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Best of the Decade: The List

It was nearly unanimous. We polled 25 current and former IU sports media members and others in the IU community, and 23 of them agreed on Lilly King as the top Hoosier athlete of the decade.

We polled people who covered IU at the beginning of the decade, the middle and the end, and included people who have either covered or been heavily involved in IU Athletics for the entirety of the decade.

The scoring was simple: an athlete got 10 points for being No. 1 on a ballot, 9 points for being No. 2 on a ballot, and so on. King was the only athlete to appear on all 25 ballots.

But you probably don’t care much about that. Let’s get to the list, starting with everyone’s favorite finger-waving Olympian.

No. 1 — Lilly King, swimming

Voter points: 248 (23 first-place votes)

Lilly King is pictured during the Big Ten meet at Counsilman-Billingsley Aquatic Center in Bloomington. (Courtesy photo/IU Athletics, Katie Ducker)

Resume at a glance: Olympic gold medalist in 100 breaststroke (setting an Olympic record), and in 4X100 medley relay. Won both NCAA titles in the 100 and 200 breaststroke events in every year of her college career, setting and then breaking her own records along the way. First woman in NCAA history to win four straight 100 breaststroke titles, first to win eight breaststroke titles, second woman in NCAA history to sweep two distances of one stroke. She was a key member of medley relay teams, helping IU to six top-five finishes in relay events during her four years. Numerous Big Ten titles. Two-time Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year, three-time Big Ten Swimmer of the Year, four-time IU Female Athlete of the Year.

Why they’re here: The question with King is not whether she is the best IU athlete of the decade. It’s whether she is the best IU athlete ever. Mark Spitz, George Taliaferro, Milt Campbell and Isiah Thomas come to mind as others in that pantheon. As mentioned above, almost everybody put King at the top of their list, and those who didn’t put her second.

Read more, via Zach Osterman

No. 2 — Kyle Schwarber, baseball

Voter points: 145

Resume at a glance: Two-time First Team All-American, two-time First Team Big Ten team selection. In both sophomore and junior seasons, led Big Ten in home runs, total bases, runs scored, on base percentage, slugging percentage and walks. Career batting average of .341. Selected for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team after sophomore season, along with Sam Travis.

Why they’re here: Schwarber might have been the most intimidating IU athlete of the decade. He walks to the plate holding the barrel of his bat, then stands over the plate like a hungry man about to eat dinner. As Dustin wrote earlier this week, Schwarber then hits the ball with an exhilarating ferocity.

Read more, via Dustin Dopirak

No. 3 — Victor Oladipo, men’s basketball

Voter points: 144

Victor Oladipo dunks against Kentucky in Indiana’s win over the Wildcats in December 2011. (Courtesy photo/AJ Mast, Icon SMI)

Resume at a glance: First-Team AP All-American as a junior, as well as a finalist for Wooden Award, Robertson Trophy and Naismith Award. Named Co-Defensive Player of the Year by the NABC (first IU player to earn the award) and Sporting News Player of the Year. Set the IU single-season steals record, finishing third all-time in career steals. Led the Big Ten with a 59.9 percent field-goal percentage.

Why they’re here: Oladipo was the most electrifying player on the most successful IU men’s basketball teams of the decade. While his current stature as an NBA all-star might have factored into some voters’ perception of him, Oladipo’s collegiate accomplishments still garner him a high spot on the list.

Read more, via Alex McCarthy

No. 4 — Derek Drouin, track and field

Voter points: 137

Resume at a glance: Olympic high jump bronze medalist in 2012, eventual gold medalist in 2016 (after graduating from IU, becoming first field athlete with IU ties to win Olympic gold in 60 years). Won five NCAA titles in high jump and seven Big Ten titles. Winner of the Bowerman Award (the highest award given in NCAA track and field) in 2013. Five-time Big Ten Athlete of the Year.

Derek Drouin jumps at the Big Ten Outdoor Track Championships in 2013. (Courtesy photo/IU Athletics, Mike Dickbernd)

Why they’re here: Drouin was the most interesting case in the voting. Almost every person who put Drouin on their list ranked him second behind King. The problem was, eight voters left him off their ballots entirely, so Schwarber and Oladipo were able to leapfrog him. But make no mistake — Drouin is one of the most dominant IU athletes not just of this decade, but of all time.

Read more, via Jeremy Gray

No. 5 — Tevin Coleman, football

Voter points: 118 (one first-place vote)

Resume at a glance: First-Team All American, finished seventh in Heisman voting, Doak Walker Award finalist, First-Team All-Big Ten selection as junior. Became 18th player in FBS history (third in Big Ten history for regular season) to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. He was second nationally in rushing yards, rushing yards per game, all-purpose yards per game and yards from scrimmage per game. Led the country in rushes of 30-plus, 40-plus, 50-plus and 60-plus yards.

Why they’re here: As Mike Miller wrote the other day, opposing defenses knew Coleman was going to get the ball every play, and they still couldn’t stop him. It shouldn’t be forgotten that Coleman had the benefit of playing behind an excellent offensive line that included guard Dan Feeney (who received a decent number of votes in this poll).

Read more, via Mike Miller

No. 6 — Tyra Buss, women’s basketball

Tyra Buss brings the ball up the court during the WNIT in 2018. (Courtesy photo/IU Athletics)

Voter points: 92

Resume at a glance: Holds program records for points (2,364), points per game (17.5), assists, steals, free throws attempted and made, and 3-pointers attempted. WBCA All-American Honorable Mention as a senior. Three-time All-Big Ten First Team selection (third player in school history to do that). As a senior, led the nation in minutes played.

Why they’re here: Buss is one of the rare recruits who lived up to the hype. She set all kinds of records in high school, and then came to IU and did the same thing. She and Amanda Cahill led Indiana to the program’s first NCAA Tournament victory since 1983 and then to a WNIT championship, appropriately ending their collegiate careers with a victory.

No. 7 — Andrew Gutman, men’s soccer

Voter points: 83

Resume at a glance: MAC Hermann Trophy winner as a senior, appeared on multiple First-Team All-American lists and winner of other player of the year honors. Also earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year while also leading IU in goals. Also earned IU Male Athlete of the Year honors and was named to the College Cup All-Tournament Team after winning Most Outstanding Player of the Big Ten Tournament.

Why they’re here: The 2018 men’s soccer team will be remembered as one of the best IU teams to not win a title, and Gutman was the star. Of the team sport players on this list, no accomplishment is more impressive than Gutman’s MAC Hermann trophy. Even at a storied program with decades of success, Gutman stands out as one of the greats.

Read more, via Josh Eastern

No. 8 — Cody Zeller, men’s basketball

Cody Zeller prepares to shoot a free throw. (Courtesy photo/IU Athletics)

Voter points: 71

Resume at a glance: First-Team All-Big Ten, appeared on various All-American lists, consensus Preseason National Player of the Year. Finished career with 59.1 percent field goal percentage, highest in IU history at the time. Made multiple Freshman All-American lists and was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year by coaches. Academic All-Big Ten as a senior.

Why they’re here: There’s an argument to be made that Zeller is the most important men’s basketball player of the decade for Indiana. Without Zeller coming, it’s doubtful that Indiana would have ended up in the Sweet Sixteen two years in a row. And it’s possible that the next player on the list would never have come to IU in the first place.

No. 9 — Yogi Ferrell, men’s basketball

Voter points: 59 (one first-place vote)

Resume at a glance: Holds program records for assists, games played, games started and 3-pointers made in Big Ten play. The only player to lead IU in assists four straight years. Ranks sixth in career scoring. Two-time All-Big Ten First Team selection. As a senior, member of multiple All-American lists and a finalist for the Cousy Award for nation’s top point guard.

Why they’re here: Ferrell had one of the most statistically productive careers in IU men’s basketball history, holding multiple program records (detailed above).

No. 10 — Eriq Zavaleta, men’s soccer

Voter points: 45

Resume at a glance: Unanimous Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, First-Team All-Big Ten selection as a sophomore. Led the Big Ten and ranked third nationally with 18 goals. College Soccer News First-Team All-American. Started all 24 matches of IU’s championship season, assisting on the winning goal in IU’s 1-0 victory over Georgetown in the title match.

Why they’re here: When you’re the best player on a championship-winning team, people take notice. Even with Gutman’s success and accomplishments, it’s possible Zavaleta is the most recognizable IU soccer name of the decade after leading the Hoosiers to their eighth national championship.

First person out: Ian Finnerty, swimming

Voter points: 36

Ian Finnerty swims during the meet between the Indiana Hoosiers and the Louisville Cardinals at Counsilman-Billingsley Aquatic Center on Feb. 1, 2019 in Bloomington. (Courtesy photo/IU Athletics,John Sims)

Resume at a glance: Three individual NCAA titles (100 breaststroke twice, 200 breaststroke), two NCAA relay titles, various Big Ten titles, setting multiple American records.

Why they’re here: Finnerty is perhaps the most overlooked great athlete of the decade. He was the first IU male swimmer to successfully defend his NCAA title in 45 years. He was at IU from 2015-2019, the same span that King was at IU, and perhaps her celebrity overshadowed Finnerty’s sizeable and impressive accomplishments.

Others receiving votes

Athlete, sport (number of voter points)

Nate Sudfeld, football (28), Cody Miller, swimming (27), Dan Feeney, football (17), Joey DeNato, baseball (17), Jessica Parratto, diving (15), Michael Hixon, diving (13), Jordan Howard, football (12), OG Anunoby (10), Tanner Thompson, men’s soccer (9) Sam Travis, baseball (8), Alex Dickerson, baseball (7), Angel Escobedo, wrestling (5), Will Bruin, men’s soccer (5), Jordan Hulls, men’s basketball (5), Christian Watford, men’s basketball (4), Kelly Matthews, water polo (3), Amanda Cahill, women’s basketball (2), Ashley Benson, volleyball (2), Tara Trainer, softball (2), Eric Young, Little 500 (1), Tegray Scales, football (1), Andy Bayer, track and field (1), Grant Lillard, men’s soccer (1).

Voters: Teddy Bailey, Sarah Beeson, Sam Beishuizen, Ken Bikoff, Jon Blau, Alex Bozich, Galen Clavio, Adam Cohen, Eddie Cotton, Pete DiPrimio, Dustin Dopirak, Josh Eastern, Andy Graham, Jeremy Gray, Chronic Hoosier, Josie Janavicius, Alex McCarthy, Brody Miller, Mike Miller, Greg Murray, Zach Osterman, Mike Pegram, Jeremy Price, Jeff Rabjohns, Matt Weaver.

Special thanks to HN statistical consultant Paul Strickler.

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