Today and tomorrow and the greatest days of the sporting year. This isn’t even a question I am posing to you. I am stating it as a fact. Fans of college basketball call randomly get the 48-hour flu every year around this time. Workers who aren’t watching the games are wasting their time reading articles in the newspaper (probably while at work) about how much productivity is lost over the next two days during the NCAA tournament. Me – I don’t have to worry. I’ve got scheduled vacations today and tomorrow already. Anyway, as a change of pace from the top music video lists (which I hope you’ve been enjoying, by the way), I’m going to give you something new.
For me, the sporting word started in about 1987. I think when I was six years old, I realized what was going on at least a little bit. From the get-go, my favorite sports were basketball and baseball. While I’m not exactly a sports historian, a good portion of my memories revolve around sports. Thinking retrospectively, it’s amazing to think who some of the big dogs in college basketball were and how they absolutely didn’t make it as a pro. So, I’ve decided to come up with a list of the top basketball college players of the past 20 (plus a few) years who were average as pro’s or never even made the pros. The reason I’m doing this is because I hear all of my basketball players talk about how good “so and so” is going to be as a pro. (and so and so is usually a guy like Tyler Hansborough, Kevin Love, or a random three point shooter who can’t put it on the floor). I told the kids that they would be surprised who some of the best basketball players where when I grew up. I mean, if I was in high school right now and somebody told me that Glenn Robinson was hands down the best player in college basketball, I’d look at them like they were crazy.
So anyway, I’m going to split the list into “sixteens” and give you sixteen great college basketball players from the late 80s through right now who didn’t go on to be stars in the NBA. I’m going to have 16 today and 16 tomorrow followed by the remaining 32 next Thursday and Friday when the Sweet SIxteen and Elite Eight games are on (by the way… I took those two days off from work as well!). WIthout further adu:
Lawrence Moten – Guard – Syracuse – He played at Syracuse from 1991-1995. This guy was a scoring machine. He holds the Big East record for career points scored. He is the career leading scorer at Syracuse with averages of 19.3 points, 3.9 boards, and 2.4 assists. In his 121 career games, he scored in double digits 118 times.
Ed Cota – Guard – North Carolina – Started at UNC for four years from 1996-2000. He led the team to three final fours and was member of the infamous “six starters” team that included Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Shammond Williams, Ademola Okulaja, and Makhtar Ndiaye. He broke the single season ACC assist record as a sophomore. He was the first player in NCAA history to score 1,000 points, dole out 1,000 assists, and pick up 500 rebounds. He finished with the third highest assist total in NCAA history and never fouled out of a game which is an amazing statistic for a four year, play dang-near every minute starter.
Toby Bailey – Guard – UCLA – I don’t know if anyone else remembers this play, but Toby Bailey’s reverse dunk as a freshman in the 1995 national championship game was probably the greatest in-game college dunk I’d ever seen at that point (it’s only about 12 seconds into the video). After that game, I was sure he was going to become one of the best players in college basketball over the next few years. He was a nice player averaging 14.3 points per game in his career, but he never did anything to match his success as a freshman in the 1995 National Championship game.
Curtis Staples – Guard – Virginia – He was JJ Redick before JJ Redick was… JJ Redick. It was only appropriate that JJ Redick eventually broke his all-time NCAA three point record of 413. Redick eventually finished with 452. But Redick also played in 17 more career games than Staples. So had Staples played in as many career games as Redick, he likely would’ve finished his career with around 470 career threes. Unless he choked in big games… like Redick always did. For the record, there is always room for JJ Redick hate here on brentnet.
Glen Rice – Guard – Michigan – Before Glen Rice was famous for being an NBA player and for having… well Glen Rice’s Wife (I miss old school “SLAM”), he was a lights out shooter for the Michigan Wolverines from 1985-1989. He had a great NBA career (in fact, probably too good to be on this list), but he was the best college basketball player on the best team in the land in 1989. YouTube find alert – 1989 version of One Shining Moment. I suggest fast-forwarding to 1:56 to see something you’ve never seen in the NBA (Glen Rice dunking). Am I the only one the remembers Rumeal Robinson knocking down the free throw and clinching the championship in ’89? I think it’s one of my first NCAA tournament memories.
Shawn Respert – Guard – Michigan State – If would’ve had a blog in 1995, the entry on the day after the 1995 NBA draft would’ve read something like this “…this Garnett guy had better be good. I mean we frickin’ passed on Shawn Respert for this guy. Shawn Respert!” He didn’t make it in the league because he was a 6’1″ two-guard, but his 21.3 points per game over four years was awfully impressive.
Derrick Coleman – Forward – Syracuse – Watching Michael Beasley now, my only worry is that he might become a Derrick Coleman player. While not quite the scorer that Beasley is, Derrick Coleman had all the talent in the world. For four years at Syracuse, he averaged 15.0 points, 10.7 boards, and 2.2 blocks per game. But… his NBA career was plagued by chronic weight issues, health issues, and questions about his overall passion for the game (read: he was accused of being lazy). He had a fine NBA career, but it was nowhere what we thought his was capable of coming out of college.
Christian Laettner – Forward – Duke – Laettner again had a fine NBA career. 13 seasons and 12.8 points per game isn’t bad. But given the he was arguably one of the top 10 college basketball players ever, it has to be considered somewhat disappointing that he wound up being just average. He was the best player on a Duke team that lost to an unbelievable UNLV team in 1990 and beat Kansas and Michigan for championships in 1991-92. Three championship game appearances in a career is pretty unbelievable.
Larry Johnson – Forward – UNLV – He was very “Barkley-esque” given his height, yet ability to score and rebound due his phenomenal strength. He played juco basketball in 87-89, but joined the greatest college team I’ve ever seen – the 1989-1991 UNLV Running Rebels which featured the best player in college basketball – Larry Johnson – along with Greg Anthony and Stacey Augmon.
Bobby Hurley – Guard – Duke – I think if you ask any white basketball fan between the ages 28-35 who their favorite college basketball player was, I bet you get better than 50% who would say Bobby Hurley. I used to hate Hurley – mostly because I was an North Carolina, Michigan (yes, they used to be great at college hoops), and UNLV (yes, them too!) fan. I’ve since read the book about his dad and have learned to appreciate him a little bit more. He admittedly was a great college player and probably wouldn’t have been quite as great of a pro, but a car accident that left him a shell of his physical self took away his chance to prove me wrong.
Joe Smith – Center – Maryland – Came out after his sophomore year, but he was THE premiere post in college basketball. He averaged 20.2 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks per game. He’s been a solid, but unspectacular professional. The funny thing is he’ll probably be more remembered for decimating the Minnesota franchise than he will be for being a great college basketball player. By the way, in case you are curious, here are players that were still on the board when we had forfeited draft picks. 2001 – Zack Randolph, Gerald Wallace, Jamaal Tinsley, Tony Parker, Mehmet Okur, Bobby Simmons, and Gilbert Arenas. 2002 – Luis Scola, Dan Gadzuric, Juan Carlos-Navarro and Carlos Boozer. 2004 – Anderson Varejao and Chris Duhon. Think any of those players would’ve helped KG at all?
Ed O’Bannon – Forward – UCLA – I think that my warped memory made me think that theses guys (Ed and Charles) were twin brothers. Not true. Ed O’Bannon was two years older and slightly more dominant in college – especially his senior season when he had 20.4 ppg and 8.3 bpg leading the Bruins to a national championship.
Corliss Williamson – Forward – Arkansas – Big Nasty was THE guy in college. Other than Joe Smith, I don’t think there is any player that can claim they were more dominant in ’94 and ’95 (that list of players includes Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, Ed O’Bannon, Antonio McDyess, Bryant Reeves, and much more). The Razorbacks went 63-10 over his past two seasons including a championship in ’94 and second place finish in ’95. He was a nice college player, but never the dominant force that he was in college.
Marcus Camby – Center – UMass – He was a nice player his freshman and sophomore year of college, but his junior year he emerged as THE guy averaging 20.5 points, 8.2 boards, and 3.9 blocks per game. UMass was the #1 team in the land for most of the 1996 season. Like many other guys on this list, he’s had a nice career, but he’s nowhere near the franchise player you thought he would be partially due to missing 1 out of every 3 games due to injury during his pro career.
Kerry Kittles – Guard – Villanova – Kittles was a very nice college basketball player averaging 20.5 points per game over his last three seasons (18.4 for the career). He probably doesn’t belong on the list because he wasn’t dominant in college and he really was a solid pro for 8 seasons.
Eric Montross – Center – North Carolina – Montross was the centerpiece on a really good 1993 Tar Heel team that won the national championship. I’m sure that you could argue that Donald Williams and George Lynch were important, but for my money, Montross was the guy. His numbers took a dip his senior year, but I think it was more due to the emergance of freshman sensations Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace. Looking back, I think the 1993 Heels are the last team that won an NCAA championship with a slow, white center (a staple to college basketball success in the past) as the superstar.
If you’re out on your bike tonight, do wear white,