When it comes to college basketball, there is no bigger name than Mike Krzyzewski. Over 1,000 career coaching wins, 90 tournament victories, and five NCAA championships have made sure of that. Coach K took over at Duke in 1980 and has made the postseason 31 out of 34 seasons. His unprecedented success has made Duke into the premier college basketball program in the nation and along the way, has produced some NBA stars like Kyrie Irving, Grant Hill, and Jabari Parker as well as solid players who enjoyed long careers like Elton Brand, Carlos Boozer, and Corey Maggette. The list goes on and seems to suggest a trend: Play for Coach K at Duke, compete for national titles, and graduate to the NBA.
But for as a great a coach Krzyzewski is, it is no guarantee that a player's success as a Blue Devil will translate at the next level. This could be for any number of reasons such as declaring too early, suffering setbacks from injury, or struggling to adapt to a faster and more physical brand of basketball. In this list, we'll take a look at 15 players who made their names under Coach K at Duke only to fall flat or bust in the NBA.
15 Chris Duhon
Chris Duhon's college career at Duke sets the pattern for many of the players appearing on this list. He was a hightly sought after high school recruit, worked his way into a more prominent role on Coach K's team, played all four years, and won a National Championship.
Unfortunately, he makes this list for another common thread: an NBA career that never really matched the success experienced under Krzyzewski and ultimately stalled out. At Duke he achieved success as a passer and defender, helping him get drafted to the NBA in 2004 by the Chicago Bulls. He was a starter his rookie season and posted a respectable six points, five assists, and steal per game. His scoring improved over the next few seasons and Duhon eventually found himself moving around the NBA, playing for the New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, and Los Angeles Lakers. His final four years in the league saw Duhon fade in productivity, never averaging more than seven points per game, and he was done by 2013.
14 Kyle Singler
Kyle Singler had an incredible career as a four-year starter for Coach K. There was buzz he might make the jump to the NBA after his freshman year, but he stayed at Duke where he won a National Championship in 2010 and was named NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player. By the time he was done, he was the fourth leading scorer all-time in the school's history.
Despite these numbers and accolades, Singler wasn't considered a great NBA prospect. Concerns were raised about his strength and athleticism. He was eventually selected in the second round of the 2011 draft by the Detroit Pistons. The lockout meant Singler could get his professional career started in Spain but he was back in Detroit for the 2012-13 NBA season. He made the All-Rookie second team and after two years, seemed to have a nice career on track. In 2015 he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder where he has experienced a decline in playing time, appearing sparingly in his first year before getting a little more play in year two. In three seasons in OKC, he has averaged 3.3 points per game.
13 Cherokee Parks
Cherokee Parks played four years at Duke starting with the 1991-92 season when the Blue Devils won the national title. In 131 games under Coach K, the center averaged 12 points and just under seven rebounds per contest. With those numbers it made sense that Parks was selected 12th overall in the 1995 NBA draft by the Dallas Mavericks.
Parks' NBA career never really took off, however. His rookie year saw him play in 64 games where he averaged 13 minutes a night, scoring just four points and grabbing only three rebounds per game. A year later he was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves and his production improved only slightly in two seasons.
From there it was a series of free agent signings and trades that saw Parks play for the Vancouver Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, and Golden State Warriors before his NBA career was over in 2004. He finished with career averages of 4.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.
12 Shavlik Randolph
Coming out of high school, Shavlik Randolph was considered a top-10 recruit at his power forward position. His freshman season with Coach K and Duke in 2002 started off hot but injuries slowed down his production and playing time. Randolph was able to bounce back for his sophomore and junior seasons, developing into a reliable inside presence for successful Duke teams. Rather than return for his senior year, he declared himself eligible for the 2005 NBA draft.
Randolph never put up eye-popping numbers so it was not shocking that he went undrafted. Still, he made it to the NBA when he signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia 76ers. However, it became quite clear that Randolph's game was not cut out for the NBA. He averaged less than 10 minutes per game in three seasons with Philadelphia and saw the court even less when he caught on with the Portland Trail Blazers and Miami Heat. Randolph was out of an NBA job in 2011, marking a three year stretch where he played in Puerto Rico and China.
He made a brief return to the NBA with the Boston Celtics, appearing in 21 games that were perhaps his best as a professional as he averaged 3.5 points and 3.9 rebounds, before it was back to China.
11 Antonio Lang
Antonio Lang played at Duke during some of Coach K's best years, winning back-to-back National Championships in 1991 and 1992. Lang continually improved over his four years as a Blue Devil and finished his senior year scoring 12.5 points and pulling down 5.4 rebounds per game.
The Phoenix Suns selected Lang in the second round of the 1994 NBA Draft at 29th overall. Injuries cost him most of his rookie season as he was limited to only 12 games. He was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers the next year and played in parts of three seasons but it was all downhill from there. Lang only appeared in 143 NBA games with just one career start, never averaging above three points per game.
After spending some time in Japan and Brazil playing professionally, Lang is now on the coaching staff of the Utah Jazz. Maybe he learned more about coaching than playing from Krzyzewski.
10 William Avery
William Avery took over the starting point guard position in 1998, his sophomore and final season at Duke. His numbers were impressive at 15 points and five assists per game that year. That, along with his background at powerhouse Oak Hill Academy in high school, seemed to indicate that he had the pedigree to succeed in the NBA.
The Minnesota Timberwolves drafted Avery 14th overall in the 1999 draft, ahead of talent like Ron Artest, Andrei Kirilenko, and Manu Ginobili. But Avery's NBA career lasted a total of 142 games over three seasons where he never averaged more than 10 minutes or three points per game. Once his NBA run was up, he headed overseas where he played in Israel, France, Ukraine, Greece, Germany, and Turkey.
9 Brian Davis
Brian Davis was another one of Coach K's four-year players and was part of the 1991 and 1992 back-to-back National Championship teams. He was a consistent player who appeared in a total of 141 games with his senior year being his most productive in almost every statistical category.
Following his time at Duke, Davis first went to France to play professionally. He was drafted in the second round, 48th overall, in the 1992 NBA draft by the Phoenix Suns. The NBA career was short-lived as Davis played in only 68 games, scoring a total of 131 points for the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 1993-94 season. He definitely wasn't a guy Coach K would like to have on his resume of players who succeeded in the NBA after playing for him.
8 Nolan Smith
Nolan Smith is another example in the trend of players spending four years at Duke under Coach K, declaring for the draft, and never truly making it at the NBA level. Smith's best year was his senior year where he was named ACC Player of the Year. He was also part of the 2010 National Championship team.
Smith spent two years in the NBA with the Portland Trail Blazers after being selected 21st overall in the 2011 draft. Due in part to injuries and stints in the D-League, Smith only appeared in 84 games and managed just over three career points per game. He did have much more success overseas, becoming a premier player in Croatia and Turkey before calling it quits on his professional career. In 2016, Coach K brought Smith back to Duke as a special assistant on the coaching staff.
7 Andre Dawkins
Andre Dawkins is another Coach K special: He played in over 140 games at Duke and helped the 2010 team win a National Championship as a freshman. The rest of his Blue Devil career was spent as a backup shooting guard, playing limited but productive minutes.
He went undrafted in 2014 but signed on with the Miami Heat. However, most of his time was spent in the D-League with affiliate Sioux Falls Skyforce. Dawkins did manage to appear in four NBA games, amassing three points. In the 2014-15 season he played for the Maine Red Claws, the D-League team of the Boston Celtics, and was occasionally called up to Boston but never appeared in any games. After a brief stint in Italy, he returned to the D-League, where he now plays for the Texas Legends.
6 Ryan Kelly
In addition to being a 2010 National Champion, Ryan Kelly was also a team captain for Coach K. The 6'11" forward played four years as a defensive standout and solid rim protector. His best years came as a junior and senior as he averaged around 12 points and five rebounds per game.
In the 2013 NBA Draft Kelly was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers with the 48th overall pick. His three seasons in Los Angeles were not complete failures, putting up 6.5 points and 3.3 rebounds in very limited action. He was constantly moving between the Lakers and the team's D-League affiliate, the Los Angeles D-Fenders. But things got a little worse for Kelly when he signed with the Atlanta Hawks in 2016. He has only appeared in 16 NBA games since then.
5 Josh McRoberts
McRoberts is an example of a Duke player bucking the trend under Coach K and declaring for the draft early. Following his sophomore year, in which he posted a stat line of 13 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game, the 6'10" power forward considered himself ready for the NBA.
He was taken 37th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2007 draft but by January 2008, he found himself in the D-League. After only eight games in a Portland uniform he was traded to the Indiana Pacers. In 2011 he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, then was traded to the Orlando Magic then the Charlotte Bobcats before signing with the Miami Heat as a free agent in 2014.
At no point during his NBA career has McRoberts been able to match his Duke numbers. His best professional season came in 2013 when he started 78 games for the Bobcats and scored 8.5 points per game. If only he had gone the more traditional route for Coach K's players and waited two more years, McRoberts may have been better prepared for the NBA game.
4 Shelden Williams
If you look at Shelden Williams' statistics during his four years at Duke, most people would think he'd have a successful NBA career. In his senior year of 2005-06 he finished with 18.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 3.8 blocks per game. In addition to winning two National Association of College Basketball Coaches Defensive Player of the Year Awards, Williams left Duke as the school's all-time leader in blocked shots and rebounds.
He was selected fifth overall in the 2006 NBA draft by the Atlanta Hawks. Players selected after Williams included Rajon Rondo, Kyle Lowry, and Paul Millsap. Unfortunately Williams rookie year turned out to be his best as a professional. He played in six NBA seasons for the Hawks, New Jersey Nets, Sacramento Kings, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Denver Nuggets. Perhaps Williams was undersized, caught between power forward and center, but his career line finished at 4.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 0.5 blocks per game.
3 Bobby Hurley
Bobby Hurley will always have a place in Duke basketball history for his role in helping Coach K win back-to-back National Championships in 1991 and 1992. The point guard was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament in 1992. A prolific passer, he averaged 7.7 assists per game over his four years and his 1,076 total assists is an NCAA record.
One would expect such a talented point guard, who also had some shooting ability, to do well at the NBA level. The Sacramento Kings selected Hurley seventh overall in the 1993 draft, the same year players like Chris Webber, Penny Hardaway, and Jamal Mashburn entered the league. Unlike those players, Hurley never really found any measure of success. Injuries sustained in a car accident limited his play during his rookie season but even beyond that Hurley struggled. He played six seasons and totaled 3.8 points and 3.3 assists per game.
Following in Coach K's footsteps, he is now the head coach at Arizona State.
2 Alaa Abdelnaby
Alaa Abdelnaby moved from Egypt to New Jersey at a young age and went on to become an All-American in high school. This helped bring him to Duke and Coach K starting in 1986. The center/power forward played four years and statistically improved each year. His senior year saw him score 15 points and get 6.6 boards per game.
His NBA career started in 1990 with the Portland Trail Blazers but did not exactly get off to a fast start. He played only 43 games, barely scoring three points per contest. Abdelnaby was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in the summer before the 1992-93 season. Later that year the Bucks would send him to the Boston Celtics in exchange for Jon Barry. He would also appear in games for the Sacramento Kings and Philadelphia 76ers before taking his game overseas to Greece and France.
Abdelnaby has found much more success in broadcasting than he ever did in the NBA and now works out of Philadelphia.
1 Martin Nessley
Martin Nessley had a very confusing basketball career. At 7'2" inches and over 250 pounds, he had the size to be a impact center especially during an era where his size was especially rare. However, if you look at his stats then he had no business anywhere near the NBA as a player.
He played in 92 games for Coach K from his freshman year in 1983 through his senior year in the 1986-87 season. Nessley totaled 730 minutes played and only averaged 2.1 rebounds, 0.6 blocks, and 2.4 points per game.
Despite these abysmal numbers Nessley was still drafted to the NBA, albeit in the sixth round at 116th overall by the Los Angeles Clippers in 1987. After only 35 games with the Clippers he was waived and signed with the Sacramento Kings. The 1987-88 season would be Nessley's first and last in the NBA. He finished his "career" averaging 1.1 point, 1.9 rebound, and 0.3 blocks per game. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for Coach K's ability to turn players pro.
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