There is no guarantee that a college player will make it to the show based on what school he comes from, but it sure doesn’t hurt.
While some players go to the NBA straight out of high school, like current superstars Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard and LeBron James, the majority complete at least one season of NCAA basketball before being drafted or signed as free agents.
As of this season, the Kentucky Wildcats have the most alumni playing in the NBA, with 24 (hint, they’re on this list). Of those two dozen, three are impact players, including Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Davis and John Wall.
Duke (also on this list) and Coach K have sent the next most on the list, no surprise, with 20. Of those currently running the boards are Kyrie Irving, J.J. Redick and Brandon Ingram.
Kentucky and Duke are also set to have a few more players join don NBA jerseys come the draft. The Blue Devils have fourth-rated freshman forward Jayson Tatum, while the ‘Cats feature eighth rated Malik Monk and ninth rated De’Aaron Fox.
Here are the 10 best all-time NCAA feeder schools, ranked by number of players they have graduated to the NBA (and ABA, for argument’s sake).
10. Michigan Wolverines – 47
The most famous alumni in the history of the University of Michigan to graduate to the NBA have to be the ‘Fab Five’, or rather, the ‘Fab Four’. Of the quintet, only Ray Jackson never made it, while Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard and Jimmy King all did, to varying degrees. Webber, who scored 21.7 points per game (highest among Big Blue grads), was drafted first overall by Orlando in 1993 and played 831 games. Rose went on to play in 923 games, Howard 1,208 (most by a Wolverine) and Jimmy King just 64. There are currently seven Michigan alumni employed in the NBA, led by the Clippers’ Jamal Crawford, who, with 1,182 games to his credit, should surpass Howard for most games played ever. The others are Washington’s Trey Burke, Atlanta’s Tim Hardaway Jr., Dallas” Manny Harris, Brooklyn’s Caris LeVert, Indiana’s Glenn Robinson III and Philadelphia’s Nik Stauskas.
9. Syracuse Orange – 48
From very humble beginnings, the Orange have become a major source of NBA talent. The first ever Syracuse player to appear in a pro league was Lou Spicer, way back in 1947, who toiled in all of four games for the old Basketball Association of America’s Providence Steam Rollers. Since then, the talent has become more noteworthy, highlighted by the best of them all, Carmelo Anthony. Melo was drafted third overall in 2003 by Denver and to date has appeared in 976 games, scoring 24.8 points per game (highest among Syracuse alumni). Other famous Orange products include Dave Bing (901 games; 20.3 points), Derrick Coleman (781 games, 16.5 PPG), Rony Siekaly (678 games; 14.7 PPG) and Danny Schayes (1,138 games, most by a Syracuse alumnus). Other than Anthony, seven other former Orange are in the NBA, the next best being Miami’s Dion Waiters (335 games, 13.2 PPG) and Chicago’s Michael Carter-Williams (235 games, 13.0 points).
8. Arizona Wildcats – 48
The Wildcats may be well down this list with 48 total alumni, but they do have 11 playing in the NBA as of this season. And among their ranks are some pretty decent ballers, including Golden State’s Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia’ Jerryd Bayless Cleveland’s Richard Jefferson and Derrick William and Milwaukee’s Jason Terry. In fact, fully have of their 48 have entered the show since 1998, putting them on the rise. Historically, the highest scorer from the upstate New York school was Gilbert Arenas, who logged 20.7 PPG in 552 NBA games. Zona also graduated former star point guard Mike Bibby (2nd overall pick in 1998; 14.7 PPG), 1996 NBA Rookie of the Year Damon Stoudamire (seventh overall to Toronto in 1995) and current Golden State coach Steve Kerr (910 games in the NBA). The current ranks of Arizona grads in the NBA could grow by two, soon, as freshman forward Lauri Markkanen is the seventh rated prospect for the 2017 draft and sophomore swing man Allonzo Trier rated 12th.
7. Louisville Cardinals – 53
The list of current and former Louisville Cardinals in the NBA is long, but not quite as distinguished as competing schools on this list. Yes, the Cardinals have sent 53 players to the NBA, beginning with Jack Coleman in 1950, but few have made hefty impacts. The best of the bunch has to be Wes Unseld, who was the MVP in 1969 for the Baltimore (later Washington) Bullets and won a title with the Bullets in 1978 as well as Finals MVP. The Hall of Famer was drafted second overall by the Bullets in 1968, but the honor of highest Cardinals pick ever goes to Pervis Ellison, who was selected first overall by Sacramento in 1989. He played but 474 games between 1990 and 2001. There are four Louisville alumni currently in the NBA, the best of who are Minnesota center Gorgui Dieng (297 games, 7.9 rebounds, 8.9 points) and Houston forward Montrezl Harrell (97 games, 6.9 points).
6. Indiana Hoosiers – 58
It’s fitting that a school from the famed basketball state would have a considerable number of grads to have played in the NBA. However, like Arizona, most of the famous former Hoosiers are from bygone eras, like Walt Bellamy (first overall pick in 1961 draft for Chicago, NBA RoY 1962 and four-time all-star) and Isiah Thomas (two-time champion, 12-time all-star, Hall of Fame inductee). Lately, there are six Hoosiers in the NBA, highlighted by Houston’s Eric Gordon (7th overall pick by the Clippers in 2008, 492 games, 16.6 points), OKC’s Victor Oladipo (2nd overall to Orlando in 2013, 15.9 points, 291 games) and Charlotte’s Cody Zeller (4th overall to Charlotte in 2013, 8.0 points, 5.6 rebounds). Over the years, Indiana graduated notable players like the Van Arsdale twins, Dick and Tom, as well as George McGinnis (ABA MVP 1975), Calbert Cheaney and Kent Benson (first overall pick by Milwaukee in 1977).
5. Duke Blue Devils – 69
To no one’s surprise, there are currently 19 Blue Devils in the NBA. In fact, since 2000, Duke and Coach K have sent 25 players to the NBA’s ranks, no small accomplishment, that. Kyrie Irving deserves special mention as being arguably the most accomplished of the 69 who have graced NBA hardwood. He was drafted first overall by the Cavaliers in 2011 and since then has been a champion, a four-time all-star, Rookie of the Year in 2012 and all-star game MVP. The current list of 19 NBAers also includes Luol Deng (Lakers), Mike Dunleavy (Hawks), Brandon Ingram (Lakers) Jahlil Okafor (76ers), Jabari Parker (Bucks), and J.J. Redick (Clippers). In the past, Duke grads like Grant Hill (seven time all-star, RoY 1995) have made the school proud, as well as Carlos Boozer, Elton Brand (first overall pick by Chicago in 1999), and Art Heyman (first ever Duke first overall pick in 1963).
4. Kansas Jayhawks – 70
When a school graduates Wilt Chamberlain to the NBA, it can be considered “big time.” Kansas has had 70 alumni play in the NBA, none more famous or accomplished than Wilt the Stilt. The giant center from Bel Air, CA won two championships, was finals MVP in 1972, a four-time MVP, seven time scoring champion and retired holding a slew of single game, single season and playoff records, including that massive 100-point effort. The current crop of former Jayhawks, of which there are 15 in the NBA, are no slouches either. Heading the list 2014 first overall pick (Minnesota) Andrew Wiggins, along with NBA champion and 10-time all-star Paul Pierce and Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (20.2 PPG in rookie season). Other noteworthy names include Kirk Hinrich (879 games, 10.9 PPG), Danny Manning (first overall pick by the Clippers in 1988, 14.0 points), two-time NBA champ Jo Jo White and the Morris brothers, Markieff and Marcus.
3. North Carolina Tar Heels – 84
It would hard to argue that Michael Jordan wasn’t the greatest Tar Heel grad ever, and for that matter the greatest former collegiate player ever to star in the NBA. The Tar Heel alumni list reads like a who’s who of the Naismith Hall of Fame. Former Tar Heels enshrined there are Jordan, Billy Cunningham (NBA champ with the Sixers in 1967), Bob McAdoo (two-time champ with the Lakers, three-time scoring champ, NBA MVP in 1975), James Worthy (first overall pick in 1982, three-time champ with the Lakers) and long-time former player and coach Larry Brown (ABA champion as a player in 1969, NBA and NCAA champ as coach). The latest and greatest of current former Tar Heels starts with Vince Carter (eight-time all-star; 1999 RoY), then goes to Harrison Barnes, Ty Lawson and Ray Felton. Others in the great North Carolina pantheon of former players include, but aren’t limited to Jerry Stackhouse, Charlie Scott, Brad Daugherty, Walter Davis, Rasheed Wallace, Bobby Jones and Sam Perkins.
2. UCLA Bruins – 88
The school that graduated Kareem Abdul Jabbar to the NBA could boast an all-star front five right now. Slam dunk NBA MVP Russell Westbrook was a Bruin, as were Kevin Love, Zach LaVine, Jrue Holiday and Darren Collison. Off the bench would be Trevor Ariza, Matt Barnes, Luc Mbah a Moute, Shabazz Muhammad and Norman Powell. Thus, the school’s most famous alumni have to be Jabbar (drafted first overall by Milwaukee in 1969 when he was Lew Alcindor), Westbrook (broke record for most triple doubles in a season) and Hall of Famers Gail Goodrich, Reggie Miller, Jamaal Wilkes and Bill Walton (first overall pick by Portland in 1974). Among other former Bruin luminaries are Kiki Vandeweghe (two-time all-star), Baron Davis (two-time all-star, two-time NBA steals leader), Marques Johnson (five-time all-star) and Pooh Richardson (NBA All-Rookie First Team, 1990). And, the greats ranks from UCLA will soon swell with Lonzo Ball, who is slated to be picked third overall in this year’s draft.
1. Kentucky Wildcats – (95)
There are no greater NCAA feeder schools, past or present, than Kentucky. And, the Wildcats are due to send two sure-fire hoopsters to the NBA in freshmen point guards Malik Monk (8th rated) and De’Aaron Fox (9th rated). Current NBA rosters boast 25 former Wildcats, 10 of who could make a killer team. The starting five could be center Karl-Anthony Towns (1st overall pick by Minnesota in 2015), power forward Anthony Davis (first overall to New Orleans in 2012), point guard John Wall (first overall to Washington in 2010), shooting guard Devin Booker and “small” forward DeMarcus Cousins. The former Wildcats reserves would be no slouch either, with PGs Rajan Rondo and Eric Bledsoe, center Enes Kanter, power forwards Nerlens Noel and Patrick Patterson, shooting guards Jamal Murray and James Young and small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.