When you are attending the university that housed the greatest basketball player of all time, there are bound to be some expectations that come along with it. For years after Michael Jordan took over the basketball world, everyone wanted to see who would be the second coming. The likes of Jerry Stackhouse, Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter all had big expectations coming out of college. Of course, they all turned out to have lengthy and successful NBA careers, but once they put on that University of North Carolina uniform, they were faced with a lot to live up to.
North Carolina has continued their winning tradition, even adding another NCAA Championship this past season. Although the winning continues at the college level, sometimes the NBA proves too much for the Tar Heels prepared to take their career to the next level. From the curious case of Joe Forte to the NBA failure of 2008 National College Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough, some players just cannot translate from college to the pros, no matter how much success came because of it.
While there are some players whom we felt may not succeed at the next level, there are also the talents that we thought would continue to highlight the UNC program through the pros and become NBA stars. As we have learned, that is not always the case. Let us take a look at some players who built up their star, only to have it come crashing down as they took the next step in their basketball lives. Sometimes a NCAA Championship player can be remembered for the NBA busts they became, rather than the legacy they left at their alma mater.
15. Brandan Wright
While he did help UNC to three wins in the2007 NCAA Tournament, perhaps Brandan Wright could have benefited from a longer stay at North Carolina. In his lone season at UNC, Wright averaged 14.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, and shot 64 percent from the field while starting all 37 games. This was enough to earn him ACC Rookie of the Year and Second Team All-ACC honors.
His long athletic frame was enough for NBA scouts to convince him he’d become a lottery pick. And that proved correct. Wright was taken 8th overall in the 2007 NBA Draft by the Bobcats before being traded to the Warriors for Jason Richardson. Wright has never averaged more than 10 points or 5 rebounds in any given NBA season. Maybe sticking around for a National Championship would have been a better idea.
14. Wayne Ellington
Wayne Ellington is not so much a bust because of how high he was drafted, but because of the legacy he left at North Carolina. His freshman year, he played with the previously-mentioned Brandan Wright and averaged 11.7 points per game. He upped that to 16.6 his sophomore year and 15.8 his junior year. And while his scoring went down a bit, it was in his junior year where he helped give the University of North Carolina a NCAA Championship. For his play, and the fact that he shot 7-for-10 from beyond the three-point line in the Final Four, Ellington was named the NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player.
Ellington declared for the draft after that great junior season, and was selected 28th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Since then, Ellington has found himself on seven different NBA teams, and without a real role in the NBA game.
13. Reggie Bullock
Reggie Bullock did appear in back-to-back Elite Eights, but all he really had to show for his time at UNC is a 2013 Second Team All-ACC spot. In the end, the one thing he did showcase in college was an ability to bury a three-point shot. Something that, of course, could come in handy at the NBA level. So Bullock forwent his senior season at the University of North Carolina and was eventually selected with the 25th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft by the Clippers.
It has to be assumed that Bullock’s shortcomings are outweighing his ability to knock down a jumper. He was playing in LA with a dynamic low-post duo who could benefit from a three-point marksman, but Bullock still did not find consistent NBA minutes. He is currently on his third team in four NBA seasons in hopes of holding on to his best role thus far, averaging 14.6 minutes per night, which is a career high.
12. JR Reid
Throwing it back for the first time in the list, JR Reid was a 6’9″, athletic forward/center who was frankly ahead of his time. This should have bid well for his NBA future, but it was not to be. Reid was able to grab consensus First Team All-American honors during his time at UNC, which ran from 1986-1989. He left UNC with career averages of 16.2 points and 7.6 rebounds before being drafted number five overall by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1989 NBA Draft.
Reid did manage to stick around the NBA for 11 seasons, playing for six NBA teams. Compared to his college stats, Reid just never translated to the pros. He averaged 8.5 points for his career and never averaged better than 11.3 points in a season.
11. Marvin Williams
Maybe he was not a bust in the tradition sense of the word. Marvin Williams has carved out a solid NBA career, starting 673 out of 860 career games, while averaging 10.6 points and 5.3 rebounds for his career. He even appeared on those solid Hawks teams, where he teamed up with Joe Johnson, Al Horford, and Josh Smith. But something tells me Hawks fans will be okay with Williams appearing on our list.
Williams served as the sixth man for the 2005 NCAA Champion Tar Heels during his freshman campaign. He averaged 11.3 points and 6.6 assists and elected to enter the draft after one season at UNC. Leading up to the draft, Williams’ stock was on the rise, and eventually the Hawks made him the 2nd overall pick in the draft!! Good for him. But several players selected after Williams became All-Stars: Deron Williams, Andrew Bynum, Danny Granger, David Lee, and most notably, Chris Paul!
10. Tyler Hansbrough
Tyler Hansbrough was a different kind of University of North Carolina star. While we all associate the Tar Heels with high-flyers like Michael Jordan, Vince Carter, Jerry Stackhouse, and Harrison Barnes, Hansbrough brought a rough and rugged down-low presence to the program. “Psycho T” was a four-time All-American, including three years of First Team honors. He also won National College Player of the Year in 2009, and led the Tar Heels to the NCAA Championship that season.
Hansbrough was drafted 13th overall by the Indiana Pacers in 2009. There, he averaged 19.7 minutes per game during his four-year stay with the team. Following his stint in Indiana, he played with the Raptors and Hornets, where his minutes per game continued to drop. Currently, Hansbrough has not played an NBA minute in 2016-2017, and is a member of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBA D-League.
9. Tyler Zeller
Tyler Zeller was a freshman on the Tyler Hansbrough-led 2009 NCAA Champion Tar Heels, and continued to build his UNC legacy while staying all four years in college. His junior year he earned Second Team All-ACC and his senior season resulted in being named the ACC Player of the Year and Second Team All-American. That year, Zeller averaged 16.3 points and 9.6 rebounds for a Tar Heels team that would lose in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
Unlike some of the other players on the list, Zeller’s NBA career got off to a decent start. He was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team after averaging 7.9 points and 5.7 rebounds in 26.4 minutes per game. That year, he also started 55 out of 77 games. His success then fell off. For the current 2016-2017 NBA season, Zeller is averaging 3.5 points and 2.4 rebounds in a career-low 10.3 minutes per game.
8. Hubert Davis
Hubert Davis is currently back with the University of North Carolina basketball team, serving as an assistant to Roy Williams. Before his days as a coach, Davis did garner a reputation as sharp shooter, both at the college level and even in his NBA career. So why does he make the list?
Davis averaged 21.1 points per game his senior season, leading to his being drafted by the New York Knicks. After a decent start to his Knicks career, where he averaged 9.5 points per game, Davis was traded in 1996 to the Toronto Raptors. He played just 36 games and averaged 5 points for Toronto before being released. The rest of his career saw him play for four more NBA teams. Even though Davis did manage a lengthy NBA career with the knock-down shot he possessed, it could and should have been more memorable.
7. Tom Lagarde
There was a University of North Carolina before the days of Michael Jordan, and we shall be using Tom Lagarde to look back on those pre-Jordan days. Lagarde played all four years at UNC, averaging 15.1 points and 7.4 rebounds his senior year. His skill set was good enough to see him selected 9th overall in the 1977 NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets. After an inconsistent start to his NBA career with Denver and Seattle, it looked like Tom had found his niche in the league. He averaged 13.7 points and 8.1 rebounds for Dallas in the 1980-1981 season. But once it got going, Lagarde suffered a calf injury that kept forced him to miss most of the next season. After two years playing professionally in Italy and getting back into NBA shape, Lagarde did make an NBA comeback in 1984 with the New Jersey Nets. It lasted just one game before his NBA career was over.
6. Sean May
The 2005 NCAA Champion Tar Heels had a special group of players. Following that title run, four players were selected in the first round of the NBA Draft. Perhaps the one that most NBA scouts had their eye on the most was Sean May, who earned the Final Four Most Outstanding Player award during the magical championship run. Injuries never really let May’s career get going, and when he did get on the NBA court it wasn’t long enough for him to really get into game shape. In all, the UNC standout played in just 119 games, which included 25 starts. He did show flashes of brilliance during his second year in the league, averaging 11.9 points and6.7 rebounds in 23.9 minutes. But injuries would force him to miss the entire 2007-2008 season, and we never really got to see May’s career get off the ground.
5. Rashad McCants
Rashad McCants was actually the last of the four UNC stars drafted following the 2005 NCAA Championship. He was taken 14th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves, but still had high expectations entering the league, as they all did. It never panned out, and McCants was out of the NBA by 2009. He started 39 out of 249 games he appeared in, and did manage to average 10 points for his career. He added 2.0 rebounds per game and 1.3 assists per game to go with his career totals. His professionally basketball career has stretched from the NBA to overseas leagues in France, the Philippines, and even Venezuela.
His professional career is a far cry from the All-American success he experienced with UNC. In college he finished his career averaging 17.6 points per game, while displaying an ability to knock down three-point shots.
4. Eric Montross
The 7-foot-tall Eric Montross earned two Second Team All-American honors during his time at North Carolina. He entered the draft full of expectations, and the Boston Celtics made him the 9th pick in the 1994 NBA Draft. He kicked off his NBA career with a All- Rookie NBA Second Team nod for a season in which he averaged 10 points and 7.3 rebounds. He would never again match those numbers. Aside from his rookie campaign, Montross’ career highs consisted of 7.2 points and 6.6 rebounds. From 1997 onward, he would not average better than 2.9 points or 4.1 rebounds for the rest of his NBA career. He did manage to stick around until 2002, but was never the player his college career or rookie year had foreshadowed.
3. Kendall Marshall
Kendall Marshall manages to keep finding himself on these kinds of lists. After spending two years at UNC from 2010-2012, Marshall declared for the NBA Draft. After showcasing elite point guard skills during his sophomore season in which he averaged 9.8 assists per night, the Phoenix Suns used the 13th overall pick in the 2012 on the former Tar Heel floor general. And that is about the highlight of his basketball career. Marshall has bounced around between bad NBA teams and the NBA D-League. He posted career highs with a bad Lakers team, and most recently had failed to register consistent minutes with a Philadelphia 76ers franchise that was clearly in the midst of a historic low.
2. Ty Lawson
Ty Lawson really seemed on the cusp of becoming an All-Star point guard in the NBA. From the 2011-2012 season through the 2014-2015 season, Lawson never averaged lower than 15.2 points, 6.6 assists and averaged better than a steal per game. He upped his assists to 9.6 per during the 2014-2015 campaign, only to have his career come crashing down. Mainly it was Lawson’s personal problems that forced the Denver Nuggets to move on from the budding star. Numerous arrests and instances with alcohol abuse forced Lawson’s career to take a nosedive. He has been on three teams since parting ways from Denver, and has not averaged better than 9.6 points or 4.8 assists since. Currently, he is enjoying minutes for a rebuilding Sacramento Kings team that just traded their franchise centerpiece DeMarcus Cousins.
1. Joseph Forte
Much like Ty Lawson, Joseph Forte can blame personal issues as much as he can blame his lack of skill set for the NBA game. Forte was the ACC Rookie of the Year, then the ACC Player of the Year in his two seasons with North Carolina. He was a bona fide scorer who was able to use his quickness. Taking into account his career college averages of 18.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game, the Boston Celtics made Forte the 21st pick in the 2001 NBA Draft. There really is no need to go off of career averages when it comes to his NBA stats. We can just look at the totals. In all, Forte appeared in 25 games, started zero, made 11 out of 47 field goal attempts, scored 30 points, grabbed 17 rebounds, assisted 17 times, and turned the ball over 13 times. Sounds like one game Russell Westbrook could have put together, aside from the 23 percent shooting from the field.
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