In this 21-part series, I’ll count down the 100 greatest Mountaineer men’s basketball players of all-time.
Admittedly this list is not scientific. It is completely subjective, and obviously opinions may differ. Please feel free to visit our message boards at BlueGoldNews.com to provide your own thoughts on this list, either pro or con.
Below is another installation in this lengthy series with a count down from No. 30-26.
Previous Top Players
100-96 95-91 90-86 80-76 75-71 70-66 65-61 60-56
50-46 45-41 40-36 35-31
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26 – Eddie Becker (1952-54) – In his three seasons with West Virginia’s varsity, Becker scored 1,127 career points. He was just the fourth Mountaineer to cross the 1,000-point mark, and at the time of his graduation, he was the second-leading scorer in WVU basketball history, trailing only Mark Workman (1,553 points from 1950-52). Becker also pulled down 346 career rebounds, as he played in 76 games for West Virginia, starting 58 of them. A 6-foot forward from Wheeling, Becker averaged double figures in scoring in each of his three varsity seasons with the Mountaineers, posting 11.4 points per game as a sophomore, 15.0 as a junior and 18.7 as a senior. Under coach Red Brown, Becker’s teams strung together records of 23-4, 19-7 and 12-11. He was a first-team, all-state player while leading Wheeling High to a 25-0 record and a state title in 1948. He was voted into the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Hall of Fame in 2016 and the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 2017.
27 – Lee Patrone (1959-61) – The Bellaire, Ohio, native did many excellent things on the basketball court but the greatest accomplishment of his life occurred when he didve into the icy Ohio River in March of 1961 to save the life of a drowning woman. He was received a Carnegie Hero Foundation Award for that feat. Compare to that, basketball was a breeze. A two-time all-OVAC first-teamer at Bellaire High, where he scored 1,842 career points, Patrone was initially headed to Ohio State but quickly reversed course and enrolled at WVU before his freshman season began in the fall of 1957. After one year on the freshman team, Patrone joined the Mountaineer varsity squad led by Jerry West for the 1958-59 season (29-5) in which West Virginia made a run all the way to the NCAA Tournament’s title game, where it dropped to 71-70 heartbreaker to California. A 6-foot-1 guard, Patrone played a key role that season, typically as a reserve, averaging 6.2 points and 2.3 rebounds per game as a sophomore. He started all 58 games in his final two seasons at WVU, averaging 14.2 points and 5.5 rebounds as a junior and 14.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and a team-best 3.5 assists as a senior. For his three-year varsity career, Patrone scored 1,028 points, pulled down 388 rebounds and handed out 210 assists. He was a three-time member of the Southern Conference all-tournament team, twice was voted first-team all-Southern Conference for the regular season and was a third-team Helms Foundation All-American in 1961. After graduating from West Virginia, Patron taught and coached at Wintersville (Ohio) High School. He was inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.
28 – Rudy Baric (1940-42) – A 6-foot-3 center from Benwood, West Virginia, Baric was the driving force behind the Mountaineers’ National Invitational Tournament title run in 1942 at a time when the NIT was viewed as college basketball’s true national championship. After averaging 10.3 points per game in 1939-40 and 10.5 points per game in 1940-41, Baric increased his production to 14.4 points per game in 1941-42 in leading WVU to a 16-4 regular season that earned it a slot in the eight-team NIT field. Once in New York City, Baric teamed with Scotty Hamilton, Shorty Hicks and Dick Kesling to guide coach Dyke Raese’s Mountaineers to wins over No. 1 Long Island (58-49 in OT), Toledo (51-39) and Western Kentucky (47 -45) to capture the NIT crown. Baric was named the NIT MVP, having averaged 16 points per game in WVU’s three tourney victories. He has scored 748 points in his three seasons with West Virginia varsity, which averaged out to 11.9 points per game. With most members of WVU’s 1941-42 team off to the armed services to participate in World War II for the next season, including Coach Raese, Baric stayed behind to coach the varsity squad for one year. Though Scotty Hamilton was the only returning player from the NIT champions, Baric coached those young Mountaineers to a 14-7 mark. He later continued his coaching success in the high school ranks and was inducted into the South Jersey Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984. Baric, who was enshrined in the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 1992 as part of that body’s second class, passed away in 1993.
29 – Darryl Prue (1986-89) – A blue-chip recruit while putting together a first-team all-Met career at Washington, DC’s, Dunbar High School, the 6-foot-7, 225-pound Prue initially committed to Georgetown before switching his choice to West Virginia prior to his freshman season. Prue quickly became a starter for coach Gale Catlett’s club, and helped the Mountaineers to three 22+ win seasons and three NCAA Tournament berths in his four years in Morgantown. The Atlantic 10 freshman of the year in 1986, he averaged 7.8 points and 5.7 rebounds that season. The A-10 honors kept coming after that, as he was a second-team all-league choice as both a sophomore (12.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game) and a junior (12.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game) before being elevated to first-team all-A10 as a senior (12.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game). In his career, I have totaled 1,426 points (20thin school history) and 865 rebounds (11thin school history), as well as 230 steals (fourth in school history). While Prue’s conversion rate from the free-throw line (46.5% in his career) may have been lacking, his ability to make shots from the floor (55.8% in his career) was nearly unmatched, topped by just one other Mountaineer in school history (Chris Brooks, 60.2%). Prue made 63.3% of his field-goal attempts his senior season (164 of 259), which is again No. 2 on West Virginia’s single-season list behind only Brooks (66.3% in 1990-91). Inducted into WVU’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2019, Prue played professional basketball overseas for 11 years after his college career ended. He has also coached in college and high school, and as well as working as a personal trainer for many DC-area players, including some from the NBA level.
30 – Joe Alexander (2006-08) – A 6-foot-8 forward, Alexander had one of the most unusual paths to stardom any basketball player has ever traveled. His father worked overseas, including a long stretch with the Nestle Corporation, so Joe spent many of his formative years in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China. He played basketball while a youngster in Asia and further developed his game of him when he returned to the US, first at Linganore High School in Mount Airy, Maryland, and then during a prep year at Hargrave Military (Va.) Academy. Though his basketball skills from him were still raw, Alexander’s freakish athletic ability drew the recruiting interest of WVU coach John Beilein. Alexander played very little as a true freshman at West Virginia in 2005-06, averaging 1.3 points, 0.7 rebounds and 3.6 minutes per game while seeing action in just 10 contests. He emerged as a starter in his sophomore season, averaging 10.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in helping Beilein’s final Mountaineer squad to a 27-9 record and an NIT championship. As a junior in ’07-’08, with Bob Huggins in his first year as head coach at West Virginia, Alexander powered WVU back to the NCAA Tournament by leading the team in both scoring (16.9 ppg) and rebounding (6.4 per game) . In particular, he posted an electrifying final month of the season, averaging 28.9 points and 8.1 rebounds in WVU’s final nine games, with four of them being double-doubles, during a 26-11 campaign that included a run to the Sweet 16. Twice During that nine-game stint he surpassed 30 points in showdowns against No. 15 Connecticut, and he also scored 32 points in a win over Pitt. He was named first-team all-Big East and honorable mention AP All-American at the end of the 2007-08 season. Alexander’s final-month performance catapulted him into the upper echelon of the NBA draft prognostications, and he heeded that advice to turn pro following his junior season. He was the eighth overall pick in the first round by the Milwaukee Bucks in the spring of ’08. His time in the NBA lasted just two seasons, but he has spent a dozen years playing professionally overseas, including last year with Maccabi Rishon LeZion in Israel.