While postseason honors are becoming a regular occurrence at UVA, the recent rash of All-ACC and All-American honors in all likelihood solidified Malcolm Brogdon’s jersey retirement in the coming years as well.
That line is from March 2015. The stakes have gone up. Considerably.
Brogdon finished his Cavalier career with another onslaught of accolades, a school record, and a deep NCAA Tournament run. Pick any one of those categories and it automatically places Brogdon among the program’s all-time greats.
Looking first at All-American honors, Brogdon is one of just 10 players in UVA history to earn that distinction. By earning All-American recognition for a second straight season, however, Brogdon joins a list half that size as only five players have reached that level twice: Barry Parkhill, Jeff Lamp, Ralph Sampson, Bryant Stith, and Brogdon.
To take it one step further, Brogdon picked up first-team All-American honors this season from the Associated Press, the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA), and the Sporting News magazine. That combination made him a consensus All-American. He joined Sampson as the only player in school history to receive a first-team spot from the AP and consensus status. The only other players to receive first-team All-American honors from anywhere are Buzzy Wilkinson (Converse), Parkhill (Converse), and Lamp (USBWA).
Brogdon also was honored as an All-American by the John R. Wooden Award for the second straight season. He added Senior CLASS first-team All-American to the list as well (to be eligible for Senior CLASS All-America honors, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence: classroom, community, character and competition).
Shifting the focus to just the conference level, Brogdon was selected a first-team All-ACC member for the third time as well. Only Sampson, Stith, and Singletary made it three times previously. Brogdon was named the ACC Player of the Year as well, joining only Sampson and Parkhill as that award winner. He is the first player in league history to also be named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year at the same time, though that award only goes back to 2006. He took home the NABC Defensive Player of the Year Award nationally as well. He also landed a spot on the All-ACC Tournament team three times.
Beyond the long list of honors, Brogdon’s production is impressive too. He finished his career ranked ninth all-time in scoring with 1,809 points and as the school record holder for career free throw shooting percentage at 87.6%. He led the team in scoring for three straight seasons, culminating in this year’s career high of 18.2 points per game. He had 18 games with at least 20 points this season, the first player to do that since Norman Nolan back in 1997-98.
Brogdon ended up with more than 1,800 points (1,809), 500 rebounds (563), 300 assists (335), and 100 steals (117). He threw in 31 blocked shots too.
Plus, Brogdon has been a key figure in 89 wins over the last three years, a school record for a three-year period. The Hoos won back-to-back ACC Regular Season Championships with 30 total wins for the first time since the days of Sampson. They won an ACC Tournament title for only the second time. Brogdon played on four NCAA Tournament teams (though he didn’t actually suit up in the Big Dance his freshman year due to a foot injury that eventually led to a redshirt season while the team made the NIT that year). This year, the Cavaliers made it to the Elite 8 in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1995.
That’s a lot of individual and team success.
All of which brings the discussion back to the beginning and raised stakes. Asked midway through this season where I thought Brogdon belonged in discussions of Virginia basketball history, I declined and said I’d evaluate it at the end of the season. This was during ongoing message board chatter that tried to rank Brogdon among the greats behind always No. 1 Ralph Sampson.
At this point, the starting point for that conversation is easy. He’s automatically in the top 8. After all, only 7 players in UVA history have had their number retired previously and Brogdon clearly should, and in all likelihood will, join that group. The magnificent seven before Brogdon: Buzzy Wilkinson, Barry Parkhill, Wally Walker, Jeff Lamp, Ralph Sampson, Bryant Stith, and Sean Singletary.
Where Brogdon fits within that list is a much more complicated conversation, one always colored by criteria, different eras, personal opinions, individual ability, and team success. Still, Brogdon played both ends of the floor at an elite level and his team did too. The Brogdon era Cavaliers climbed to National Championship contender status and won ACC titles.
That, in my opinion, places him in the top 5 all-time at Virginia, ahead of Wilkinson, Walker, and Singletary. Other than Parkhill, who led UVA to its first ever top 10 ranking and was the ACC Player and Athlete of the Year, the teams of Lamp, Sampson, Stith, and Brogdon all won at least one title of some sort (1980 NIT, 1992 NIT, 2014 ACC Tournament). Debating the order of the top five could fill up days and days of discussion, but Brogdon is clearly the best player at Virginia since Stith. Clouded perhaps by recency bias and age, I’d edge Brogdon ahead of Parkhill and Lamp into third, but arguments the other way could easily be made.
No matter how you slice it, however, the No. 15 should be on that retired number banner for everything individually accomplished while also helping elevate the program to elite status once again.