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Ranking the Worst 1-and-Done Decisions in College Basketball History

Kerry MillerCollege Basketball National AnalystJune 24, 2014

Ranking the Worst 1-and-Done Decisions in College Basketball History

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    While most of today's one-and-done college basketball players go on to have extremely fruitful careers in the NBA, we've pinpointed 20 players in NBA draft history who really should have gone back to school for a sophomore season.

    I'll spare you the "I remember when kids used to go to school for four years" soapbox speech, but it wasn't all that long ago that they at least stayed in school for two seasons. From 1990-1999, there were a grand total of nine freshmen who declared for the NBA drafttwo of whom appear on this list.

    In 2014 alone, nine freshmen decided one year of college basketball was all they needed.

    There have been at least four freshmen taken in the lottery over each of the past four seasons, and that certainly doesn't figure to change this season with the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, Noah Vonleh and Julius Randle at the top of everyone's draft board.

    But let this be a cautionary tale that not all freshmen are created equal. Averaging 10 points per game in one's first season at college does not necessarily make one ready for the NBA. Averaging fewer than 10 points per game is even less promising.

    Anyone taken in the top 14 of the draft was immediately removed from consideration. Though many of those players fizzled out in the NBA, it's hard to look at Greg Oden's career earnings and argue it was a poor decision for a freshman to capitalize on the near-guarantee to be a lottery pick.

    However, anyone taken 15th or later (or not drafted at all) was fair game.

    Without further ado, please enjoy this walk down memory lane of misplaced potential.

20. Omar Cook, St. John's

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Year Declared: 2001

    Pick Taken: 31

    College Stats: 15.3 PPG, 8.7 APG

    NBA Stats: 22 games, 37 points

     

    Before becoming a poster boy in the awareness campaign against leaving school too early, Omar Cook had the second-highest assists per game ratio in the country during the 2000-01 season.

    But despite putting up great numbers for a point guard, he was a disappointment in the most important statistic: Wins. From 1997-2003, St. John's had at least 20 wins in each season, save for the 14-15 record the Red Storm had with Cook leading the team.

    That was perhaps the first clue that he wouldn't pan out in the NBA.

    Cook's poor three-point shooting didn't help matters either. He shot 30.9 percent from behind the arc in college while attempting 7.6 triples per game.

    Basically, he had Rajon Rondo's shooting ability, and Stephen Curry's confidence in his stroke.

    Cook has actually done pretty well in Euroleague over the past nine years, but one has to wonder what kind of career he could have had in the United States if he had improved his shot with a few more years in college instead of doing so while spending four years in the D-League.

19. Donte Greene, Syracuse

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    Year Declared: 2009

    Pick Taken: 28

    College Stats: 17.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG

    NBA Stats: 253 games, 16.8 MPG, 6.1 PPG

     

    On the one hand, Donte Greene put up better numbers in college than any other player on the list. He led the Orange in both scoring and blocked shots, and sank 90 three-pointers as a 6'11" freshman.

    On the other hand, he still needed seasoning. Greene was Swiss cheese on defense, and his shot selection process seemed to be "If I have the ball and I can see the rim, that's good enough for me."

    Greene did start 50 games for the Sacramento Kings during the 2009-10 season, but the Kings also went 25-57 that season. It's not difficult to argue that they started Greene to see if he could develop while the team simultaneously got more ping pong balls for the lottery.

    He hasn't appeared in a game in either of the past two NBA seasons.

18. Dontonio Wingfield, Cincinnati

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    Michael Caulfield/Associated Press

    Year Declared: 1994

    Pick Taken: 37

    College Stats: 16.0 PPG, 9.0 RPG

    NBA Stats: 114 games, 423 points

     

    Criticizing Dontonio Wingfield for going pro in 1994 is like criticizing people for smoking in the 1960s. At the time, there was no precedent for what could go wrong.

    Wingfield was a stud in high school, earning McDonald's All-American honors before nearly averaging a double-double with the Bearcats.

    He sure did flame out in the NBA in a hurry, though. As a rookie with the Supersonics, he played just 81 minutes. The Raptors took him with their fifth pick in the 1995 expansion draft, but he started just two games for them over the next three seasons before he disappeared from basketball for good.

    More disappointing news for the Wingfield family: It looks like Dontonio's son D.J.'s career is over before it ever had a chance to start.

17. Donnell Harvey, Florida

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    Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

    Year Declared: 2000

    Pick Taken: 22

    College Stats: 10.1 PPG, 7.0 RPG

    NBA Stats: 205 games, 16.2 MPG, 5.6 PPG

     

    Like many of the players on this list, Donnell Harvey began his college career as one of the most highly touted players in the country.

    As a matter of fact, he's the only player on the list who was named the Naismith Prep Player of the Year. By winning the award in 1999, he joined the likes of Alonzo Mourning, Kobe Bryant and Jason Kidd on a list that would eventually also include LeBron James, Dwight Howard and Kevin Love.

    However, he didn't exactly hit the ground running at Florida. Harvey just barely averaged 20 minutes per game, and he wasn't even a starter when the Gators made their run to the national championship game in 2000.

    Apparently it was enough for him to go pro, though.

    He caught on for a little bit during the 2002-03 season, starting 27 games for the Nuggets. But the bulk of his professional career has been spent bouncing around the globe between Greece, Turkey, China, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.

16. Javaris Crittenton, Georgia Tech

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Year Declared: 2007

    Pick Taken: 19

    College Stats: 14.4 PPG, 5.8 APG, 2.0 SPG

    NBA Stats: 113 G, 16.4 MPG, 5.3 PPG

     

    The year before Javaris Crittenton arrived at Georgia Tech, the Yellow Jackets went 11-17their second-worst season of the previous 24 years. Just two years removed from appearing in a national championship game, they went 2-12 in ACC play and lost nonconference games to the likes of Illinois-Chicago and Air Force.

    No wonder Crittenton thought he was destined to be an all-star for coming in and immediately fixing that train wreck. As a freshman, he led the team in points, assists and steals while leading Georgia Tech to a 20-win season.

    He was taken in the first round by the Lakers, but the most noteworthy thing he ever did in the NBA was pull a gun on Gilbert Arenas in the Wizards' locker room during a season in which he didn't even play one minute. Since then, he has been indicted for murder and arrested in a massive drug sting.

    Another year or three in school probably wouldn't have changed his legal woes, but it may have led to a career in which he started more than a grand total of 10 games in the NBA.

15. B.J. Mullens, Ohio State

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    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    Year Declared: 2009

    Pick Taken: 24

    College Stats: 8.8 PPG, 4.7 RPG

    NBA Stats: 189 games, 18.2 MPG, 7.4 PPG

     

    B.J. Mullens is one of the two players on this list that is still active in the NBA.

    Although, "active" is a pretty relative term, as he played sparingly for two different teams this past season.

    Mullens was one of the top recruits of the 2008 class, and it's pretty clear that he had no real interest in going to college at all. Were it five years earlier, he likely would have gone straight from high school to the pros.

    In his one season with the Buckeyes, he only averaged 20.3 minutes per game and was a dreadful free-throw shooter (55.9 percent). Even on a per-40-minutes basis, he wouldn't have averaged a double-double.

    That didn't stop Mullens from declaring for the 2009 draft.

    Oklahoma City took him near the end of the first round and let him play a whole 139 minutes during his first two seasons in the NBA. Sure, he got paid over $1 million per year to sit on the bench and do nothing for two years, but he likely would have played his way into a much more substantial contract had he instead spent those two years at Ohio State.

14. Hassan Whiteside, Marshall

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    Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

    Year Declared: 2010

    Pick Taken: 33

    College Stats: 13.1 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 5.4 BPG

    NBA Stats: 19 games, 111 minutes, 29 points

     

    As Hassan Whiteside discovered in a hurry, there's a fine line between being a great shot-blocker for one year in Conference USA and having a game suited for the NBA.

    Whiteside led the nation in blocks during the 2009-10 season. He even recorded three triple-doubles made up of points, rebounds and blocks.

    But he simply never materialized at the next level.

    In his first season with the Kings, Whiteside appeared in just one game, playing for two minutes and committing two personal fouls. He played in 18 games during the following season before getting waived that summer.

    He has since played in Lebanon and China.

    Had he stayed at Marshall, he would have played alongside DeAndre Kane and almost certainly would have become a more valuable player.

13. Randolph Morris, Kentucky

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Year Declared: 2005

    Pick Taken: Undrafted

    College Stats (Freshman Year): 8.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG

    NBA Stats: 74 games, 438 minutes, 140 points

     

    Randolph Morris gets something of an asterisk next to his name, because he declared for the 2005 draft without hiring an agent. When he went undrafted, he was allowed to return to Kentucky while simultaneously being a free agent, since he wasn't allowed to enter a future draft.

    He spent another three semesters at Kentucky before being signed by the Knicks just days after Kentucky was eliminated from the 2007 tournament. He played in five games over the final month of the 2006-07 NBA season, but only ever started two games in his four-year NBA career.

    But let's briefly look back on his freshman season and ask ourselves what in the world he was thinking.

    Yes, he started 33 out of 34 games for an Elite Eight team that won 28 games, but he only averaged 19.8 minutes per game and had nearly as many personal fouls (102) as he did made field goals (105).

    Perhaps he thought scouts would ignore the first 33 games of the season and just really hone in on the 20 points he scored against Michigan State in the Elite Eight?

12. Jonathan Hargett, West Virginia

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    Year Declared: 2003

    Pick Taken: Undrafted

    College Stats: 13.8 PPG, 4.6 APG

    NBA Stats: Never played a game

     

    Three players with one year of college experience declared for the 2003 NBA draft: Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Jonathan Hargett. Instead of the multiple All-Star teams that 'Melo and Bosh have been a part of, Hargett spent most of his adult life behind bars for selling drugs.

    Hargett's storytold by Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel two years agois a sad one. In ways, it's reminiscent of Ohio State's pariah running back, Maurice Clarett.

    According to Hargett (West Virginia denies the allegations), Hargett was offered $20,000 a year to play for West Virginia, and his brother was promised a low-level staff position with the Mountaineers as well.

    Hargett's brother passed away shortly after Jonathan committed to WVU and coach Gale Catlett was fired after a miserable season. Dan Dakich accepted the head coaching job, but went back to Bowling Green eight days later, citing a "culture of dishonesty" at West Virginia after Hargett told his new coach he never got the money his old one promised him.

    Because of the ensuing internal probe, Hargett was banned from the school in the summer of 2002well after the deadline to declare for the 2002 NBA draft.

    He would later declare for the 2003 NBA draft, but nobody wanted the extracurricular baggage of someone who hadn't played college ball in more than a year.

    Unable to play basketball professionally, Hargett sold marijuana and cocaine until getting arrested in 2008.

    Before everything spiraled out of control, Hargett was widely regarded as one of the best basketball prospects in the country.

11. Keith "Tiny" Gallon, Oklahoma

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    Rajah Bose/Associated Press

    Year Declared: 2010

    Pick Taken: 47

    College Stats: 10.3 PPG, 7.9 RPG

    NBA Stats: Never played a game

     

    Per 40 minutes, Keith "Tiny" Gallon actually put up some great numbers, averaging 17.2 points and 13.2 rebounds.

    But much like Jonathan Hargett, he entered the NBA draft before he should have in part because of alleged improper benefits.

    Gallon was suspended for one game in February 2010 for what was later reported to be a $3,000 bank transfer from a financial adviser. He returned for the final seven games of the season (all losses), but he wouldn't be back the following November.

    Whether he declared for the draft to get away from the internal investigation, or because he actually thought he was ready for the NBA, is in eye of the beholder. He was drafted in the second round by the Bucks, but he still hasn't seen the court in an NBA game, bouncing around between D-League teams before going to play in China this past year.

    But hey, at least he'll always have that backboard he shattered in a 14-point loss to Gonzaga.

10. Alton Ford, Houston

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    Year Declared: 2001

    Pick Taken: 50

    College Stats: 10.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG

    NBA Stats: 73 games, 524 minutes, 186 points

     

    It's scary that there are still nine decisions worse than this one, because Alton Ford's draft declaration never made any sense.

    Maybe if he had averaged twice as many points and rebounds for a nine-win team, it would have been a good call. Or perhaps if he maintained his points and rebounds average while playing for a 20-9 team in a strong conference, he would have been more valuable.

    But we're talking about a player who ranked third in both points per game and rebounds per game on a team that lost 20 games. That would be the equivalent of South Florida's Chris Perry declaring for this year's draft.

    What's that? You've never heard of Chris Perry? My point exactly.

    Ford somehow got drafted late in the second round of one of the worst draft classes of all time, but he never came close to succeeding in the NBA. He played 53 lackluster games as a rookie and barely even got off the bench over the next two seasons before going to play overseas.

9. Davon Jefferson, USC

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Year Declared: 2008

    Pick Taken: Undrafted

    College Stats: 12.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG

    NBA Stats: Never played a game

     

    USC had two freshmen declare for the 2008 NBA draft.

    One (O.J. Mayo) was taken with the third overall pick and has had himself a nice little professional career. The other (Davon Jefferson) went undrafted and dropped off the face of the earth.

    Well, he's still on the planet, but he hasn't played in the USA since leaving Oklahoma. He has gone from Israel to France to Russia to South Korea to get his basketball paychecks.

    Jefferson was the second-leading scorer for the Trojans, but he benefited greatly from sharing a court with Mayo and Taj Gibson, rarely serving as anything close to the focal point of the opposition's defense.

    He was allegedly on the fence about whether or not to declare for the draft. Hindsight is 20/20, but it's safe to say he made the wrong decision.

8. Jamal Sampson, California

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Year Declared: 2002

    Pick Taken: 47

    College Stats: 6.4 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.7 BPG

    NBA Stats: 72 games, 631 minutes, 142 points

     

    To be fair to Jamal Sampson, he probably spent much of his youth hearing about how great of a basketball player his cousin Ralph was.

    He would have declared for the NBA straight out of high school if his mother hadn't stopped him.

    Still, it makes no sense whatsoever that he bolted for the NBA after one season as California's seventh-leading scorer.

    Sampson was a good rebounder and shot-blocker, but he never learned how to be a real player in the post on offense. He had the height and look of a good player, but the fundamentals just never came.

    He played for five different teams over the course of five NBA seasons before taking his chances on playing overseas instead.

7. Daniel Orton, Kentucky

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Year Declared: 2010

    Pick Taken: 29

    College Stats: 3.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.4 BPG

    NBA Stats: 57 games, 542 minutes, 143 points

     

    After a 35-3 season, Kentucky had four freshmen taken in the first round of the 2010 NBA draft: John Wall (No. 1), DeMarcus Cousins (No. 5), Eric Bledsoe (No. 18) and Daniel Orton (No. 29).

    One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just never belonged.

    How Orton was deemed worthy of a first-round draft pick after scoring a grand total of 129 points in college is an epic mystery.

    He was a highly rated recruit, sure, but he never really showed any of that promise. Over the course of the season, he attempted 91 field goals and committed 88 fouls, averaging more than 7.0 fouls per 40 minutes.

    Orton was for the 2009-10 Kentucky Wildcats what Jamari Traylor was for the 2013-14 Kansas Jayhawks. And if Traylor didn't have that 17-point, 14-rebound game in the tournament against Eastern Kentucky, there's no chance he would even be considered a late first-round pick (had Traylor actually declared).

6. Josh Selby, Kansas

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Year Declared: 2011

    Pick Taken: 49

    College Stats: 7.9 PPG

    NBA Stats: 38 games, 296 minutes, 83 points

     

    Josh Selby was one of the top overall recruits in the 2010 incoming class, but he was ineligible to play for the first month of the season because of a relationship with Carmelo Anthony's manager, Robert Frazier.

    Selby also missed several games in the beginning of February because of an ankle injury. After returning, he was unable to reclaim the starting job he had held for the previous six weeks, failing to score more than nine points in any of his final 13 games.

    Between those two things that really derailed his freshman season, Selby would have been wise to spend another year in school.

    One has to wonder if Kyrie Irving's draft stock skewed Selby's perception of his own net worth. Irving played just 11 games as a freshman during the same 2010-11 season, but was still regarded as a top draft pick, eventually being taken No. 1 overall in the 2011 draft.

    Selby declared for the draft (on Twitter) about 10 days after Irving, meaning he likely saw the type of positive feedback that his fellow McDonald's All-American received.

    Regardless of what led to his decision, it thus far seems to have been an ill-advised one. He spent a very small portion of two seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies, in between stints in the D-League, before taking his game overseas to China and Croatia.

    Selby did make a little news here in the United States earlier this month, scoring 44 points in The Basketball Tournament for a team that only had four players. We'll see if he can parlay that into another shot in the NBA.

5. Adrian Walton, Fordham

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    DARREN HAUCK/Associated Press

    Year Declared: 2002

    Pick Taken: Undrafted

    College Stats: 9.2 PPG

    NBA Stats: Never played a game

     

    Truth be told, Adrian Walton probably never had any business playing college ball, let alone NBA.

    Walton was quickly evolving into a street ball legend, known in Rucker Park as "Wholelottagame." His game was built on winning one-on-one battles, rarely playing a traditional five-on-five type of game.

    He spent one year at Fordham, but had almost as many turnovers (91) as successful field goals (99). He shot 18.9 percent from three-point range and was frequently in foul trouble.

    Though he technically declared for the 2002 NBA draft, he might as well have just been announcing his desire to go back to dominating playground ball.

4. Thomas Hamilton, Pittsburgh

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    Year Declared: 1994

    Pick Taken: Undrafted

    College Stats: Never played a game

    NBA Stats: 33 games, 343 minutes, 107 points

     

    Thomas Hamilton was nothing short of a behemoth, standing 7'2" and well over 325 pounds.

    He committed to Pittsburgh for the 1993-94 season, but was ruled academically ineligible. He didn't play a single game as a freshman before declaring for the 1994 NBA draft and going undrafted.

    Were that the end of the story, he would be No. 1 on this list. But Hamilton actually appeared in a handful of NBA games with the Celtics and the Rockets.

    More impressive still, his stints with those two teams were four years apart. He played 11 games for Boston during the 1995-96 season before playing in 22 games for the Rockets in 1999-2000even starting seven games for Houston.

    However, he was too much of a giant, never getting in good enough shape to make a prolonged impact in the NBA.

    Perhaps his son will have better luck? Tommy Hamilton IV (pictured above) isn't quite as big as his dad (6'10" and 284 pounds), but he started 26 games as a freshman for DePaul this past season.

3. Evan Burns, San Diego State

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    DENIS POROY/Associated Press

    Year Declared: 2004 and 2005

    Pick Taken: Undrafted

    College Stats: 9.2 PPG, 5.1 RPG

    NBA Stats: Never played a game

     

    Evan Burns would be the first to tell you that he belongs near the top of this list.

    As he told CBS Sports' Jeff Goodman three years ago:

    [Buying into the hype] was my problem. I don't want to admit it went to my head, but I know it did.

    J.J. [Redick] knew exactly what he wanted. He was humble and worked. We were all talking about the NBA and how quickly we were going to get there and he was talking about playing at Duke for four years and getting an education. That's what he told me and look at him now.

    Burns only played 26 games for San Diego State during the 2002-03 season before tearing his ACL during the offseason and subsequently getting dismissed from SDSU for "failure to meet his academic responsibilities."

    He declared for the 2004 draft, but went undrafted. Apparently he didn't get the hint, though, and declared for the 2005 draft with the same result.

2. Tommy Mason-Griffin, Oklahoma

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Year Declared: 2010

    Pick Taken: Undrafted

    College Stats: 14.1 PPG, 5.0 APG

    NBA Stats: Never played a game

     

    The year before Tommy Mason-Griffin arrived at Oklahoma, the Sooners went 30-6 and earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.

    With Mason-Griffin starting at point guard, they went 13-18.

    Apparently, that display of first-class leadership was good enough for the fast track to the NBA. Rather, in his words on Facebook, "Its a official dat i am leavin skool and enterin draft so if yue see me and ask why i aint doin anotha yr yue mite get ignored."

    Mason-Griffin was a great shooter in college (42.4 percent from three-point range), but his shot selection, defense, conditioning and virtually everything else that qualifies one to play professional basketball was lackluster at best.

    He didn't get drafted, and never even came remotely close to playing for an NBA team.

    Between Mason-Griffin, Tiny Gallon and Willie Warren, you could easily make a case that the 2009-10 Oklahoma Sooners' underclassmen comprised the worst draft class in the history of college basketball.

1. Jereme Richmond, Illinois

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Year Declared: 2011

    Pick Taken: Undrafted

    College Stats: 7.6 PPG, 5.0 RPG

    NBA Stats: Never played a game

     

    In a perfect world, Jereme Richmond would have just recently finished his senior season at Illinois and would currently be preparing to hear his name called as a first-round draft pick.

    Instead, he's less than a year into a three-year prison term for all sorts of legal troubles that began to arise shortly after he went undrafted in 2011.

    Richmond was a relatively highly touted recruit, but he had no business declaring for the draft after putting up meager numbers for a team that suffered 14 losses.

    By Ken Pomeroy's metrics (subscription required), Richmond couldn't have been much more of an average player. He had an O-Rating of 101.2 and played 50.2 percent of possible minutes for Illinois. The only thing he actually did well was rebound.

    His decision had all the telltale signs of someone who already committed to being a one-and-done player before ever hearing a word that NBA scouts had to say about him.

    Had he bothered to listen, perhaps he (and the other 19 players on this list) would have returned for at least one more year.

     

    Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.

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