It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of college basketball. Here in Tucson college hoops is an institution and it’s hard to grow up here and not become a fan. I’ve had the opportunity to watch and meet many of college basketball’s legends, guys like Steve Kerr, Sean Elliott, Jason Terry, and Mike Bibby to name a few. Two teams defined my childhood: the Yankees and the Wildcats. So it should be no surprise then that I have a number of college basketball cards in my collection. This is an area of the hobby that I believe is both under represented and undervalued. I’ve been able to get autographs of a number of my favorite Wildcats for less than $3 and even the higher profile names, like Bibby and Elliott, go for no more than $10 in their college uniforms. While I know that guys like Jordan, in his NC blues, and Larry Bird, in his Indiana State duds, command some serious coin, lesser names go for next to nothing in their college unis. This is especially true for guys from the Classic/Sage era, who signed a number of cards for those college centric sets.
With that in mind, I’m going to spend the college basketball season highlighting cards from college basketball sets (Classic, Press Pass, SAGE, etc.). These sets were often after thoughts when they were introduced and are not often though about now. Some of these sets are very well designed and the checklists are better than you remember. For instance, check out the 1995 Classic Autographs checklist, while the draft class is not one of the best (Stackhouse, Damon Stoudamire, Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess), there are autographs of Jason Kidd, Shaquille O’Neal, and Dikembe Mutombo before the big boys even started including autographs as a normal insert. Sets like Scoreboard Rookies and Press Pass continued including big name autos, especially in 1996 when the NBA drafted one of it’s best classes in history (Kobe, Ray Allen, Steve Nash, and Allen Iverson).
To kick off college basketball season, the first card I’m featuring is my 1995 Classic Rookies Preview card of Damon Stoudamire.
First of all, Damon Stoudamire is my all-time favorite college basketball player. He had the sweetest shot and was, arguably, the best point guard in Arizona history helping to solidify Arizona’s reputation as Point Guard U. Take a look at his stats, amazingly 4 years of them, and tell me he doesn’t rank up there with any of the great college point guards. 23 ppg, 7 apg, and 46% from the three point line as a senior? Good god, he was a man among boys at only 5’10”.
While I have plenty of his college cards, including a few autos, I featured this card because of the outstanding photography and wonderfully simple design. Classic hit it out of the park in 1995. They maintained an understated design during the the time that the big guys were relying on die cuts and as much foil as they could put on a card. Classic understood that cards are a time capsule, especially college cards given that the players are only there for a limited time, and focused on having a classic design and great photography. This was also the first Stoudamire card that I tracked down, so it always has a special place in my collection.