With NCAA Basketball’s March Madness just around the corner, we at Lakers Nation wanted to discuss which Lakers had the most success at the college level. The Lakers have historically received lower draft picks due to their consistent level of success during the regular and postseason. Therefore, it is rare to see the Lakers make a splash with a high pick in the NBA Draft.
The Lakers also typically trade future draft picks as part of a trade package for a free agent (sign-an-trade) or for an established player through a standard trade.
I wanted to narrow down my list to the top three most successful NCAA basketball players in the current Lakers lineup. If the selection was based on all-time Lakers, my answer would be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Jerry West. The accomplishments of those players in college and in the pros are astonishing, to say the least.
It is very tempting to think what type of success Kobe Bryant would have if he chose to attend college. One, we already know he would have gone to Duke due to his admiration for Mike Krzyzewski. Second, the word “dominance” comes to my head when I think about what Kobe would have been like in the NCAA.
But I digress. So here is my list of the top three current Laker players who saw the most success in college basketball. I will give a brief analysis of their NCAA work and accomplishments as well.
I actually lived in Arizona while Jordan Hill was playing at U of A. Therefore, when some Lakers fans were unaware of Hill when he was traded to the Lakers last year, I was well aware of his game and potential he could bring to the team. While I am a ASU alum (rivals to the Wildcats), I was excited to see Hill join the Lakers last March.
Hill was known as one of the hardest workers and fastest learners during his time at Arizona, which would be foreshadowing his performance thus far with the Lakers. Hill became the first Wildcat to average double figures in both scoring (18.3) and rebounding (11.0) in the same season since 1978-79. He finished his college career ranked 27th in Arizona history in points scored (1,208), 10th in rebounds (763), sixth in blocked shots (140) and fifth in field goal percentage (.578).
As a junior, which was his final year as a Wildcat, Hill was named Honorable Mention All-America from the Associated Press, Third-Team All-America honors from The Sporting News and first-team all-conference and All-Defensive Team honors both from the Pac-10 conference that year. The New York Knicks drafted him with the eighth overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft.
After receiving rejection letters from Maryland, Miami, Arizona, Duke, Indiana, Villanova and Pepperdine, Nash finally received a scholarship from Santa Clara University. At the West Coast Conference (WCC) Tournament in 1993, he became the first freshman to be named Most Valuable Player as the team won the tournament. At the NCAA Tournament that same year, Nash led his team to knock off Arizona (number two seed) in a huge upset in the first-round.
Nash led the WCC in scoring (20.9 PPG) and assists (6.4 APG) on 45 percent shooting from behind the arc in his junior year at Santa Clara. In his senior year he was named Honorable Mention All-American with averages of 17.0 points, 6.0 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game. In his senior season, Nash led the Broncos as they knocked off UCLA, Michigan State and Oregon State to crack the Top 25 rankings for the first time since 1972. He was also named WCC Player of the Year that year.
Nash ended his college career as the Broncos all-time leader in assists (510), free-throw percentage (86.2 percent) and 3-pointers made (263). He finished third on Santa Clara’s all-time scoring list (1,689) and had the best record for single-season free-throw percentage (89.4 percent).
He became the first Santa Clara player to have his jersey raised to the rafters at the Leavey Center. The Phoenix Suns drafted him with the 15th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft.
Jamison played college basketball at University of North Carolina for three seasons, where he averaged 19.0 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. To be honest, I don’t watch college ball as closely as I watch pro basketball, but I remember being glued to UNC basketball during the late ‘90s.
Why? Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter. Back then, Tar Heel basketball was all about Jamison and his unique shot mechanics that seemed unnatural, but worked.
As a junior, he was awarded both the Naismith and the AP National Player of the Year awards for the 1997–98 season, where he averaged 22.2 points and 10.5 rebounds on 57.9 percent shooting. Jamison decided to forgo his senior year of eligibility and enter the NBA draft in 1998. He was drafted by the Toronto Raptors (traded to Golden State) with the fourth pick.
On March 1, 2000 Jamison’s #33 was retired at the Dean E. Smith Center. He became only the seventh North Carolina basketball player to have his number retired, joining Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Phil Ford, Lenny Rosenbluth, George Glamack, and Jack Cobb.
Honorable mentions of successful NCAA players who are current Lakers go to Steve Blake from Maryland and Jodie Meeks from Kentucky. While you may have different thoughts on Jordan Hill and Steve Nash on this list, I firmly believe we will all agree that Antawn Jamison is the best college player on this current Lakers’ team.
Jamison created a long-lasting imprint to UNC basketball and to the UNC/Duke rivalry, and will remain one of Tar Heel fans’ favorites for a long, long time. Let’s hope he can continue helping the Lakers as they make a push to the playoffs.
Now, good luck with your brackets.