15 Best NCAA Tournament Players Who Flopped in the NBA
NCAA Tournament: The 15 Best Players Who Flopped in the NBA
NCAA Basketball history is littered with examples of players who have torn up the college ranks, only to see their success short-lived in the NBA. Given all the different variables that go into NCAA Basketball as it relates to NBA Basketball, it's incredibly easy to read too much into one player's performance on the college stage. As competitive as the NBA is, there are only a handful of college players who even end up playing in the league, let alone starring.
There are many factors that prevent players from reaching their potential, be it work ethic, chronic injuries, foot speed, height and weight, etc. What makes it even more spectacular when a NCAA tournament hero fails is that they shine so bright on the biggest stage, only to flame out in high-profile fashion.
Of course, performance in the NCAA tournament, or on the college level in general, doesn't serve as any kind of accurate predictor for NBA success. Sure, there are players whose games translate over and who would be good players no matter where they played, but there are also plenty of players who never got the chance to shine in a NCAA tournament and then went on to have prolific careers.
With this season winding down and the tournament fast approaching, there will undoubtedly be a whole new crop of players who will dazzle fans, only to fall short of expectations when they hit the NBA. Who they'll be, no one can say, but here's a list of 15 players who have had that unfortunate label attached to them.
15.) Juan Dixon
Juan Dixon averaged over 18 points per game in his last three seasons at Maryland, culminating in a Final Four Most Outstanding Player Award in 2002 when Dixon's Terrapins won the National Title. Dixon spearheaded Maryland's run to the finals, where they defeated Indiana to take home the school's first ever championship. From there, Dixon was made the 17th pick in the NBA draft by the Washington Wizards; although he had a few decent seasons coming off the bench, Dixon could never find the same shooting touch that made him so deadly at Maryland and his NBA career quickly faded after only seven mostly mediocre seasons.
14.) Miles Simon
In 1997, the fourth-seeded Arizona Wildcats made a run to the finals, largely on the back of Miles Simon. The Wildcats defeated two No. 1 seeds prior to dispatching another one in the finals when they beat Kentucky in overtime. Simon carried Arizona for much of the tournament, including the final game where he poured in 30. After Simon's tournament heroics, he had a solid senior season, but wasn't taken until the second round in the NBA Draft. Simon played only five games in the NBA before getting a shot in the CBA and ended his playing career shortly thereafter.
13.) Shelden Williams
Shelden Williams was a key cog in Mike Krzyzewski's Duke teams in the early 2000s, averaging a double-double his final two seasons in Durham. Williams played a key role in Duke's run to the Final Four in 2004, but ultimately the Blue Devils fell short. Williams was selected fifth overall by the Atlanta Hawks, but was one of the worst regular players in the league his rookie season and went downhill from there. Williams managed to hang on for nine years, an achievement to be sure, but he never amounted to anything more than a big body.
12.) Sean May
Sean May put together two very good seasons in his sophomore and junior years of college, the latter of which was good enough to earn him Final Four Most Outstanding player after he spearheaded North Carolina's run to the national title in 2005. May was practically unstoppable during the tournament and he dominated a smaller Illinois team to the tune of 26 points and 10 rebounds in the final. May was drafted 13th overall by the Charlotte Bobcats, but struggled through four injury-plagued seasons, his last being in Sacramento, before he was out of the league altogether.
11.) Cherokee Parks
Cherokee Parks was a big part of the perennially contending Duke teams of the early 90s. While Parks barely played during Duke's championship season in 1992, he became a regular rotation member thereafter. Parks averaged 19 points and nine rebounds per game for the disappointing 94-95 Blue Devils, who lost coach Mike Krzyzewski to a back injury midway through the season, and was selected 12th overall in the NBA Draft by the Dallas Mavericks, although he only spent one mediocre season in Dallas. Parks bounced around to several places as a rotation player at best, but his career was ultimately unspectacular given his proficiency in college.
10.) Pearl Washington
Dwayne Washington, better known as Pearl, was one of the top high school prospects in the country in the early 80s. Washington had a solid career at Syracuse, where he starred his last two seasons, although the No. 2 seed Orange would lose in the second round in Washington's final season. Washington was drafted 13th overall by the New Jersey Nets, but was thoroughly unimpressive during three seasons in the league, two of which he spent in New Jersey. Washington played a few seasons in the CBA before calling it quits.
9.) Eric Montross
Eric Montross was a big part of North Carolina's 1993 championship team that beat Michigan and the Fab Five in the finals. Montross was dominant in the middle for the Tar Heels during their run to the final and he finished up his career by being named to the All-American team his senior season. Montross was drafted ninth overall by the Boston Celtics and spent eight seasons in the NBA, mostly as a bit bench player who could provide some size. He was never able to carry over his dominance in college to the NBA and his career ended shortly after he turned 30.
8.) Mateen Cleaves
Mateen Cleaves was one of the best players in Big Ten history, winning two Big Ten Player of the Year awards in his four seasons at Michigan State to go with a Final Four Most Outstanding Player award in 2000. Cleaves led the Spartans to the national title that year, where they beat the Florida Gators behind 18 points from the point guard. Cleaves was selected 14th overall by the Detroit Pistons after that championship season, but he struggled through six seasons in the NBA, not playing one full season after his first.
7.) Bryant Reeves
From 1992 to 1995, Bryant Reeves terrorized Big 12 defenses to the tune of three straight double-double seasons. Reeves was one of the most dominant players in college basketball, and Big Country, as he was known, was the catalyst for the 1995 Oklahoma State Final Four team that lost to UCLA. Reeves was eventually drafted sixth by the Vancouver Grizzlies and enjoyed three fairly productive seasons before injuries and weight issues took hold. Reeves' success was short-lived as he was out of the league by the time he turned 28.
6.) Bobby Hurley
Bobby Hurley was part of what was one of Duke's best teams of all time, winning two national championships in a row in 1991 and 1992. Hurley took home Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors after the 1992 title win over Michigan and finished his career as the all-time leading assist man in NCAA history, a record that still stands. Hurley was the seventh overall pick by the Sacramento Kings, but his career didn't last long. After suffering a life-threatening car accident a few months into his rookie season, he returned to play five injury-riddled, ineffective seasons in the NBA before his career ended and he went into coaching, like his father.
5.) Pervis Ellison
Pervis Ellison led Louisville to a championship in his freshman year, winning Final Four Most Outstanding player in the process. Ellison was only the second player ever to accomplish that feat as a freshman and proceeded to have three more solid seasons for the Cardinals, although they never got close to another title. Ellison was selected first overall by the Sacramento Kings, but only spent one season in Sacramento before he was traded to Washington. Ellison actually garnered Most Improved Player honors for the 91-92 season, but his career was derailed quickly thereafter by injuries and he never lived up to his massive potential.
4.) Kent Benson
Kent Benson was a dominant force for the Indiana Hoosiers during the mid-1970s, winning the Final Four Most Outstanding Player award in 1976 after leading Indiana to an undefeated season and National Championship. Benson spent four productive seasons at IU, the last of which he averaged a double-double for the season. That production made Benson the first overall selection by the Milwaukee Bucks, but he only spent three seasons in Milwaukee before being traded to Detroit for Bob Lanier. Benson had a few solid seasons, but never came close to living up to the top billing he was expected to.
3.) Adam Morrison
Adam Morrison had a tremendous college career at Gonzaga and, in 2006, he and J.J. Redick captivated the nation with their scoring race. Morrison averaged over 28 points per game that season, but Gonzaga fell in the Sweet 16 to UCLA after the Bruins erased a 17-point second-half deficit. Morrison declared for the NBA Draft after that season and was selected third overall by the Charlotte Bobcats. Morrison averaged 12 points per game in his first season in the NBA, but his foot speed was frequently an issue in the quicker NBA, as well as his inability to stay in front of opposing forwards. Morrison spent a total of three seasons in the NBA before bouncing around to different international destinations.
2.) Ed O'Bannon
Ed O'Bannon starred for the early-90s UCLA Bruins, ultimately leading them to the National Championship in his senior season in 1994-95. O'Bannon won Final Four Most Outstanding Player for his efforts in that title, finishing off a spectacular year in which he averaged over 20 points and eight rebounds per game. O'Bannon was the ninth overall selection by the New Jersey Nets, but only spent one season in New Jersey before he was traded to Dallas. O'Bannon, likewise, played one season for Dallas before bouncing around in numerous international and secondary leagues.
1.) Danny Ferry
Danny Ferry helped lead Duke to three-consecutive Final Fours in the late-1980s and took home Player of the Year awards in his senior season in 1989. Ferry averaged 22.6 points per game in that season and helped lead Duke to the NCAA Final, where they lost to UNLV. Ferry was drafted second overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers following that season, but he was never able to match his high draft slot during his career. Ferry did manage to carve out a nice niche for himself as a three-point shooter off the bench, which allowed him to play 13 seasons, but that's not what everyone imagined when he came out of college.