Leading up to the NBA draft, BT Powerhouse is taking a look back at how Big Ten programs have fared in past drafts. The Minnesota Golden Gophers have had some great players in their history that have gone on to have success in the NBA, but unfortunately right now, they're in the midst of a 10 year NBA Draft drought.
Since Kris Humphries was selected 14th overall by the Utah Jazz in 2004, no Minnesota player has been drafted. In the Big Ten, only Nebraska, Northwestern, and Penn State have longer current droughts. Andre Hollins and Maurice Walker are hoping to hear their names called on draft day, but the drought is likely to extend to an 11th year. After two seasons in Minnesota, coach Richard Pitino is working on changing that.
It hasn't always been this way for the Gophers. They've had 18 players drafted in the first round and 51 overall. In fact, Humphries was the sixth first-rounder from Minnesota in eight years at the time he was drafted. Before '04, the Gophers had never gone more than three years without someone being drafted.
Golden Gophers Currently in the NBA
|Player||Draft Year||NBA Team||GP||PPG|
It's a short list of Gophers in the league right now. On the bright side, former Minnesota women's basketball player Amanda Zahui B. was taken second overall in this year's WNBA draft by the Tulsa Shock!
Since the recent history hasn't been so glamorous, let's take a minute to reminisce on the glory days of Minnesota men's basketball's past.
Don Smith was selected in the first draft in '47, then 10 players were drafted from Minnesota in the '50s. Amazingly, eight of them went to the hometown Minneapolis Lakers.
The first of them was Bud Grant. Grant was a three-sport star in basketball, football and baseball and was drafted in the 4th round of the 1950 NBA draft by Minneapolis. He was also drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft that same year by the Philadelphia Eagles, and to this date remains the only person to ever play in both the NBA and NFL. A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Grant is best known for his 18 years as head coach of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings from 1967-1985.
Dick Garmaker was drafted twice by Minneapolis -- once in '54 and again in '55 -- before he began his career and became a 4-time all-star for the Lakers.
Nine Gophers were selected in the drafts of the 1960s. However, when the Lakers moved to Los Angeles in the 1960 off-season, the steady pipeline of University of Minnesota players ended.
Archie Clark was drafted the same year and played 10 seasons for five teams. Clark is known as one of the first players to perfect the crossover dribble, earning him the nickname "Shake and Bake".
13 more Golden Gophers were picked in the '70s. Larry Mikan, son of the Hall of Fame Minneapolis Lakers great George Mikan, was taken in '70 by the Los Angeles Lakers, but played his only NBA season for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield was another of Minnesota's talented multi-sport stars. In 1973, Winfield was the fourth overall pick in the MLB Draft and was also selected in the NBA and ABA drafts. Despite never playing college football, the NFL's Minnesota Vikings said "why the heck not?" and drafted him too. He's one of three players ever drafted by three different professional sports leagues (Mickey McCarty and Dave Logan).
Before he became just Klay's dad to the younger generation, Mychal Thompson was a great basketball player in his own right and is the only player from the U to ever be taken with the No. 1 overall selection. He won two NBA titles with the "showtime" Lakers in the latter stages of his career.
The first of eight Gophers drafted in the '80s was Kevin McHale. He started the decade strong for Minnesota by being drafted third overall in '80 by the Celtics. Currently the head coach of the Houston Rockets, the Hall-of-Famer is considered by many to be the greatest power forward the game has ever seen. Part of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players list, McHale won three titles alongside frontcourt mates Larry Bird and Robert Parrish in Boston.
The Gophers kept rolling in the '90s with seven more basketball players drafted by NBA teams, including five first-rounders. Willie Burton was the ninth overall pick in '90 and had a long professional career. In '94 as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, he once exploded for 53 points against his former team the Miami Heat.
2004 NBA Three-Point Shootout champion Voshon Lenard was drafted in '94 out of Minneapolis, followed by Bobby Jackson in '97. Jackson is best remembered for his role as the spark plug backup point guard for the Sacramento Kings during their playoff runs of the early 2000s.
This is where it begins to slow down for Minnesota. The 2000s started out unsuspectingly, like it would be another decade filled with pros and first round picks from Minnesota. Joel Przybilla was taken ninth overall by Houston in 2000 and had a solid NBA career with several teams.
Rick Rickert was a late second round pick in '03 who never caught on in the NBA, but the Golden Gophers followed that up with Kris Humphries in '04. Humphries left Minnesota following his freshman year, after becoming only the sixth player in Big Ten history to lead the conference in scoring and rebounding, and first to do it as a freshman. He was drafted 14th overall by the Utah Jazz and is now with his seventh NBA team, the Washington Wizards.
2010 - present
They've had some players with potential, but now halfway through the '10s, we're still waiting on the first Minnesota Golden Gopher to be drafted. During Tubby Smith's entire tenure as head coach from 2007-2013, not a single one of his players played a game in the NBA.
Good luck to Hollins and Walker this year. Even if not drafted, they'll have a chance to catch on with a team as a free agent or play elsewhere professionally.