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The Top 25 College Stars Who Were Busts in the NBA

Ross LipschultzAnalyst IFebruary 5, 2011

The Top 25 College Stars Who Were Busts in the NBA

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    Jimmer Fredette split the world. There hasn't been a more polarized set of opinions of a NBA prospect in quite some time.

    No, that doesn't include people who just couldn't stand Joakim Noah's dancing.

    Some scouts call the BYU Cougar the next Stephen Curry, while others expect him to be watching Stephen Curry from the stands in three years. Why are so many people wary of a guy who might coast to the Naismith Player of the Year award and scoring title?

    It's because the NBA has seen it before.

    Players who blossom in college and just never bring their skills to the pros. The jury is out on Jimmer, but NBA scouts are hoping that drafting him won't bring back memories of any of the following 25 fellas. 

    Change memories to nightmares, and you will get the idea.

    Busts can be due to all sorts of things: injuries, poor play, being replaced, etc. Note that this list isn't just about bad players; it's about 25 guys who wish they made basketball just a collegiate commitment, not a career.

25. Danny Ferry

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    No one at Duke sees Danny Ferry as a bust. He won the Naismith, Oscar Robertson and UPI Player of the Year awards as a Blue Devil and was (and still is) in the school's top-10 ranks for points, rebounds and assists.

    When the Clippers drafted him No. 2 overall, they thought he was a triple-double threat for years to come. Then they found out Ferry refused to play for L.A., who traded him to Cleveland where he signed a 10-year contract.

    Many Cavs fans probably thought it was 10 years too many. He averaged seven points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists over his career and started a whopping 11 games in his first five seasons.

24. Harold Miner

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    Sports Illustrated picked Miner as their Player of the Year in 1992 over Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning and who could blame them. He averaged 23.5 points per game and led the USC Trojans to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, making his "Baby Jordan" moniker seem reasonable.

    His NBA career was more like a baby than Jordan. He played only four seasons after the Heat picked him 12th overall in 1992, averaging only nine points in under 19 minutes per game. Without his two Slam Dunk titles, he'd be complete absent from any record book.

23. Bo Kimble

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    Bo Kimble's career at both USC and Loyola Marymount involved one thing—scoring. He and the late Hank Gathers made up a fierce tandem for the Lions, and his 22.6 point average was among the top scorers in college basketball in 1990.

    The Clippers thought drafting a local product with Kimble's scoring ability would pack the seats. He never managed to become a star, playing in only 105 games in three seasons and never averaging more then seven points and two assists.

22. Pervis Ellison

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    "Never Nervous" Pervis made a name for himself immediately at Louisville. A four-year starter, Ellison led the Cardinals to their second national championship and became the second freshman ever to be the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament.

    Unfortunately, "Never Nervous" became "Out of Service." While Ellison had a couple of solid seasons, he never lived up to his status as the No. 1 pick thanks to injuries. He never played a full season, and after he turned 26, he never averaged more than eight points and seven rebounds.

21. Brad Holland

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    An honorable mention All-American, Holland's 17.5 points and 4.8 assists per game helped the UCLA Bruins make four NCAA tournament appearances and one Final Four. He did it with remarkable efficiency, setting the single season field-goal shooting percentage record for guards at 59.6 percent.

    When the Lakers drafted Holland 14th overall in 1979, they thought he'd assist fellow draftee Magic Johnson. They were dead wrong, as the ex-Bruin played only three seasons, averaging 7.4 minutes and 3.2 points per game. 

20. Stromile Swift

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    Stromile Swift oozed potential in college. His sophomore (and final) season at LSU featured Swift going for 16.2 points and 8.2 rebounds on 60.8 percent shooting. He single-handedly took the Tigers to the Sweet 16, and NBA scouts drooled over his athleticism.

    He just never put the talent to use. Some say he didn't have a chance since he never played more than 27 minutes per game, but his 8.4 points and 4.6 rebounds say otherwise. He tried to get back into a NBA rotation with stints in New Jersey and Phoenix, but gave up, walking away from basketball at 29 years old. 

19. Dajuan Wagner

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    Sure, this isn't entirely Wagner's fault. His scoring ability at Memphis got him compared to Allen Iverson, which is extremely high praise for a 19-year-old, and he will remain a legend for his 100-point performance in high school. 

    The Cavaliers took the one-and-done stud with the sixth pick in 2002, hoping he could be their star of the future. Sadly, that future included ulcerative colitis and required him to have his colon removed. He attempted a comeback but got waived by the Warriors.

    And that's when you know it's time to hang it up.

18. Lionel Simmons

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    La Salle University struck gold with the L-Train. Simmons trails only Pete Maravich and Freeman Williams in collegiate scoring all time and is the only NCAA player to score 3,000 points and snatch 1,100 rebounds. 

    The Kings couldn't pass up a wingman with this kind of talent in 1990, but the L-Train slowly derailed. After finishing runner-up in Rookie of the Year voting, Simmons numbers decreased every season until he retired at 28 years old.

17. Dennis Hopson

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    Under head coach Gary Williams, Hopson led the Buckeyes in points and rebounds (and was second in assists) per game in his senior year. He left Ohio State as its all-time scoring leader, earning All-American and Big Ten Player of the Year honors.

    The Nets selected Hopson third overall, making him the first of five guards New Jersey would select in 1989. While he wasn't awful on the Nets, he never impressed anyone with his 10.9 points per game on 43.1 percent shooting. After playing briefly in Chicago and Sacramento, Hopson hopped overseas, never to set foot in the NBA again.

16. Eddie Griffin

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    Another one-and-done stud, Griffin had many scouts projecting him as the No. 1 pick in the 2001 draft. His freshman line? 17.8 points, 10.7 rebounds and 4.4 blocks for the Seton Hall Pirates.

    His off-the-court troubles (including fighting teammates) caused him to leave Seton Hall and allowed him to fall to No. 7 and the Nets. Traded immediately to the Rockets, Griffin has his best year at 19 years old. He slowly disappeared, as alcoholism took a serious tole on his life. At 24, he left the NBA.

15. J.R. Reid

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    At 6'9", 240 lbs, J.R. Reid made himself the player all college big men wanted to be. His North Carolina Tar Heels went 88-15 during his stay at Chapel Hill and earned both All-America and All-ACC honors thanks to 16.2 points per game on 60.1 percent shooting.

    When the new-to-the-scene Charlotte Hornets picked the local boy with the fifth pick 1989, the city exploded with joy. Then, after three seasons of slowly declining numbers, Charlotte shipped him out and he never saw double digit points again. 

    But hey, without him, the Lakers couldn't have balanced the contracts to acquire Glen Rice. So thanks.

14. Calbert Chaney

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    Hoosiers will get the vapors if you mention the name "Calbert Cheaney." Cheaney made All-American honors three times, is the winningest player in school history and remains the Big Ten's all-time scoring leader.

    Washington snatched him with the sixth pick, and Cal never brought that dynamism to the pros. He started his career with five decent seasons and the fell off, never averaging above nine points again.

    That's pretty good for an average college player, but for a guy who won all 12 NCAA National Player of the Year awards in 1993, it seems more like famine than feast.

13. Dwight Lamar

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    Southwestern Louisiana isn't known for its basketball prowess, but Lamar became the pride and joy of the Ragin' Cajuns. A three-time All-American between 1969-1973, Lamar averaged 31.2 points per game, leaving him only 200 behind Pete Maravich for the most career points in NCAA history.

    He started his pro career with the ABA's San Diego Conquistadors but only managed four seasons of basketball. While he played well, he never put it together once he got into the NBA in 1976. After one season with the Lakers, he bid adieu to basketball.

12. Marcus Fizer

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    Iowa State Cyclones remember Fizer for the good ol' days. As the first McDonald's All-American to wear a Cyclones jersey, he led the Big 12 in scoring as a sophomore and junior and became a first team All-American before going pro after his third season in college.

    Tim Floyd, who recruited Fizer to Iowa State, drafted the big man with the fourth pick in the 2000 draft. Fizer backed up Elton Brand in Chicago until he tore his ACL in 2003. He then bounced around to a couple teams and never played a full season until mid-2006, when he had to go abroad to keep his hoop dreams alive.

11. Shawn Respert

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    Respert can be found next to the word "scoring guard" in most Michigan-based dictionaries. The former Spartan standout garnered unanimous All-American honors in his senior season as he averaged 25.1 points per game, challenging for the national lead.

    The Blazers picked him eighth and quickly shipped him to Milwaukee, who didn't heed the fact he was very undersized (6'1") for a shooting guard. No team really had a place for him, as he ended his career at the age of 26, scoring only 4.9 points per game in 13.7 minutes.

10. Juan Dixon

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    Terrapin faithful refuse to see anything past 2002 when it comes to Dixon. The NCAA Tournament's most outstanding player in 2002 led the school to a title and left Maryland as the school's all-time scoring leader. He remains in the Terrapins' top five in steals, three pointers and free-throw percentage, as well.

    The success, however, ends there. He began with the Wizards and bounced to four other teams in a four-year period. He never averaged more than 25 minutes per game, and the once unguardable Dixon became a liability on both ends. The Terrapin left the NBA after starting 77 games in seven seasons, which is nothing to brag about.

9. Mateen Cleaves

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    Mateen Cleaves sported the Michigan State Green as well as anyone. The three-time consensus All-American and captain led the Spartans to the title in 2000 and was the Final Four's most outstanding player. He left campus as the school and Big Ten leader in assists.

    The Pistons drafted him 14th overall, hoping to have a point guard for the future...until he was traded the following year. Cleaves landed on four teams in six seasons, never averaging more than six points per game. He then became a mainstay in the NBDL. 

8. Luke Jackson

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    Some thought Jackson was robbed of the Naismith College Player of the Year Award thanks to East Coast bias. He remains the only Oregon Duck to be in the top 10 of nine statistical categories and led the Ducks to an Elite Eight appearance as one of the country's best scoring guards.

    After being drafted 10th by the Cavs, however, no one put the words "best" and "scoring" with his name again. He played four seasons with a 3.5 point average and left the NBA at 26. He appeared in one game with the Grizzlies this season, but even Hasheem Thabeet can do that.

7. Michael Olowokandi

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    The University of Pacific probably threw a parade after The Candy Man got drafted first overall in 1998. After all, he'd led the Tigers to two straight NCAA tournaments and left school averaging 22 points, 11 boards and three blocks per game. 

    Sadly, he left most of those averages on campus, and the Clippers suffered...again. He averaged 8.3 points per game for his career and after nine years, left the NBA without playing more than one full season.

    Worst of all, Lamar Odom stole his nickname. Can't get much lower than that.

6. Michael Sweetney

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    Georgetown produces NBA talent so often that Sweetney looked like an absolute beast. In three years as a Hoya, he averaged 18.2 points per game on nearly 55 percent shooting. He also was a finalist for both the Naismith and Wooden Player of the Year Awards in his junior campaign.

    Despite his size, Sweetney's hustle made him the ninth overall pick by the Knicks. The Hoyas' stud turned into a NBA dud, as he played only four seasons in the NBA and dealt with weight issues constantly. He attempted a comeback in 2009, but the Celtics waived him before the season.

5. Todd Fuller

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    Fuller had both brains and brawn. He turned down a Rhodes Scholarship to play professional basketball after a 20.9 point, 9.6 rebound season at North Carolina State, leading the ACC in scoring.

    Those numbers misled the Warriors, who spent the 11th pick in 1996 (two picks before Kobe Bryant) to grab Fuller. Fuller never averaged more than five points per game, and his games played decreased each of his five seasons in the league. He tried to play overseas but to no avail.

4. Chris Washburn

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    No one saw Washburn as an exceptional student, but to deny his skill in college would be a mistake. In only one year at North Carolina State, he managed to prove himself with a 17.6 point, 6.7 rebound average and lead the Wolfpack to the Elite Eight.

    Golden State didn't care about his academic troubles and took him third overall in 1986. He played only two seasons in the NBA, and his drug addiction eventually led to a lifetime ban from the league. 

    Then again, does anyone want a person who looks that bored on his team?

3. LaRue Martin

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    Loyola University Chicago hadn't seen a player like Martin before. In only three seasons, he became the school's all-time rebounder leader before and averaged 18.7 points and 17.6 rebounds per game in his sophomore season.

    With those numbers and some impressive tournament play, the Blazers saw the seven-footer as franchise player, taking him first in 1972. Martin left basketball behind once Portland drafted Bill Walton to play center two years later. There was no real market for centers pulling in 4.6 rebounds per year.

2. Adam Morrison

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    Morrison led Gonzaga to some of the school's greatest success. In the 2005-2006 season, Morrison shared the Naismith Player of the Year honors with J.J. Redick and led the nation in scoring with 28.1 points per game.

    Unfortunately for Bobcats fans, he left all his points in college. Injures slowed his development, and Morrison slowly became a 13th man on many 12-man rosters. Even the Wizards waived him, which is just insulting.

1. Ed O'Bannon

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    UCLA fans remember O'Bannon well. He led the Bruins to their first post-Wooden championship and earned the John R. Wooden and Oscar Robertson National Player of the Year awards with a 20.4 point, 8.3 rebound senior season.

    When the Nets drafted the Bruin ninth overall in 1995, Newsday wrote, "The news was a bolt out of the blue, one of those rare moments when the Nets could allow themselves to believe their bad luck might not last forever."

    Replace "forever" with "two years," because that's how long O'Bannon lasted in the NBA.

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