Every year leading up to the college basketball season, fans become ecstatic over their teams incoming recruits. Usually, at the center of these talks are the highly touted five-star recruits that have been scouted since the 6th grade. Usually, these recruits take advantage of the “one and done” rule, and head straight for the NBA after one year. But that’s not always the case.
Many five-star recruits simply fail, and fail hard. Whether it’s a scouting error, lack of work ethic, or unfortunate injury, some big names are never heard from again. On the flip side, many NBA stars, past and present, were never highly recruited to begin with. These players dominated the lower divisions of college basketball, and have continued dominating throughout the NBA.
That being said, we will take a look at eight five star recruits that simply never made a name for themselves and seven lowly ranked high school players who turned out to be the stars of the NBA. They turned out to prove all the evaluators wrong and dominated the basketball world.
*Understandably, walk-ons like Scottie Pippen and Ben Wallace would be on this list, but it is more focused on today’s players*
15. BUST – Greg Oden – Ohio State
Not necessarily a college bust, the 7-foot, highly rated recruit out of Lawerence North High School in Indianapolis, attended Ohio State University for one year, leading the Buckeyes to the national championship in 2007. In high school, he was named Mr. Basketball USA, McDonald’s All-American Player of the Year, Gatorade Athlete of the Year, among several other accolades. But the Oden hype was short-lived.
In the 2007 NBA draft, the Portland Trail Blazers selected Oden with the No. 1 overall pick (Kevin Durant was selected No. 2). Due to a slew of injuries, Oden’s career never took off as expected and in 2012, the Trail Blazers waived Oden. He has bounced around a few teams since then and attempted a comeback in 2015, but never lived up to the hype from his high school days. In 2015, Oden ended up going to play where most washed-up players go to end their careers, China. Even Oden stated that he will “be remembered as the biggest bust in NBA history.”
14. STAR – C.J. McCollum – Lehigh
McCollum, now a force on the hardwood with the Portland Trail Blazers, never got too much attention in high school. At GlenOak High school in Canton, Ohio, McCollum grew nine inches between his Freshmen and Junior years, putting him on the radar for some small schools. He ended his high school career with the Golden Eagles as leading scorer, Gatorade Ohio Player of the Year, and a three star recruit.
Going to a small school like Lehigh University in the Patriot league, C.J. made an instant impact. He was named Patriot League player of the year as a freshmen. But the true shining moment of McCollum’s college career was the 30 points he put up against Duke in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. The 15th seed Lehigh went on to upset the 2nd seed Blue Devils, 75-70, putting McCollum on the radar for all NBA teams.
13. BUST – Wally Judge – Kansas State/Rutgers
Wally Judge, the former McDonald’s All-American and No. 18 Ranked Prospect, lauded for his athleticism, headed to Kansas State in 2009. He was supposed to be the next big name for the Wildcats, after Michael Beasley made a huge splash in the national media. During his freshmen year, Judge only averaged 3.3 points and 3 rebounds in 11.7 minutes per game. During his sophomore campaign, judged played in a few games, but registered some DNPs mid-season. and promptly quit the Kansas State basketball program. Coach Frank Martin cited emotional issues, but it seems Judge was a little bit of a Diva.
The 6’9″ power forward then transferred to Rutgers, but his athleticism never transferred to on-the-court success. The former five star recruit never made it to the NBA and is played in Israel, but was release by Hapoel in 2015.
12. STAR – Kenneth Faried – Morehead State
Two-stars! That’s all they gave this current Nuggets power forward coming out of high school. Faried attended Morehead State in 2007, and played all four years for the Eagles, breaking Tim Duncan’s Division I rebound record by grabbing 1,673 boards over his college career. After his senior season, he was named second team All-American and MVP of the College All-Star game.
In 2011, Faried was selected 22nd overall by the Denver Nuggets. After sitting behind fellow big man Nene for most of the season, Faried ended up getting some playing time after Nene was dealing with injuries. The coaches were so impressed by his aggressive play down low, they traded Nene to the Wizards. Currently, Faried is still with Denver and has a promising future.
11. BUST – Delvon Roe – Michigan State
Coming out of high school in Lakewood, Ohio, Roe was ranked the 24th best player in the nation in 2008. His career looked somewhat promising, helping the Spartans get to the National Championship game in 2009 and was named to the Big-Ten All Freshmen team. But injuries cut this forward’s career short and after his junior year in 2011, Roe announced he was ending his career in basketball, hampered by persistent knee issues.
Not all busts are sad stories though. Delvon went on to become an actor, appearing in shows and movies such as Love and Honor, Abducted, Real Husbands of Hollywood, and Funny Man. It is not for lack of talent or effort that Roe makes are list, but simply due to unfortunate circumstances.
10. STAR – George Hill – IUPUI
George Hill was a a two star recruit out of Indianapolis. Despite receiving multiple scholarship offers from top schools such as Indiana and Temple, he decided to go to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, or IUPUI, to stay with his aging great-grandfather. While his great-grandfather died before he could see George play at the college level, he kept his word and stayed at IUPUI.
During his college career, Hill suffered an injury but came back with a vengeance and was selected 26th overall by the San Antonio Spurts in 2008. Now currently with the Sacramento Kings, Hill is known for is length and strength at the point guard position. He’s continued to prove all the initial doubters wrong year after year.
9. BUST – Josiah Turner – Arizona
The story of Josiah Turner goes from bad to worse. Highly touted out of high-school for his ability as a “floor general,” Turner floundered at Arizona. During 29 games, he averaged only 6.8 PPG. Rumor has it that Josiah bought into the party lifestyle at Arizona and basketball took a a back seat. Early in his freshman year, he lost the starting point guard job and was suspended for the Pac-12 tournament. At the end of the season, Turner was asked to leave the Wildcats and headed overseas.
Unfortunately, Josiah left his Hungarian team after a month due to poor living conditions and went to Canada, where he bounced around, but didn’t live up to his potential. In 2012, he got popped for a DUI and served 2 days jail time. The former No. 11 prospect just never panned out.
8. STAR – Damian Lillard – Weber State
Lillard accepted a scholarship to Weber State, after only being ranked as a two star recruit by rivals.com. At Weber State, Lillard lit up the Big Sky conference and in his sophomore year, he was named Big Sky Player of the Year and an honorable mention All-American. After suffering a foot injury the following season, Lillard, just like Hill, came back better than ever. He forewent his senior year at Weber State and was selected 6th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2012 NBA Draft.
Currently, the two-time All-Star is the Trail Blazers center piece. He is one of the best all-around point guards in today’s NBA. Lillard has dabbled in the rap game as well, but with little success, releasing his first single “Soldier in the Game,” as Dame DOLLA, in 2015. Let’s just stick to basketball Damian.
7. BUST – Dante Taylor – Pittsburgh
Coming out of high school in Fort Washington, MD, Taylor was a five star recruit who was supposed to help the Panthers establish dominance again. He played in the 2009 McDonald’s All-American game, but his scouting report never translated to results. In his first two years in Pittsburgh, he spent his time riding the bench, even though Pittsburgh dominated the east that year.
In 136 collegiate games, Taylor, known as a double-double machine in high school, only recorded three double-doubles against lesser opponents. He never averaged more than 19 minutes per game and had little impact on the team’s success. On top of that, he never played in the NBA and that is why Dante Taylor, is one of our top five star busts.
6. STAR – Isaiah Thomas – Washington
Mr. Irrelevant! Isaiah Thomas actually had a decent three star rating coming out of high school. The 5’9″ point guard attended the University of Washington, where over the course of three seasons he accumulated 1,721 points, 415 assists, 366 rebounds, and 122 steals.
Thomas forwent his senior season for the 2011 NBA Draft. During draft night, it seemed like Thomas made a huge mistake, but he was finally selected by the Sacramento Kings as the last pick in the draft. Thomas developed slowly in the league, and was overlooked due to his size. After spending a few seasons in Sacramento, he went to Phoenix, and then finally to Boston. With the Celtics, Thomas has been named a two-time All-Star and led the Celtics to the NBA Eastern Conference finals, where, after losing the first two games to the Cavs, he sat the rest of the series with a hip injury. Needless to say, Thomas is a star in this league!
5. BUST – Ater Majok – Connecticut
Now time to span the globe with Ater Majok! The Sudanese-born player moved to Australia at a young age and committed to the University of Connecticut after high school in 2008. During his first year and a half at UConn, he was deemed ineligible to play by the NCAA. Despite not playing, he declared for the draft after his first year, but never signed an agent, so he went back to UConn. Finally, when his shot came, he scored a measly one point in his first game with the Huskies. He left UConn in 2010 under unclear circumstances.
Since doing a whole lot of nothing in the NCAA, Majok jumped to Isikspor Istanbul, where he proved enough to be drafted by the Lakers with the 58th overall pick in 2011. He then played with a Slovakian team, a Belarussian team, an Israeli team, a Korean team, a Taiwanese team, a German Team, a Polish Team, a Chinese team, and a Lebanese team. Talk about a globetrotter!
4. STAR – Jimmy Butler – Marquette
Butler is truly one of the great stories of rags to riches. From Houston, TX, Butler’s father abandoned the family at a young age and his mother kicked him out of the house at age 13 telling him, “I don’t like the look of you. You gotta go.” He was never recruited out of high school and attended Tyler Junior College in Tyler, TX. After performing well his first year and earning a two-star recruiting status, Butler accepted a scholarship to play at Marquette.
Butler was a key player at Marquette and in 2011, was drafted 30th overall by the Chicago Bulls. Ever since then, Butler has been building his playing resume and is known for his lockdown defense and play-making ability. Recently the three-time All-Star was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a blockbuster draft day trade.
3. BUST – J’Mison Morgan – UCLA/Baylor
Five-star recruit and No.4 ranked prospect of 2008, J’Mison Morgan was supposed to help lead the Bruins to their fourth straight Final Four. Based on every scouts opinion, he was the next big star. But between weight issues, clashing with the head coach and a short suspension, Morgan was dismissed from UCLA after just two seasons.
He moved down to Waco to play for Scott Drew and the Baylor Bears, but it was a case of same story, different team. After a dismal on the court performance, Drew kicked him off the team. A stat line of 2.5 ppg and 1.7 rpg (in 72 college games total) has to be one of the worst stat lines for a five-star recruit in NCAA Basketball history.
2. STAR – Steph Curry – Davidson
Do we really even need a description here? Steph was the 2015 NBA MVP and I think the college basketball perennial powerhouses are kicking themselves in the back. The baby-face assassin slaughtered teams in the NCAA tournament. In 2007, he dropped 30 on Maryland and the following year, he led Davidson to the Elite 8. All that for only a three star recruit out of high school.
Curry is known as the best shooter in the NBA (some even say NBA history). The leader of the Golden State Warriors just signed a massive contract extension and his accolades are so long and impressive, that you will just have to look them up your self. Needless to say, Steph came the farthest from a lowly recruit, to one of the faces of the NBA.
1. BUST – Keith Brumbaugh – Oklahoma State
And here we are; the biggest five-star bust, Keith Brumbaugh. He committed to Oklahoma State in 2005, but never stepped foot on the court for the Cowboys. He left the program after his ACT scores were rumored to be altered. He bounced around to a few community colleges in Florida and finally did great at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa. There, he average 36.5 points, 10 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game. But one problem; Burmbaugh had been arrested six times in 26 months and served two different jail sentences.
But despite his legal troubles, he declared for the NBA draft, and was projected as a second round pick. But no owner in their right mind would want that kind of trouble on their team. The once highly touted recruit jumped around the D-League for a while but got arrested again. In 2014, he was also arrested for throwing a cinder block at an elderly man. Truly wasted talent!
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