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Big East Lottery Look Back: 1990, 1991

A look at three terrific players to start the final decade of the 20th century.

Dikembe Mutombo

We have reached the beginning of the end.

...of the 20th century.

1990 and 1991 were both tremendous years in their own right. Unless of course you’re a Buffalo Bills fan. Sorry to invoke memories of Scott Norwood and Thurman Thomas forgetting where his helmet was.

The Big East transitioned into the 1990s relatively smoothly. Although college basketball was dominated by UNLV at the time, who would soon be opposed by a certain coach with a lengthy last name at a program that was about to take over the world, Big East basketball remained as a powerhouse. Not only on the court, but in churning out top-level NBA prospects as well.

Today, two of the most famous names in Big East hoops history as well as a forgotten ‘Cuse hooper will be covered here in today's Lottery Look Back.

Derrick Coleman

When you think Syracuse basketball, chances are that Derrick Coleman is one of the first names to come across your mind.

Coleman enjoyed a celebrated career in upstate New York. He netted over 2,000 points and ended his career there with a Big East Player of the Year award in the 1989-90 season. That year, ‘Cuse went a league-best 12-4 to win the Big East regular season title and went to the Sweet 16 before ultimately falling to the Minnesota Golden Gophers. He could be hardly be blamed for that as he amassed 15 points and 11 rebounds in that contest.

He’d averaged double digits in points per game each year that he was on campus. His senior season was his best outing as he picked up a 17.9 points per game mark while playing 35.3 minutes per game. Additionally, Coleman was a 56.8 percent shooter, and shot 57.5 and 55.1 percent in his junior and senior years. His per 40 minute marks were also quite impressive, with his top mark being the 20.4 points per 40 minutes he picked up in his junior year. He’d also averaged 13.8 rebounds and 4.1 blocks per 40 minutes that season, which both would go on to be career-highs.

Coleman’s NBA career was nothing if not a success. While he didn’t win any NBA titles, he still scored over 12,800 points in his career, grabbed over 7,200 rebounds, and over 1,000 blocks as well. He went to the All-Star Game in 1994, was a member of the All-NBA Third team in 1993 and 1994 and finished as the NBA’s Rookie of the Year in 1991 as a member of the New Jersey Nets, one of the four teams he played for in his 15-year career in the Association.

Billy Owens

Like Coleman, Billy Owens enjoyed a splendid career at Syracuse. He was an All-American in 1991 and a member of the All-Big East First Team that year as well. For good reason, too. Owens averaged 23.3 points per game that season whilst shooting a shade over 50 percent from the field and nearly 40 percent from the 3-point line.

That year would catapult him to success as he would be the third pick in the 1991 NBA Draft. However, that summer, Owens would engage in a holdout with the team that selected him: the Sacramento Kings. The Kings would eventually spin Owens for the highly touted Mitch Richmond of Golden State.

It’s likely that there may have been some pushback from this acquisition, as Richmond’s departure broke up the popular “Run TMC” trio of Richmond, Tim Hardaway and former three-time Big East Player of the Year Chris Mullin. In his first season with the Warriors though as he would earn a spot on the All-Rookie team and help lead the Warriors a 55-27 record and a berth in the playoffs where ultimately they would fall to Ricky Pierce, Eddie Johnson, Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton and the Seattle SuperSonics.

Despite that first year of success however, Owens’ body wouldn’t allow for him to flourish despite playing 10 years in the NBA. He would spend only three years with Golden State and spend time in Miami, Sacramento again, Seattle, Philadelphia and finally Detroit where his career would end in 2001.

Dikembe Mutombo

Question: Could we forget about this man?


Of course not.

One way to transition from the Patrick Ewing era at the Hilltop is to snag a guy like Dikembe Mutombo. That's exactly what Georgetown would do in the late 80s when Mutombo would land on campus in 1988. He would quickly ascend to becoming one of the best Hoya big men in program history by the time that he left and wrapped up a brilliant three-year career with an effort of 15.2 points and 12.2 rebounds per game in the 1990-91 season, further compounded by his 4.1 blocks per game mark as well.

Mutombo’s NBA career was nothing short of remarkable. He would play 19 seasons in the NBA and amass eight All-Star selections, four NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards, lead the NBA in rebounds and blocks two and three times respectively, and earn multiple selections on the NBA All-Defensive First and Second Teams.

All would be capped in 2015 when he would be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

It’s also worth noting that Mutombo is one of sports’ greatest humanitarians, and perhaps one of the 20th century’s greatest humanitarians as well. Whether it’s the Special Olympics, aiding low-income families, helping out Basketball Without Borders, CARE, the conditions in his native Congo, or a host of others, Dikembe Mutombo is without a doubt a treasure on and off the basketball court.