Ready or not for the NFL, Cam Newton might as well go pro after tonight’s BCS National Championship Game. Not only will his draft stock never be higher, but sticking around the University of Auburn next season means Newton won’t be able to buy a McChicken sandwich without somebody investigating where he got the 99 cents.
When Newton was spotted at Phoenix’s U.S. Airways Center during the Suns/Lakers game on Jan. 5 — looking like an unsigned power forward at 6-6, 250 pounds — it turned into more than just a celebrity sighting at an NBA game. The reigning Heisman Trophy-winning QB was subject to rumors that Auburn/Suns alum Charles Barkley had hooked him up with tickets, no doubt sounding the alarm (again) at the NCAA offices.
Going into the national title game, No. 1 Auburn and No. 2 Oregon have traditionally been known more for football than basketball, but a look at their respective hoops history shows the Tigers and Ducks are better than you might think on the hardwood. Check the rosters for this fantasy matchup:
Eddie Johnson, PG/SG, 1977 — “Fast Eddie” averaged 19.5 points in four years at Auburn, then had a 10-year NBA career where he made two All-Star Games and two NBA All-Defensive Teams with the Atlanta Hawks. In the 1980 ASG, the 6-2 Johnson posted 22 points, 7 dimes and 6 steals as a starter for the East alongside Moses Malone, Dr. J and George Gervin. Johnson’s pro career was cut short by drug problems, and he’s currently serving a life sentence in a California prison on sex crime charges.
Mike Mitchell, SG/SF, 1978 — Averaged 20.4 points and 9.6 rebounds in college, the first Auburn player to crack 2,000 career points, and in the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers once held the franchise records for single-season points and career scoring average before LeBron and a few other guys got involved. Mitchell was actually drafted by New Jersey of the ABA after his freshman year at Auburn, but stayed in school and was later an NBA first-round pick by Cleveland.
Chuck Person, SF, 1986 — “The Rifleman” helped lead Auburn to its first-ever NCAA Tournament in ’84, when he averaged 19 points and 8 rebounds as a sophomore playing alongside Charles Barkley. After Barkley went pro, Person led Auburn to its first-ever SEC Tournament title and a Sweet Sixteen run as a junior, then to the Elite Eight as a senior when he dropped 21.5 points a night. Picked 4th overall in the ’86 NBA Draft, he won Rookie of the Year and is known as one of the best three-point shooters of all-time.
Charles Barkley, PF, 1984 — Basketball Hall of Fame inductee averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds in three years at Auburn, leading the SEC in rebounding every year he was in school. The Birmingham Post-Herald named Barkley the SEC Player of the Decade for the 1980s and the Tigers retired his #34.
Rex Frederick, C/PF, 1959 — Undersized for a post player by today’s standards at 6-foot-5, Frederick was a three-time All-SEC pick while averaging 14.9 points and 14.3 boards. He pulled down 27 rebounds in one game at Auburn and set the single-season mark for rebounds with 325 in his junior year. As a senior Frederick was an All-American and SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Knee injuries limited his pro career.
Bench — Wesley Person (SG, 1994); Chris Morris (SF, 1988); John Mengelt (G, 1971); Marquis Daniels (SG, 2003); Pat Burke (C, 1997); Chris Porter (F, 2000); Jamison Brewer (G, 2001).
Luke Ridnour, PG, 2002 — After quarterbacking Oregon to the Elite Eight as a sophomore, Ridnour was Pac-10 Player of the Year as a junior (19.7 ppg, 6.6 apg) before going pro and being picked in the first round by his home state Seattle Sonics.
Terrell Brandon, PG, 1991 — As a junior the 5-foot-11 Brandon was one of the most explosive scorers in the country, dropping 26.6 points a night to go with 5.0 assists and 2.2 steals. After the Cavs picked him 11th in the ’91 Draft, he went on to make two NBA All-Star Games and famously graced the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1997 with the headline, “The Best Point Guard in the NBA.” That season Brandon averaged 19.5 points and 6.3 assists.
Ron Lee, SG, 1976 — Oregon’s all-time leading scorer and second all-time leader in assists was a two-time All-American and averaged 18.6 points, 5.2 boards and 5.1 dimes in his career for the Ducks before the Phoenix Suns took him 10th overall in the ’76 NBA Draft. In the pros he was an All-Rookie Team selection, and led the League in steals his second year.
Luke Jackson, SF, 2004 — Helped lead the Ducks to the 2002 Elite Eight as a sophomore, and in his senior year averaged 21.2 points, 7.2 boards and 4.5 assists as an All-American and later a Top-10 NBA draftee. Jackson ranks second all-time in career scoring at Oregon and cracks the top seven in rebounds, assists and steals, and is one of only three Pac-10 players to have multiple triple-doubles in his career. Back injuries have limited Jackson’s pro career
Blair Rasmussen, C, 1985 — The 15th pick of the ’85 NBA Draft averaged 16.1 points and 7.2 rebounds as a senior before an eight-year pro career. Rasmussen was drafted two spots after Karl Malone and three spots before Joe Dumars.
Bench — Aaron Brooks (PG, 2007); Steve “Snapper” Jones (G/F, 1967); Lauren Gale (F, 1939); Greg Ballard (PF, 1977); Fred Jones (SG, 2002); Slim Wintermute (C, 1939); Malik Hairston (SG/SF, 2008).
Who do you think would win?