Which College Basketball Program Translates Best to NBA Success?
There are a handful of "NBA Factories" in today's college basketball landscape, but which program translates best to success in the pros?
Rather than going through a long list of schools that do a good job of preparing their kids for the NBA, let's zero in on the two or three programs that do it best and determine which one is tops.
Ultimately, we're asking which current program provides the best system and best preparation for its pupils to thrive and exceed expectations when they get to the association.
3. Mike Krzyzewski's Duke Blue Devils
Coach K's program has translated to NBA success for decades.
The early 1990's Blue Devils produced Grant Hill, the late 1990's produced Elton Brand, the early 2000's produced Carlos Boozer (and injury-plagued Jay Williams), and the most recent product is Kyrie Irving.
Krzyzewski has also jump-started the careers of role players, as he prepared NBA mainstays Corey Maggette, Christian Laettner, Shane Battier, Mike Dunleavy, J.J. Redick, Josh McRoberts and Gerald Henderson.
Coach K doesn't focus on preparing his kids for the NBA, but he does help them maximize their potential and become better all-around players; which naturally leads to NBA success.
With his focus on teamwork and position, he makes them better as individuals and as a team.
Which NCAA program translates best to NBA success?
Duke products who don't have great one-on-one talent (like Shane Battier) are able to exceed expectations in the NBA because of their intangibles, and players who do have great one-on-one talent (like Kyrie Irving) are that much better.
2. Ben Howland's UCLA Bruins
Since taking over the Bruins in 2003, Ben Howland has produced a slew of talented guards and one ultra-talented forward.
The offensive exploits of his program haven't been too shabby, but what's really impressive about Howland's leadership is his commitment to defense. He trains all of his players to be solid man-to-man defensive weapons.
His run of three straight Final Fours squads translated into a crop of NBA stars that had a solid foundation.
Those 2006-08 teams included Olympians Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook, standouts Darren Collison and Arron Afflalo, and role players like Jordan Farmar and Luc Richard Mba A Moute. Notable NBA success stories from the non-Final Four years include Jrue Holiday and Trevor Ariza.
What do all these players have in common? They're mentally tough, fundamentally sound, and even if they all aren't phenomenal defenders, they all give extraordinary effort on defense.
In an interview with ESPN, Afflalo credits Howland for his focus on both ends of the floor:
"Most players coming into the NBA, you’re not going to be asked to be the leading scorer on the team. With that in mind, Coach Howland has done a great job of at least preparing us to be mentally tough and to play defense."
Howland's recruitment of Shabazz Muhammad gives him another chance to build an NBA success story.
1. John Calipari's Kentucky Wildcats
Before he was at Kentucky, Coach Calipari groomed some terrific pros, such as Marcus Camby (UMass) and Derrick Rose (Memphis).
But when he arrived at Lexington, he had the perfect setup. The glorious tradition of Kentucky hoops, his recruiting style and pro-style coaching formed the perfect storm.
Calipari's personality and coaching style empowers his players to take the big step to the NBA and flourish when they get there.
His dribble-drive offense is conducive to attacking the hoop, setting up pick-and-rolls and maintaining spacing for spot-up shooters, all concepts that are integral to the NBA game. His offense also is predicated on skilled forwards, who are much more common in the NBA than in college.
Not only are his pre-Kentucky stars such as Rose and Tyreke Evans excelling, but young Kentucky stars John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe already are making their mark on the league.
And this year's crop (ever heard of Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilcrhist?) look like locks for NBA stardom.
Calipari might not have a long list of NBA All-Stars or Hall-of-Famers on his resume, but if he keeps things up, he will in a few years. His program and his coaching style translate best to NBA success.
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