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College Basketball Flameouts

22 Apr

This article was originally posted on January 22, 2011. Because of the large amount of comments and emails from our college basketball fans, decided to re-release it for our readers.

So I’ve always been fascinated by college stars who never made it big in the NBA. Typically I’m thinking of the somewhat flawed college star who I just know is better than a plethora of NBA filler guys, NOT the All-Conference All-America guys who are considered can’t miss prospects. Here are some of my favorites for some reason, and my now more reasoned reasons as to why they didn’t make it.

1. The law firm of Staples and Dean.

I remember watching lots of Virginia Cavalier basketball, and I could never imagine not seeing Curtis Staples and Harold Dean donning an NBA uniform for several years. How could this happen? Granted they were both undersized volume scorers, but they appeared so clutch (despite Virginia not really being that good of a team). I distinctly remember Staples owning the all time 3 pt. makes record for a long time (413 made), until J.J. Redick eventually took the record from him. He played in 122 college games, so he basically made 3 bombs a game for his career … not bad at all for an undersized guy who couldn’t really handle. I thought for sure that Staples could land on someone’s bench for years to come and be a marksman.

Unfortunately we have statistics, so now I can see how bad Staples really was. Yes he hit all those threes, but he shot 38.5% from downtown. Not bad by any means, but he also only shot 40% from the field overall and only 75% from the free throw line, while averaging 14.4 pts./game. Couple that with his 1.01 assist/turnover ratio and 0.8 steals per game average over his career, and he’s barely even a one-dimensional player … sigh. I was SO wrong.

Harold Deane was the glue that held the whole team together. He was the starting point, the emotional leader, and the big shot taker on the squad. I just knew he’d get drafted and play in the League. Granted, I didn’t necessarily think he was going to stick but I knew he’d have a home for a while. I remember many a Cavs game where Deane made the drive, draw, and dish to get the go ahead score. I remember him penetrating, taking contact, and still finishing the drive. I even remember him making a big three point shot when Staples wasn’t doing it. What the heck man?!?!

Unfortunately stats, size, and athleticism matter. Now I totally realize that Deane was an undersized point (huh?) without top grade speed or quickness. Furthermore, he wasn’t all that athletic, so he wouldn’t be getting past many people at the next level, especially because he couldn’t shoot at all. 14.5 ppg is good for a starting point in the ACC. 37.1% from the field and 34.2% from 3pt, not so good. His 1.29 assist/turnover ratio shows I saw only what I wanted to see about him being a play maker. However, he did average 1.5 steals and 3.6 reb/game. Not good, but not bad for a short, slow, nonathletic guy.

2. Miles Simon Says

Ok, so this one really gets to me. Especially after watching him take MOP honors in leading his team to winning the National Championship; I was sure Simon was going to be an NBA lifer. I can still see #34 shredding folks in the 1997 tournament, including Kentucky’s NBA team (they had at least 5 future NBA players) to cut down the nets. Of course he didn’t do anything extremely great, but he did a ton of stuff pretty well. It turns out that other guys on the team made and starred in the League (see Bibby, Mike and Terry, Jason, and Dickerson, Michael). Simon had a good shot, that excellent one handed leaner, and handled well enough in traffic. Maybe all those guys next to him made him look kind of ordinary.

Simons stats and peripherals were good (he was 6’5” like 200 lbs, so size wasn’t really an issue) he averaged 14.6 ppg (he averaged 18.4 and 17.2 ppg in his Junior and Senior years, respectively), he shot 46% from the floor, 37% from 3pt (if you take out the 32% as a sophomore, it’s much higher), 4 reb and 4 assists (2.9 turnovers). Maybe he was lazy, maybe he was a prick, maybe he was in the wrong situation, maybe he got injured a lot (kind of true), maybe his coach wanted him to be more of a true 1, maybe his coach wanted him to shoot 3s better? I don’t know the answer, but Miles Simon should have been a pro longer.

3. A few select Dukies

a. William Avery

b. Chris Carrawell

c. Trajan Langdon

d. Steve Wojciechowski

e. Roshown McLeod

I can make this pretty easy, except for letter e:

a. He was very talented, but came out too early. Didn’t haven enough time to truly develop his J or add on some size.

b. Although he was an ACC POY, he wasn’t that good. Couldn’t shoot, couldn’t handle, and couldn’t do anything with his left hand at all. For being kind of slow and unathletic, he was actually a decent defender. Really not an NBA prospect.

c. He averaged 14.5 ppg in college while shooting 45% from the field and 42% from 3 pt. Issues: he was an undersized 2 (only like 6’3-ish) he couldn’t handle well, and he couldn’t defend. In today’s NBA he could make it because there are plenty of guys who only shoot 3s to stay in the league (Matt Carrol, Steve Novak, Eddie House, Jason Kapono, Vlad Radmanovich, etc). He could have been that guy, but he just came into the league at the wrong time.

d. Wojo manned the point for Duke during the two dark years, as I like to call them, (when coach K’s back was hurt and he wasn’t around). I remember him being this short, but stocky, nonathletic guy, that could really D you up. He actually won a defensive POY award in his tenure. Many will remember him slapping the floor and all that lame Duke stuff that people hate, but he really did work on that end of the floor. He finished his career with over 200 steals, which is great for anyone, especially for a short, slow dude. He manned a good point (over 500 assists), but he couldn’t do ANYTHING offensively. He averaged only 5.4 ppg. in his career while shooting 38% from the field (gasp) and 36% from three (not bad actually). Being 5’11,” slow, and without a J precludes membership in the NBA.

e. I’m not quite sure what happened with him. He averaged almost 14 ppg. at Duke (which is great for that team). He shot 49% from the field and 40% from 3 pt. He was 6’8” 221 lbs. He played in the League for a few years, but he stunk it up. Now I know playing for the Atlanta Hawks at that time is always a reason to fail, but he lost his shooting touch. His career shooting % in the NBA was like 41%. What happened? He shot 11% from 3pt in the NBA. Was coach trying to make him into a traditional 4 man? He couldn’t really bang all that well. Was he just not NBA good? Was it the crappy team he was on? Was he not really that good in college and I have a deluded sense of his ability (couldn’t be)? I don’t have an answer for you, but it still makes me wonder.

4. The Buckeye Backcourt

So in the late 90’s Ohio State was run by their backcourt of James “Scoonie” Penn and Michael Redd. I was always under the belief that Scoonie would be the guy making highlights in the NBA while Redd would be perennially winning MVP awards in the NBDL. Dude, I was so wrong. So Scoonie was an undersized point (5’10”) about 180 lbs, which doesn’t translate well if you’re not super quick. The thing about it is (or was) that Scoonie was a NYC guard, so everyone knows that means he pretty quick, has impeccable handle, and can’t finish at the rim. I hate to sound all cliché and stuff, but Scoonie was a tough guy, and he was the unquestioned leader of that Buckeye team that made it to Final Four, but all those NYC guard things proved to be too much to overcome for him. Also, not only could he not finish at the rim, he also apparently score efficiently from anywhere else also. Now he did score 14.9 ppg in his career, but he shot 42% from the field, 33.8% from 3pt … yikes! In addition, although he was allegedly a “true” pg, his assist to turnover ratio was only 1.56. Despite what I thought about his NBA chances as an NYC point, Scoonie really had no chance at all. Michael Redd was the leading scorer on that Buckeye team for years, so there was no question that he could score, but I just saw him as a streaky, volume shooter. Now it’s pretty hard to be a 20 ppg. scorer while shooting a very good for college 45% from the field and be considered streaky, but that’s what he looked like to me. I say this only because in the NBA Redd is considered one of the best shooters in the league, and he’s consistently one of the top ranked 3pt shooters. His career 3 pt. percentage in the League is 39%, and his FT % is 84%. His college 3 pt.% was 32% and he shot only 65% from the FT line. What accounts for this disparity? Since I’m all about compromise, I’ll say that I’m not “surprised” that he’s doing well in the NBA, I’m just surprised how he’s having his NBA success.

5. Carolina Conundrum

For as long as I can remember, the Tar Heels have had “the same” guy running the point every year. Seriously, is there any difference between Ed Cota, Jeff McInnis, Raymond Felton, and Ty Lawson? They all looked the same, played the same, and were the same? Somehow they all managed to escape the dark days in Chappell Hill, otherwise known as the Matt Doherty era (except Felton’s 1st year was Doherty’s last year). At any rate, I investigated these guys further, and here’s some stats:

Games Ppg Fg% 3pt% Ft% Reb Ast Stl
Ed Cota 138 9.1 45.2% 37.2% 73.4% 517 1030 192
Ray Felton 101 12.5 42.3% 37.5% 73.1% 417 698 192
Jeff McInnis 100 11.3 45.9% 39.7% 71.9% 277 435 108
Ty Lawson 105 13.1 51.7% 40.3 78% 303 608 184

Here are my observations…

  • I always used to joke that Cota stayed in school so long that he’d have a Master’s or a Ph. D by the time he left. Now I have proof…dude played forever!
  • Cota had way more assists than any of the other guys, but not really that much more per game than Felton.
  • How can the 1st three really be that similar? The FG%, 3 pt.%, FT%…are you serious?
  • It’s pretty obvious that Lawson is the superior offensive player of the four (higher scorer, better percentage shooter), without lacking any of the other UNC point guard attributes. He should have a better pro career than Felton, and certainly McInnis. I will say that McInnis played over 10 years in the NBA, but they were pretty non-descriptive. But playing that long is still an accomplishment.
  • Cota was actually the only one of the 4 not to get drafted at all, despite having the most storied collegiate career (he went to 3 final fours {wow} in “4” years). None of them (other than Lawson) could really shoot, but Cota was clearly the shortest (maybe 6’0”). Now Felton is measured at 6’1” and he can’t really shoot either, but he was born at the right time (just FYI, McInnis is about 6’4”). Now the NBA can handle short guards because no one can really play good defense with the hand check rules for perimeter players. In Cota’s day being a short, smallish guard was an NBA death certificate, and that’s exactly what he got…shame.
  • How funny is it that both Felton and McInnis have played the last two years together for the pathetic Charlotte Bobcats? I can’t even explain this. For completions sake, neither player has a career field goal percentage above 43% (43% for McInnis and 39.9% for Felton). Plus both guys have a career 32% 3pt. percentage. See, they really are the same guy!

So in retrospect, the only real discernible differences between Cota, Felton, and McInnis are their dates of birth and their height. Lawson came into the League at a great time. He’s short (5’11”) but that doesn’t matter in this current NBA, and he can shoot better than the other 3 UNC guards. All this research for naught.

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