The list continues. Yesterday, I gave you 16 college basketball players who were dynamite in college but stunk in the pros (or at the very least, were somewhat unrecognizable given their college dominance). Here’s the next sixteen. Watch for parts three and four next Thursday and Friday.
Keith Van Horn – Forward – Utah – Van Horn was known in college as a white guy who played like a black guy but really, really, REALLY looked like a white guy. I remember reading article after article about how Keith Van Horn came from an urban area and played against mostly black high schools in California. The fact remains that no player since has looked as white as Keith Van Horn. I don’t think I’m making too bold of a statement when I say he is “not even arguably” the best player in the history of Utah basketball (and yes, that includes Andrew Bogut). He averaged 20.8 points from 1993-1997.
Ron Mercer – Guard – Kentucky – He was the guy that most of us considered the most athletic wing in 1997. I still remember a Final Four game the Kentucky Wildcats
played didn’t play against the Minnesota Gophers. He go the ball on a full court 1-on-1 fast break. He was on the right side of the basket and he spun to his left putting up a layup on the left side of the basketball while running full speed. It was a ridiculous move.
Jacque Vaughn – Guard – Kansas – Vaughn may have gone second to last in the first round of the 1997 draft, but he was probably the premiere point guard in college basketball in 1997. He couldn’t shoot, didn’t score, and mostly set up his more talented teammates (Raef LaFrentz, Paul Pierce and to a lesser degree Scot Pollard). He was easily the leader on this team, though, and the fact that he’s still in the NBA being average (4.6 points and 2.5 assists per games for the past 10 seasons) I think speaks to his leadership abilities.
God Shammgod – Guard – Providence – In hindsight, maybe I just liked his name more than his game. He shot 20% from three and averaged 10.3 points, 6.6 assists, and 3.0 turnovers per game in his two years of college. When he came to college, he was known as Shammgod Wells. He left as God Shammgod. I think that has to speak for itself…
Shaheen Holloway – Guard – Seton Hall – He was my favorite guy that a lot of people who weren’t college hoops disciples like I was from about ’90 thru ’03 didn’t quite know about. He averaged 13.7 points per game over four years although his role transitioned from scorer as a freshman (17.3 points, 2.8 assists, and 3.8 rebounds per game) to all-around player (13.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 5.6 assists pre game). The Big East had some great point guards over that time (Khalid El-Amin, Erick Barkley, and Jason Hart), so Holloway was often the forgotten guy. That and he couldn’t shoot…
DeJuan Wheat – Guard – Louisville – Averaged 16.1 points per game as in his four years of school. Like many other guys on this list, he was more of a scorer than a distributer and at just six feet tall, it’s hard to make it in the NBA.
Raef LaFrentz – Center – Kansas – He was a four year starter at Kansas with averages of 15.8 ppg and 9.1 rpg trailing only Danny Manning for school record’s in both categories. He was the Big 12 conference player of the year in 1997 and 1998 (over Jacques Vaughn, Paul Pierce, Tony Battie, and Chauncey Billups). As a pro, he’s averaged 10.7 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game while robbing NBA owners for well over $10 million per year. By the way, if you are wondering what kind of pro player Tyler Hansbrough can be, I’d say he compares to a shorter but more agressive LaFrentz.
Nick Collison – Forward – Kansas – At some point in my life, Nick Collison and Raef LaFrentz are going to morph into the same person. They are somewhat similar – stiff white post from Kansas who was a nice college player but probably won’t be a star as a pro. He wasn’t quite the player LaFrentz was, though I’ll always remember him as a winner who *almost* went to Minnesota.
Miles Simon – Guard – Arizona – Some really good guards came out of Arizona in the mid 90s through early 00s. (By the way, how do you pronounce 00s?) Mike Bibby, Jason Terry, Gilbert Arenas, and Damon Stoudamire might have gone on to have fine NBA careers, but Miles Simon was arguably the best of the bunch in college. He had ice in his veins. When Arizona beat Kentucky in the 1997 NCAA tournament, it was Simon, not future #2 pick MIke Bibby, who was the go to guy as they marched from being a number four seed to winning a championship.
Trajan Landon – Guard – Duke – Before JJ Redick, Trajan Langdon was the Duke three point shooter than announcers claimed was the best thing since sliced bread even though every non-Duke fan in the world hated him. The nation was shocked that a black guy – who could shoot the lights out – was from Alaska. I think I read about a thousand articles making reference to Trajan Langdon as “The Alaskan Assasin.” Plus, it laid the way for fellow Alaskan Carlos Boozer and his chia-chest hair to come to Duke.
Marcus Fizer – Forward – Iowa State – Fizer, who used to look like a clown wearing Rec Specs on the court, was your classic 6’8″ college post who dominated with superior strength and got to the pros and flopped on his face. He averaged 18.9 points per game in his three seasons of college hoops in Ames, Iowa and eventually 4th overall in the 2000 NBA draft (which by the way, produced almost no NBA talent).
Mark Madsen – Forward – Stanford – Fans of the Mad Dog know him as the guy who works extremely hard in the handful of minutes he’s gotten for the T-Wolves and Lakers. He’s also known for his amazing dancing skills and great public speaking skills. Getting off on a tangent, Mad Dog dancing is probably just my second favorite memory of the Laker Dynasty. Number one will never be topped. Mad Dog was a nice player averaging 12.3 points and 8.8 boards leading a nice Stanford team that made the Final Four in 1998.
Chris Porter – Forward – Auburn – He only played two years at Auburn as a juco-transfer, but his athletic dunks were the highlight of Sportscenter for two solid years. He averaged 15.3 points and 8.0 rebounds a game. Just a guess, but remember watching Auburn in high school, I would guess 12 points and 6 of those rebounds a game were on putback dunks. He was too thin and too short to be a good pro, but he was a nice athletic forward that was fun to watch.
Khalid El-Amin – Guard – UConn – Here’s a list of people who owe me five to ten dollars after Khalid El-Amin made it in the pro’s: Jerry Hanson, Terry Hepola, Brian Schwantz, Lance Rach, and Dave Cresap. I’ll accept cash, check, or even PayPal. El-Amin was easily my favorite player in high school. In fact, my buddy Cory and I have went to every state tournament from 7th grade on. From my 7th through 9th grade year, Minneapolis North won the state title. I made a bet with the aforementioned people that he would make it in the pro’s after they all hated him his senior year when he announced he was going to UConn over Minnesota. He made it and they never paid up. By the way, has anyone ever heard the rumor that El-Amin didn’t go to the U because he got into a fight with Russ Archambault? If that’s true, we got the rawest end of that deal by a long shot.
Shane Battier – Forward – Duke – A highlight of my college basketball watching career was when the 1999 Duke Blue Devils lost to UConn although he broke my heart by coming back to win a championship in 2001. He was the most overly-loved basketball player in the history of college basketball. He’s probably best known for having the worst shaved head ever although some fans remember him being a prety solid all-around player (senior season averages of 19.9 ppg, 7.3 rpb, 2.3 bpg, and 2.1 apg).
Jay Williams – Guard – Duke – We called him “Jason Williams” back in the day. He changed his name when he got into the NBA as to not be confused with “Jayson Williams the murderer” or “Jason Williams the turnover machine point guard that everyone loved for exactly one season.” He was hands-down the best player in college basketball during the 2000-01 and 2001-02 season. He’ll always be remembered for leading the 2001 Blue Devils to a championship… and then missing free throws that cost the 2002 team a chance at a championship. Who knows how good he might’ve been had he not gotten into a motorcycle accident after his rookie (and only) NBA season.
If you’re out on your bike tonight, do wear white,