During March Madness, NCAA’s Division I players square off to see which team wins it all. Fans who watch the NCAA tournament see the best young basketball players in the United States during the 2017-18 season, or do they? Most future NBA players will be part of March Madness; but, that wasn’t always the case. Many NBA greats played for smaller Division II colleges and had a huge impact on NBA history.
The following list of the five former NBA players all played for NCAA Division II teams. This list includes players who played when their college was in Division II. For example, Walt “Clyde” Frazier became a premier collegiate basketball player at Southern Illinois University (SIU) does not make our list. In 1964 and 1965, Frazier was a Division II All- American, but SIU moved to Division I in 1967, where Frazier’s (named MVP of the tournament) SIU beat Marquette University in the National Invitation Tournament final in the last college basketball game played at New York’s old Madison Square Garden.
Phil Jackson played at North Dakota as a college player and scored 5428 points in 807 games for the NBA’s New York Knicks and the ABA’s New Jersey Nets (1967-80). But Jackson is best known as head coach of the Chicago Bulls from 1989 to 1998, helping Chicago win six NBA championships, and the LA Lakers, winning five championships between 2000-2010.
In total, Jackson teams won 11 NBA titles, more than the previous record of nine of the Celtics’ Red Auerbach. Because Jackson won two championships as a player with the Knicks (1970 & 1973), he holds the NBA record for combined championships at 13. Jackson, nicknamed the Zen Master for being influenced by Eastern philosophy, is known for the triangle offense and his holistic approach to coaching.
Earl “The Pearl” Monroe
Earl Monroe played college basketball at Winston-Salem State and for the NBA’s Baltimore Bullets and New York Knicks between 1967-80. He totaled 926 games, scoring 17,454 points, notably playing with backcourt partner Walt Frazier for the Knicks. Both the Bullets and Knicks retired Monroe's number.
A playground legend in his childhood, Monroe was a man with many nicknames. He was a flashy player and as a result, was given the nicknamed "Black Jesus ". He invented a ton of moves so his high school teammates called him "Thomas Edison", but the name that stuck, was “Earl the Pearl”.
Gervin, who played college hoops at Eastern Michigan University, was nicknamed “The Iceman.” He played in the ABA and NBA for the Virginia Squires, San Antonio Spurs, and Chicago Bulls between 1973-86. Finishing his NBA career averaging 26.2 points per game, Gervin is regarded as one of the greatest shooting guards in NBA history. His career totals are 1060 games and 26,595 points.
Since retiring from the NBA, Gervin has been an active part of the San Antonio, Texas community, mostly working with underprivileged children. One of his initiatives was the George Gervin Youth Center he opened in 1991.
Charles Oakley, who played college ball at Virginia Union, was a power forward ranked as one of the best rebounders in NBA history. His career extended from 1985-2004, playing for five different teams (the Chicago Bulls twice, New York Knicks, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards, and Houston Rockets). He played in 1282 games (25th in NBA history), totaled 12,205 rebounds (22nd in NBA history), and scored 12,417 points.
He was known as a fierce competitor on the court and recently was kicked out of a Knicks game by security for being a fierce fan in February of 2017. The Knicks said Oakley was ejected for yelling at Executive Chairman of Madison Square Garden, James L. Dolan, and Oakley said there was no good reason. He filed a civil suit in September 2017.
For older NBA fans, it’s hard to ignore Bob Dandridge, who played at Norfolk State University (1969-81) and for the Milwaukee Bucks and Washington Bullets, with totals of 839 games and 15,530 points. Dandridge is best known as part of the triple threat of Lew Alcindor (Kareen Abdul-Jabbar) and Oscar Robertson, who helped the Milwaukee Bucks win the 1971 NBA championship.
After his playing career ended, Dandridge became an assistant coach at Hampton University and served in that position from 1987 to 1992. Today you can attend one of his basketball clinics in Norfolk, Virginia.