It's incredibly weird to think that some of the greatest players in college basketball end up having mediocre, if not awful professional basketball careers. It takes a certain type of work ethic and natural talent to be able to perform in college, and transition successfully to the NBA.
Players like Adam Morrison and Tyler Hansbrough had an outstanding college career but couldn't even come close to that same success in the NBA. While this article isn't just about college superstars who turned into NBA busts, it is interesting to see where some of the players capturing headlines in college ended up in life.
Ed O'Bannon Started His College Career With A Torn ACL
Ed O'Bannon's college career almost ended before it even started when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament before his freshman season. But, he was miraculously able to lead his UCLA Bruins to a national championship in his senior year.
After college, he had a mostly forgettable professional career. He only spent three seasons in the NBA before going over to play the next eight seasons overseas. He recently filed a lawsuit against the NCAA which challenges the use of the images of its former student-athletes for commercial purposes.
Christian Laettner Hit One Of The Greatest Shots In NCAA History
The name Christian Laettner probably brings back some horrible memories if you're a Kentucky Wildcats fan. His iconic buzzer beater while playing for the Duke Blue Devils in the 1992 Regional Final is one of the most memorable shots in NCAA history.
Laettner is one of the best college players of all time. In his four seasons at Duke, he led the Blue Devils to their first two national titles in school history. The Minnesota Timberwolves selected him with the #3 pick in the 1992 draft. He played 13 years in the league and averaged 16.6 points and 7.9 rebounds in his first six seasons.
Shabazz Napier Won A Title In His Freshman And Senior Year
Shabazz Napier had a storied career while he was in college. He's one of the only players in the history of the NCAA to win a national championship in both his freshman and senior years.
He led his UConn Huskies to a National Championship in 2011 and 2014, which was impressive considering they entered as the #7 seed. He went in the first round of the 2014 draft. Fast forward a few years and he's become an average reserve point guard at best.
Jay Williams Career Ended After A Motorcycle Accident
Jay Williams is one of the most decorated players in Duke Blue Devils history. He was a two-time first-team All American, two-time NABC Player of the Year, and a member of the team's 2001 National Championship team.
Williams was taken second overall by the Chicago Bulls but was injured in a motorcycle accident in his rookie season. It took a while for him to get back to playing, but he just wasn't the same player he used to be. He retired from basketball early and is now a successful college hoops analyst for ESPN.
Johnny Flynn Was Taken Ahead Of Steph Curry
Johnny Flynn will forever be known as the guy who was taken one spot ahead of Steph Curry. He was a lightning quick McDonald's All-American coming out of Niagara Falls High School in 2005.
He led the Syracuse Orange to the Sweet 16 during his sophomore year and was the Big East MVP. He declared for the 2009 NBA Draft and was taken sixth overall. Flynn only lasted four seasons in the NBA before finishing his basketball career overseas, and has not played professional basketball since 2014.
Corliss Williamson Led Arkansas To A Championship
Corliss Williamson was named Most Outstanding Player of the 1994 NCAA Tournament while leading his Arkansas Razorbacks to a 31-3 record and a championship victory over the Duke Blue Devils. He was the 13th overall pick in the 1995 draft to the Sacramento Kings.
He would go onto win the Sixth Man of the Year award in the NBA in 2002, and then an NBA Championship with the Detroit Pistons in 2004. Williamson retired from the NBA as a player and made his way back as a coach. He's currently an assistant on the Phoenix Suns.
Chris Douglas-Roberts played alongside Derrick Rose for Memphis University from 2005 until 2008. He was a key member of the 2007-2008 team that ended up losing the national championship game to the University of Kansas, but was named a consensus first-team All-American.
Regardless of all his college awards and accolades, he slipped down to the second round of the NBA draft. He was taken by the New Jersey Nets but bounced around the NBA. He was never able to solidify an NBA career.
Sean May Was Part Of A Star-Studded UNC Team
Sean May was the starting center for three years as a member of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. He led the Heels to a national championship win in 2005 and declared for the NBA Draft the following year.
He was taken 13th overall by the Charlotte Bobcats but struggled with injuries right from the get-go. He played overseas for a few years before retiring from basketball in 2015. He's now on the coaching staff at his alma mater.
Jonathon Scheyer's Stats Didn't Translate To The NBA
He's the only player in the history of Duke basketball to record at least 2,000 points, 500 rebounds, 400 assists, 250 3-pointers and 200 steals in a career. He led the team to a 2010 national championship and won the NCAA Tournament's MVP award.
Despite all that, he didn't impress NBA scouts enough and he went undrafted in 2010. He was poked in the eye while playing in the Las Vegas summer league which ended his NBA hopes. He's now on Duke's coaching staff.
Gerry McNamara Played A Huge Role Next To Carmelo Anthony
Gerry McNamara helped Syracuse win their first national championship in 2003. He was mostly overshadowed by Carmelo Anthony, but he played a huge role as a freshman during their championship run.
He remained with the Orange for the next three seasons, starting every game during his college career. His professional career didn't pan out as well as he'd hoped. He played a few seasons overseas before returning to Syracuse as a coach, which is where he remains to this day.
Dee Brown Ended Up Coaching In China
Dee Brown was a five-star recruit coming out of high school, and he didn't disappoint. While playing for the University of Illinois, he was a big part of the team that went to the national championship game in 2005, losing to UNC.
He was taken in the second round of the 2006 NBA draft by the Utah Jazz. Over ten years he played for 13 different teams. He's currently coaching overseas with the Shandong Golden Stars in China.
Tyler Hansbrough was so much more than a world-class agitator at the University of North Carolina. He was the first player in ACC history not only to be named to the First Team All-ACC four times, but also to be named to a First Team All-American squad in each of his four seasons.
He was taken in the first round of the 2009 NBA draft but didn't turn out as well as he'd hoped. He played parts of eight seasons with different teams before joining the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBA Development League.
Adam Morrison Won Two NBA Championships... As A Benchwarmer
Adam Morrison will be remembered for his prolific college basketball career as a member of the Gonzaga Bulldogs. As a junior, Morrison was a first-team All-American and NCAA Division I scoring leader. Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Bobcats decided to take Morrison with the third-overall pick in the 2006 draft.
He turned out to be a complete bust, but luckily, he did pick up two championship rings as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers (as a reserve).
Jimmer Fredette Was Known As A Bucket-Getter
Jimmer Fredette was a four-year starter for the BYU Cougars and the 2011 National Player of the Year in college basketball. He broke BYU's career scoring record previously held by Danny Ainge.
He was the 10th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, but his professional career didn't last as long as he may have wanted. By 2015, Fredette was relegated to the NBA D-League and quickly made his way overseas to play in China. In 2019, he was finally brought back to the NBA by the Phoenix Suns.
Bobby Hurley's NBA Career Was Stunted Because Of A Car Accident
Bobby Hurley was a McDonald's All-American coming out of high school, leading his high school team to a #1 national ranking. He would continue that success as a member of the Duke Blue Devils as he would win back-to-back National Championships in 1991 and 1992.
He suffered life-threatening injuries when he got into a car accident during his rookie year in the NBA which really derailed his professional career. He's currently coaching at Arizona State University.
Mateen Cleaves put on his best Magic Johnson impersonation at Michigan State. He's a three-time captain of the team, and provided a ton of leadership during their 2000 national championship run.
In 2007, he became one of eight players to have his jersey retired by the school. He played professional basketball in a number of leagues for about ten years. He's now seen on and off as an analyst for Inside College Basketball on CBS Sports.
God Shammgod Had A Move Named After Him
Very few college players have electrified college basketball the way God Shammgod did in the late '90s, and he even has a crossover, 'the Shammgod,' named after him. He was the point guard that led the 10th-seeded Providence to the 1997 Elite Eight after downing Duke in the second round.
Shammgod was selected by Wizards in the second round of the 1997 NBA draft. His career only lasted about 20 games and he would be forced to play overseas in China for the rest of his playing days. He's now in the Dallas Mavericks organization as an assistant of player development.
Kevin Pittsnogle Helped West Virginia Shock The Nation
Kevin Pittsnogle and his seventh-seeded West Virginia Mountaineers shocked the nation when they made their way to the Elite Eight in 2005. By the end of his four years at WVU, Pittsnogle had the most games played in school history, and the sixth most points.
He went undrafted in 2006 and bounced around the D-League for a few seasons before retiring from basketball. He's now a high school teacher back home in West Virginia where he's a state treasure.
Trajon Langdon Was Drafted To The MLB And NBA
There's no denying that Duke is a college superstar-making machine. One of the many stars in college who went through the university is Trajon Langdon who was a three-time All-ACC player and two-time All-American.
While he was there, he set Duke's then-record for most career three-pointers and would end up getting drafted to the MLB and NBA. He was picked 11th overall in the 1999 draft to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He struggled through three seasons before heading overseas. In 2015, he was named the assistant general manager of the Brooklyn Nets.
Pete Maravich Is A Legacy
As of 2023, "Pistol Pete" Maravich holds the all-time highest-scoring record in the Divison 1 NCAA, with 3,667 points. That's an average of a little over 44 points per game! He went on to play professionally, first with the Atlanta Hawks, then the New Orleans Pelicans, then the Utah Jazz, and ending his career with the Boston Celtics.
Upon his retirement from the NBA, the five-time NBA All-Star's number was retired on all four teams.
Richard Hamilton Helped The Pistons To A Championship
Before he was known as "Rip Hamilton," he was a guard at the University of Connecticut. He led the UConn Huskies to a national championship win over the Duke Blue Devils, who were one of the most loaded college basketball teams of all time.
Hamilton was named the most outstanding player for the tournament, averaging over 24 points a game. He would go on to make quite the career for himself with the Detroit Pistons in the 2000s. He even snagged himself an NBA Championship in 2004.