Villanova Basketball: 10 Best NBA Careers by Wildcats Alums
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Although not as recognized as Duke or North Carolina, Villanova has deep basketball roots. The Wildcats have one of the more storied programs in the nation. There have been lulls as far as long-term success is concerned, but they are almost always a good basketball team.
Along with good coaches and successful recruiting, players are a huge part of winning basketball games. Villanova has won a lot of games with a lot of great college basketball players. Most great NBA players were great college players, but being a great college player doesn't always translate to pro success.
Here is a list of the 10 Villanova Wildcats that made the most successful transition to the NBA.
10. Howard Porter: 1971-1978
As great as he was as a Wildcat, Porter never met expectations at the next level.
Porter is known as one of the greatest Wildcats on one of the greatest Villanova teams. He was the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player in 1971, leading Villanova to the final game, but losing to UCLA.
He was never able to stay healthy after his time on the Main Line, which made his seven-year professional career more pedestrian than it should have been.
“Geezer” averaged 9.2 points and 4.1 rebounds per game for his career with stints in Chicago, New York, Detroit and New Jersey. The 1976-77 season was his best. In a career-high 78 games Porter averaged 13.2 points and 5.9 rebounds in 28.2 minutes per game.
Sadly, Porter was murdered in Minneapolis, Minn. in 2007.
9. Tim Thomas: 1997-2010
Tim Thomas had a hot hand for one summer in Phoenix.
Timmy was a “one-and-done” before that phrase was popular. Coming our of high school, he was ranked right with Kobe Bryant as a college prospect. Clearly, the scouts were wrong about that.
In his NBA career, Thomas was always a disappointment and rarely appeared to be giving much effort. Amazingly, he has one of the better statistical resumes of the Villanova bunch.
Over 13 seasons with seven different teams, Thomas scored 11.5 points per game. He was a career 37 percent three-point shooter. His apex in the NBA was his 2006 postseason with the Phoenix Suns.
Helping to lead the Suns to the Western Conference Finals, he posted averages of 15.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. He shot 49 percent from the field and 44 percent from three-point range. After that performance, he never did anything but underachieve.
8. Doug West: 1989-2001
West was not the most versatile player, but he could get above the rim.
Doug West was one of the most explosive athletes to ever come through Villanova. Unfortunately, he wasn’t one of the better shooters.
Sticking in the league for an impressive 12 seasons, he had one of the most impressive four-year runs for a Wildcat. From 1991-95, West averaged 15.3 points per game, shot 82.5 percent from the free-throw line and added 3.2 rebounds per game. West also participated in the 1992 Slam Dunk Contest.
After that stretch, West’s career was derailed due to injuries. He only played in three postseason games, scoring a total of 33 points. He was also the Minnesota Timberwolves all-time scoring leader for a short time.
7. Rory Sparrow: 1980-1992
Sparrow was a steadying force on every team he played for.
A part-time starting point guard for eight teams over 12 NBA seasons, Sparrow had a very solid career. He was a double-digit scorer in eight seasons and averaged 5.0 assists per game for his career.
The 1982-83 season was Sparrow’s career year. In the regular season, he averaged 11.6 points and 4.9 assists per game, and upped those averages to 13.0 points and 7.0 assists in the playoffs for the Knicks.
Sparrow could run an offense and play solid defense and was an asset to every team he played for. Not spectacular, but always did his job as a point guard.
6. Kyle Lowry: 2006-Present
Lowry is beginning to break out in Houston like he did at Villanova.
Lowry’s stay at Villanova was short, but he made his presence known. He was the epitome of Wildcat basketball: heart, hustle, effort and toughness.
Although his NBA career is still young, he is bringing those same traits every night as a pro. Through his first four seasons, he was known only as a high-energy reserve, but in 2011, Lowry began to break out.
His first year as the starting point guard for the Houston Rockets was a true launching point. Lowry posted career-high averages of 13.5 points, 6.7 assists and over one steal per game. He also shot 37.6 percent from three-point range, showing that he is a player on the rise.
5. Jim Washington: 1965-1975
Washington was a rebounding machine in the NBA.
“Jumpin’ Jimmy” Washington was known for his prolific rebounding, with 6,637 over his 11-year NBA career. He averaged 10.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game for his career. He also became the first player in Chicago Bulls history to average over 10.0 rebounds per game in a season.
While never an explosive scorer, Washington did have four seasons where he produced double digits in both points and rebounds. Washington was a dynamo in the 1968 playoffs, averaging 17.2 points and an astonishing 15.0 rebounds per game.
Jim Washington played for the Bulls, the Sixers, the Hawks and the Buffalo Braves. He also holds the rare distinction of playing 84 regular season games in the 1971-72 season.
4. Kerry Kittles: 1996-2005
Despite chroinc knee injuries Kittles was a key player for the New Jersey Nets.
Arguably the greatest Wildcat of all time, Kerry Kittles didn’t produce the best NBA career. He was good, but not great. The things he did well at Villanova he did well as a pro, but he just wasn’t healthy or dominant enough.
Kittles was placed on the 1996-97 NBA All-Rookie team after establishing a rookie record for three-point field goals made with 158. He also played in 54 postseason games and made two consecutive NBA Finals appearances with the New Jersey Nets.
For his career, he averaged 14.1 points per game and shot 37.8 percent from three-point range. Kittles was on the receiving end of many alley-oops from Jason Kidd, but his blown-out knees prevented him from ever achieving his full potential.
3. Chris Ford: 1972-1982
Ford won a championship with the fabled Celtics and made the NBA's first three-point shot.
With career averages of 9.2 points and 3.4 assists per game, Ford doesn’t have the flashiest numbers on this list. What he does have is an NBA Championship, which trumps any individual statistics.
Ford was a starter for the 1980-81 NBA Champion Boston Celtics. In his four seasons in Boston, he averaged 10.3 points per game. He also knocked down the NBA’s first-ever three-point field goal.
Ford has also won 323 games as an NBA coach with the Celtics, Bucks, Clippers and Sixers.
2. Wali Jones: 1964-1975
Jones helped Wilt Chamberlain to his first NBA title.
Similar to Chris Ford, Jones’ role on a championship team boosted him on the list. He averaged 10.1 points per game for his career, but he was a starting guard on the 1966-67 Philadelphia Warriors. They won 68 regular season games, which at the time, was an NBA record.
Jones played a crucial role in the championship run, scoring 17.5 points per game, just 4.2 points behind Wilt Chamberlain. He played in 75 postseason games and upped his scoring average to 11.4 points per game.
His place on this legendary NBA team is why he ranked so high.
1. Paul Arizin: 1950-1965
Arizin was a great player at Villanova and is an NBA legend.
The crown-jewel of NBA careers for the Villanova Wildcats, Arizin was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1978.
“Pitchin’ Paul” was the 1950-51 Rookie of the Year, was a two-time scoring champion and helped lead the Philadelphia Warriors to an NBA Championship in 1956.
Arizin was also a 10-time NBA All-Star and was selected All-NBA First-Team three times. He retired as the NBA’s third all-time leading scorer with 16,266 points despite missing two full seasons due to his service as a Marine in the Korean War.
He played his entire career with the Philadelphia Warriors, and in 1996, was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History as part of the NBA’s 50th anniversary celebration.
Randy Foye is still getting it done at the next level.
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Villanova basketball has produced more than its share of NBA players, and while Paul Arizin is head and shoulders above the rest, Villanova fans should be proud of their team’s contribution to the professional game.
Recent players like Kyle Lowry, Randy Foye and Dante Cunningham are currently representing the Wildcats. Current ones like Mouphtaou Yarou and Maalik Wayns may be next.
As with any list, this one isn’t perfect or definitive. There are plenty of quality Villanova standouts that weren’t mentioned. If you have an opinion, share it. Everyone loves a good sports debate.