So many schools come to mind when I think of schools that produce successful NBA players. People think of Connecticut. Arizona, and a few others that I probably cant think of off the top of my head. Two schools stand out the most, both from the ACC: The Duke Blue Devils and the North Carolina Tar Heels.
These two schools, in the last twenty years, have gotten loads of hype as well as recognition. Usually, one or both of these schools is picked to either win it all or at the very least make the Final Four in the tournament. However, once the players from these two teams get drafted into the league, it's been two very different stories.
Duke has a tradition of winning, putting out fundamentally sound players who, for the most part, are mature off the court. However, in the league, Duke players, for the most part, have underachieved. Sometimes, not by their own fault, usually due to injuries. Some just disappear into thin air. Why does Danny Ferry's name pop up over my head like a light bulb in the cartoons? Some players' one-dimensional games are embarrassingly exposed at the pro level. Ask yourself how many players from Duke have won NBA championships? Not too many.
North Carolina has a rich tradition of winners. Whether it be great coaches such as Larry Brown or George Karl. Or great players, with the best being, as we all know, Mr. Michael Jordan. The players from UNC usually come underrated and seem to overachieve. Those players that people think won't make it in the league do make it. Sure, every school has its busts and success stories, but here are a few that really stand out to me to prove my point.
For the last twenty or so years, I've seen Duke or UNC hold the No. 1 or 2 ranking every year. Loads of hype and hope. This list of some players seem to back up my reasoning.
Here's another Duke standout, highly heralded from the jump for his versatility and maturity. However, he took the league by storm, almost changing the small forward role. He had a few years where he was about 20-9 and seven. Then his breakout year was his contract year where he averaged a career best 25.8 PPG.
He left Detroit for Orlando, which dumped a boatload of money into two players, deciding to team a career sub with loads and loads of potential in Tracy McGrady and Hill, both of whom received close to max contracts. That wound up being a complete disaster, as injury problems totally decimated his career. Ironically, when he played, he played at a high level. However, he and T-Mac never really got to play together.
Afterwards, Hill had every reason to retire, since he would get his money anyway. But he didn't and kept working and believing in the fact that he would be back.
Now in Phoenix, he seems to have found a way to stay on the court, as last year he played in all 82 games, something which he has never done in his entire career. Sure, he's not the dominant player he once was, but after all his hard work to get back, he deserves the respect of every teammate and player. After all, he honored his contract, since he had the option of getting paid every single penny for sitting out. Grant proved he wasn't playing just for the money. Again, another star that didn't realize his full potential. It's not his fault, but that's the way it goes sometimes.
Mr. Wallace has went from a boy to a man right in front of our eyes. A North Carolina big man with great post up moves and a high point of release due to his long arms. Once again, people would have to ask the question: Would he be able to survive on the pro level? Dunking, screaming, and shooting eight-to-10 footers is easy in college.
After an above average rookie season, he was traded to Portland, where he made a name for himself. Not only did he augment his already good post game, but he extended his shooting range dramatically which made him a huge threat. His one fault, in my opinion, was that he wasn't enough offensive minded sometimes. He made his name as well as his recognition in Portland.
His emotional demeanor on the court made him a great asset as well as a tremendous liability. He, along with Derek Harper are responsible for league rule changes, due to his excessive techninal fouls and arguing.
He left Portland, and wound up in Detroit where he changed his game to being a role player and wound up a champion. Afterwards, he signed with the Celtics through free agency, where he would accept another supporting role in order to win another ring.
Wrong or right, nobody could ever question Rasheed's desire or passion. Wallace is about winning. I thought he had Tim Duncan-like talent. He just modified his game to fit in. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. In the end, Wallace game grew more in the pros than ever.
Elton Brand had a solid career at Duke, having the post game that an average GM would drool over. Many thought he was undersized and would be a safe bet to get a consistent player. I never thought he would be an all star caliber type player. He was drafted with the first pick in the 1999 draft, won the rookie of the year, and was immediately a twenty and ten player.
He had the best post game in the league after Tim Duncan.
After his second season in Chicago, he was traded to the Clippers where he became a star. Not only that but he put the Clippers back on the map, for once not being the league laughingstock. Injuries for the most part kept him from the elite superstar status. He became the cornerstone of the franchise. After sitting out a chunk of the previous year, he verbally committed to resign with the Clips. As insurance, they signed Baron Davis to lead the way.
As a surprise to everyone, he signs with the Sixers. I for one, didn't even know Philly was pursuing him in the first place. So far, in year two of his five year $82 million dollar contract, he still has not found his place on the team. He's averaging career lows in points, rebounds, and blocks since making the move. I guess karma does bite you in the ass.
What will remember most about Elton when all is said and done? Will we remember his concrete post game? Or will we remember how he weaseled his way into Philly? Or will we remember another Duke player who peaked far too early? Only time will tell.
Here's a guy highly heralded out of high school for his athleticism. Playing only one year at Duke, so many GMs were intoxicated by this guy's body and game. Maggette had an NBA ready body from day one.
One problem with Maggette: he's one dimensional.
Here's a guy I watched pretty much throughout his college career. I just new in the back of my head just seemed like a pretty ordinary and weak point guard. Fast, with strong moves to the hoop, and a mediocre jumper. Stereotypical of a New York City point guard.
However, fate went his way as he was drafted by Denver. Not only does he let to play in a winning system with a marquee player in Carmelo Anthony and an elite point guard in Chauncey Billups. What better person to have teaching a young point guard than Mr. Big Shot?
Obviously, Chaunceys leadership has helped. I've noticed massive improvements to his game, and he's playing great at a pro level. Also, going against Mr. Billups all the time will prepare him to run a team when, or if, one of them decides to leave Denver. He's a great backup, but he certainly has the capability to start.
Work ethic and adding to one's game is what makes players succeed on a pro level. He's shooting 52 percent from the field and 44 percent in three-pointers. Granted, he only takes a little more than one a game, but to me, that speaks volumes as far as his shot selection. He's got nowhere to go but up. So far so good for Ty.
This guy is at the top of the list as far as a player who was outrageously heralded and wound up being one of the biggest bust in the schools history. Very reminiscent of another No. 2 pick from Duke (Danny Ferry) who wound up being a flop.
Williams was supposed to be the next elite point guard. The next Gary Payton. The next Jason Kidd. He wound up being neither. To begin with, his outside game was extremely inconsistent. One could get away with that in the college game. He had the skills to run a team. Again, I would expect more from my No. 2 pick.
He had a mediocre run in Chicago. Low shooting percentages and minimal effect. He then ended his brief career after being involved in a motorcycle accident, a direct violation of his contract. He has been seen rarely ever since. Drafting a point guard that high is always a huge risk. In this case it was a total loss.
Shane was taken as the No. 6 pick in the 2001 draft, another highly heralded player at duke. Ironically, after his rookie year, where he averaged a career high 14.4 PPG, he only surpassed a double-double average once afterward. He has became more of a locker room leader since. An anchor for team defense. A glorified role leader who thinks team first.
While Shane is not a bust, I would expect more if I used my No. 6 pick on him. He does everything okay; he's just good for a team on both ends. Think that he averages one turnover per game for his entire career. A solid pro but not worth the hype. That seems to be a common them with former Blue Devils.
When I watched Vince play his first two years at Chapel Hill, I thought to myself that he was going to be another one of those college players who dominated the college game, and once the level of competition went up in the NBA, Vince's skywalking would cease.
Dunking-wise, I thought he was better than Dominique, but in college, that means nothing. He came to the pros and probably will retire the best dunker of all time. At least until someone else comes along.
However, through the years he added a long range game to his arsenal that took his game to the next level. The dunks that he did in games and in competition will be remembered for years to come. Who could forget him hanging on the rim with his elbow? Or going between the legs off a toss from his then teammate, Tracy McGrady? Or him going up on Alonzo reinstating his superiority in "The Air Up There."
He became a face of the league for many years, not only through his outrageous athleticism, but his unlimited range coupled with that. He surely wound up being better than I thought. However, he still has no ring, and when things go sour with his former teams, they really go sour. Let's see how he finished his career.
Here's a guy that I thought wasn't tough enough to play in the NBA. I saw someone with a monster inside game, at the collegiate level mind you. His mid-range game was decent, but I thought he was undersized, or should I say a "in-between size," meaning two small to be a PF and too big to be a SF. Somehow, throughout the years, he made it work.
His range improved. From his back-to-back 50-point games to countless other games. His rebounding always was above average and got better in his latter years. After playing in relative obscurity in Golden State, he came a vital piece in Washington's team battle for the east (before Gunnin Gilbert destroyed it), and now gets to team up with the hottest player on the planet, King James. Either way, his career has been a success even though he really hasn't been on a big playoff stage. That will all change in a few months.
Christian Laettner was by far the most acclaimed and hyped player out of Duke. For once, it was well deserved. He made the best shot in NCAA tournament history with his turnaround jumper at the buzzer from a full court heave.
Unfortunately for Laettner, he was drafted behind two Hall-of-Famers in Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning. Therefore, he would always be in their shadow. After a few decent years with the Timberwolves, he went to the Hawks, where he earned an All-Star berth. Injuries eventually ended his run.
When all was said and done, he wound up being an above average pro. Nothing spectacular, nothing terrible. I just think he will always be remembered and judged by the buzzer shot against Kentucky. He never reached that high of a level again. He had a solid professional career, but his career never got to the legendary level that we thought he would after that shot. Oh well.
This paragraph will probably be shorter than Trajan Langdon's career. Here's a guy that was drafted with the No. 11 pick. In my opinion, he was a better version of J.J. Redick, with his jumper being twice as deadly. After that, his game disappeared. And so did he. I'm pretty sure Cavalier fans won't miss him, if they could remember him in the first place.
Here is the all time leading scorer in ACC history. Talking about a killer jumper... However, there are no scrubs in the NBA. Everybody could play at some degree. In the beginning, I labeled him as a bust. After all, he was a straight shooter, one dimensional as I have labeled a few Duke players.
Whether it is good coaching, a great work ethic, or a combination of the two, I have seen great improvements in Redick's game this year. He reminds me of a John Paxson or Steve Kerr type. A role player whose role is to be a straight gunner. His days of being the leading scorer of anything are well over. Maybe not, if he works on his game. He's averaging a career-high 9.3 points per game this year. Let's see if he's peaked, or there is more to come.
Like I said with Shane Battier, Redick is a good, fundamentally sound basketball player who I would love to have on my team. However, I would expect more from a player I used my No. 7 pick on. He turns 26 this year, so he still has time.
I remember Cherokee Parks from a reverse dunk off of a spin move when he was at Duke. His game was unpolished, but in the paint, he was dominant. He had the skills, size, and agility to succeed in the NBA.
Coming out of Duke, I felt he was yet another overrated player coming out of Duke. I've grown accustomed to Duke players getting a lot of recognition and hype. Again, here was another player who I thought was two small to play the power forward position and wasn't versatile enough to play the small forward.
So far, he's done pretty well playing the SF. However, like so many Duke players, I think he's already peaked, and we've seen the best we're going to see out of him. I don't see him improving or rising his level of play. Like so many Duke players, he's going to a have a solid career but isn't going to make much of a splash.
At the end of the day, I don't think Luol Deng's name is going to be one people will remember. Nor will I see his jersey hanging from the rafters. Just another decent and solid pro. That's it.
This guy is a textbook definition of a "money player," sad to say. For once, here's a duke player who practically received no hype. They felt he was undersized and too small. After a decent rookie year in Cleveland, he jumped to averaging a double-double in his second season, ironically LeBron's rookie year.
He became a recognizable name amongst power forwards. However, in the off season, after verbally committing on an extension, he bolted for Utah to get more money. In Utah, he became an All-Star and became nationally known. His main problem was staying healthy (a common theme amongst Duke players).