Since the inception of the NBA Draft in 1947, 70 Indiana Hoosiers have heard their name called. IU has been a staple source of Indiana talent over the past 60-plus years, though the past two decades and a half have been feast or famine.
The Hoosiers' history in the NBA Draft starts with a name that is synonymous with the state of Indiana basketball. Bob "Slick" Leonard was taken with the first pick in the second round of the 1954 draft (10th overall) by the Baltimore Bullets. Leonard is considered a state treasure at this point due to his impact on the game of basketball in Indiana, not only as a player, but as a coach, broadcaster, and a main proponent of saving the Indiana Pacers in the 1970's.
Three of Leonard's teammates from the 1953 National Championship team were also drafted in 1954, but Dick Farley (5th overall) was the only one of the trio to play in the NBA, after being drafted by the Syracuse Nationals. 6-foot-9-inch Don Schlundt was supposed to be join Farley as teammates after being drafted 14th overall in 1955, but IU's all-time leading scorer for 32 years opted for a career in business over pro basketball.
Archie Dees became the first Hoosier drafted in the 1st round of an NBA Draft in 1958, when he was selected by the Cincinnati Royals took him second overall. Dees would average over 8 points and just under 5 rebounds per game in 4 NBA seasons.
Three years later, in 1961, Indiana saw its first player taken first overall. The great Walt Bellamy was taken by the Chicago Zephyrs and Bellamy would repay the team by averaging 31.6 points per game in his first year on his way to the NBA Rookie of the Year award in 1962. During his 14 year career, Bellamy was a four-time NBA all-star and still holds the record for most regular season appearances in one year with 88, which likely will never be broken, due to the offsetting schedules back then.
The rest of the decade was hit-or-miss for Indiana in the draft, reflecting the struggles the Hoosiers had during the time. The most notable picks from 1962 through 1971 were identical twin brothers Dick and Tom Van Arsdale who taken with successive picks in the second round of the 1965 draft by the New York Knicks and Detroit Pistons respectively. Both multi-year All-stars, Tom holds a record that nobody ones, and that is most career games played without a playoff appearance.
George McGinnis was drafted into the ABA during this period, by the Indiana Pacers in 1971. McGinnis would be drafted into the NBA by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1973, and would switch to playing for the 76ers following the league merger. That same year, Steve Downing became the first 1st round pick from IU in 12 years, being taken 17th overall by the Boston Celtics.
1976 and 1977 were banner years for the Hoosiers in the draft as the NBA secured the key pieces of Indiana's undefeated 1976 National Championship squad. In '76, the Hoosiers saw three players drafted in the first 11 picks. Scott May was first off the board 2nd overall by the Chicago Bulls. Quinn Buckner went 7th to the Milwaukee Bucks, and finally Bobby Wilkerson to the Seattle Supersonics at 11.
In 1977, Kent Benson became the second Indiana player to go 1st overall, being drafted by the Bucks as well.
In 1981, Isiah Thomas, drafted 2nd overall by the Pistons would be the last Hoosiers drafted in the top-10 for 12 years. Calbert Cheaney would end that streak in 1993, when he went 6th to the Washington Bullets. Cheaney would be the only top-10 pick from Indiana between the years 1982 and 2008, with Jared Jeffries being the only other lottery pick when he went 1tth to the Wizards in 2002.
In 2008, a Hoosier would hear his name called in the top-10 once again, when Eric Gordon went to the Los Angeles Clippers at No.7. While the draft history for IU is rich, the past 25 years have not been so great in the draft for the Cream and Crimson. Just 15 players have heard their name called since 1990.
The Hoosiers prospects of being a mainstay in the draft appear to be on the rise again though. The last three picks have all been in the lottery, as Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller, and Noah Vonleh all left school early and found greener pastures in the pros.
Troy Williams and Yogi Ferrell hope to add to the 70 players that have come before them on Thursday night. While neither will hear his name early, both could certainly find teams late in the draft taking a chance on some Hoosier talent.