a significant margin, and having T.J. McConnell to serve up alley-oops will help him out as well.
9. Dez Wells, Maryland
Few Terrapins are as ready for the Big Ten as Dez Wells, who has plenty of practice at taking on bigger, stronger defenders and winning.
For all his athletic gifts, he’s more businesslike with his finishes than most top guards.
He’ll be the centerpiece of Maryland’s offense again, but the Terps’ fast break is bound to take a hit as it adjusts to the physical defenses in its new league.
8. Grayson Allen, Duke
Duke shooting guards are usually more about the three-pointer than the throwdown, but Grayson Allen attacks the rim in convincing fashion.
The reigning McDonald’s All-American slam-dunk champ loves to show off his reverse dunks on fast breaks.
He’s unlikely to beat Rasheed Sulaimon for a spot in the starting lineup, but he will be playing with a pair of excellent passers in Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook.
7. Sam Thompson, Ohio State
Three years of wrestling with Big Ten forwards have made sure that Sam Thompson can finish through contact.
He’s the rare Buckeye who consistently generates his highlights on the offensive end, especially as a target for alley-oops.
He should get a bigger role in the offense this year, but it’s still the Ohio State offense, which sometimes seems to be channeling a basketball counterpart to Woody Hayes.
6. J.P. Tokoto, North Carolina
Although he stands just 6’5”, J.P. Tokoto never hesitates to challenge bigger defenders at the rim.
His remarkable hang time helps him out in this department, but he mostly sticks to simple one-handed slams.
The only way he could get more chances to show off his skills would be if the Tar Heels didn’t have so many other great finishers around him.
5. Cliff Alexander, Kansas
Cliff Alexander plays even bigger than his 6’9”, 240-pound frame, and there will be plenty of bruised Big 12 rims to prove it.
He doesn’t have much room to embellish at his size, but he does know how to get the crowd on its feet.
He won't have any trouble securing a key role in the offense, but the Jayhawks’ lack of an established point guard won’t help him any.
4. Rodney Purvis, UConn
As a freshman (when he was still at N.C. State), Rodney Purvis showed that he knows how to rock the rim.
Big-time leaping ability gives him plenty of time for acrobatics.
The Huskies offense will create plenty of chances for someone at shooting guard, but it remains to be seen if Purvis can establish himself as the main man in a crowded backcourt.
3. Branden Dawson, Michigan State
The same athleticism that helps Branden Dawson dominate the glass at just 6’6” also puts serious emphasis into his dunks.
He’ll be one of the Big Ten leaders in alley-oop finishes, especially with Denzel Valentine feeding him.
Coach Tom Izzo isn’t exactly a run-and-gun type, but Dawson is going to get loads of touches as the only proven scorer in the lineup.
2. Michael Qualls, Arkansas
Arkansas has a roster full of high flyers, and Michael Qualls is the best of the bunch at turning that altitude into explosive finishes.
As he showed against Kentucky in the highlight above, he has a flair for the dramatic.
Razorbacks coach Mike Anderson loves to run, and his fluid half-court offense keeps the paint open for drives.
1. Chris Walker, Florida
Long-armed Chris Walker has the leverage to generate far more force than his slender, 220-pound build would suggest.
Alley-oops and putbacks are going to constitute a healthy percentage of the scoring for this former McDonald’s All-American dunk contest winner.
A surefire starter now that his eligibility issues are behind him, Walker is going to be the No. 1 weapon in Florida’s fast-paced attack.