Vanderbilt Commodores duo Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker could join list of great college dynamic duos

by Ryan


Vanderbilt pitchers Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker have been one of the biggest stories in college baseball this season. With a strong performance at the College World Series (watch Arizona vs. Vanderbilt, 7 p.m. ET on ESPN), Leiter and Rocker could cement their status as one of college sports’ truly dynamic duos.

With that in mind, we decided to take a look at some other notable teammate tandems who made their mark in college sports history.

First, a look at how good Leiter and Rocker have been: Leiter (156) and Rocker (155) rank 1-2 in Division I in strikeouts this season; the last duo to finish top three in strikeouts in the same season was UCLA’s Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole in 2010. The Vanderbilt duo also ranks 1-2 in the SEC in opponent’s batting average with Leiter at .127 and Rocker at .157.

They’ve combined to allow two runs in 27 2/3 innings pitched in the NCAA tournament and are slated to pitch Vanderbilt’s first two games in the College World Series. Leiter and Rocker have started consecutive games 16 previous times this season, and only once did Vanderbilt lose both games (SEC tournament against Arkansas and Ole Miss). That makes the Commodores one tough out in Omaha.

Leiter (No. 4) and Rocker (No. 7) are both projected as top-10 picks in Kiley McDaniel’s most recent MLB mock draft.

Now, some other notable duos from college sports history:

Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, USC football

Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush were powerhouse teammates from 2003 to 2005 at USC, where they won a national title in 2004. (The Trojans were stripped of the title after the NCAA found Bush violated its rules by receiving gifts from agent Lloyd Lake.) They entered the 2006 BCS championship on a 34-game win streak before losing 41-38 to Texas.

Bush and Leinart were Pac-10 Co-Offensive Players of the Year in 2004, and on Jan. 4, 2006, they became only the second pair of Heisman Trophy winners to play together for the same team when they faced the Longhorns in the Rose Bowl. Leinart won the 2004 Heisman, and Bush won it in 2005, although that was vacated for his NCAA violations. Leinart finished third in the 2005 Heisman vote.

Other CFB Honorable Mentions: Eric Dickerson/Craig James (SMU)

Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurley, Duke basketball

Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurley were one of college basketball’s most dominant duos. They reached the Final Four in all three seasons they were teammates at Duke from 1990 to 1992, winning back-to-back national titles in 1991 and 1992. Both were named Most Outstanding Player in the tournament (Laettner in 1991, Hurley in 1992).

Laettner is the all-time leading scorer in the NCAA tournament, won the Wooden Award in 1992 and hit one of college basketball’s most famous shots, the game-winning buzzer-beater against Kentucky in the 1992 Elite Eight. Hurley is the Division I all-time leader in assists. Both of their numbers were retired by Duke. During their collegiate careers, both were consensus first-team All-Americans (Laettner in 1992, Hurley in 1993).

Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, UConn basketball

Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi played two seasons together at UConn, and the Huskies went 39-0 and won a national championship in their final season as teammates in 2001-02. They both won Naismith Player of the Year (Bird in 2002 and Taurasi in 2003 and 2004), AP College Player of the Year (Bird in 2002 and Taurasi in 2003), Big East Player of the Year (Bird in 2002 and Taurasi in 2003 and 2004). Bird holds the school record for all-time 3-point FG pct (.459), and Taurasi is second on UConn’s all-time assists list.

Bird and Taurasi both were drafted No. 1 overall in the WNBA. Taurasi is the WNBA’s all-time scoring leader, and Bird is the WNBA’s all-time assists leader. They also have been teammates on the international level, with Team USA going 32-0 with four gold medals with Bird and Taurasi playing together.

CBB Honorable mentions: Bill Russell/K.C. Jones (San Francisco), Hakeem Olajuwon/Clyde Drexler (Houston), Michael Jordan/James Worthy (North Carolina), Brittney Griner/Odyssey Sims (Baylor)

Rafael Palmeiro and Will Clark, Mississippi State baseball

Will Clark and Rafael Palmeiro were teammates for Mississippi State from 1983 to 1985, with Palmeiro a Golden Spikes finalist in 1984 and Clark winning the award given to the top amateur baseball player in the country in 1985. They played for perhaps the greatest college baseball team to never win a title (as suggested by ESPN’s 30 for 30 film on the duo “Thunder and Lightning”). The 1985 Mississippi State team had four future MLB All-Stars in Palmeiro, Clark, Bobby Thigpen and Jeff Brantley.

Palmeiro holds Mississippi State’s all-time home run record (67) while Will Clark holds the school record with a .391 batting average. Both were drafted in the first round of the 1985 MLB draft, and had long major league careers. Palmeiro hit 569 career home runs in the majors, while Clark hit 284.

Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Varitek, Georgia Tech baseball

Before they were teammates on the Boston Red Sox, Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Varitek starred at Georgia Tech. Varitek won the Golden Spikes Award in their final college season together in 1994, hitting .426. Garciaparra hit .427 that year as the Yellow Jackets finished runner-up in the 1994 College World Series.

The pair was linked beyond Georgia State. Both played in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League in 1993, when Varitek won the league’s batting title and was named the league’s MVP, and Garciaparra led Orleans to the league title. They both played in the 2003 MLB All-Star Game while with the Red Sox, and both have been inducted to the Red Sox Hall of Fame.

College baseball honorable mention: Reggie Jackson/Sal Bando (Arizona State)

Tiger Woods and Notah Begay III, Stanford golf

Tiger Woods and Notah Begay III were teammates at Stanford in 1995, finishing runner-up to Oklahoma for the national championship. Woods was a first-team All-American in 1995, and Begay was a first-team All-American in 1994. While at Stanford, Woods was the individual Pac-10 conference champion in 1996, and the Pac-10 player of the year in both 1995 and 1996. He was nicknamed ‘Urkel’ by his college teammate and close friend Begay.

Begay finished his collegiate career with a stroke average of 72.6. A three-time All-American (1992, ’94 and ’95), Begay’s career low score of 62 came during the 1994 NCAA championships, finishing one stroke shy of the school record, held by Woods. Both Begay and Woods were named to the Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame. On the PGA Tour, Begay won four times while Woods has won 82 times, including 15 majors.

Golf Honorable mention: Curtis Strange/Jay Haas (Wake Forest)

Jonathan Toews and T.J. Oshie, North Dakota hockey

Toews and Oshie led North Dakota to consecutive Frozen Four appearances in 2006-07, combining for 182 points across those two seasons. Both went on to win a Stanley Cup title, Toews won three with the Chicago Blackhawks and Oshie one with the Washington Capitals.

NCAA hockey honorable mentions: Tony Amonte/Keith Tkachuk (Boston University), Tim Thomas/Martin St. Louis (Vermont), Duncan Keith/Ryan Miller (Michigan State)

ESPN Stats & Information research contributed to this story.



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