As the NBA Draft rapidly approaches, BTPowerhouse continues to look at the draft histories of Big Ten programs. Today we take a look at the Nittany Lions, a team that hasn't had many draft picks throughout its history and even less since they joined the Big Ten.
While Penn State does currently have one active player in the NBA (Tim Frazier), he earned a roster spot as an undrafted free agent. In fact, the Nittany Lions haven't had a player selected in the draft since Calvin Booth back in 1999.
Tim Frazier is currently Penn State’s only active NBA player. Frazier was the 2014-15 NBA D-League MVP and Rookie of the Year, averaging 16.3 points, 9.6 assists, 7.2 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game, with the Maine Red Claws.
Of course, Frazier turned his success into a short stint with the 76ers, where he averaged 5.7 points and 7.2 assists per game during six appearances. He ended up finishing the season in Portland, coming off of the bench five times and adding 3.4 assists per game in limited minutes. It'll be interesting to see if Frazier can turn his success in the D-League into landing a more permanent roster spot in 2015-16.
Two other players that got recent NBA attention were Chris Babb and DJ Newbill. Babb actually spent time in college at both Penn State and Iowa State, but he made the roster for the Boston Celtics in 2013-’14. He now plays overseas.
Newbill left Penn State as one of the program’s most decorated players of all-time. And after receiving plenty of workouts, many thought he might be able to land on an NBA roster, at least for a short while. However, he signed with a Belgian team last summer and has been playing overseas since then.
Simply put, there just hasn’t been a lot of recent history for Penn State in the NBA. However, the program does have considerably more history at the next level predating its entrance into the Big Ten.
-Pre-Big Ten Era
It took Penn State awhile to get going, with the only player drafted prior to the 1980s to spend more than a year in the league being Bob Weiss, who was drafted in the third round back in 1965. Weiss spent 12 years in the league, averaging 7.6 points and 3.7 assists in 783 games and winning a title with the 76ers in the 1967. The former guard would go on to coach in the NBA for four different teams, with a career record of 223-299 and most recently going 13-17 for Seattle back in 2005-06.
The most notable former Penn State alum to get drafted would easily be Frank Brickowski, a forward/center that was drafted in the 3rd round by the Knicks in 1981. Brickowski wouldn't make it to the NBA until 1984, but he would go on to see time starting for the Spurs and Bucks while also playing for a handful of teams, including the Sonics when they played in the NBA Finals back in 1996. His best year in the association was his first year as a full starter for the Spurs, averaging 18.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in 68 starts.
No matter your allegiances, there’s no denying that Penn State lacks a lengthy and decorated history in the NBA Draft. After all, the program only has 13 picks all-time with all of them coming before the year 2000 and 10 picks coming after the Second Round*. Almost unbelievably, Penn State has never had a First Round Draft pick. That’s an incredible achievement for a program that has played 121 seasons.
However, with recent players like Frazier and some quality recruiting, perhaps Penn State can change that history for the better in the years to come.
* - The NBA formerly had more than two rounds during its annual Draft.