The legends of the last 25 tournaments raised their draft stock at the best possible time.
(Photo by Bob Stowell/Getty)
It's NCAA tourney time, meaning you've probably pissed away every hour of the work day watching games and cursing yourself for picking Valparaiso to win it all. And just because you're pissed about that no-name kid leading his small school past a top-seed (why couldn’t it have been you, Valpo!?), doesn't mean you should ignore him. Who knows? He could springboard from the tourney, just like these seven players did.
7. Christian Laettner - Duke (1991)
Laettner may have been a McDonald's All-American before entering Duke in 1988, but he made a name for himself in March more than almost any other collegiate athlete of the past 25 years. Helping lead Duke to upset flashy teams like UNLV and Michigan during the '91 and '92 national title runs, Laettner boosted his NBA stock by earning the Most Outstanding Player award in 1991, and then bolted for the league following the Blue Devils' defense of their national title in 1992. But he’ll always live in our hearts as the most hilariously out-of-place Dream Team member in history.
6. Stephen Curry - Davidson (2008)
Thanks to Curry sharing a famous last name with his dad, former NBA'er Dell Curry, the sharpshooter has been held in high regard. But. we've seen plenty of former pro players' kids go to college and flame out, so it wasn't until Steph led his mid-major Wildcats all the way to the Elite Eight that scouts starting getting basketboners over him. Though he returned for the '09 season, Curry was already on the national radar, and was already projected to go in the top ten of the draft.
5. Carmelo Anthony - Syracuse (2003)
Sure, Melo was a ferocious beast even before he stepped foot on the Syracuse campus, but as a frosh, there were few who thought he'd lead his Orange to a national championship. After averaging 27 points in the Final Four and National Championship, Melo had few skeptics left, and dashed from the college ranks and into the Association, where he's become a regular All-Star.
4. Juan Dixon - Maryland (2002)
Dixon led the Terps to their first national championship back in 2002, and without that run - in which he was named the tourney's Most Outstanding Player - we're not sure he would have been a first round pick in that year's NBA Draft. And rightly so, Dixon petered out almost as soon as he set foot on an NBA court. We aren’t going to say we saw that one coming, but we totally did.
3. Kemba Walker - UConn (2011)
At the beginning of the 2010-11 season, the normally- ranked Huskies found themselves absent from the top-25 teams in the country. But by the end of the season they stood on the podium lifting the NCAA title. Why? Kemba Walker. He took the team on an insane run in the Big East tournament, and then carried that momentum all the way through the tourney. For his efforts, Walker became a viral legend.
2. Bryce Drew - Valparaiso (1998)
Drew is the current head coach at his alma mater, which, given his brief and somewhat embarrassing NBA stint, is a job he is much more cut out for. This guy got noticed because of one fucking shot! We're convinced that if Drew bricked that famous trey that beat Ole Miss in the first round back in '98, there'd be a good chance he wouldn't have even been drafted, let alone the 17th overall pick.
1. Joakim Noah - Florida (2006)
Much like the aforementioned UConn team led by Kemba Walker, Noah's Florida team was unranked heading into the season, so the team's run caught everyone by surprise. At the top of it all was the brash (and hairy) Noah, who captured Most Outstanding Player honors following the first of the Gators' back-to-back titles. Without those tourney runs Noah went on, who knows where his ass would have ended up? Maybe in LMFAO?