Since there are no Massachusetts fall sports and there has been a lull period between media availability for football and many other programs, I decided to take a look at which UMass athletes were the most successful in professional sports.
This is by no means a definitive ranking, instead it’s a top-five list I compiled based off accolades, championships and overall talent. I also listed some honorable mentions at the bottom. Here we go.
Mike Flanagan: Baseball
Flanagan was the ace for the Minutemen in 1973, compiling a 9-1 record, 1.52 ERA and 91 strikeouts to lead UMass to a Yankee Conference championship victory. He also played in the outfield for UMass, hitting .320 with six home runs and 29 RBIs over 128 career at-bats. His three shutouts during the 1973 season are still tied for the school record.
He was then drafted by the Orioles and made his Major League debut in 1975. He went on to play for 18 years and won the 1979 American League Cy Young Award, with a record of 23-9 which led the majors in wins that season. He also helped the Orioles win the 1983 World Series and contributed one inning of relief in a combined no hitter on July 13, 1991. What I find the oddest about his accolades though is that he was named an All-Star in 1978, the year before his Cy Young season, but not in 1979 when he won the award. Nevertheless, he is now a member of the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame.
Beyond his accolades, Flanagan committed a balk during a game in 1980 that caused a famous rant from then-Oriole manager Earl Weaver (NSFW). I really didn’t know much about Mike Flanagan before this column, so it was cool to learn that a Cy Young winner went to UMass.
Brianna Scurry: Women’s Soccer
Scurry was the UMass women’s goalkeeper from 1990-93 earning 37 shutouts and a .906 save percentage over that time. She led the Minutewomen to a NCAA Final Four appearance and their first ever Atlantic 10 title in her senior season. She was awarded Adidas Goalkeeper of the Year and named an All-American and awarded Atlantic 10 Player of the Year.
Scurry then joined the U.S. Women’s National Team in 1994, starting in goal and earning Olympic gold in 1996 and 2004. She played every minute of the 1999 World Cup, conceding only three goals and recording four shutouts. Scurry was named to the USWNT All-Time Best XI in 2013 after recording a 133-12-14 career international record and 71 international shutouts.
Marcus Camby, Men’s Basketball
Marcus Camby, along with John Calipari, really put UMass basketball on the map in the 1990s. Camby was a dominant force in the paint for the Minutemen, winning A-10 Freshman of the Year and breaking the NCAA freshman record for blocks with 105. During his junior campaign, he dominated his way to winning Naismith College Player of the Year and the John Wooden Award, bringing UMass to the Final Four for the only time in school history (it has since been vacated by the NCAA, but we don’t talk about that). Camby was a complete force-to-be-reckoned with on the college court and his 3.65 blocks per game still rank 24th all-time in NCAA basketball history. His number 21 is retired by UMass.
Much of Camby’s success carried over into the NBA with him. After foregoing his senior season, he was drafted second overall by the Toronto Raptors in 1996. Camby was named to the All-Rookie first team and led the league in blocks during his second season. He ultimately led the league in blocks four times in his career, was named to the NBA All-Defensive team four times (twice to the first-team, twice to the second-team) and was named 2007 Defensive Player of the Year. Camby retired in 2013, having played for six different teams during his 17-year career.
Jonathan Quick, Hockey
Jonathan Quick is probably the most well-known UMass hockey alum (sorry, Cale). Quick led UMass to its first NCAA Tournament during the 2006-07 season, touting a solid .929 save percentage and earning three shutouts. He apparently even scored an empty-net goal for the Minutemen, a game-winner in a 4-2 victory over Clarkson. Quick was named to the All-Hockey East Second Team in 2007.
In the NHL, Quick has been a dominant force for the Los Angeles Kings, setting multiple franchise records. He was the Kings’ goalie for two Stanley Cup victories in 2012 and 2014, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP during the former Stanley Cup win. Quick was awarded the William M. Jennings trophy twice when the Kings allowed a league low in goals. He has also been a two-time Vezina Trophy nominee and three-time NHL All-Star.
Julius Erving, Men’s Basketball
This was clearly the easiest one to figure out. Julius ‘Dr. J’ Erving is an NBA legend and the best athlete to come out of UMass. He averaged 26.3 points and 20.2 rebounds (!) during his UMass career and is one of only six NCAA players to ever achieve the 20/20 mark. Of course, his number 32 jersey hangs beside Camby’s in the Mullins Center rafters.
I could probably go on for days on Dr. J’s accolades, but he is undoubtedly one of the greatest basketball players ever. Across his ABA and NBA careers, he scored a combined 30,026 points which ranks eighth all-time. Erving’s dominance won three championships, four MVPs and made 16 All-Star games across the two leagues. He is also a slam dunk champion, and one of only seven players to record 1,300 steals and 1,300 blocks across their basketball career. Dr. J also recorded some of the most iconic plays in NBA history including his dunk over legend Bill Walton, and his baseline scoop around Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. His number is retired by both the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers.
Here are some other UMass greats that did not quite make my cut for top five, but still have had very successful professional careers.
Honorable Mentions: Victor Cruz, Cale Makar, Jeff Reardon, Conor Sheary
Dan McGee is an Assistant Sports Editor and can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @The DanMcGee.