Sometime tomorrow evening and into the next several days we will be discussing what happened in the Final Four game against Syracuse - one way or another. Before that happens I thought I would reflect once more on the past 20 years of Michigan Basketball since we were last watching our Wolverines take the court in the FInal Four.
First, some quick context. I attended Michigan from 1993-1997 and as a member of the Basketball Band for most of that time I sat right on the floor starting the year after Jalen and Juwan left....exactly the start of the 20 years of futility. I stayed a huge fan through the dark days and couldn't be more happy with where the program stands today. Like many of you I rooted for a lot of bad teams and mediocre players in the past 20 years, hoping for a magical run. But enough about me.....
As you'd expect with the relative lack of success these past twenty years, the program has produced very few stars that we could watch beyond their days at Michigan. There were many players that were fun to watch, easy to root for, or played their hearts out, but can you name anyone who made an impact in the NBA?
The Past - NBA Version
Over the past 20 years since the Fab Five left town, almost no Michigan players have gone on to any NBA success. In fact, just THREE have had an NBA career last more than 5 years:
- Maurice Taylor - 9 years, 4 teams
- Robert Traylor - 6 years, 4 teams
- Jamal Crawford - 12 years, 6 teams
Those guys aren't exactly the alumni you're proud to root for either, with Taylor and Traylor both being part of the Ed Martin scandal and seemingly falling short of their potential in college and Crawford playing a total of 13 games before the NCAA decided they didn't like his back story.
Sure, many other players have hung around the end of an NBA bench for a couple of years, but none made any lasting impression. Yet prior to the 20-year-drought we had a whopping EIGHT players have long NBA careers (Webber, Rose, Howard, Vaught, Mills, Rice, Grant, Robinson). Not only did our on-court success cease with the Fab Five, but our pipeline to the NBA did as well. Here's the full list of Michigan players who've ever played in the NBA if you're interested:
Yet this year we are treated to a starting lineup that might send all five players to the NBA. Will any of them be stars at the next level? Probably not, though I can't wait to see what Burke can do. But we now have NBA talent on the roster again. Having NBA blood lines also helps. With a little luck there's a chance we'll see Burke, Hardaway, Stauskas, Robinson, and McGary in the NBA (hopefully not too soon) and both Irvin and Walton come with the pedigree to continue that pipeline.
But the real point of this post, is about the other players who came and went in those 20 years. Where are the likes of Daniel Horton, LaVell Blanchard, and Josh Asselin? While there were certainly some bad apples (thanks again Brian Ellerbe!) there were also a lot of good players that never quite put us over the top.
The Past - Euro Version
Inspired by a post at The Only Colors a while back, I dug into the foreign professional league rosters and was pretty surprised at what I found. A total of 13 former players are still active in leagues around the world with two more playing in the past two seasons. Below is a table of names you may remember and what they're doing today. I included a link to their player page for more information on their background. I didn't have time to research the various leagues to determine their quality (as much as I love Novak, I'm guessing his league isn't that prolific if he's averaging 19 per game), but I encourage others to do some digging too.
|Name||Years @ UM||Current Team||PPG||FG% (2p/3p/FT)||Previous Countries Played In|
|Maceo Baston||1995-1998||Bnei Hasharon (Israel) -- 2011||3.1||63/0/50||Spain, Ukraine|
Asefa Estudian (Spain)
|Josh Asselin||1998-2001||Assignia Spain)||11.8||47/41/86||Spain, Ukraine, Dom Rep|
|LaVell Blanchard||2000-2004||9 de Julio (Argentina)||9.0||48/42/81||Brazil, Finland, Bosnia, Ukraine|
|Bernard Robinson||2001-2004||Basquete Cearense (Brazil)||7.4||46/25/77||Dom Rep, Argentina, Brazil|
|Daniel Horton||2003-2006||Kataja-Korihait (Finland) -- 2012||11.3||41/37/87||Australia, France, Cyprus|
|Graham Brown||2003-2006||Le Havre (France)||10.0||60/0/52||Belgium, Portugal|
|Brett Petway||2004-2007||AGOR (Greece)||11.6||66/31/69||Harlem Globetrotters, France, Greece|
|Dion Harris||2004-2007||Akita NH (Japan)||12.8||46/31/66||Venezuela, Germany, Cyprus, Syria, Poland|
|Courney Sims||2004-2007||SK Knights (S. Korea)||11.3||67/0/73||Latvia, China, Belgium|
|Jevohn Shepherd||2006-2009||CSM Bucuresti (Romania)||19.2||58/39/75||Germany, Holland, Canada|
|DeShawn Sims||2007-2010||Sagesse (Lebanon)||21.4||54/32/62||S. Korea, Puerto Rico, Greece|
|Manny Harris||2008-2010||Azovmash (Ukraine)||14.0||46/31/53||n/a|
|Zack Novak||2009-2012||Zwolle (Holland)||18.6||50/35/87||n/a|
|Stu Douglas||2009-2012||Planasa NV (Spain)||9.1||42/40/90||n/a|
Data obtained from http://www.eurobasket.com/
(Note - I may have missed some guys in my search, feel free to add in the comments.)
When you look at that list of players, so many memories (good and bad) jump to mind...not to mention some of the interesting facts contained in that chart. Here are some of my thoughts:
- Who would have thougt there's competitive basketball in so many countries? How do you go about finding these jobs all around the world? Just look at the wide range of teams Dion Harris has played for!
- What is life like for these guys playing on obscure teams in obscure countries? How much do they earn? How hard is it for the guys that had a cup of coffee in the NBA to adjust to playing in places like Syria?
- Maceo Baston has been the Juwan Howard of Euro basketball, hanging on for a long time playing purely a post game (0% from 3pt).
- If you had to pick the highest scorers from this list of names, how many would you have guessed until you got to Jevohn Shepherd?? He averaged 2.5ppg in his four year career at Michigan. Who is playing in this Romanian league with him where he can score 19ppg?
It would have been fun to see John Beilein coach the 2004 team with the following players on it:
- PG - Daniel Horton
- SG - Dion Harris
- SF - Bernard Robinson
- PF - LaVell Blanchard
- C - Graham Brown
- BN - Petway (PF), Sims (C), Lester Abram (SG/SF), Chris Hunter (PF/C)
- Josh Asselin has made a nice career for himself and is actually shooting better from distance than Manny, Zack, Dion, Daniel, and Stu!
- I wonder how many dunk contests Petway has won in Greece.
I hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane, even if there were some painful scars remembered (damn you Louis Bullock!). I hope most of these guys are watching this weekend as Michigan finally reaches the top of the mountain that eluded everyone on this list for so long.