Each year, a very small percentage of men’s college basketball players get to go on to play professionally in the National Basketball Association. Others who aren’t so skilled, or aren’t so lucky? They can go play overseas, or in a lesser league Stateside, but hey, it is still professional, right? Sure. But, while playing as a pro is admittedly a huge accomplishment, there are plenty of people- fans and pundits alike - who will take a certain amount of pleasure in the prognostication of things. Like, where will a certain player be drafted? Will he be a bust? Or won’t he? Who will your favorite team draft? Where will your college’s superstar end up?
For the purposes of this particular exercise, we are going to take a look at one specific team, and see which of it’s collegiate products made it to the National Basketball Association, only to see things go bust. And, let’s first clear up my definition of bust. It can be a guy who was drafted high, and did not live up to the selection, like a top five draft pick, in theory, ought to be a really good star in the league for a good number of years. If the player is such a high pick, but either doesn’t stick around long, or doesn’t come close to achieving the appropriate level of success? Then I’d say he’s a bust. So, for this one, we are looking at one school and it’s pros. The school? That would be Villanova University.
The two time National Champion has been a basketball school for as long as I can remember. Full disclosure, I grew up all of fifteen minutes from the school. I wore a 1985 NCAA Champions t-shirt when I was 8 years old. I wound up going to a rival institution. I am more familiar with a number of its players than I’d like to admit, so this should be a fun one. Without further delay, let’s take a look at the busts!
15 Jim Washington
Let’s get this list started with Mr. Washington, shall we? Looking at his career, I can’t say it’s all that bad. Most people would love to be able to say that they played for a decade in the National Basketball Association, and that they averaged 10 points a game over that span. It’s really not a terrible career. But, he did bounce around a few teams (not necessarily his fault, but it happened). And, for being a top six pick in the NBA Draft, typically you want to see a lot more out of guys. Mind you, I am measuring some of these guys drafted in the 1960s with what I would expect out of guys drafted in a similar spot in the last twenty years. It’s not always a fair comparison to do, but it’s what I have done. On the upside, he did it all while billed as a 6’6" forward/center, which is kind of impressive.
14 Tom Hoover
First things first, I had to dig a little on this one. To be frank, while Villanova has been an on and off college team of note, with a higher profile of late, they aren’t exactly the pro factory that a school like Duke, Kentucky or North Carolina has been-just to name a few. And, unless you really followed the school, have been to games, or exhaustively research former Villanova Wildcats, you might not even know of Tom Hoover. So why did Mr. Hoover make my list? Because at one point, Tom Hoover was a first round draft choice to play in the National Basketball Association. But, he parlayed that top draft status into a puny four years in the NBA, and another two in the American Basketball Association. For his career, none of his key averages hit double digits.
13 Bill Melchionni
This one might get me some heat, so I am putting on my asbestos underwear first. Melchionni ended his collegiate and professional careers as a highly regarded, well respected player. I take nothing from him in that regard, but I do still have him listed as a bust. Why? Because, I look at his career and while he has some All-Star nods, and was a part of some exceptionally good teams, I see him as being a benefactor of other, better players. In other words, he was at the right place and theright time. Were the teams good because Melchionni was there, or was he just there on a really good team?
Need proof of that argument? He left a really good Philadelphia 76ers team to play in the young ABA, and while there he played with an up-and-coming player named Julius Erving. As in the one and only Dr. J. Talk about lucky stars!
12 Tom Inglesby
Why he is here is easy to explain. Tom Inglesby was a veritable stud all the way up till he made the National Basketball Association. Simply put, he was dominant in grade school, a star for his Philadelphia Catholic League squad in high school, and went on to drop in over 1,600 points during his career on the Main Line. All that said and done, however, didn’t lead to much success when a paycheck was associated with the basketball. He had a few seasons of professional play before his career wrapped up. Younger folks (relative to his age, like myself) are actually more familiar with him and his name, because he became a successful high school coach at his alma mater, and while there, he coached his son Martin.
11 Howard Porter
Porter was practically a larger-than-life figure, but he met a tragic and too-soon end. For that, it’s almost hard to put him on this list. All in all, he kind of did have a decent enough career, though it was rather short, and he never really managed to stay in one place for too long. But, really and truly, that isn’t why I have him on the list. I have him on here because of what he did in college. He was on the Villanova team that gave one of John Wooden’s UCLA squads all it could handle in the National Championship game in 1971. He was so good, he was named Most Outstanding Player, even in a losing effort. However, he had to vacate that award when it was later learned he had violated amateur rules by signing with an ABA team during his college season.
10 Harold Pressley
Here’s a guy who had an absolutely excellent collegiate career. He was a vital cog in Villanova’s 1985 National Championship win. He was, interestingly enough, the first Big East player to ever record a triple double, which is certainly impressive. He was a first round draft pick, heading to play in Sacramento. But, the success he had in college did not really follow him to the professional level- certainly not in the NBA, at least. He lasted four years playing for the Kings, and was at best a mediocre player. He wasn’t awful, but he didn’t do enough to distinguish himself and stick around. After his four years in California, he opted to take his game overseas, where he did play for a couple Euroleague championship teams, so there’s that. Still, considering what he did on the Main Line, folks probably expected more.
9 Alvin Williams
Alvin Williams is a Wildcat I actually remember seeing in person. He was starring for Villanova just as I was about to enroll in college, just as I was really becoming a captivated fan. Considering the skills and talent he displayed for the Cats in college, there was an expectation by his fans in the Delaware Valley that he could have a really good NBA career. If those folks had said a long career, they would have been better off. Longevity was Williams’ big thing, as he turned his second round status into a ten-year NBA run. His stats were, frankly, nothing special - single digit averages where it counted - and he was predominantly a bench or role player. That’s nothing to sneeze at, especially when you can earn an NBA salary for as long as he did. It just wasn’t stardom, either.
8 Jason Lawson
Maybe, looking this one over, I should have him higher? Maybe, but I am not going to move him from this spot for one main reason. While he had a strong college career - guys his size aren’t exactly a dime a dozen, which certainly helps things - he did not dominate. And that translated into a late second round pick. Had he been more dominating in college, and parlayed that into a first round position? Then his pro career would have vaulted him higher on this list. Why? Because he only lasted a single season in the National Basketball Association. He bounced around overseas and on some minor league teams for a few years, but he only ever had that one season in the NBA. Not what people expected, to be sure.
7 Ed Pinckney
Pinckney wasn’t just vital to the 1985 title team. He was the tournament’s most outstanding player. He was a collegiate force, and he parlayed his superb amateur career into the 10th pick of the 1985 NBA draft. Not a bad spot, right? Should be, or could be, a really good career from that spot, right? Sure. Well, maybe. Let’s put it this way: Ed Pinckney had a very long NBA career, playing for 12 seasons. That is the good news. But he bounced around, playing for seven different teams during that career. He was a solid player, nothing spectacular. His college success did not follow him to the pros, unfortunately. In a twelve year career, when you average less than seven points and five rebounds a game, that’s a role player. You don’t draft those guys at 10th overall - or, at least, you try not to.
6 Doug West
As with so many others here, Doug West was a stud in college. An absolute stud. He had a smooth stroke and could seemingly score at will. He turned his excellent college run into a second round draft position, being one of the Timberwolves' original draftees. He had flashes of really good play, but just about every time he seemed to have something going, the team went out and replaced him. The Wolves displaced West twice - first with Isaiah Rider, then with Kevin Garnett. From the Timberwolves' bench, he moved on to spend a couple years with what was then the Vancouver Grizzlies. He did put together a decently long career, but in the end, he averaged under double digits- meaning his big draw was he stuck around a good long time.
5 John Celestand
Here’s a guy…another guy, actually…who had a really nice college career (I know, I saw him kill my college team a few times in person). He turned his strong four-year stay on the Main Line into being the Laker’s second round pick in 1999, which is a nice place to land. But here’s where things sort-of went south. Celestand only managed to last a single, solitary season in the NBA - but it was a rather fortuitous season. In his one and only season on the Lakers, they managed to win the NBA title. Not a bad career, if you wish to call it that. Celestand did more damage overseas, but has also carved out a pretty decent post-playing career, too. But, at the end of the day, even with that ring, this one still feels like a bit of a bust.
4 Randy Foye
Here is an absolutely interesting player. Randy Foye was a major part in a sort-of rebirth of the Wildcats, one of the key players in what was then one of Jay Wright’s best recruiting classes. Basically, each and every season, he improved. He was richly rewarded, being drafted 7th overall. But, even before he ever played a game in the league, he found himself traded not once, but twice. Not counting those teams, he’s been in the NBA since 2006, and has played for seven different teams - that doesn’t scream superstar. His stats aren’t horrible for a reserve, or for a guy who isn’t heavily counted on. But when you draft a guy 7th overall, you expect to have him around for a while and putting up big numbers, and with Foye, that just has not happened. But hey, he’s still in the league as of this writing.
3 Kerry Kittles
Ah, Kerry Kittles. Here’s a guy I remember well. It was before I went to college and was to never cheer for Villanova again (but that’s a story for another day). I vividly remember Villanova winning their NIT Championship, the image of Kittles sitting on the rim celebrating. Pundits expected the Wildcats, with Kittles, to be a force in the NCAA Tournament the following year, but they were bounced early. It didn’t matter though, as Kittles became the eight overall pick, not bad considering he was then (and still is) Villanova’s career scoring leader. He actually wasn’t a terrible player, averaging just a bit more than 14 points per game. He’s more a bust because he could have been so much better, and his career was cut short in part due to injuries.
2 Michael Bradley
He started out as a Wildcat. He finished his college career as a Wildcat. It was just in two different states. Bradley transferred from the University of Kentucky to play at Villanova. He had an impressive run on the Main Line, which he turned into the 17th overall pick in the NBA Draft. He did have a few good spurts during his career, but mostly in what critics would argue was either garbage time, or on bad teams. Given his size, skill and hype, people were not wrong to have expected more staying power and a better overall showing, but it was not meant to be. His NBA career was, for lack of a better word, unremarkable. He has since moved on to coaching, first in high school and now in college.
1 Tim Thomas
Here’s a guy who I knew so much about before he ever set foot on the Lancaster Avenue campus. A McDonald’s All American coming out of high school, he came to the Wildcats with a ton of hype, with people having discussed his NBA prospects for years, before he’d ever even played a college game. And, after an impressive freshman year, Thomas turned into a one-and-done and was the 7th overall pick. He had a decent enough start to his pro career, but he wound up bouncing around the league. The words that probably sum up his career best: one teammate once said that, if he wanted to be, he could have been the best player in the NBA - so good were his raw tools. But, when you have the tools to be so great, but you end up not so great? That’s pretty much the epitome of bust.