10 Great College Basketball Programs Whose Players Don't Translate to the NBA
Last week’s NBA draft was loaded with the usual suspects from Kentucky and North Carolina, but many of college basketball’s top programs aren’t so fortunate. For some schools, years of on-court success just don’t matter when it comes to impressing the pro coaches and scouts.
Missouri just completed its second 30-win season in the last four years, but the Tigers have barely any NBA presence to show for their success.
Even this year’s five-man senior class didn’t get much love, with snipers Marcus Denmon and Kim English staying on the board until well into the second round and Ricardo Ratliffe going undrafted altogether.
Read on for more on the woes of Mizzou’s NBA hopefuls, along with nine other terrific programs that just can’t catch a break with the NBA.
Much has been made of Pitt’s inability—whether under Ben Howland or Jamie Dixon—to win in the postseason despite bushels of regular-season victories. Just as striking, though, is the inability of the defense-first Panther players to find a home at the next level.
The one notable exception to that trend is DeJuan Blair, who’s earned a starting job in San Antonio, but even he was a dark horse who dropped to the second round of the draft.
Aaron Gray continues to be an atrocious scorer (3.9 points a game despite a career high in minutes last season), athletic Sam Young can’t find a position or a jump shot at 6’6”, and no other Panthers are even in the league these days.
Even under the great John Chaney, Temple’s NBA output was generally limited to occasional, though talented, complementary players, with Eddie Jones foremost among them.
Since Fran Dunphy took over the team, though, the Owls have done plenty of winning on the college hardwood and hardly any in the pros.
Just one Temple alum stepped on an NBA court last season: Sixers rookie Lavoy Allen, who got a fair number of appearances in Philly’s frontcourt-by-committee, but wasn't too impressive (4.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game).
Dunphy, like Chaney, has done a great job getting the most out of highly skilled players with unremarkable athletic ability (Dionte Christmas, Ramone Moore), a recipe for Atlantic 10 supremacy but not for NBA productivity.
8. Notre Dame
Notre Dame’s place on this list is nothing against Troy Murphy, who was a perfectly good NBA starter as recently as two seasons ago. The problem is that Murphy is the only perfectly good NBA starter to have worn an Irish uniform in the Mike Brey era.
Brey has fielded consistent winners, but frequently they’ve been led by scorers like current Cavs reserve Luke Harangody, solid shooters with good fundamentals and all the quickness and leaping ability of Kodiak bears.
Until the Irish get some more impressive athletes to go with their admittedly terrific basketball players, they won’t be much of a factor on the NBA scene.
Few mid-majors would be expected to turn out NBA talent with any regularity, but Gonzaga isn’t your typical mid-major.
John Stockton’s alma mater has become a bigger name and a better program than plenty of power-conference schools, but the Zags haven’t seen that success converted into any kind of accolades at the pro level.
Three Bulldogs played in the NBA last year, but one was an unimpressive rookie (Jeremy Pargo in Memphis) and two were career backups (Ronny Turiaf with the Heat and Austin Daye with the Pistons).
None, however, have been such infamous disasters as former NCAA scoring champ Adam Morrison, a Player of the Year finalist in Spokane who lasted just three wretched seasons in the league.
6. Kansas State
The good news for the Wildcats is that they’ve matched their all-time high for most alumni in the NBA at one time. The bad news is that that number is three, and only one of them (Michael Beasley) has any likelihood of earning a starting job.
Frank Martin solidified K-State as a perennial contender in the Big 12, but he did it with stars such as Jacob Pullen and rising senior Rodney McGruder, guards for whom physical defense was a higher priority than NBA explosiveness.
It will be interesting to see whether new coach Bruce Weber (who coached Deron Williams at Illinois) manages to change that trend once he has some time to bring his own recruits to Manhattan.
Even in spite of the sanctions Bruce Pearl left in his wake, Tennessee’s basketball team has done an impressive job of getting back on its feet, tying for second in the SEC standings last season.
When it comes to fixing the Vols’ NBA fortunes, though, the fleet-footed but diminutive shooters who have served Pearl and current coach Cuonzo Martin so well don’t appear to be up to the challenge.
C.J. Watson is quite a good backup point guard (for all that he had some issues when thrown into the starting spot vacated by injured Derrick Rose), and rookie Tobias Harris played respectably in his first season off the Bucks bench.
For a team that’s been to three Sweet 16s in the last six NCAA Tournaments, though, having two bench players as the sum total of its NBA contribution is an awfully disappointing showing.
As bad as Louisville’s historical track record has been—no Cardinal has made an NBA All-Star team since Wes Unseld’s last appearance in 1975—things have gotten even worse since Rick Pitino took over.
Pitino’s been to two Final Fours in 11 years, but his players haven’t even been starting in the NBA…when they’ve gotten there at all.
Pitino’s tendency to recruit speed over size has given him lots of players—Edgar Sosa, Larry O’Bannon, current PG Peyton Siva—who thrive as collegians but lack the physicality to get NBA jobs at their respective positions.
Of the five Louisville players currently in the league, none started more than three games in 2011-12 nor scored more than Terrence Williams’ 7.1 points per contest.
Missouri’s rise to power in the Big 12 (and, if they’re lucky, in their new home in the SEC) hasn’t exactly been met with a corresponding spike in NBA success for Tiger alums.
Of the core players from 2008-09’s 31-7 squad, only DeMarre Carroll has even appeared in the pros, and he played just 24 games last season with averages of 4.5 points and a paltry 2.2 rebounds a night.
So many of the best recent Tigers have been (like the school's last full-time NBA starter, Anthony Peeler) pure shooters with little else to recommend them.
Mizzou’s best chance to break that pattern in the near future might be PG Phil Pressey, son of former NBA standout Paul, whose combination of passing skills, defense and three-point shooting give him an outside chance of developing into a Kyle Lowry-type as a pro.
2. West Virginia
Between John Beilein and Bob Huggins, West Virginia has gone to two Sweet 16s, an Elite Eight and a Final Four in just the past eight seasons.
Prior to that success, Jerry West’s alma mater hadn’t produced an NBA player since 1981, but naturally, the players who earned all those NCAA Tournament wins would reverse those fortunes…right?
Amazingly, just two Mountaineers have even appeared in the NBA during that eight-year span, and one of them (Bucks draft disaster Joe Alexander) lasted just 67 games in the league and is now playing overseas.
As good as Beilein’s shooters and Huggins’ dogged defenders have been, neither model has produced a complete enough player to make a splash at the pro level—unless you call Devin Ebanks’ 3.9 points per game off the Lakers bench a “splash.”
For a Big Ten program, Wisconsin has been monumentally awful when it comes to producing pro talent.
Only seven Wisconsin players in history have played more than 82 career games in the NBA, and only one of those—soon-to-be Hawk Devin Harris—is active right now.
Bo Ryan’s magnificent defenses make for a consistent college winner, but not for players with enough of an individual offensive game to make a dent at the next level.
Even big bodies such as the Celtics’ 6’11” Greg Stiemsma—55 games but only 2.9 rebounds a night as a rookie—have struggled to make the transition to facing opposing post players who are too athletic to be mired in a Badger-style slowdown game.