basketball-men-d1 flag

Andy Wittry | | May 26, 2020

College basketball's 13 most prolific scorers of the modern era

Throwback Thursday: Curry Carries Davidson

Whether college basketball fans realized it or not, they recently witnessed one of the highest-scoring players in the sport's history — on a per-game basis for his career. Not only did former Oklahoma point guard Trae Young become the first player to lead the country in points and assists per game in the same season, but his 27.4 points per game stands as one of the highest career scoring averages in the last quarter-century.

RELATED: The story behind the first dunk in college basketball history

Using Sports Reference's archived stats that date back to the 1985-86 season (the 3-point line was introduced to college in 1986), here are the 13 most prolific scorers in terms of career scoring average in the modern era of college basketball.

Keith Gailes

School: Loyola Chicago

Scoring average: 24.7 ppg

Single-game career high: 44 points

Loyola Chicago's basketball history is much deeper than last season's Final Four run. Gailes is the program's second-leading scorer with 2,025 points from 1988-91. He holds three of the top four marks for single-game field goal attempts, so he wasn't shy about shooting the ball when he had a good look.

He was a 77.6 percent free throw shooter and a 34 percent shooter from behind the arc, meaning he could hurt opposing defenses in multiple ways. 

RELATED: Here's how teams fared the seasons after making Cinderella runs

Kevin Bradshaw

School: Bethune-Cookman, U.S. International

Scoring average: 25.3 ppg

Single-game career high: 72 points

If you've ever wondered who had the equivalent game in college of Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game in the NBA, the answer is Kevin Bradshaw. He set the NCAA record for points against a Division I opponent with 72 against Loyola Marymount on Jan. 5, 1991, breaking "Pistol Pete" Maravich's previously held 21-year-old record. Bradshaw's 1991 season is one of just 19 years in NCAA history that a player scored at least 1,000 points — and only four of them have come since 1990.

His 37.6 points per game as a senior is the 11th-highest single-season scoring average ever. If you're curious how a player could score 72 points in a college game, watch the highlights above from when U.S. International played Arkansas in December 1989, when Bradshaw averaged 31.3 points per game as a junior. Arkansas won the game 166-101 in the seventh-highest scoring outburst by a single team in NCAA history.

Steph Curry

School: Davidson

Scoring average: 25.3 ppg

Single-game career high: 44 points (twice)

Golden State Warriors point guard Steph Curry, a two-time MVP and three-time champion in the NBA, first blew up nationally when he played at Davidson for three seasons. Curry led the Wildcats to the NCAA tournament twice, including an Elite Eight run in 2008. They knocked off No. 7 seed Gonzaga, No. 2 seed Georgetown and No. 3 seed Wisconsin before falling to No. 1 seed Kansas 59-57.

The baby-faced assassin, whose father also played in the NBA, scored 40 points against Gonzaga (as seen in the highlight above), 30 points against Georgetown, 33 against Wisconsin and 25 against Kansas, finishing the tournament with 128 points — only 12 behind Chris Douglas-Roberts, whose Memphis team played in the national title game.

Curry is the Southern Conference's all-time leading scorer with 2,635 points and his 122 3-pointers in 2007 still stands as the NCAA Division I record for a freshman.

RELATED: 11 story lines we hope to follow next season

Kevin Durant

School: Texas

Scoring average: 25.8 ppg

Single-game career high: 37 points

If you're looking for further context for the Golden State Warriors' assemblage of talent, they have two of the top scorers in the modern era of college basketball on their team with both players in their primes.

Durant became the first freshman in NCAA history to win any of the major national player of the year awards in college basketball in 2006-07, when he was named the consensus National Player of the Year.

He once scored 26 points in a half against Baylor and he scored 37 on the road in Big 12 play three different times in the month of January, each of which tied the Texas records for points in a Big 12 game and points by a freshman. Durant averaged 28.9 points in Big 12 play, meaning he got even better as the competition got tougher.

Keydren Clark

School: St. Peter's

Scoring average: 25.9 ppg

Single-game career high: 48 points

An undersized guard who entered college at 5-8, Keydren Clark didn't let his height stop him as he twice led the nation in scoring while playing for St. Peter's. He made 10 3-pointers in a 48-point performance against Northern Arizona and it only took Clark 15 games to break the school record for 3s, according to the New York Times.

He holds the NCAA Division I career record for 3-point attempts per game (10.1) and he's fourth in career 3-pointers made (435).

His previous freshman record of 109 made 3-pointers in 2003 has since been broken by Curry and two other players (each of whom played at least five more games in their record-breaking season than Clark played in '03).

MORE: Every Final Four MOP from 1939 to present

Gerald Glass

School: Ole Miss

Scoring average: 26.1 ppg

Single-game career high: 53 points

In the highlight above, Glass goes basket-for-basket with another player on our list, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (formerly known as Chris Jackson), as the pair combined for an SEC-record 108 points in a historic game in 1989. Ole Miss topped LSU 113-112 in overtime in its regular season finale thanks to Glass, who tipped in a rebound to cut the deficit to one, made a 3-pointer to tie the game and then hit the game-winning free throw.

Glass reflected on the game years later in an interview with Ole Miss athletics: "That is one of the things that people talk about most. They talk about that night that I played against Chris Jackson. We both scored over 50 points, so that was a night to remember."

Glass was named an honorable mention All-America selection in both of his seasons before becoming the first former Ole Miss player to be drafted in the first round of the NBA draft.

Michael Beasley

School: Kansas State

Scoring average: 26.2 ppg

Single-game career high: 44 points

As a freshman, Beasley was third nationally in points per game and led the country in rebounds per game (12.4) as a versatile 6-9 forward who also shot 38 percent from behind the arc, leading to consensus First Team All-America honors. He holds the K-State records for single-season points and scoring average, as he reached double digits 32 times in 33 games. Beasley's 28 double-doubles is an NCAA freshman record.

Despite playing for the Wildcats for just one season, he holds the school record with 13 30-point games and he scored at least 20 points on 26 occasions. He holds nine of the top 11 single-game scoring marks by a Kansas State player.

Lester Hudson

School: UT Martin

Scoring average: 26.6 ppg

Hudson may not be as well known as some of the other names on this list but the two-time Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year did it all for UT Martin. He's third in program history in scoring with 1,727 points despite playing at the school for just two seasons but he cemented his name in the record books while he was there. Hudson holds the top two single-season marks in UT Martin history for points, field goals made, field goals attempted, 3-pointers made and steals.

Martin is the only NCAA Division I player to record a quadruple-double (25 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, 10 steals against Central Baptist in 2007) and he's one of just three UT Martin players to record a triple-double. He led UT Martin to its first OVC regular-season title and he became the first Skyhawk to be drafted in the NBA.

Frankie King

School: Western Carolina

Scoring average: 26.7 ppg

Much of Frankie King's scoring prowess was due to his success at the free throw line. He averaged more than seven points per game at the charity striple in two seasons at Western Carolina and he once attempted a program-record 26 free throws in a game against East Tennessee State.

While his overall shooting percentage took about a 10-percent dip from 1994 to 1995, he improved his 3-point shooting percentage from 30.2 to 38.8 percent and his free throw shooting jumped from 73 to 83 percent. King also ranks among Western Carolina's single-season leaders in offensive rebounds and steals, which gave him easy scoring chances on putbacks and in transition.

King was named Southern Conference Player of the Year in 1994 and 1995.

Trae Young

School: Oklahoma

Scoring average: 27.4 ppg

Single-game career high: 48 points

Young drew comparisons to Curry last winter, when he scored at least 30 points nine times, including four 40-point games, that featured lots of deep 3s and some guady assist numbers. He even had a 26-point, 22-assist game against Northwestern State.

If advanced, tempo-free statistics are more your style, the following numbers come from Young was named the site's Player of the Year after using 38.5 percent of Oklahoma's possessions (the highest rate in the country; means nearly 40 percent of the team's possessions ended with Young making a shot, missing a shot that was rebounded by the defense or a committing turnover) while recording a national-best 48.5 percent assist rate (meaning nearly half of Oklahoma's made shots were the result of an assist by Young when he was on the floor).

In his final college game, he scored 28 points, along with seven assists and five rebounds, in an overtime loss to Rhode Island.

Glenn Robinson

School: Purdue

Scoring average: 27.5 ppg

Single-game career high: 49 points

Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson won the Wooden and Naismith Awards, along with countless other National Player of the Year honors in 1994, when he averaged 30.3 points and 10.1 rebounds per game as a member of a 29-win Purdue team. The 1,030 points he scored as a junior that season rank 14th all time in NCAA history. He went on to be the No. 1 pick of the 1994 NBA draft.

Robinson reached double figures in 55 straight games and the 44 points he scored against Kansas in the 1994 NCAA tournament is the school's postseason record.

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf

School: LSU

Scoring average: 29.0 ppg

Single-game career high: 55 points

Born Chris Jackson, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf earned consensus SEC Player of the Year honors in his freshman and sophomore years at LSU. He set an NCAA freshman scoring record as he averaged 30.2 points per game during the 1989 season. Abdul-Rauf became just the second freshman to earn AP First Team All-American honors, finishing his LSU career seventh in school history in scoring with 1,854 points. It took him just 33 games to reach 1,000 points, which is typically considered an impressive career achievement.

A former LSU player holds the NCAA record for scoring average for a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior, with Abdul-Rauf's 30.2 points per game holding the mark for freshmen, and Pete Maravich claiming the rest. As impressive as Durant and Beasley were as freshmen, Abdul-Rauf scored more points than both of the former Big 12 sensations (965 points compared to Durant's 903 and Beasley's 866). Watch the highlight above to see him score 53 points against Florida as a freshman.

FINAL FOUR FUN: 29 Final Four Most Outstanding Player facts, from dentistry to diplomacy

Alphonso Ford

School: Mississippi Valley State

Scoring average: 29.0 ppg

Single-game career high: School-record 51 points vs. Texas Southern

While Mississippi Valley State only won 49 games during the college career of the late Alphonso Ford, he is fourth all-time with 3,165 points. The Delta Devils won the SWAC in 1992 and they earned a No. 16 seed in the NCAA tournament, where he scored 16 of MVSU's 56 points in a 27-point loss to Ohio State in the first round.

Just one season after Abdul-Rauf averaged an NCAA freshman-record 30.2 points per game, Ford averaged 29.9 points per game in his first college season, which is the second-best mark ever. He's also second in 3-pointers per game by a freshman in a season (3.85 in 1990).

Only one four-year Division I player has a higher career scoring average than Ford — Freeman Williams of Portland State, who averaged 30.7 points per game in the 1970s. Ironically, despite being tied with Abdul-Rauf for the highest career scoring average in the modern era of college basketball, Ford never led the country in scoring in any individual season.

Source: Sports-Reference, NCAA Men's Basketball Record Book

5 storylines to follow this college wrestling season

Penn State will once again be a hot topic leading into the 2023-2024 college wrestling season, so here's everything you need to know about the Blue and White, as well as the teams, coaches and athletes that will be looking to challenge the reigning champs this year. 

D1Softball's top 100 college softball players from 2023

Who were the best players of the 2023 college softball season? Based on offensive stats, defensive impact, value to their team, advanced metrics and a splash of postseason success, D1Softball compiled the best 100 players of this past season.

5 major men's college wrestling transfer portal moves — and how they impact the 2024 team title race

Here’s a look at the biggest transfer headlines in college wrestling this summer and how these moves might impact the 2024 NCAA wrestling team race.

Subscribe To Email Updates

Enter your information to receive emails about offers, promotions from and our partners