You could possibly just make this list with players from Duke alone if you really wanted to. Think about it, other than Grant Hill and Elton Brand, which Blue Devil really lived up to the standard that they set on the college campus? What is it about the transition from the college ranks to the pros that caused these (and many other) to fail? Could it be the travel? The number of fans (though chances are NBA fans aren’t as rowdy as the NCAA student body)?
At the end of the day the hoop is the same, the court size and ball are pretty similar give or take, the offense and defensive strategies aren’t that far off of what they learned during their one to four years on campus.
The following 15 former college stars rightfully earned their status as BMOC during their one to four years fighting to punch a ticket to the big dance, but unfortunately when they finally got to the main stage, their ability to carry over that same level of success fell short. While some flamed out after their NBA career, others fortunately have found success continuing to chase or relive that same NCAA stardom overseas.
15. Jimmer Fredette – BYU
There may have been no bigger name in college during the 2010-11 season than the man behind “Jimmer-Mania”. After leading the NCAA in scoring at a clip of 28.9 PPG and to their first appearance in the Sweet Sixteen in 30 years, Fredette had become a household name. With Steph Curry like range before Steph Curry was “Steph”, Fredette possessed one of the deadliest three point strokes in Division 1. Unfortunately for the BYU guard, the same sweet stroke that he possessed in college didn’t exactly carry over to the NBA.
Selected with the tenth overall pick by the Milwaukee Bucks, Jimmer was traded to the Sacramento Kings were he would suit up for two and a half seasons before making stops in three other NBA cities. Currently lighting up the scoreboards in China, it would be great to see “Jimmer-Mania” make a return to the new pace and space style of NBA.
14. Greg Oden – Ohio St.
Remember the summer of the 2007 NBA Draft when all the talks pertained to who would be the number one overall pick and who would be the leader of the next generation of the NBA, either Greg Oden or Kevin Durant?
Yup, that talk got lopsided, and quickly. While KD has more than lived up to expectations, Oden experienced the exact opposite. In a career that somehow spanned seven years, the former Buckeye played only 105 games and averaged a lackluster 8 PPG and 6 RPG. Prior to being paid to play, Oden pretty much saw his name on every Player of the Year award throughout the high school and college levels and was one of if not the main focal point in leading the Buckeyes to the National Championship game. Leap ahead to his pro numbers and the only thing that he would be known for was collecting over $24 million to mostly sit in street clothes.
13. Sherron Collins – Kansas
A NCAA Championship highlighted a college career that saw the Chicago born point guard collect a number of individual awards along the way. Following a freshman year in which he was named to the BIG 12 All-Rookie Team, Collins would find himself posting similar stats during his second season as the Jayhawks first man off the bench. For his third and fourth year under coach Bill Self, Collins would see his name among preseason conversation and lists for both the Naismith and Wooden Player of the Year Awards. Although he would fall short of claiming either honor, Collins would be named to the All-American First Team. So one would think that these accolades would turn into a modest NBA career, right?
Unfortunately, the result was negative as Collins went undrafted in 2010 and managed to only play 20 games, 66 minutes and drop in 17 points for the Charlotte Hornets who had signed him as a free agent later that summer.
12. Sean May – North Carolina
A former MOP (Most Outstanding Player) and NCAA Champion in 2005, May was also acknowledged as the USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year, three awards that you would think lean heavily towards a successful transition to the professional ranks. Not in the case of the former Charlotte Hornets draft pick.
Currently a member of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels coaching staff, May played a huge roll for the team in the paint for three years, averaging a double double over his time on campus, including a 26 point, ten rebound effort to secure the Heels championship victory.
Drafted 13th overall in 2005, his career would never live up to the expectations and not even a trip overseas could have saved his game as he was a bust abroad as well.
11. Rashad McCants – North Carolina
For one season spanning 2007-08, it seemed like McCants was going to live up to the hype surrounding him from his three years as a Tar Heel. Unfortunately for the sweet scoring shooting guard it was just a blip on the NBA radar. After pacing UNC scoring with 17.5 PPG during his freshman season, McCants did even better during his sophomore year, draining 20 per game. While his scoring would take a dip during his third and final season on campus, it wasn’t due to McCants skills, but rather the star studded lineup of talent that filled out the 2004-05 Heels NCAA Championship roster.
After his junior season, Rashad would be selected with the 14th overall pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves, where he would stay for four of his five NBA seasons. After his fifth and final season in Sacramento, McCants would bounce around the overseas pro circuit until 2015.
10. Hakim Warrick – Syracuse
One of the best college dunkers during the early 2000s, Warrick was a huge contributor to the Syracuse Orange one and only NCAA championship banner. After playing Robin to then teammate Carmelo Anthony’s Batman, Warrick stepped into the spotlight on his own as he bumped up his own personal stats and led the Orange to back-to-back March Madness appearances during his junior and senior years.
After four years of playing for coach Boeheim, Warrick would declare for the for the 2005 NBA Draft and would slip to the 19th pick taken by the Memphis Grizzlies. Over the span of the next ten years, Warrick would suit up for six teams and although he did have a four year run of posting double digits in scoring and ended up with a career average of 9.4 PPG and four RPG in 526 outings, it just seems as though he never really lived up to the potential that he displayed during his time on the New York campus.
9. Peyton Siva – Louisville
The Seattle born point guard turned a successful high school career, which included back-to-back state championships into an equally successful collegiate career at Louisville. After turning a troubled childhood back in Washington, Siva became the undisputed leader for the Cardinal where he finished his four year career averaging ten points and nearly six assists during his senior season and cut down the twine at the end of the NCAA Tournament.
Despite his leadership qualities and knowledge of the game, Siva slipped into the second round, drafted by the Detroit Pistons in 2013. During his one and only NBA season, Siva hit the court for 24 games and averaged a shade over two points per game and 1.4 APG. After being waived by the Pistons and then the Orlando Magic, Siva turned to action overseas, where he currently plays in Germany.
8. Russ Smith – Louisville
Smith has two things in common with Peyton Siva, both shared time in the Louisville Cardinals back court and both unfortunately appear on this list. After a slow freshman season, Smith saw a huge bump in his playing time and in relation, his numbers, averaging 26 minutes and 15 points a game over his next three years playing for Rick Pitino. With a NCAA Championship banner on his resume from his junior season, Smith returned to campus for a senior year rather than jumping to the pro ranks and leave college on a high note.
Snagged by the Philadelphia 76ers with a mid second round pick, Smith would find himself on the move as New Orleans traded for the point guard to their roster. Half a season later and Smith would once again be on the move, heading to what would be his final NBA stop in Memphis. With only 27 NBA games on his resume and 131 minutes, Smith has spent the last two years bouncing between the D-League and overseas.
7. Shabazz Napier – Connecticut
Rumor was that LeBron James thought so highly of Napier that he asked the Miami Heat to trade what would amount to be two players, a future second round pick and some cash for the former Husky. What was it that attracted “The Chosen One” to Napier? How about an NCAA career that was book-ended by National Championships and the second one topped off with the Most Outstanding Player award. After starting his freshman year on the bench, Napier jumped into the starting lineup during his second season on campus and except for the rare occasion, became a mainstay with the first five. With his college career in the rear-view mirror and his name etched throughout many of the UConn record books, Napier entered the 2014 NBA Draft.
Unfortunately that same success he had was unable to be found in the pro ranks as Napier played a minimal role for three teams in three years, with his most recent stop in Portland. While he will be hard pressed to bump Damian Lillard to the bench, this may be the opportune place for Shabazz to resurrect his struggling pro career.
6. Brandan Wright – North Carolina
Maybe it was the numerous injuries that halted Wright’s NBA success, or maybe he just wasn’t as good as billed. Either way, the promise that the eigth overall pick in the 2007 Draft showed certainly didn’t live up to the hype. Playing just a single season with the Tar Heels, Wright started all 37 games he suited up for, averaging nearly 15 points and a shade over six rebounds. At the end of his one and done season, Wright had posted his name on the ACC Freshman team, the Second team All-ACC lineup and captured the ACC Rookie of the Year.
After being traded from the Charlotte Hornets to the Golden State Warriors on draft night, packing his bags became a common theme as Wright would suit up for six different clubs over the course of his current nine year career (including three different teams in 2014-15).
5. Noah Vonleh – Indiana
One of many high school All-Americans on this list, big things were expected from the big man from Massachusetts when he arrived on campus at Indiana University. Starting nearly every game and falling just short of averaging a double double in his freshman season, Vonleh was receiving honors for various Big Ten Conference awards before declaring for the 2014 NBA Draft.
Judging by his production over the course of his first three seasons in the NBA, a second or third year in college may have done wonders for the young forward. While he has shown some flashes of potential, it has been nothing more than flashes as he has only averaged four points and four assists a game to date. Considering he’s only 21 years old, there is still time for Vonleh to reach expectations, but he can very well just as easily go the other way.
4. Cole Aldrich – Kansas
Although he played limited minutes during his freshman season at Kansas, Aldrich proved to be a valued component of the Jayhawks championship run. Losing their front line to the professional ranks, Aldrich found himself inserted to the Jayhawks starting five, a role that would remain his until he announced his declaration for the 2010 NBA Draft. After earning a variety of Big 12 awards, including defensive honors based on his efforts in Lawrence, Aldrich would be picked up by the OKC Thunder in hopes of adding a presence to their front line.
Currently on his sixth team in seven seasons, Aldrich continues to struggle finding a role in the current uptempo NBA game, averaging only ten minutes of action a game for his career and considering the pace that the Minnesota Timberwolves want to play at, he will once again struggle to find playing time for the duration of his three year contract with the team.
3. Adam Morrison – Gonzaga
“The Stache” may have been one of the best college players of all time, but he may have also been one of the biggest busts at the NBA level when you consider the transition from amateur to pro.
For three years Morrison helped turn the ‘Zags into a household name while putting his name among the elite NCAA Division 1 talent. Although Gonzaga would fall short of winning a title, Morrison would be rewarded for his efforts during his junior year, sharing the National Player of the Year award after averaging 28.1 PPG and 5.5 RPG.
After being drafted with the third pick in the 2006 Draft by the Charlotte Hornets, Morrison looked to make a decent transition to the pro level, playing in 78 games and averaging nearly 12 PPG. From then on, basketball life went downhill as his lack of execution on both ends of the court, combined with a knee injury in his second season led to his quick demise. Is it possible that a two-time NBA Champion could make a list of failures? In Morrison’s case, yes, as he hardly made a dent in the LA Lakers box scores during his two years in Hollywood.
2. Alando Tucker – Wisconsin
From 2002 until 2007 Tucker proved to be a valuable piece to the Badgers squad. For those doing the math at home, yes Tucker played five seasons in college as he received a medical exemption during his sophomore season. Appearing in March Madness all four years that he played a complete college season, Tucker helped the Badgers advance as far as the Elite Eight in 2005.
After being drafted by the Phoenix Suns with the 29th pick, the combo guard/forward spent more time with the Suns D-League squad than he did with the main roster, appearing in only 47 games over the course of three seasons. Halfway through his third and final year with Phoenix, Tucker would be traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves, but would find insignificant action in four games. Currently playing in Israel, Tucker’s passport has been stamped by leagues around the world.
1. Hasheem Thabeet – Connecticut
He’s far from the most famous player on this list, but he was once the highest drafted player, being selected with the second overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. Prior to suiting up for the Memphis Grizzlies in his rookie year, Thabeet spent three years as a member of the UConn Huskies and although he wasn’t the offensive threat that many of the other 14 players were, Thabeet found his calling on the other end of the court.
Twice named the NCAA Defensive Player of the Year, the Tanzanian big man tallied 417 blocks and 847 rebounds in 100 games. Don’t think that Thabeet was a complete stiff offensively as he averaged 10.3 PPG for the Huskies.
While he did average 1.3 blocks during his rookie season that was about the only thing that Thabeet did well during his five year NBA career. Suiting up for four different clubs during that span, Thabeet has been out of the league since 2014.
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