Men's Basketball

Starting 5: The best centers in Texas men's hoops history


Posted October 2nd, 2017

With 39 days til Texas opens the season against Northwestern State on Nov. 10, it’s time to get excited about the upcoming men’s basketball season. Each day until the start of the season, we’ll give out a starting line up of five things you need to know about Texas basketball.

The University of Texas’ history of producing centers isn’t as rich as their ability to churn out power forwards, and some power forwards could even be mistaken for centers, like LaMarcus Aldridge, but two of the highest-drafted players in program history are centers and some of the most key players one some of the best teams were playing center and protecting the rim.

Here the five best centers in Longhorn history:

UT’s Prince Ibeh dunks against Kansas State in the first half at the Frank Erwin Center on Saturday March 7, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN


5. Prince Ibeh, 2012-2016

Ibeh didn’t have the monster numbers, and he was not a factor on offense — a career average of three points per game. But he the 2016 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year became one of the best shot-blockers in the league during his last few years on campus. As a sophomore against Kansas, Ibeh had four blocks — Andrew Wiggins probably still has nightmares — in Texas’ biggest win of the year. When Cameron Ridley was lost for the season in 2015-2016, Ibeh stepped up big during Shaka Smart’s first season and averaged two blocks per game and was named the league’s top defensive player.

3/17/02-Rodolfo Gonzaleaz/American-Statesman: University of Texas’ #0, James Thomas is hugged by #45, Chris Ogden after the Longhorns defeated Mississippi State 68-64 in the 2nd round of the 2002 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament held in Dallas, Texas, on Sunday, March 17, 20002.

4. James Thomas, 2000-2004

UT file photo of former Texas basketball player, LaSalle Thompson (1980-82). Photo credit: The University of Texas at Austin. Pic received on 11/2/05. ORG XMIT:

At 6-foot-8, Thomas was a little undersized but the man could not be denied rebounds. He averaged 11 points and 11 rebounds in 2002-2003 — the Final Four season. He had career averages of 8.6 points and 8.0 rebounds. His senior season dropped off a bit, going from 11 rebounds to 5.8, and went from starting every game to starting just 18 and averaging 15.6 minutes a game, but  he left Texas as a 1,000 point scorer and 1,000 point rebounder.

3. John Brownlee, 1984-1986

After transferring from North Carolina (and winning a national championship as Sam Perkins’ back-up), Brownlee played two seasons at Texas and averaged 13.8 points as a junior and 17 points as a senior in 1986. He was named Southwestern Conference Player of the Year as a senior. The 6-foot-10-inch center averaged a near double-double as a senior with 17 points and 8.2 rebounds. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers, but never played in the NBA. Brownlee’s teams went 15-13 and 19-12 in his two seasons.

2. LaSalle Thompson, 1979-1982

In three years “Tank” Thompson became the all-time leading rebounder in program history with 1,027 in three seasons. Thomas would break that record 21 years later and Damion James would break that record a few years after that but Thompson is  still the third all-time leading rebounder at Texas. Thompson played in the NBA from 1982-1997, one of the longest pro careers for a former Longhorn. He was the fifth pick in the draft, the highest in Texas history until Aldridge was taken second in 2006. At Texas, Thompson never played in the NCAA Tournament as his teams went 19-11, 15-15 and 16-11 in three seasons. Thompson scored 1,463 points as a Longhorn.

1. Chris Mihm, 1997-2000

Mihm is the greatest center in Texas history. He is the all-time leader in blocks with 264, second in double-doubles with 47, fourth in rebounds with 945 and 16th in scoring 1,404 points. He and Thompson are the only players to post consecutive 300 rebound seasons at Texas. Mihm — a three-year player and local product — was just the third 7-footer to play at Texas. Mihm became the Big 12’s all-time leading shot blocker until Kansas center Jeff Withey broke his record. Mihm was a two-time All- Big 12 player and defensive player and was a consensus All-American. He entered the NBA after his junior season and was the seventh pick in the NBA draft  by the Chicago Bulls, but was traded on draft night to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Photo by Larry Kolvoord/AA-S….11/20/99….UT’s Chris Mihm (4) stretches to snag a rebound as teammate William Clay (23) and Brett Smith, right, of Lousiana Lafayette get into the action.